Stetson (0-4, 0-2 PFL)
at Valparaiso (1-3, 0-1 PFL)
Game #5: Saturday, Sept. 30, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000 – ProGrass) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: It’s a new week and a new game as the Valparaiso University football team turns the page to this week’s matchup with Stetson, which will take place at Brown Field on Saturday afternoon. The Crusaders have hopes of repeating their success against the Hatters from a year ago and in the process washing away the memory of last week’s second half against Drake. It’s an important day as the Crusaders play in the annual homecoming football game.
Last Time Out: The Crusaders looked sharp in the early going, scoring twice in the first half on Kyle Cartales runs and trailed just 17-13 at halftime. However, Valpo didn’t convert a first down in the third quarter and was limited to 57 yards of offense in the second half as the Bulldogs pulled away for 38-13 win in the Pioneer Football League opener.
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 is in his fifth season as the color commentator for home games and studio anchor when the team is on the road. Links to live audio 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 week with a 10-27 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: The Crusaders notched a thrilling win in a low-scoring affair on Oct. 15, 2016 at Stetson, 21-18. Neither team scored in the fourth quarter as the Crusader defense held strong. The Hatters attempted a 47-yard field goal with 51 seconds left that would have tied the game, but it fell short. The Crusaders made four interceptions and blocked an earlier field goal attempt in the win. The all-time series is even 1-1 as the only matchup before last year was a 37-14 loss at Brown Field in 2015.
Homecoming History: The Crusaders have thrived in their homecoming games over the last four seasons. During that span, the Crusaders own a 3-1 record on homecoming Saturday. Valpo defeated Campbell in overtime in 2013, Missouri Baptist in 2014 and Davidson in 2016. The only loss over the last four seasons was to San Diego in 2015. A win on Saturday over Stetson would make it 4-1 in homecoming games over the last five seasons.
Career Day: Sophomore Kyle Cartales was Valpo’s most productive offensive player on Saturday, leading the team with a career-high 68 rushing yards to go along with two rushing touchdowns, the first of his career.
Red Zone Efficiency: Whenever Valpo has made its way into the red zone this season, the Crusaders have come away with points. The Crusaders are one of five teams nationally who have converted every red zone opportunity. Valpo is 13-for-13 in the red zone, second nationally to only Montana, which has converted all 16 red zone opportunities.
Spreading it Out: Through the first three weeks of the season, Valpo already had seven players with receptions of 30 yards or more. No other team in the nation had more than five, and Valpo hasn’t had that many individuals with a catch of 30+ yards in an entire season since 2011.
Making the Stops: Drew Snouffer has lifted his season total to a team-leading 41 tackles, while Jalin LeAndre is the team leader in unassisted stops with 15. Snouffer has led the team or shared the team lead in tackles in three of the four games this season, reaching a double-figure tackle total in each of those contests. He has led Valpo in tackles 10 games since the start of last season.
Through the Uprights: Valpo sophomore kicker Dimitrios Latsonas is 4-for-4 on field goal tries thus far this season. He’s one of 12 kickers nationally who has four or more made field goals without a miss and the only kicker in the PFL in that category.
Senior Comparison: Valpo enters Saturday’s game with eight seniors on its roster, three more than Stetson’s five. This marks the first time since Nov. 7, 2015 at Butler that Valpo enters a PFL game with more seniors than its opponent.
Offensive Output: Despite a lackluster second half last week, Valpo still leads the PFL and ranks 11th nationally in passing offense with 297.5 yards per game and leads the league with 443.3 yards per game, an average that ranks 21st nationally.
Scouting Stetson: The Hatters went 4-7 a year ago and finished with a 2-6 mark in PFL play. They were picked to finish this season in ninth in the PFL standings, one place ahead of where the Crusaders were selected. Stetson, which resurrected its program for the 2013 season, saw its first recruiting class depart after last year. The graduated class was led by Donald Payne, who finished his career with 538 tackles, which ranks third in NCAA Division I history. The Hatter defense does return Jeb Boudreaux, who finished with 116 tackles last season, actually edging Payne by two tackles for the team lead. Boudreaux, a junior, was Stetson’s lone representative on the Preseason All-PFL Team. The Hatters are guided by fifth-year head coach Roger Hughes, who spent the previous 10 seasons in the Ivy League as the head man at Princeton. This year, Stetson’s leading rusher is Bryce Blackmond, who has 130 yards in four games so far this season. Nobody else is averaging more than 4.5 yards per game. Quarterback Colin McGovern is 82-for-140 passing with two touchdowns and eight interceptions. Donald Perham is the leading receiver with 20 catches for 255 yards. Stetson ranks last in the PFL in total offense (216.2 yards per game), scoring offense (12 ppg) and 10th in scoring defense (41.8 ppg). Statistically, the Hatters’ biggest strength is their pass defense, as Stetson is third in the league, allowing just 190.5 passing yards per game, while the rushing defense is 10th at 244.8.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – projected starters and other notables
QB Jimmy Seewald – Will become the second Crusader since ’07 w/ 20 TD tosses with his next score
RB Jarrett Morgan – Had a career-high 127 rushing yards at TIU
RB Kyle Cartales – Had the first two TD runs of his career at Drake
RB Cody Boxrucker – Has 12 career TD runs on just 63 career carries
TE Mason Sutter – One of six Crusaders with at least one touchdown catch this season
WR Frank Catrine – Team-high 15 receptions for 232 yards this season
WR Jean Rene – Has over 1,000 career receiving yards and 10 TDs
WR Griffin Norberg – Second on the team with 222 receiving yards this year
WR Parker Fox – 80-yard TD reception vs. Duquesne was Valpo’s longest since 2013
C Jack Jarnigan – Expected to snap streak of 15 straight starts on Saturday
C Brady Sullivan – Expected to make his first career start on Saturday
RG Tom Schofield – Has made 15 straight starts
LG Eric Rentschler – Appeared in every game last season, but in his first year as a starter
LT Terrance Roberts – Made his first appearance since Week 1 of 2016 against TIU
RT Andrew Lundberg – Expected to start for the second straight week
NT Tristan De La Rosa – Made season debut against Trinity International
CB Dilan Scargle – Made an interception in his first collegiate start against Duquesne
SS J.J. Nunes – Needs six more tackles to reach 200 for his career
FS Josmar Diaz-Martinez – Has eight career interceptions, the most of any Crusader since 2010
OLB Mike Wheeler – Career high of nine tackles came last season against Sacred Heart
OLB Laddie Skarecky – Made his first career start at TIU and started again at Drake
OLB Austin Petrie – Expected to return after missing last week’s game
ILB Nick Turner – Ranks second on the team in tackles with 33
ILB Drew Snouffer – Leads the team with 33 tackles and 27 unassisted tackles
CB Jalin LeAndre – Has started every game this season
DE Jay Slone – One of two fifth-year seniors on Valpo’s roster
DT Jake Trumpower – Has started every game this season
P Alex Ng – Had his first career rush vs. Duquesne, 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 – Became the first player in Valpo history with two kick returns for TDs last year.
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.
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: Next week, the Crusaders will hit the road to visit Campbell, a team in its final season in the PFL before transitioning to scholarship football.