Marist (3-3, 2-1 PFL)
at Valparaiso (2-4, 1-2 PFL)
Game #7: Saturday, Oct. 14, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000 – ProGrass) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Valparaiso University football team will begin a three-week stretch that features a pair of home games sandwiched around a bye week by hosting Marist on Saturday. The Crusaders find themselves back at Brown Field, where they’ve had strong success this season, recording a Homecoming win over Stetson and coming within five points of scholarship foe Duquesne.
Last Time Out: Valpo went on the road and played a Campbell team that is in its final season as a Pioneer Football League member before transitioning to the scholarship Big South Conference. The Camels continued their dominance of PFL opponents, winning the game 49-10. Valpo struck first after a fumble recovery by Nick Turner, key fourth down conversion on a run by Jimmy Seewald and 2-yard run by Cody Boxrucker set up an early score, but Campbell closed the half with seven unanswered touchdowns. The Crusaders outscored the Camels in the second half 3-0.
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 all home games. 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 11-29 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 Red Foxes are back on the schedule for the first time since the 2014 season, when Dave Cecchini’s first Crusader team fell 35-7 at Brown Field. Marist has won all six all-time meetings in a series that began in 2009. Marist’s defense has thrived in the all-time set, as remarkably it has held the Crusaders to seven points or fewer in all six games.
Scouting Marist: The Red Foxes were picked to finish third in the PFL Preseason Poll behind only powerhouses San Diego and Dayton. This is their highest projected finish in their nine seasons in the PFL. Marist, which finished last year 5-6 overall and 5-3 in the PFL, has met or exceeded preseason expectations each of the last six seasons. The team has 14 starters back for head coach Jim Parady. Quarterback Mike White set a school record with 2,931 passing yards last season. This year, White is 123-for-234 with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Juston Christian ranked second in the league in receiving yards per game a year ago. He’s putting together another strong season as his 517 receiving yards rank second in the PFL. Free safety Wes Beans is back after making six interceptions last season. Beans hasn’t picked off a pass yet this year, but he does lead the team in tackles with 37. Marist had seven Preseason All-PFL honorees, matching San Diego for the most in the league. The Red Foxes stepped out of league play last week and suffered a 41-17 loss to Columbia. They own league wins over Stetson (38-17) and Davidson (31-9), while their lone PFL defeat came against Jacksonville (44-37). Marist is sixth in the PFL in scoring offense at 23.8 points per game and fifth in scoring defense, allowing 28.0 points per game. The Red Foxes are ninth in total offense at 312 yards per game and fourth in total defense at 350.7. Marist has struggled to run the ball, averaging just 91.2 yards per game on the ground, 10th of 11 in the PFL. They do have two of the top four in the league in receptions per game with Christian second (6.2) and Lawrence Dickens fourth (5.0). Return specialist Makhai Johnson has been dangerous, leading the league with a 27.9 kickoff return average. He owns the league’s only kick return for a touchdown this season.
With a Win: Valpo would pick up its third straight win in home games against PFL opponents dating back to last year’s season finale against Jacksonville. That would be the Crusaders’ first such streak since 2000… Valpo would beat a team predicted to finish in the Top 3 in the PFL Preseason Poll for the first time since Oct. 11, 2008, when the Crusaders knocked off Davidson 35-29 in overtime. The Wildcats were picked to finish third that season. Valpo also beat a Butler team that was picked fourth in the preseason poll on Nov. 8, 2014.
Offensive Excitement: The Crusader scoring offense is third in the PFL with 26.2 points per game, behind only Jacksonville and Campbell. In terms of total offense, Valpo is narrowly behind Drake and sits in fourth in the PFL at 391.7 yards per game. The passing offense has been the team’s strength, as Valpo is throwing for 270.2 yards per game, second in the league behind only Drake. For comparison, Valpo finished last season ninth in the league in scoring offense, 10th in total offense and eighth in passing offense. Valpo hasn’t finished in the Top 5 in the league in total offense since 2007.
Tackling Tandem: Starting linebackers Drew Snouffer and Nick Turner have provided quite the one-two punch for the Crusaders this season. Snouffer is tied with Stetson’s Jeb Boudreaux for the league lead in tackles with 60 apiece, an average of 10 tackles per game. Turner is fourth in the league at 56 total tackles and 9.3 tackles per game. Turner has led the team in tackles back-to-back weeks, posting double-figure tackle totals in each of those contests including a career-high 13 against Stetson.
Touchback Time: Sophomore kicker Dimitrios Latsonas booted two more touchbacks on Saturday to boost his season total to nine. For comparison, Valpo as a team had a total of six touchbacks in the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons combined. This marks the most touchbacks by a Valpo kicker in over 15 years. In addition, Latsonas has made seven field goals this season and needs three more to crack Valpo’s single-season Top 5.
Jimmy Football: Valpo quarterback Jimmy Seewald is on the verge of cracking the program’s career Top 10 for passing yards as only a sophomore. Seewald has 2,767 career yards and is 60 away from Ben Lehman (2011-14), who sits in 10th on the all-time list. The Crusader QB ranks third in the PFL in passing yards per game at 220.7 behind only Drake’s Grant Kraemer and San Diego’s Anthony Lawrence.
Morgan Milestone: Senior running back Jarrett Morgan is 30 rushing yards away from hitting 1,000 for his collegiate career. He will become the first Crusader to rush for 1,000 yards since Brandon Hall (2013-15). Morgan has been sidelined each of the last two weeks due to an injury.
Catrine Career Chart: Valpo’s top active receiver in career statistics is senior Frank Catrine, who has 1,298 career receiving yards, seven touchdowns and 114 receptions. He has a chance to make his way into Valpo’s career Top 10 in receiving yards, needing 238 more yards to do so.
Boxrucker Barreling In: After scoring another touchdown last week at Campbell, sophomore running back Cody Boxrucker has six rushing TDs this season and 13 in his Valpo career. He needs one more to match his season total from a year ago. Brandon Hall had 10 rushing touchdowns in 2014.
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, it’s the first in-season week off Valpo has enjoyed since Oct. 31, 2015. Following the bye, the Crusaders will be back in action on Saturday, Oct. 28 at 1 p.m. against Morehead State at Brown Field.