Butler (3-5, 1-4 PFL)
at Valparaiso (3-5, 2-3 PFL)
Game #9: Saturday, Oct. 29, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000 – Field Turf) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Hoosier Helmet is back up for grabs this week as the Valparaiso University football team renews its rivalry with in-state foe Butler on Saturday at Brown Field. For the first time since 2003, Valpo enters the matchup with a better league record than Butler.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders opposed first-place San Diego last week in California and fell 49-10. The Toreros remained unbeaten in Pioneer Football League action thanks in part to the play of quarterback Anthony Lawrence, who threw for 301 yards and five touchdowns.
Looking Ahead: The Crusaders will be back on the road a week from now when they travel to Dayton on Nov. 5 at noon. It’s the final road contest of the year and the penultimate game of the 2016 season.
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 is back for his 26th season as Valpo’s play-by-play broadcaster, while Dave Huseman will add color commentary for home games. The game will be streamed on ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN app. Links for the live audio, video and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Cecchini is in his third season as the head coach of the Crusaders. He enters Saturday’s game with an 8-22 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 highest win total since 2007. Prior to arriving at Valpo, Cecchini served as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Lehigh for four years.
Series Notes: This will be the 75th edition of the Valpo-Butler matchup, a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1927. The Bulldogs won last year’s version 42-21 in Indianapolis, while the Crusaders prevailed in the most recent Brown Field matchup, winning 17-3 on Nov. 8, 2014. That marked Valpo’s only win over Butler in the last eight matchups. The two teams have met every year since 1951.
Scouting Butler: After finishing the 2015 season at 6-5 and 4-4 in PFL play, Butler stands at 3-5 and has dropped four of its first five league games this year. Like the Crusaders, the Bulldogs are coming off a lopsided loss a week ago. They fell to Dayton 31-16 at the Butler Bowl, allowing 272 passing yards to Flyers quarterback Alex Jeske. The Bulldogs and Crusaders have two common opponents this season – both beat Davidson in close games and both lost to San Diego in lopsided fashion. Butler’s league resume also includes an overtime loss to Campbell and a nine-point defeat to Marist. The Bulldogs have had an injury-plagued season that continued last week when fifth-year senior captain Jordan Ransone, a key member of the defensive line who attended La Lumiere High School in LaPorte, went down with a severe leg injury. The gruesome injury halted play for 50 minutes and Ransone was taken to the hospital. Running back Sam Schrader hasn’t played since Oct. 8 with a leg injury. Redshirt senior Malcolm Weaver and redshirt sophomore Will Marty have split time at quarterback this season, with Weaver taking the bulk of the snaps last week against Dayton. Weaver (41 carries, 348 yards) and Duvante Lane (89 carries, 438 yards) have spearheaded Butler’s rushing effort this season. The Bulldogs are 3-0 when they run for 200 yards or more this season. Two Butler players have local ties as junior defensive lineman Connor Andras graduated from Crown Point, while freshman Jordan Cistola calls Munster home.
Turnover Battle: The Crusaders own a plus-five turnover margin and have notched seven interceptions in PFL play. Meanwhile, Butler is minus-five in the turnover department and has thrown eight interceptions in conference play. Valpo’s overall turnover margin of plus-four ranks second in the PFL, behind Dayton’s plus-10. The Crusaders didn’t commit a turnover on Saturday against San Diego, becoming the first PFL opponent to play giveaway free against the Toreros this season. The Crusaders have now played turnover free twice this year, with the first coming on Sept. 24 against Davidson. Before that game, the Crusaders hadn’t gone a game without a turnover since Oct. 12, 2013.
Stopping the Run: A bright spot of last week’s loss to San Diego was the rushing defense. The Crusaders limited the Toreros to 83 rushing yards, joining Dayton as the only two teams to hold San Diego below 100 this season. The Toreros were just two weeks removed from racking up 337 yards on the ground against Davidson. The Crusaders held Jonah Hodges, who entered the game first in the PFL and seventh in the FCS with 113.5 rushing yards per game, to just 34 yards on 12 carries, his least productive game of the season.
Seewald Starting Strong: Valpo freshman quarterback Jimmy Seewald has enjoyed a prosperous start to his collegiate career. He ranks third in the PFL in pass efficiency, behind only San Diego’s Anthony Lawrence and Jacksonville’s Rylan Wells. Seewald has a pass efficiency of 126.1 in seven games. Despite making only two starts, Seewald is one of six quarterbacks in the league with 10 TD passes this season.
Gray Game: The Crusaders will wear gray this week in honor of Ken Biel, a former Valpo football player who passed away from brain cancer. A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to brain cancer research.
Youthful Crusaders: Although Valpo is not as young and inexperienced of a team as it was last season, the Crusaders still have just four seniors on the roster. Marist has the second fewest seniors in the Pioneer Football League with seven, and every other PFL team has at least 12. Campbell and Davidson have the most in the PFL with 19 apiece.
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 Butler that will be offensive lineman redshirt junior Connor Rettig.
Extra Tidbits: The Crusaders lead the league in kickoff return yardage, averaging 21.7 per return… The Crusaders have made 52 consecutive extra-point attempts dating back to Oct. 25, 2014 against Morehead State. That is the longest active streak in the PFL… Sophomore wide receiver Ryan Moore, who has battled injuries throughout his Crusader career, established a career-high with 66 receiving yards on three receptions last week… Dimitrios Latsonas turned in the first made field goal of his collegiate career last week. Latsonas, filling in for the injured Jake Simpson, converted a 31-yarder to give the Crusaders a short-lived 3-0 edge… Christian Campbell notched his third career interception last week and became the fourth Valpo player with multiple interceptions this season… Freshman Kyle Cartales was on the receiving end of a 5-yard shovel pass for the first score of his Crusader career last week.