Valparaiso (2-3, 1-1 PFL)
at Campbell (3-2, 2-0 PFL)
Game #6: Saturday, Oct. 7, 1 p.m. CT
Barker-Lane Stadium (5,000 – FieldTurf) – Buies Creek, N.C.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Valparaiso University football team will make the trip to Campbell this week to take on the Fighting Camels for the last time as Pioneer Football League foes. The Crusaders will look to build on last week’s Homecoming victory and secure back-to-back PFL wins for the first time since 2003.
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 sports information director Brandon Vickrey will provide 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 an 11-27 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 own a 4-3 lead in the all-time series, which dates back to the first year of Campbell’s resurrection in 2008. This marks the first time the two teams have gotten together since Sept. 27, 2014, a 34-24 Valpo loss in Dave Cecchini’s first season. That game was also held at Campbell. That snapped Valpo’s three-game winning streak in the head-to-head series, which included a thrilling 49-42 overtime win in 2013 at Brown Field. However, this is a much different Campbell team than the one Valpo dominated during the Dale Carlson coaching era. The Fighting Camels finished 5-5 overall and 3-4 in the PFL a year ago, with wins over Davidson, Butler and Morehead State. They’ve shown steady improvement under former Carolina Panthers standout Mike Minter, who is in his fifth season as the team’s head coach. The Fighting Camels own a pair of convincing PFL wins this season, having defeated Stetson 49-21 and Morehead State 38-0.
Scouting Campbell: The Fighting Camels are in their final year as a member of the Pioneer Football League, as they will join the Big South Conference starting in 2018. The 2017 season marks Campbell’s 10th year of football since returning from a 58-year hiatus. Campbell will also move toward the full NCAA Football Championship Subdivision scholarship allotment after a decade in the non-scholarship PFL. Campbell was picked tied for fifth with Jacksonville in the league’s preseason poll. The Fighting Camels are second in the league in scoring offense (36.6 ppg) and first in scoring defense (13.0 ppg). They lead the nation in passes intercepted (11), rank second nationally in red zone defense (50 percent) and rank eighth in total defense with a league best 255.2 yards allowed per game. They have forced 16 turnovers this season, tied for the most in the nation. The offensive strength is the rushing attack, as Campbell ranks second in the league and 14th nationally with 248.2 rushing yards per game. Bryan Bailey is their leading receiver with eight catches for 184 yards, while quarterback Daniel Smith is 45-of-91 for 609 yards and seven touchdowns in four games. Smith is also a threat to run, as he leads the team in rushing with 494 yards on 47 carries (123.5 yards per game). All three players who won PFL Weekly Awards last week will partake in this game. In his first career start, redshirt freshman Montel Goods accumulated 193 yards rushing on 27 carries, the PFL’s second-best rushing performance of the season. He scored three touchdowns and averaged 7.1 yards per carry in the win over Morehead State, allowing him to earn the Offensive Player of the Week honor. Carlos Merritt was the PFL Defensive Player of the Week after making six tackles to go along with an interception as Campbell snapped Morehead State’s 71-game streak of not being shut out that dated back to 2010.
Latsonas Honored: Sophomore kicker Dimitrios Latsonas was named the Pioneer Football League Special Teams Player of the Week after going 2-for-2 on field goals and 3-for-3 on PATs in Saturday’s three-point win over Stetson. Latsonas is a perfect 6-for-6 on field goal tries this season, one of 13 players in the FCS nation without a miss. He’s tied for second nationally for the most field goals without a miss this year. Latsonas became the first Crusader to earn a PFL weekly award since Jimmy Seewald was named Offensive Player of the Week following Week 3 of the 2016 season.
Touchback Time: In addition to his field goal kicking success that helped lead to the weekly award, Latsonas has continued to thrive on kickoffs – which started out as his specialty during his freshman season while he shared kicking duties with Jake Simpson. Latsonas has seven touchbacks already this season through the first five games. For comparison, Valpo as a team had a total of six touchbacks in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons combined. Latsonas’ seven touchbacks this year already mark the most by a Valpo kicker in a single season since Mike Pando had eight in 2012.
Turner Turning It Up: Junior Nick Turner has enjoyed a breakout season thus far – racking up 46 tackles to rank second on the team behind only Drew Snouffer. Turner is on the verge of surpassing his season total of 54 from a year ago. He posted a career-high 13 to lead the Crusaders against Stetson. Turner ranks fifth in the PFL in tackles with 46 (9.2 tackles per game), while Snouffer leads the league with 52 (10.4 per game).
Spreading It Out: When Kyle Cartales caught a 34-yard pass in the second quarter of Saturday’s game against Stetson, he became the eighth different Crusader with a reception of 30+ yards this season. This is the first time since 2011 that Valpo has had eight different players with receptions of 30 yards or more.
Donny Dialed In: Seewald-to-Navarro is a quarterback-to-wide receiver connection that could continue to make a significant impact in games for years to come. The sophomore signal caller and rookie receiver connected for a pair of touchdowns on Saturday, lifting Navarro’s season total to four. He finished with four catches for a career-high 100 yards. He’s the only freshman in the FCS nation with four TD receptions this year. Navarro leads all PFL freshmen in receiving yards per game (59.4), yards per catch (16.5), and total receiving yards (297).
Cartales Carries Rushing Load: With running back Jarrett Morgan sidelined by an injury, Kyle Cartales received his second career start and first of the season on Saturday. He delivered a team-high 58 rushing yards on 14 carries and had four catches for 62 yards and a touchdown, the fourth of his career and his second career receiving score. Cartales now leads the team in rushing yards this season with 177 on 42 carries.
Jimmy Football: Quarterback Jimmy Seewald continued to impress on Saturday, tossing three touchdown passes to lift his career total to 22. He’s the second Crusader since 2007 to throw 20 career TD passes, and he’s not even half way through his sophomore season.
Red Zone Success: The Crusaders are one of three teams in the nation who are perfect in red zone opportunities this season. They have scored on all 17 red-zone attempts, second only to Montana, which is 22-for-22.
Close Calls: Saturday’s three-point win over Stetson on Saturday was Valpo’s fourth game decided by three points or fewer since the start of the 2016 season. Valpo has won three of those four with two victories over Stetson and a win over Jacksonville to go along with a loss to Morehead State.
A Win Would: Give Valpo consecutive Pioneer Football League victories for the first time since October 2003, when the eventual league-champion Crusaders beat Dayton and San Diego in back-to-back games… Give Valpo a .500 record through six games for the first time since 2007… Give Valpo a winning league record through three PFL games for the first time since 2003.
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 permanent 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.
Up Next: The Crusaders are back home for the final game prior to a bye week when they host Marist next Saturday at 1 p.m. CT.