This Week in Crusader Football: The Valparaiso University football team will round out nonleague play with one final tune-up before Pioneer Football League action kicks off next week. It’s the back end of a home-and-home as the Crusaders look to repeat their success from last year’s Brown Field meeting with Trinity International. The Crusaders enter this game ranked second in the nation in passing offense at 377 yards per game.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders put together their second straight quality performance on Saturday, using a late comeback to threaten scholarship foe and Northeast Conference preseason favorite Duquesne. The Dukes held on for a 45-40 victory despite 511 yards of total offense from the Crusaders, who were led by Jimmy Seewald’s 424 passing yards, the second-best Week 2 performance in the nation by an FCS quarterback.
Following the Crusaders: For the 12th straight season, WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) is home to all 11 Crusader football games in 2017. Todd Ickow is back for his 27th season as Valpo’s play-by-play broadcaster, while Dave Huseman will add color commentary this week. Links to live audio, video and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Cecchini is in his fourth season as the head coach of the Crusaders. He enters this game with a 9-26 record, both overall and in three years 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. His team matched the four win total in 2016, Cecchini’s third year. Prior to arriving at Valpo, Cecchini served as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Lehigh for four years.
Series Notes: This is the back end of a home-and-home between the two teams after the Crusaders downed Trinity International 49-24 last year at Brown Field. Jimmy Seewald made his first career start and matched the program record with five touchdown passes. The two schools also got together in 2006 at Brown Field and 2007 at Trinity International, with the Trojans winning both of those meetings.
Seewald Shines: The list of reasons to believe wins are on the horizon after the first two weeks of the season are numerous, but there’s little doubt that No. 9 is No. 1 on that list. Seewald’s 424 yards passing on Saturday against Duquesne were the most by a Valpo quarterback since Eric Hoffman passed for a school-record 495 on Sept. 14, 2013 against William Jewell and the most against a Division I opponent since David Macchi’s 452 against Jacksonville in 2003. Seewald finished with career highs in completions (26) and passing yards (424) while coming one TD toss shy of matching the program record that he previously matched a season ago against the Trojans. Seewald, who ranks seventh nationally with 601 passing yards in two games, completed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Parker Fox, the longest pass completion for the Crusaders since an 86-yard Eric Hoffman to Tony Taibi play in 2013. Only five passes have gone for 80 yards or more in the FCS nation this season. Seewald received an honorable mention for STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Week. He became the first PFL quarterback to throw for 400+ yards in a game this season and he and San Diego’s Anthony Lawrence are the only active PFL QBs with a 400-yard passing game in their careers. Seewald’s 424 passing yards against Duquesne were also the third-most by any FCS quarterback in the nation in a single game this season.
Offensive Outbursts: The Crusaders have surpassed 450 yards of offense in back-to-back games, the first time they’ve done that since 2013 against William Jewell and Campbell. Valpo ranks first in the PFL and 15th nationally in total offense, averaging 480.5 yards per game. They’ve done it against a Montana team that led the Big Sky in total defense last year and a Duquesne squad that ranked 10th nationally and led the Northeast Conference in total defense in 2016. The 511 yards of total offense against Duquesne was Valpo’s most since Sept. 17 of last season against Trinity International (527) and the most against a Division I opponent since Sept. 27, 2014 at Campbell (533).
To provide context for this season’s successful start, here’s a look at where the Crusaders stand in terms of total offense and passing offense through two weeks compared to where they were in those categories at this time in years past, going back to Valpo’s most recent PFL championship in 2003.
Year Total Offense Passing Yards Points Scored Opponents
2017 961 754 63 scholarship, scholarship
2016 329 318 27 scholarship, scholarship
2015 455 322 13 scholarship, scholarship
2014 601 411 16 scholarship, D-II
2013 605 384 41 scholarship, D-II
2012 540 364 34 D-II, scholarship
2011 754 569 48 D-III, scholarship
2010 340 265 7 scholarship, D-III
2009 436 260 26 D-II, D-III
2008 565 252 34 NAIA, D-III
2007 821 261 41 NAIA, NAIA
2006 795 398 74 D-III, NAIA
2005 502 176 32 D-III, scholarship
2004 627 300 41 scholarship, D-III
2003 506 294 33 scholarship, D-III
Keeping It Close: Valpo, a member of the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, did something with little precedent in the program’s recent past each of the last two weeks, giving scholarship programs a scare. Comparing the result of this season’s first two games to previous contests against Division-I scholarship schools helps illustrate the program’s progress.
Date Opponent Score Margin Halftime Led? Total Offense
Sept. 9, 2017 Duquesne 45-40 5 31-21 N 511
Sept. 2, 2017 at Montana 45-23 22 17-13 Y 450
Sept. 3, 2016 at Illinois St 50-13 37 34-10 N 130
Sept.10, 2016 at Sacred H 42-13 28 35-14 N 221
Sept. 3, 2016 at EKU 52-10 42 31-3 N 220
Sept. 12, 2016 Sacred Heart 56-3 53 35-0 N 235
Aug. 28, 2014 at WIU 45-6 39 24-0 N 227
Aug. 29, 2013 at UND 69-10 59 35-0 N 174
Sept. 8, 2012 at YSU 59-0 59 49-0 N 190
Sept. 15, 2012 Duquesne 45-17 28 45-17 Y 291
Sept. 10, 2011 at YSU 77-13 64 63-6 N 291
Sept. 17, 2011 at Duquesne 49-14 35 28-0 N 188
Sept. 2, 2010 at WIU 45-0 45 17-0 N 131
Sept. 10, 2005 at SDSU 69-6 63 45-6 N 129
Aug. 28, 2004 at NDSU 52-0 52 38-0 N 180
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – projected starters and other notables
QB Jimmy Seewald – ranks seventh nationally with 601 passing yards in two games
QB Chris Duncan – v. Montana became the first Valpo QB to rush for 50 yards since ’09
RB Jarrett Morgan – Ranked seventh in the PFL in all-purpose yards last season
RB Cody Boxrucker – Has nine career TD runs on just 50 career carries
TE Mason Sutter – One of five Crusaders with at least one touchdown catch this season
WR Frank Catrine – Team-high nine receptions
WR Griffin Norberg – Ranks 36th nationally with 84.5 receiving yards per game
WR Donny Navarro – One of six freshmen in the FCS nation with two touchdown catches
WR Parker Fox – 80-yard TD reception vs. Duquesne was Valpo’s longest since 2013
C Jack Jarnigan – Has made 13 straight starts
RG Tom Schofield – Has made 13 straight starts
LG Eric Rentschler – Appeared in every game last season, but in his first year as a starter
LT Terrance Roberts – Expected to make his first appearance since Week 1 of 2016
RT Alex Cotton – Made his first career start last week
NT Tristan De La Rosa – Expected to make season debut Saturday after missing time w/ injury
CB Dilan Scargle – Made an interception in his first collegiate start
SS J.J. Nunes – Valpo’s leading tackler with 19, also has one forced fumble and one interception
FS Josmar Diaz-Martinez – Tied with Nunes for team lead with eight solo stops
OLB Mike Wheeler – One of three Crusaders with at least one TFL
ILB Nick Turner – One of four Crusaders with 18 tackles or more
ILB Drew Snouffer – One of four players in the PFL with 100+ tackles last season
OLB Austin Petrie – Converted from running back to linebacker this season
DE Jay Slone – One of two fifth-year seniors on Valpo’s roster
DT Jake Trumpower – Has started both games so far this season
P Alex Ng – Had his first career rush on Saturday, a gain of four for a first down on a fake punt
K Dimitrios Latsonas – In Week 1, was first Valpo kicker with three FGs in a game since ’08
RS Bailey Gessinger – One of three players in the nation with two kick returns for TDs in 2016
Scouting Trinity International: The Trojans are under the direction of eighth-year head coach Kirk Wherritt, who holds a 23-51 record through seven seasons. The Trojans went 4-7 a year ago including a 1-4 conference record. This marks Valpo’s lone NAIA opponent on the schedule this season. One player to watch is running back Isaac Branch, who is back for his junior year after finding success in last year’s meeting with the Crusaders to the tune of 181 yards on 26 carries. Branch is averaging 40.5 yards per game in the early going this season, while Chris Wolcott is the team’s leading rusher with 61.5 yards per game. Senior quarterback Danny Mattero is 19-for-39 for 292 yards in two games.
On the Uptick: The 2016 season marked a significant improvement for the Crusaders, who finished with their highest Pioneer Football League win total since 2003 and equaled their highest overall win total since 2007. The 2016 season concluded in style, as Valpo knocked off Jacksonville 42-39, a team the Crusaders lost to by 45 points the year prior.
Preseason Accolades: The Crusaders placed three on the 2017 Preseason All-Pioneer Football League Team – senior running back Jarrett Morgan, junior linebacker Drew Snouffer and sophomore return specialist Bailey Gessinger. This marked the most players Valpo has had on the team since 2011, when four Crusaders received the honor. Morgan ranked seventh in the PFL in all-purpose yards last year at 94.0 per game. He enjoyed three straight 100-yard rushing performances from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1, becoming the first Crusader to do so since Jeff Horton in 2005. Snouffer racked up 102 tackles as a sophomore after finishing his freshman season with just 16. He ranked fourth in the PFL at 9.3 tackles per game and was one of only four players in the league to reach the 100-tackle mark. Gessinger was second in the PFL with 24.4 yards per kickoff return and led the league in total return yards with 757. He had two kickoff returns for touchdowns, one of three players in the FCS nation to achieve that feat. Gessinger also became the first player in Crusader history with two kickoff returns for touchdowns in a single season.
Disciplined Crusaders: Valparaiso led the Pioneer Football League in fewest penalty yards per game at 48.4 a year ago. They were called for just 54 flags in 11 games. Valpo is tied for 16th in the Division-I FCS nation in fewest penalties and tied for 15th in fewest penalties 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.
Oh Captain My Captain: Valparaiso enters the 2017 season with four captains: fifth-year senior defensive back J.J. Nunes, senior wide receiver Frank Catrine, junior linebacker Drew Snouffer and fifth-year senior linebacker Jay Slone.
Looking Ahead: After this week, Valpo kicks off PFL play on Saturday, Sept. 23 at Drake, then returns to Brown Field for a Sept. 30 showdown with Stetson.