Valparaiso (1-4, 1-1 PFL)
at Mercer (4-1, 1-1 PFL)
Game #6: Saturday, Oct. 12, 11 a.m.
Mercer University Stadium (10,000 - FieldTurf) - Macon, Ga.
This Week in Crusader Football: The Brown and Gold head south as they look to rebound from a 37-0 defeat to Marist at Tenney Stadium in Poughkeepsie, New York last Saturday. The loss came a week after Valpo prevailed over Campbell 49-42 in overtime. The Bears opened their first season since 1941 with four straight wins before San Diego handed them a 45-13 defeat in southern California.
On the Air: For the eighth straight season, the Valpo Sports Radio Network is home to all 11 Crusader football games in 2013. All 11 games can be heard live on WVUR (95.1FM, Valparaiso), online through www.valpoathletics.com. Todd Ickow will handle all the play-by-play, with Brad Collignon adding the color commentary this week. Saturday’s game will feature free video streaming available on valpoathletics.com which will appear on game day. Live stats will also be available through www.valpoathletics.com.
Head Coach Dale Carlson: Dale Carlson is 3-35 in his fourth season with the Crusaders, and 113-138-3 overall in his 25th season as a collegiate head coach. He arrived at Valpo from Ohio Dominican where he began the Ohio Dominican program from scratch in 2004, just as he did at Tri-State University prior to his tenure with the Panthers. He is the 16th head coach in Valpo history, and just the seventh since 1946.
Aloha!: This will be the first - and quite possibly last - meeting between Valparaiso and Mercer on the gridiron. Mercer’s Board of Trustees voted in November of 2010 to reinstate the football program after a 72-year hiatus. Eight months later, the school announced its affiliation with Pioneer Football League. This past May, Mercer made it known that it would be leaving the PFL and joining the Southern Conference (FCS scholarship) in the fall of 2014.
Wrapping Up 2012: The Crusaders captured their only win of the season on the road last year by defeating Campbell, 41-21. Valpo ended the season 1-10 and 1-7 in PFL play, but returns plenty of experience for 2013, as the Crusaders bring back eight starters on both sides of the ball.
Scouting Mercer: The Bears enter Saturday’s tilt as one of the most potent rush offenses in all of FCS football. Mercer is currently averaging 248.2 yards on the ground, which ranks them 12th. Mercer and Campbell (2nd) are the only two PFL teams in the top 35 in that category. As proficient as the Bears are rushing the ball, they’re equally as stingy defending it. Opponents have averaged just 83.4 yards per game, good for second overall in FCS football. Bobby Lamb is 71-41 in his 10th season overall as a head coach. Lamb spent nine seasons at the helm of the Furman football team. Payton Usher is one of the PFL’s top running backs, as he is on his way to a 1,000-yard season. Caleb Brown will get some touches in the red zone as he has already accumulated five touchdowns. Quarterback John Russ has been responsible for 807 yards in the air and 183 yards on the ground. Russ has tossed nine touchdown passes and hustled for three.
Week in Review: Valpo ran into an aggressive Marist team who defeated the locals 37-0 in Poughkeepsie. Eric Hoffman was sacked six times and the Crusaders were unable to accomplish much on offense in the second half as the Red Foxes controlled the ball for over 22 minutes. The Brown and Gold had just five possessions in the second half of last Saturday’s tilt. It was the first game without running back Jake Hutson whose season is over due to a knee injury. In his place, Brandon Hall gathered 68 yards on 14 carries. Hall and freshman Denzell Conway will both see plenty of touches in Hutson’s absence.
Checking the Leaderboard: Sophomore Alex Green is fourth in all of FCS football with an average of 11.8 tackles per game. Eric Hoffman ranks 16th in passing yards per game with his 274.2/game figure. Junior Fred Gladney is 15th in receiving yards per game at 99.8. His 499 yards for the season is 18th-most in FCS football. The Valparaiso offense as a whole checks in at 75th in total offense at 364.4 yards per contest.
Oh Captain, My Captain: Valpo has three captains for the 2013 season. Redshirt sophomore running back Jake Hutson will represent the offense, while senior defensive back Alex Grask and sophomore linebacker Alex Green will represent the Crusader defense.
Crusaders Picked 10th in Preseason Poll: The head coaches selected Valparaiso to finish 10th in the Pioneer Football League this season according to the preseason poll. The prognosticators selected San Diego to take home the 2013 championship.
Spread the Wealth: Nine different receivers have registered at least four receptions so far in 2013. Andrew Cassara has been active the past two weeks, hauling in 17 passes versus Campbell and Marist. With secondaries zeroing in on Gladney, Cassara and Tanner Kuramata are cashing in on opportunities. Kuramata has averaged a shade over 90 receiving yards a game since Week 3. The recently-converted Steve O’Bryant is also emerging as a viable target for Hoffman.
What’s in a Number: Mercer has put up 119 points in the first half of its games this season. The total number of points the Crusaders have allowed in the first half thus far? 119.
In the Sack: One troubling trend heading into the weekend for the Crusaders is sacks. Mercer has sacked opposing quarterbacks 16 times, yet the Bears offensive line has allowed just three. Valpo has given up 13 to the opposition, yet have tallied only four of their own.
Red Light, Green Light: Alex Green has had the breakout season Dale Carlson was hoping for. The sophomore leads the PFL with 59 total tackles and his 34 solo stops are third in the league. Two of Green’s nearly five dozen tackles have been for a loss this season. As his development continues, the Crusader linebackers are surfacing as a position of strength.