Valparaiso (0-4, 0-1 PFL)
at Dayton (2-3, 1-1 PFL)
Game #5: Saturday, Oct. 6, Noon CT
Welcome Stadium (11,000 – Astroturf) – Dayton, Ohio
This Week in Valpo Football: The Valparaiso University football team will look to win back-to-back meetings with Dayton for the first time in program history on Saturday afternoon as the two teams resume a matchup that dates all the way back to 1988. Valpo is ready to embrace a strong challenge against one of the PFL’s perennial powers on Saturday as the team seeks its second ever win in Dayton and first since 2003.
Last Time Out: Valpo fell to Davidson 40-35 in the team’s PFL opener and homecoming game last week at Brown Field. The first seven drives of the game all resulted in touchdowns before the game shifted to a defensive battle in the second half. The Valpo defense turned it around and allowed just six points after halftime, but that was enough as the go-ahead score came with 56 seconds left to put the Wildcats back on top. Quarterbacks Jimmy Seewald (12-of-20, 160) and Chris Duncan (6-of-8, 100) both passed for 100+ yards while Griffin Norberg had four receptions for 102 yards and one touchdown. Jean Rene hauled in two touchdown passes, while Jamari Booker led the defense with 20 tackles.
Following Valpo Football: Saturday’s game will be streamed via Facebook Live on the NCAA FCS Facebook page. Alex Mikos and Jared Phillips will have the call. On Valpo radio, Todd Ickow (play-by-play) is back for his 26th season, while Sports Information Director Brandon Vickrey adds color commentary this week. For the 13th straight year, WVUR (95.1 FM, Valparaiso) is home to all 11 Valpo football games in 2018. 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 15-33 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: The all-time series? That’s heavily slanted in Dayton’s favor with the Flyers having won 24 of 27. But the recent past? That’s where Valpo owns bragging rights after using a go-ahead two-point conversion to beat Dayton 8-7 in the 2017 season finale, in the process clinching their first winning season since 2003 and sending the Flyers to their second losing season in the last 41 years. Senior Jarrett Morgan plunged into the end zone from one yard out to make it 7-6 Dayton with 1:20 to go, then Morgan – a running back – threw a jump pass to senior quarterback-turned-tight end Ryan Clarke, who hauled it in to put Valpo up 8-7. Valpo is 1-13 all-time at Dayton and on Saturday will attempt to snap a skid of seven straight losses in Dayton since a 33-28 win on Oct. 11, 2003. This matchup has occurred every year since 1993, and a win on Saturday would allow Valpo to beat the Flyers in consecutive seasons for the first time.
Scouting Dayton: Dayton finds itself in a similar position to Valpo in the sense that both teams are trying to recover from a loss last week. The Flyers, who were picked second in the PFL preseason poll behind only San Diego, fell 28-17 at Marist. Dayton running back Tucker Yinger is third in the league with 107.2 rushing yards per game and has scored five touchdowns. Quarterback Jack Cook is third in the league with 199.6 passing yards per game and has thrown for seven touchdowns. Valpo and Dayton have a pair of common opponents – the Flyers lost 31-26 at Duquesne but beat Davidson 42-21. Dayton is under the direction of 11th-year head coach Rick Chamberlin, who is the winningest coach in PFL history. Dayton is one of 19 NCAA FCS programs with more than 600 all-time victories. Seven Flyers were named to the Preseason All-PFL team, the most of any school. Nobody else had more than four.
20 for 20: Valpo defensive back Jamari Booker, who wears jersey No. 20, racked up 20 tackles in last week’s game against Davidson, enjoying Valpo’s first 20-tackle game since at least 2001. He had the PFL’s highest single-game tackle output since Carlos Merritt of Campbell also had 20 on Oct. 28, 2017 and no PFL player has had more than 20 since 2014. In addition, Booker is one of five players in the FCS nation with 20 tackles or more in a single game this season.
73 on the Reception: Valpo offensive lineman Tom Schofield made a reception on a deflected pass for a gain of nine yards that went for a first down last week against Davidson. Schofield became the first Valpo lineman to catch a pass since Kyle Padgett on Nov. 22, 2003. Padgett’s reception went for a loss of three yards in an eventual 54-42 win over Morehead State in the PFL Championship game. Schofield has started every game since the start of 2016 and has played in all 36 games during his collegiate career.
Big-Play Machine: Valpo senior Griffin Norberg holds the impressive distinction of having three touchdown catches of 58 yards or more this season. He has accomplished that feat in three of the four games this year.
Offensive Efficiency: Last week against Davidson, Valpo scored touchdowns on five of its 10 possessions. Furthermore, one of the five drives that did not result in a Valpo touchdown began with 10 seconds left in the first half and was halted by halftime, while another began with 51 seconds left in the second half. Valpo had only one turnover, two punts and one turnover on downs. For perspective on how Valpo performed on offense last week, here’s a look comparing drive results from that game to those of previous games this season along with Valpo’s two best offensive performances from 2017.
Punt/TOD/Turnover/Missed FG TDs
Davidson 4 5
Truman State 8 2
at Youngstown 11 1
at Duquesne 6 3
2017 vs. Morehead 7 9
2017 vs. Marist 8 7
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
- WR Griffin Norberg - Holds the impressive distinction of having three touchdown catches of 58 yards or more this season and has accomplished that feat in three of the four games this year. Has 12 career touchdowns (10 receiving), one of four active Valpo players with 10+ TDs in their career.
- 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 29 straight games.
- C Jack Jarnigan – Has missed just one game since the start of the 2016 season.
- RG Tom Schofield – Became the first Valpo offensive lineman to catch a pass since 2003 on Sept. 29 vs. Davidson. Has played in all 36 games during his collegiate career.
- RT Shannon Taliaferro – Has appeared in 21 straight games.
- TE Mason Sutter – Has played in all 35 games of his collegiate career. Has caught at least one TD pass in each of his four seasons and has five for his career.
- WR Jean Rene – Had two TD catches on Sept. 29 vs. Davidson, becoming the first Valpo player to do so since Sept. 30, 2017 (Donny Navarro vs. Stetson). Is up to 15 career touchdowns (14 receiving).
- WR JD Koehler – One of 12 Valpo players with receptions this season.
- QB Jimmy Seewald – Junior already ranks in the Top 5 in program history with 4,279 career passing yards. Leapfrogged Dave Lass (1962-1964) on Sept. 22 against Truman State, becoming the first Valpo player to enter the Top 5 in program history in career passing yards since Eric Hoffman (2011-2013), who exited as the Valpo recordholder.
- QB Chris Duncan – Has thrown for three TDs and rushed for one this season in three games.
- RB Kyle Cartales – Leads the team in scoring with 24 points (four 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.
- NT James Reed – High school teammates with Jesse Studyvin at Saint Pius X.
- DT Jake Trumpower – Has played in 19 consecutive games.
- OLB Mike Wheeler – Vice President of Valpo’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes… One of four returning starters at linebacker for Valpo.
- 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.
- ILB Nick Turner – Had his best showing of the season with 11 tackles on Sept. 22 against Truman State. The senior captain had the seventh double-figure tackle game of his career and the first since ending 2017 with three straight games with 10 tackles or more.
- ILB Drew Snouffer – The senior captain leads the PFL in tackles with 13.2 per game. Nobody else in the league has more than 9.5 tackles per game. He ranks fourth nationally in tackles per game and fifth in solo tackles at 6.8 per game.
- CB Christian Campbell – Made his second interception of the season on Sept. 29 against Davidson, the fifth of his career. He returned the interception 25 yards, his second career return of 25+ yards and first since a 29 yarder in 2016.
- FS Jamari Booker – Had 20 tackles on Sept. 29 against Davidson and is one of five players in the FCS nation with 20 or more tackles in a single game this season.
- SS Josmar Diaz-Martinez – The senior captain made his 10th career interception on Sept. 22 against Truman State, becoming the first Valpo player since at least 2005 to make 10 career picks. He has started 25 consecutive games, played in all 36 games of his collegiate career and made 33 starts.
- CB Cam Kelly – Has appeared in all four games this season.
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 Alex Ng – Also serves as a student assistant coach for the Valpo women’s soccer team… Has an average of 39.4 yards per punt this season. Has been a fixture at punter since his freshman season.
- RS Bailey Gessinger – Had six kickoff returns for 133 yards and a long of 31 on Sept. 29 against Davidson, averaging 22.2 yards per return. The 133 kickoff return yards were his most since a career-high 150 on Nov. 12, 2016 vs. Jacksonville. That also marked the second-most return yards in a game by a PFL player this season.
An Experienced Crew: The two-deep for the season’s first game featured 11 seniors, 12 redshirt juniors, eight juniors, five redshirt sophomores, 10 sophomores and one redshirt freshman on offense and defense (several positions have three players listed). The 23 seniors and redshirt juniors are the most of the Cecchini Era after Valpo had just five players in their fourth or fifth season of college football a year ago. Only one redshirt freshman and no true freshmen are on the two-deep for a program that is just three years removed from having 17 true freshmen on that chart.
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.