Valparaiso (1-7, 1-4 PFL)
at Marist (4-4, 4-1 PFL)
Game #9: Saturday, Nov. 3, 11 a.m. CT
Tenney Stadium at Leonidoff Field (5,000 – FieldTurf) – Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
This Week in Valpo Football: The Valparaiso University football team will attempt to get back in the win column with a long trip to Poughkeepsie to take on Pioneer Football League title contender Marist on Saturday. The Red Foxes enter this week locked in a three-way tie for second in the PFL standings and just one game behind league-leading San Diego.
Last Time Out: An injury-plagued Valpo team fell 42-25 to Drake, a team that is continuing its annual tradition of being in the Pioneer Football League title mix late in the season. Valpo scored twice within two minutes, 20 seconds in the fourth quarter to cut a 25-point deficit to 10, but could get no closer. Quarterback Chris Duncan threw for a career-high 302 yards while completing three touchdown passes, also a career watermark. Senior tight end Mason Sutter had a career high of his own with 96 receiving yards on six catches, while Griffin Norberg had a team-high seven grabs for 96 yards. Austin Petrie was involved in three sacks (one solo, two ½ sacks), while Drew Snouffer led the way in tackles with 15.
Following Valpo Football: This week’s game can be seen on the Red Fox Network or heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso with Todd Ickow and Brandon Vickrey on the call. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Dave Cecchini: Now in his fifth season as the program’s head coach, Cecchini has lifted Valpo football to new heights during his time in charge, turning a team that had won just three total games in the four seasons prior to his arrival - all against the same opponent - into one that finished with its first winning season since 2003 in 2017. Last year saw the program turn a corner as Valpo went 6-5 overall and 5-3 in Pioneer Football League play. Cecchini became the first Valpo coach since 2003 to earn PFL Coach of the Year honors. He was also named a finalist for the FCS Coach of the Year Award, the AFCA FCS Region 4 Coach of the Year and a finalist for the AFCA FCS National Coach of the Year. Valpo finished tied for third in the league standings after being picked to finish 10th of 11. The Valpo head coach enters this week with a 16-36 record, both overall and in four plus years on campus. Prior to arriving in Northwest Indiana, Cecchini served as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Lehigh for four years.
Series Notes: Last year’s game between these two teams at Brown Field is one that won’t soon be forgotten. The game was disrupted by a pair of lightning delays that totaled three hours, 36 minutes. The contest kicked off at 1:04 p.m. and didn’t reach its completion until 7:07 p.m., but it was worth the wait for Valpo, which notched a 49-15 victory. Valpo had scored a total of 28 points in the six prior meetings with Marist before the offensive outburst that saw Valpo enjoy a 34-point margin of victory, its largest in a league game since Nov. 6, 1971. The Red Foxes lead the all-time series 6-1. Entering Saturday, Marist is one of two active PFL locations where Valpo has never notched a victory (along with Drake) as the team is 0-3 in Poughkeepsie. This will mark the first time Valpo has visited Marist since a 37-0 loss on Oct. 5, 2013. This will be Valpo’s first game at Marist of the Cecchini Era – the final active PFL venue the current coaching staff has never visited. Valpo will look to reverse its fortunes at Marist, where it has been outscored 91-7 over three games.
Packed with Sacks: The Valpo defense racked up four sacks on Saturday against Drake, more than the team had in the first seven games of the season combined. That marked the most sacks Valpo has had in a single game since having five on Oct. 26, 2013, also against Drake. Austin Petrie was involved in three sacks and totaled 2.0 (one solo, two 1/2), the most by a Valpo player in a single game since John Guilford had 2.5 on Oct. 17, 2015 against Dayton.
Punting Point: The Valpo defense forced a quality Drake offense into seven punts on Saturday at Brown Field. That was the most punts by a Valpo opponent since Dayton punted seven times against Valpo in the 2017 season finale, an 8-7 Valpo victory. It was also the most times Drake has punted this season and the most by the Bulldogs in a game since Oct. 28, 2017 against Davidson (eight).
Passing Performance: Quarterback Chris Duncan eclipsed 300 passing yards for the first time in his collegiate career last week against Drake, finishing with 302. Valpo passed for 311 yards in the game, a team watermark this season and the most since Oct. 28, 2017 vs. Morehead State (316).
Staying Disciplined: Valpo has continued its tradition of avoiding penalties that has been a constant of the Dave Cecchini Era. The team enters this week ranked ninth nationally and second in the PFL in fewest penalties per game at 4.38. Valpo ranked first or second in the PFL in fewest penalties per game in three of Cecchini’s first four seasons. The team is looking to finish in the Top 15 nationally in that area for the third time under Cecchini – a trend that was established in the current staff’s first season when Valpo finished sixth nationally in fewest penalties per game.
Close Calls: Three of Valpo’s losses have come by seven points or fewer. This marks the first time since 2003 Valpo has had three losses by seven points or fewer in the same season. The team has had a three-point loss at Duquesne, a five-point loss to Davidson and a seven-point loss at Morehead State this year.
Scouting Marist: The Red Foxes carry a three-game winning streak with them into this week’s game after stringing together wins over Jacksonville (20-17), Davidson (48-41 OT) and Morehead State (48-21). Marist will have a tough final two weeks of the season, traveling to Drake on Nov. 10 before hosting San Diego on Nov. 17. Marist allows 28.1 points per game, tied for second in the league in scoring defense. The star player for the Red Foxes is wide receiver Juston Christian, who ranks third in the league at 115 receiving yards per game. Quarterback Austin Day is averaging 245 passing yards per game and has thrown nine touchdown passes in his three appearances. The team’s running backs thrived in last week’s win over Morehead State as Mekhai Johnson ran for 170 yards and Darryn Jordan accumulated 101 yards on the ground. Marist head coach Jim Parady is in his 27th season. Marist was picked to finish seventh in the PFL Preseason poll, but has exceeded expectations as one of four PFL teams with only one league loss. The only defeat came by five points at Stetson in the first week of league play against a Hatter team that has also been a surprise – currently tied for second after being picked ninth.
Battling the Injury Bug: Injuries have been a major obstacle for Valpo football this season. When Valpo sent its four captains out for the coin toss on Saturday last week, only one was in uniform with the others sidelined by injuries. Last week, Valpo played without seven players that would be starters and had another starter exit with an injury.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
- WR Griffin Norberg - Has 15 career touchdowns (13 receiving) including a team-high six this season… Fifth in the league with 5.4 receptions per game… Has 90 or more receiving yards in four different games this season.
- LT Andrew Lundberg – Has started every game this season and has been a fixture on the offensive line since the start of the 2016 season, missing just two games.
- LG Eric Rentschler – Computer engineering major who was named to the Academic All-PFL Second Team last season. Works in the Valpo IT Department. Local to Northwest Indiana as a Highland graduate. Has played in 33 straight games.
- C Jack Jarnigan – Has missed just one game since the start of the 2016 season…. Off the field, works as a graduate assistant in Valpo’s sports information department.
- RG Tom Schofield – Became the first Valpo offensive lineman to catch a pass since 2003 on Sept. 29 vs. Davidson. Has played in all 40 games during his collegiate career. Member of the 2017 All-PFL Second Team.
- RT Shannon Taliaferro – Has appeared in 25 straight games.
- TE Mason Sutter – Has played in all 40 games of his collegiate career. Has caught at least one TD pass in each of his four seasons and has five for his career… Led the team with 82 receiving yards on five receptions on Oct. 13 against Butler, earning the team’s Offensive Player of the Week award… Had a career-high 96 receiving yards on Oct. 27 against Drake.
- WR Bailey Gessinger – Found the end zone for the third straight week on Oct. 27 vs. Drake, this time via his first TD reception of the season and the third of his career.
- WR JD Koehler – One of 16 Valpo players with a reception this season.
- QB Chris Duncan – Passed for over 300 yards for the first time in his collegiate career on Oct. 27 vs. Drake while also throwing a career-high three touchdown passes.
- RB Cody Boxrucker – On Oct. 13 against Butler had three rushing TDs in a single game for the second straight season after he did so against Trinity International last year. He became the first Valpo player to rush for three touchdowns in a game against a Division-I opponent since Jake Hutson on Sept. 28, 2013 against Campbell… Is up to 17 career rushing touchdowns.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
- DE Jesse Studyvin – Back after missing last season with an injury. Recipient of Team Type 1 Foundation scholarship for individuals with Type 1 Diabetes and played against fellow recipient and Truman State quarterback Jaden Barr earlier this season… President of Valpo’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
- NT James Reed – High school teammates with Jesse Studyvin at Saint Pius X… Named the Valpo Defensive Player of the Week for his performance on Oct. 13 against Butler, when he racked up a career-high eight tackles, second on the team in that game.
- DT Jake Trumpower – Has played in 23 consecutive games.
- OLB Mike Wheeler – Co-President of Valpo’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
- OLB Austin Petrie – Had a career-high 10 tackles in the season opener against Duquesne. Started his collegiate career as a running back before being converted to linebacker… Had 2.0 sacks on Oct. 27 vs. Drake, the most by a Valpo player in a single game since John Guilford in 2015.
- ILB Matthew Messler – Redshirt junior who made the most of his first career start on Oct. 13 against Butler. He made a critical interception with 6:54 remaining in the fourth quarter and returned it all the way to the Butler 2, helping Valpo secure the Hoosier Helmet rivalry trophy for the second straight season.
- ILB Drew Snouffer – Ranks fifth in the nation in tackles per game at 11.9.
- CB Cam Kelly – Had three pass breakups and a pair of tackles on Oct. 20 at Morehead State.
- FS Jamari Booker – Had 20 tackles on Sept. 29 against Davidson, becoming the fifth player in the FCS nation with 20 or more tackles in a single game this season. Also became the first Valpo player since at least 2002 with 20+ tackles in a single game.
- SS Michael Scarsella – The Valpo native and true freshman made his first career interception to highlight his first career start on Oct. 13 against Butler… Turned in 10 tackles on Oct. 20 at Morehead State.
- CB Jalin LeAndre – Started all 11 games and had nine pass breakups in 2017.
- CB Kohlton Sherman – Made his first career start on Oct. 27 vs. Drake.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- K Dimitrios Latsonas – Placed his name in the Valpo record book with his performance in 2017. His 11 made field goals tied for fourth in program history, while his 35 successful PATs established a single-season Valpo record. He also tied the single-game record for made PATs with seven against Morehead State on Oct. 28. In addition, Latsonas booted 10 touchbacks on kickoffs.
- P Kyle Ulbrich – Has averaged 35.3 yards per punt over 21 punts (long 49) this season.
- RS Bailey Gessinger –Member of the 2017 All-PFL Second Team... Named PFL Special Teams Player of the Week on Oct. 14… Has two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season and four in his career, one shy of tying a PFL record.
Preseason Accolades: Valpo had a trio of representatives on the 2018 Preseason All-Pioneer Football League Team. Senior linebacker Nick Turner, senior offensive lineman Tom Schofield and junior return specialist Bailey Gessinger all garnered preseason recognition. Turner was one of two Valpo players and four in the entire PFL to exceed 100 tackles last year. Schofield started all 11 games for an offensive line that helped Valpo finish tied for 10th nationally in fewest sacks allowed per game. Gessinger was on the preseason all-league team as a return specialist for the second consecutive year. Valpo was picked to finish tied for fourth in the 2018 PFL Preseason Poll, the team’s highest predicted finish since the PFL combined into one division in 2006.
Oh Captain, My Captain: Valparaiso enters the 2018 season with four captains: junior quarterback Jimmy Seewald, senior linebacker Drew Snouffer, senior linebacker Nick Turner and senior defensive back Josmar Diaz-Martinez. Snouffer is the lone captain in his second season in that role.
Wrapping Up 2017: Valpo football turned a corner a year ago, assembling its first winning season since 2003 while finishing in a three-way tie for third in the PFL after being picked to place 10th of 11 in the preseason poll. Valpo won four of its last five games and completed the season with 330 points scored, the second most in a single season in program history. Valpo also finished the year second in program history in yards of total offense with 4,398. Valpo defended Brown Field well, going 4-0 in PFL home games and winning four league home games in the same year for the first time ever. Valpo captured five league wins in the same season for the first time since 1961 and finished ahead of six teams in the league standings for the first time since 1954.