The Valparaiso University football team fended off a talented Stetson squad on Saturday afternoon in DeLand, Fla., pulling out an improbable 21-18 victory over the Hatters. The Crusaders had come close to notching signature upset victories on multiple occasions since Dave Cecchini took over as head coach, but this time they were able to hold on and seal the deal.
How It Happened
- The Valparaiso defense came up with stop after stop late in the game, totaling four interceptions. In addition, the Crusaders blocked a field-goal try and a punt.
- The Hatters attempted a 47-yard field goal with 51 seconds left that would have tied the game, but it fell short, sending the Crusaders into celebration. Stetson kicker Grant Amick also had a chance to tie the game with 11:33 left, but his 45-yard try hit the crossbar and fell short.
- After the first field goal miss, the next two Stetson possessions resulted in interceptions. Brandon Riley (Chicago, Ill. / Morgan Park) snuffed out a promising Stetson drive with a pick at the Valpo 11-yard line with 9:10 to go. Then, Drew Snouffer (Columbus, Ohio / Upper Arlington) made an incredible snag on a short pass from DeFillippo at the Valpo 28 with 6:06 left. It was Snouffer’s second interception of the game.
- Joey Diaz-Martinez (Miramar, Fla. / Miramar) accounted for Valpo’s other interception.
- The Hatters got on the board first with Amick’s 23-yard field goal with 10:19 left in the first quarter. Neither team scored again until a bad snap on a Valpo punt resulted in a Stetson safety to make it 5-0 with 55 seconds left in the first quarter.
- Griffin Norberg (Sunrise, Fla. Western) vaulted Valpo in front with a 38-yard touchdown catch on a pass from freshman quarterback Jimmy Seewald (Livonia, Mich. / Divine Child).
- Valpo’s next score came courtesy of freshman Cody Boxrucker (West Chester, Ohio / Badin), who rolled into the end zone from 3 yards out to cap a drive that was set up by the first of Snouffer’s two picks.
- DeFillippo connected with an open Kegan Moore for a 39-yard touchdown pass with 2:30 left until halftime, cutting Valpo’s lead to 14-12 at the break.
- Boxrucker turned in his second 3-yard TD run of the game, boosting the lead to 21-12 with 11:11 left in the third. Valpo took over at the Stetson 3-yard line after Norberg blocked a punt and made the recovery.
- Stetson’s Cole Mazza plunged into the end zone from 1 yard out with 3:34 to go in the third to make it 21-18. Amick missed the extra point after what ended up being the final scoring play of the day.
Inside the Game
- With his two TD runs, Boxrucker now has five of the team’s seven rushing scores this season.
- Snouffer’s two interceptions were the first and second of his career.
- Diaz-Martinez now has a team-leading three interceptions, while Riley’s pick was the first of his career.
- Norberg’s TD grab was his second of the season and the fourth of his Valpo career.
- One more win would give the Crusaders their first three-win conference campaign since the PFL championship season of 2003. Valpo already holds a .500 or better mark through four league contests for the first time since the 2003 season.
- Seewald, starting in place of the injured Ryan Clarke, went 13-of-30 through the air and passed for 170 yards, including one touchdown and one interception.
- Jarrett Morgan carried the ball 21 times for 67 yards, doing the bulk of his damage in the first half.
- Norberg was Valpo’s leading receiver with a career-high four grabs for 59 yards.
- Boxrucker finished with a career-high 25 rushing yards.
- The Crusaders were playing without three starters (Jake Trumpower, Jay Slone and Mike Wheeler) on defense and their starting quarterback due to injuries, making the win all the more impressive.
Thoughts from Head Coach Dave Cecchini
- “When you have a game like this in the mud and the rain, and it was only our second time on grass this year, it wasn’t going to be easy. Our guys stepped up. We had our share of adversity. I’m so proud of our team because we’ve been in this situation several times before. Our defense was super. All it takes is that our guys were confident; we know we’re getting better. It just takes making those plays. Those individual efforts, those one-on-one situations and winning our share. That’s what we did today.”
- On the Defense: “Those guys played with an awful lot of confidence. When the rain started coming down, both teams unleashed the dogs. You know in those situations, the team that protects the football the best ends up winning these games, and today was no exception.
- On Brandon Doepke and Tristan De La Rosa: “Sometimes those guys go as unsung heroes. Their stats aren’t as eye-popping. Those guys made big plays stopping screens, they occupy defenders. One of the reasons Drew Snouffer is having such a big year is he’s relatively free most times. Those guys deserve the lion’s share of that credit.”
- On Snouffer’s second interception: “He’s our most productive player for good reason. He’s active. He has great change of direction, great focus. He just keeps getting more comfortable with the game and the speed. His confidence keeps going up. He’s a little undersized for a linebacker, and he’s got that overachiever mentality.”
The Crusaders (3-4, 2-2 PFL) have another long road trip ahead of them as they travel to San Diego (5-1, 4-0) to play the first-place Toreros next Saturday. The game is scheduled to kick off at 3 p.m. CT and can be heard on WVUR (95.1 FM Valparaiso). San Diego will have a live video stream available. Links for the live video, audio and stats will be available via ValpoAthletics.com.