Jacksonville (4-4, 3-2 PFL)
at Valparaiso (3-7, 2-5 PFL)
Game #11: Saturday, Nov. 12, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000 – Field Turf) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Valparaiso University football team rounds out its 2016 campaign on Saturday at Brown Field. The Crusaders have an opportunity to secure their highest PFL win total since 2003 with a victory this week.
Last Time Out: Valpo accumulated 182 rushing yards while using three freshmen running backs, but threw three interceptions, two on tipped passes, in a 37-21 loss at Dayton. The Crusaders cut into a 30-point deficit with two fourth quarter scores. Dayton quarterback Alex Jeske went 18-for-24 for 248 passing yards and one touchdown, plus had nine carries for 59 yards and three TDs on the ground.
Looking Ahead: The Crusaders have only four seniors without remaining eligibility on their roster and should keep the bulk of their team intact for the 2017 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 this week. Links to live audio 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 8-24 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: Jacksonville holds a 6-2 lead in the all-time series. The Dolphins have won four straight over Valpo dating back to Nov. 3, 2007, when the Crusaders went to Jacksonville and pulled out a 29-27 victory. The two teams did not meet from 2011-2014, but renewed the all-time set a year ago. Jacksonville prevailed 58-13, Valpo’s most lopsided conference loss of the Dave Cecchini era. Five Valpo players left the game with injuries and did not return. This marks the first time the Dolphins have visited Brown Field since Oct. 16, 2010, an 86-7 victory over the Crusaders.
Scouting Jacksonville: The Dolphins have moved on to a new coaching regime as the victory over the Crusaders to end 2015 marked the final game of Kerwin Bell’s nine-year tenure. Ian Shields has taken the helm after compiling a 17-6 record over the last two seasons at Lenior-Rhyne. The Dolphins are coming off a 31-27 loss to Drake that saw Bulldogs quarterback Grant Kraemer pass for two late touchdowns to hand Jacksonville a gut-wrenching defeat. The Dolphins have rushed for 1,039 yards over the last three weeks, their best three-game mark in school history. Previously, the three-game school record was 968 from Oct. 17 to Nov. 7, 1998. Quarterback Rylan Wells accumulated 101 yards on the ground, becoming the first Jacksonville player to rush for over 100 yards in consecutive games since Ulysses Bryant did so in 2014. Bryant, who is a senior this season, ranks second in program history in career rushing yards and all-purpose yards. He leads the team with 445 yards in seven games this year. The Dolphins rank third in the league in scoring offense (30.8 points per game) and first in rushing offense (229.4 yards per game). However, they are ninth in scoring defense (32 ppg), 10th in rushing defense (198.9 yards per game) and 11th in passing offense (161 yards per game). The Dolphins have only attempted 140 passes all season, 99 fewer than any other team in the PFL.
Breakout Performer: The most noteworthy Valpo performance of the day came from the most unlikely of sources on Saturday in Dayton. Freshman Austin Petrie, who hadn’t taken a single carry coming into the game, was Valpo’s leading rusher with 76 yards on 14 carries. He ran for two touchdowns in his collegiate offensive debut. Petrie had previously only appeared on special teams after injuries in training camp caused him to fall behind Kyle Cartales and Cody Boxrucker on the running back depth chart. Starting running back Jarrett Morgan missed Saturday’s game with a concussion, allowing Cartales to make his first career start and Petrie to receive increased carries.
Disciplined Crusaders: Valparaiso is in position to lead the Pioneer Football League in fewest penalty yards per game at 42.0. They have been called for just 43 flags in 10 games. Valpo is tied for eighth in the Division-I FCS nation in fewest penalties, tied for fourth in fewest penalties per game and 10th in fewest penalty yards per game. Valpo also led the PFL in fewest penalties in Cecchini’s first season in 2014, a far cry from 2013, when they ranked eighth.
Senior Farewell: Idode Kerobo, Brett Fox and Charlie Hackett are the only seniors who will play in their final game in a Valpo uniform on Saturday. The Crusaders do have 11 other players (10 redshirt juniors and medical redshirted senior J.J. Nunes) with one season of eligibility remaining that will be faced with the decision of whether or not to return.
On the Uptick: The 2016 season marks a significant improvement for Valpo in multiple statistical areas. The Crusaders are averaging 21.1 points per game after scoring 15.9 a year ago. They are allowing 32.7, improved from 43.2 in 2015. With one game remaining, they have already racked up more first downs, rushing yards and passing yards than they did last season.
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 – against Jacksonville that will be Johnathan Coyne.
Extra Tidbits: Nov. 12 will mark the earliest end to a Valpo football season since 2007. The Crusaders have a bye during the final week of PFL action… Last week’s loss to Dayton was the closest Valpo-Dayton matchup since Valpo’s most recent victory over the Flyers in 2003… Turning a loss as lopsided as last year’s to Jacksonville into a win the following season would not be unprecedented for the Crusaders. Valpo lost to Butler 72-12 in 2013 and beat the Bulldogs 17-3 in 2014… Drew Snouffer has more total tackles (92) than any other PFL player and ranks fourth in tackles per game (9.2)... Valpo’s three rushing touchdowns last week were the most permitted by Dayton this season. The 182 rushing yards tied Valpo’s season high.