Valparaiso (2-2, 1-0 PFL) at Morehead State (1-3, 0-1 PFL)
Game #5: Saturday, Oct. 1, noon CT
Jayne Stadium (10,000 - AstroTurf) - Morehead, Ky.
This Week in Crusader Football: Coming off of back-to-back victories, the Valparaiso University football team returns to the road this Saturday as the Crusaders continue PFL play at Morehead State. Valpo is looking to start 2-0 in the PFL for the first time since the 2003 championship season.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders defeated Davidson 24-20 in Saturday’s Homecoming game at Brown Field behind a pair of short-yardage rushing touchdowns from freshman Cody Boxrucker. Ryan Clarke returned at QB for Valpo and went 17-of-26 for 176 yards and a touchdown, while Jarrett Morgan carried 25 times for 108 yards. After receiving a punt up four points with 5:48 to play, the Crusaders ran out the clock, picking up three first downs to secure the victory.
Looking Ahead: Valpo returns home to Brown Field next weekend, as the Crusaders host Drake at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 8.
Following the Crusaders: For the 11th straight season, WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) is home to all 11 Crusader football games in 2016. Todd Ickow returns on play-by-play for Valpo, while David Huseman will provide the color commentary on Saturday. Links for the live audio, as well as live stats, will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Cecchini is in his third season on the sidelines as head coach for the Brown and Gold in 2016. He enters Saturday’s game with a 7-19 record, both overall and in two-plus seasons at Valpo. In his first season as head coach of the Crusaders, Cecchini led the program to a four-win season, its winningest season since 2007. Prior to arriving at Valpo, Cecchini served as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach for the prior four years at Lehigh.
Series Notes: Valpo is just 3-18 all-time versus Morehead State, with the Eagles winning the last nine matchups in the series. Last season, the Crusaders battled gamely with Morehead State at Brown Field before falling, 36-29, as the Eagles scored the game-deciding touchdown with 2:45 to play. Valpo’s last victory came at Morehead State in 2006, a 42-35 Crusader triumph, while the Crusaders bested the Eagles in the PFL Championship Game in 2003 at Brown Field, 54-42.
Scouting Morehead State: The Eagles enter Saturday’s game at 1-3 overall and 0-1 in PFL play, as their attempt at a furious rally in the league opener Saturday at Drake came up just short, resulting in a 30-28 defeat. Under center, Austin Gahafer is 91-of-163 throwing the ball for seven touchdowns this year, with his favorite targer being Jake Raymond (26 catches, 326 yards, two TDs). Ryan Watkins leads the Eagles’ running attack with 50 carries for 213 yards and a pair of scores.
Going Back to Back: The Crusaders’ win over Davidson last Saturday gave the program consecutive victories for the first time since September of 2007, when they won at Kalamazoo and Marian in back-to-back weeks. This week, Valpo looks for its first three-game winning streak within the same season since October of 2003.
Winning the Opener: Valpo got off on the right foot in league play with Saturday’s win, starting off PFL play with a victory for just the third time since the league moved away from the divisional format in 2006. The Crusaders won their league opener in 2006 at Morehead State and in 2013 versus Campbell.
Taking Advantage of Takeaways: The Valpo defense has recorded five takeaways through the season’s first four games, and each time the Crusaders have taken full advantage, scoring touchdowns off the takeaway. Last Saturday, Kye Hall forced a key fumble and recovered as Davidson was driving in the third quarter, a takeaway which turned into a Cody Boxrucker touchdown.
Staying Turnover Free: For their part, the Crusader offense held on to the ball in Saturday’s win, as Ryan Clarke threw zero interceptions and Valpo didn’t lose a fumble either. It was Valpo’s first interception-free game since Nov. 22, 2014 versus Davidson and the team’s first turnover-free game since Oct. 12, 2013 against Mercer.
Choices at Quarterback: Head coach Dave Cecchini has multiple options at quarterback who have earned wins this season. With season-opening starter Ryan Clarke sidelined due to injury, freshman Jimmy Seeward stepped in versus TIU and tied a program record with five touchdown passes in the win. But with Clarke - who himself has a five-TD performance on his resume - healthy last week, Cecchini turned back to him and he delivered a solid performance to down Davidson, finishing 17-of-26 for 176 yards and a score.
Big Play Rene: Sophomore wide receiver Jean Rene has been a big play threat throughout his time at Valpo, and continued against Davidson, hauling in a 19-yard TD pass and also recording a 13-yard rush for a first down into the red zone on another scoring drive. With four TDs through four games this year, the sophomore - who is averaging 18 yards per catch this season - now has nine career touchdowns, all in the last 11 games.
Reaching the Century Mark: After going the entire 2015 season without a single 100-yard rusher, the Crusaders have received back-to-back 100-yard performances the last two weeks from junior Jarrett Morgan. Morgan set a new career high versus TIU with 106 yards on the ground and then bested it in the win over Davidson, carrying 25 times for 108 yards. Morgan became the first Crusader back with consecutive 100-yard performances since Brandon Hall hit triple digits against Morehead State and Dayton in 2014.
Oh Captain My Captain: Valparaiso enters the 2016 season with three permanent captains: senior defensive back J.J. Nunes, junior wide receiver Frank Catrine and redshirt junior offensive lineman Brian Lang. The Crusaders will also be selecting an individual to serve as game captain for each game as well - against Morehead State, that will be redshirt junior linebacker Derrick Estell.