The Valparaiso University football team has unveiled its 2017 schedule. The Crusaders will open the season with a trip to Montana on Sept. 2, before welcoming Duquesne for the home opener on Sept. 9.
Montana, a member of the Big Sky, went 6-5 last season and boasted a 5-1 home mark. The Grizzlies have played their home games at Washington-Grizzly Stadium since 1986. Montana has gone undefeated at home 11 times in its 30 years at Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Montana has had 30 winning seasons in the last 31 years. They missed the FCS playoffs last season for the first time since 2012 and third time since 1995. The Grizzlies are entering the third season under the direction of head coach Bob Stitt. They featured the fifth-best passing attack in the nation in 2016, racking up 327 yards per game and 34 touchdowns over 11 games.
The Crusaders will face Duquesne for the third time after also battling the Dukes in 2011 and 2012. Duquesne returns 14 starters from a team that went 8-3 and shared the Northeast Conference title.
Valpo travels to Deerfield, Ill. to face NAIA foe Trinity International on Sept. 16. The Crusaders have faced Trinity International three times, a home-and-home in 2006 and 2007 and a home victory in 2016. Trinity International went 4-7 last year, 1-4 in the Mid-States Football Association.
Valpo begins Pioneer Football League play on Sept. 23 at Drake, a team that beat Valpo 35-21 a year ago and finished 7-4 and 6-2 in PFL play. The first PFL home game will occur on Sept. 30 against Stetson, a team Valpo beat 21-18 a year ago. The Hatters finished last season 4-7, 2-6 in PFL play.
The Crusaders play their third road game in a four-week span on Oct. 7 at Campbell, a team that will be playing its final season in the PFL before joining the Big South in 2018. Valpo hasn’t played Campbell since 2014, a 34-24 Valpo loss that snapped a three-game head-to-head winning streak.
Marist is also back on the schedule after a two-year hiatus. The Crusaders host the Red Foxes on Oct. 14. Marist finished last season 5-6, 5-3 in PFL play.
The Crusaders will enjoy a bye week on Oct. 21, before hosting Morehead State on Oct. 28. The Eagles and Crusaders have competed in thrillers each of the last three seasons, with Morehead State winning by seven points or fewer on all three occasions.
The Crusaders will look to repeat the success of their 42-39 victory over Jacksonville in the 2016 season finale when they visit the Dolphins on Nov. 4. Jacksonville finished 2016 at 5-5, 4-3 in PFL play.
The Hoosier Helmet will be back up for grabs on Nov. 11, as this year’s rivalry showdown between Valpo and Butler will occur in Indianapolis. The Crusaders close the season by hosting Dayton on Nov. 18.
Valpo will not play defending PFL champion San Diego this season, marking the first time since joining the league in 1993 that the Crusaders will not face off with the Toreros.