Morehead State (3-5, 2-3 PFL)
at Valparaiso (3-4, 2-2 PFL)
Game #8: Saturday, Oct. 28, 1 p.m. CT
Brown Field (5,000 – ProGrass) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Valparaiso University football team will look to sustain its recent home success this week when it welcomes Morehead State to Brown Field for a Pioneer Football League showdown. The Crusaders come into the contest well rested after enjoying a bye week and will look to pick up a victory in a head-to-head matchup that has been tightly contested in recent years.
Last Time Out: Valpo thrived in an adverse situation on Oct. 14 at Brown Field, overcoming over 3 hours, 30 minutes of lightning delays to defeat Marist 49-15. The Crusader defense forced six turnovers including five interceptions to pave the way for the lopsided win. The offense did its part as well, racking up 475 yards of total offense.
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 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 12-28 record, both overall and in four 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: Morehead State owns a commanding 19-3 lead in the all-time series between the two teams, but the record is somewhat deceiving given how the games have played out in recent years. The Eagles have prevailed in 10 straight meetings dating back to a Sept. 16, 2006 game at Morehead State, but the Crusaders have gone from swallowing lopsided losses to suffering heart-pounding defeats against Morehead State since Dave Cecchini’s arrival. Morehead State eked out a 48-47 victory in 2014, a 36-29 win in 2015 and a 29-26 triumph in 2016. The Crusaders have led with less than three minutes left in each of the last three meetings, but have dropped all three. The last time Valpo beat Morehead State at Brown Field was one of the most memorable games in program history – the PFL Championship on Nov. 22, 2003, a 54-42 triumph.
Scouting Morehead State: The Eagles were picked to finish eighth in the PFL Preseason Poll, two spots ahead of the Crusaders. They were ravaged by graduation losses, which included star quarterback Austin Gahafer, wide receivers Jake Raymond and Darius Prichett and kicker Matt Ward. The Eagles are led by head coach Rob Tenyer, who is in his fifth season in charge of the team. Morehead State’s three losses in PFL play have all come in lopsided fashion – Campbell (38-0), Butler (44-6) and San Diego (56-27). The Eagles earned one of the most surprising victories in the league this season when they knocked off perennial power Dayton 34-28 in the PFL opener on Sept. 23. Last week, Morehead State rallied from behind late in the fourth quarter to defeat Stetson 29-26. The Eagles are led in the running game by Logan Holbrook, who has 89 carries for 367 yards and five touchdowns. Quarterback Lawson Page is also a threat to run, as he has 218 yards on 66 carries and two scores to go along with 1,815 passing yards (156-241, 15 TD, 7 INT). Page is second in the league in total offense behind only Campbell’s Daniel Smith. The team’s top receiver is Jarin Higginbotham, who has 35 catches for 638 yards and five TDs. Morehead State has the league’s worst scoring defense (41.6 ppg) and total defense (463.0 yards/G). Statistically, the Eagles have the best pass defense (181.6) and the worst rushing defense (281.4) in the PFL. They also lead the league in passing offense at 272.9 yards per game. Morehead State is also far and away the most penalized team in the league (80 for 715 yards) and has been the most susceptible to the opponent converting on third down (46.6 percent).
Home Cooking: In recent years, the Valpo football team has developed a true home field advantage by defending Brown Field. This season, the Crusaders’ three home games have resulted in a pair of victories and a five-point loss to scholarship foe Duquesne. Valpo has now won three straight PFL home games dating back to last year’s season finale against Jacksonville, the program’s first such streak since 1999-2001, when Valpo won five straight league home games. Furthermore, Valpo has won eight home games in four seasons under Cecchini, including multiple home wins in three of the four seasons. In the five years prior to Cecchini taking over the program, Valpo had a total of two home victories. In 2016, the Crusaders finished with a winning record in games played at Brown Field for the first time since 2004. They have a chance to nail down a winning home record for the second consecutive season with a victory over Morehead State on Saturday.
More Marist Memories: The 49-15 victory over Marist on Oct. 14 is one that won’t soon be forgotten. The two lengthy lightning delays weren’t even the most memorable components of a wacky day at Brown Field. The Crusaders knocked off a team selected to finish in the Top 3 in the Pioneer Football League for the first time since Oct. 11, 2008, when Valpo beat Davidson 35-29 in overtime. Not only did the Crusaders earn an upset win, but they did so handily. The 34-point margin of victory marked the program’s largest ever in a PFL game and the largest in league play since Nov. 6, 1971, when head coach Norm Amundsen’s team defeated Butler 48-12 in Indiana Collegiate Conference action.
League Accolades: Following his 17-of-28 passing performance that featured 262 yards and three touchdowns against the Red Foxes, sophomore quarterback Jimmy Seewald was honored as the Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Week. This marks Valpo’s second PFL weekly award this season and the second time Seewald has received this honor in his Crusader career. He was previously named PFL Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 18, 2016 after throwing five touchdown passes against Trinity International.
Record Book Watch: For the season, Seewald has passed for 1,586 yards and 12 touchdowns, completing 114 of his 193 pass attempts. Seewald now owns 3,029 career passing yards, which already ranks eighth in program history. He leaped into Valpo’s career Top 10 on Saturday, surpassing Ben Lehman (2011-2014) and Warren Arnold (2005-2008) in the process. He needs 534 more passing yards to advance past Gordon Helms (1953-1955) for eighth in program history. Seewald needs two more TD passes to move into the program’s Top 5 for passing touchdowns in a single season. Seewald is the first Crusader to reach 3,000 passing yards before the end of his true sophomore season since Scott Lange in 1983.
QB Showdown: This week’s game will feature two of the top four quarterbacks in the league in terms of passing yards per game. Page is averaging 226.9 yards per game, narrowly ahead of Seewald, who has thrown for 226.6 yards per game. They rank third and fourth in the PFL respectively, looking up at only Drake’s Grant Kraemer and San Diego’s Anthony Lawrence.
Morgan Milestone: With his 68 rushing yards against Marist, senior running back Jarrett Morgan reached 1,000 rushing yards for his Crusader career. Morgan has done the bulk of his damage the past two seasons, with 810 of those yards coming since the start of 2016. Morgan became the first Crusader to hit 1,000 career rushing yards since Brandon Hall in 2015.
All the Right Picks: The Crusaders had five interceptions against the Red Foxes, the first time Valpo has intercepted five passes in a game in over a decade. The Crusaders had previously intercepted four passes in a game on two occasions over the last 10 years – 2008 against Campbell and 2016 against Stetson. Even more impressively, all five interceptions in the game came from different Crusaders. Freshman Dilan Scargle joined redshirt senior J.J. Nunes as the only Crusaders with multiple interceptions this season. The last Crusader to have multiple interceptions as a freshman was Josmar Diaz-Martinez, who had three in 2015.
Noteworthy Recovery: Scargle also had a hand in the only of Marist’s six turnovers that was not an interception. He recovered a fumble for a touchdown, becoming the first Crusader to do so since Devan Gadson picked up a fumble and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown on Nov. 10, 2012, a 28-27 loss to Davidson.
Running It In: The Crusaders had three different players with touchdown runs in the win over Marist as Jarrett Morgan, Kyle Cartales and Cody Boxrucker all ran for scores. Valpo also had three different players run for a TD in last year’s season finale against Jacksonville – Jimmy Seewald, Frank Catrine and Boxrucker. Morgan’s TD run was his first of the season and the sixth of his career, while Boxrucker’s was his seventh of the year and the 14th of his Valpo career as only a sophomore. Cartales had his fifth career TD overall and his third rushing score.
Going Back-to-Back: With a win, the Crusaders will have back-to-back wins for the first time since last season, when the Crusaders beat Trinity International and Davidson in consecutive weeks. Prior to that, the Crusaders hadn’t won consecutive games since 2007. A win would give Valpo back-to-back PFL wins within the same season for the first time since 2003. In addition, a victory on Saturday would put the Crusaders at 4-4 through eight games, which would mark the first time they’ve been .500 or better through eight games since 2007. A win would also give the Crusaders a 3-2 mark through five PFL games, the first time they’ve held a winning record through five PFL games since the league did away with two divisions following the 2005 season.
And the Point After is Good: Kicker Dimitrios Latsonas went 7-for-7 on PAT attempts in the blowout win over Marist, matching the program record for made extra points in a single game. He becomes the seventh Valpo kicker to knock down seven PATs in a game. The feat was reached just once in a 14-year span from 2000-2013, but since then it has occurred three times with three different kickers doing the duties (Jake Newman, Jake Simpson and Latsonas). Latsonas became just the second Valpo kicker to make seven extra points against a Division-I team, joining Eric Strasser (1999 at Austin Peay).
Tackling Tandem: The Crusaders still boast two of the top four tacklers in the PFL in Drew Snouffer and Nick Turner. Snouffer ranks second with 9.9 tackles per game, while Turner is fourth in the league with 8.7 tackles per contest. It’s been a breakout year for Turner, who already has 61 tackles as a junior after totaling 67 over his freshman and sophomore years combined.
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: The Crusaders will hit the road for the first time in nearly a month, as they head to Jacksonville to play the Dolphins in PFL action on Saturday, Nov. 4 at 11 a.m. CT. The Crusaders will look to defeat Jacksonville for the second consecutive year after pulling out a 42-39 triumph in a thrilling season finale at Brown Field in 2016.