Valparaiso (3-1, 3-1 PFL)
at Morehead State (2-3, 2-2 PFL)
Game #5 Saturday, April 10, 11 a.m. CT
Jayne Stadium (10,000) – Morehead, Ky.
This Week in Valpo Football: The Valparaiso University football team will look to clinch its best single-season winning percentage since 2003 on Saturday in Morehead, Ky. as Valpo attempts to go to 4-1 by topping Morehead State at Jayne Stadium. The Brown & Gold will look to extend their winning streak to three and attempt to secure an unblemished 3-0 road record.
Previously: The Valpo defense put together another fine performance last week, this time helping the team make program history with a 10-7 win at Drake. It marked the first time ever that Valpo won in Des Moines and the program’s first win in the head-to-head series with the Bulldogs since 2003. Austin Martins had 2 ½ sacks, Evan Annis accrued eight tackles and Keyon Turner forced a turnover for the fourth consecutive week. The kicking game also thrived thanks to punter Ben Niesner and kicker Brian Bartholomew, while Robert Washington turned in his third 100-yard rushing performance of the season.
Series Notes: A week after garnering the program’s first-ever win at Drake, Valpo will visit another venue that has not been favorable for the Brown & Gold in recent years. Valpo has dropped six straight at Morehead State and hasn’t gone on the road to beat the Eagles since Sept. 16, 2006 (W 42-35). Valpo is 2-9 all-time at Jayne Stadium and 4-21 all-time against the Eagles. Morehead State has won 12 of the last 13 matchups with Valpo’s lone win in that span coming 63-32 on Oct. 28, 2017 at Brown Field. Valpo’s last five losses to the Eagles have all comes by seven points or fewer. Morehead State prevailed 27-21 in the most recent matchup on Nov. 9, 2019 at Brown Field.
Following Valpo Football: The game will be broadcast on ESPN+. In addition, Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Brandon Vickrey (analyst) will handle the Valpo Sports Network radio call, which is available on 95.1 FM Valparaiso and via the TuneIn Radio app. Links to live video, audio and stats will be available on ValpoAthletics.com.
Head Coach Landon Fox: Landon Fox (4-12) completed his first season as the head coach of the Valparaiso University football program in 2019. In Year 1 of the Fox Era, Valpo ranked in the Top 5 in the PFL in scoring defense (32.0, fifth), total defense (381.6, fourth), rushing defense (184.2, fourth) and passing defense (197.3, fifth). The defense also thrived in critical down-and-distance situations, as the team’s opponent third-down conversion percentage of 32.4 ranked second in the league and its opponent fourth-down conversion percentage of 46.2 was third. After spending the previous 11 seasons as the defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Dayton, Fox was named the head football coach at Valpo prior to the 2020 season. His teams held opponents to an average of 19 points per game during his time as the defensive coordinator at Dayton. He helped the Flyers finish with 10 winning seasons in his 11 years on staff and guided a defensive backfield that produced one All-American, four Academic All-Americans, two PFL Special Teams Players of the Year and three corners who were invited to NFL Rookie Minicamp. Prior to joining Dayton’s staff, Fox served as the linebackers coach and special teams coordinator at Wayne State University in Detroit from 2005-2007. He also spent time as a defensive graduate assistant at Ball State University (2004), Dayton (2002-2003) and Lakeland College (2001). Fox began his coaching career as an assistant varsity coach at Preble Shawnee High School in Camden, Ohio during the 2000 season. During his playing days, Fox was a team captain and all-conference performer at Defiance College in Defiance, Ohio from 1995-1999 and graduated with a degree in physical education and health in May 2000 before earning his master’s degree in education from Lakeland in May 2002.
With the 3-1 Start, Valpo…
- Owns its best record through four games since 2007.
- Holds its best record through four league outings since 2003.
- Has clinched at least a .500 record, securing at least the team’s second-best winning percentage over the last 17 seasons.
- Owns a 2-0 road record for the first time since 2006 and a 2-0 mark in league road games for the first time since 1986, when head coach Bill Koch’s team notched wins at Franklin College and Saint Joseph’s (Ind.) in Heartland Collegiate Conference action.
- Has won back-to-back games for the first time since beating Butler and Dayton in the final two games of the 2017 campaign.
With a win at Morehead State, Valpo would…
- Clinch a winning season.
- Own its best record through five games since 1999.
- Hold its best record through five league contests since 1961.
- Earn a fourth PFL win in the same season for just the second time ever (five, 2017) and a fourth league win in any conference for the second time since 1968.
- Clinch the program’s best winning percentage since 2003.
- Own a 3-0 road record for the first time since 1995.
- Own a 3-0 league-only road record for the first time since 1962.
- Snap a six-game skid at Morehead State by beating the Eagles in Kentucky for the first time since 2006.
- Hold a three-game winning streak within the same season for the first time since 2003.
- Clinch the program’s highest road win total since 2007.
- Clinch the program’s highest league-only road win total since 1962.
- Finish the regular season with an undefeated road record for the first time since 1956.
Making History in Des Moines
- Valpo’s 10-7 win at Drake in Week 4 (April 3) marked the program’s first-ever victory in Des Moines, a location where the Brown & Gold previously held an 0-13 mark.
- The win snapped a 17-game head-to-head losing streak that dated back to a 51-45 overtime win on Oct. 25, 2003 at Brown Field.
- The seven points marked the fewest permitted by the Valpo defense in a road PFL game since a 31-7 win at San Diego on Oct. 31, 1998. The seven points tied for the fewest Valpo has allowed in a PFL road game since the league’s inception in 1993.
Hauling in Honors
- Senior punter Ben Niesner was honored with a Pioneer Football League weekly award for the second time this season following the April 3 victory at Drake. This time he was tabbed the co-PFL Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 47.8 yards per punt over six punts.
- Niesner’s two special teams honors account for half of the PFL awards that Valpo has racked up over the season’s first four weeks. Defensive back Keyon Turner also owns a Defensive Player of the Week award, while running back Robert Washington received a PFL Offensive Player of the Week accolade.
- In addition, Washington has twice been named College Sports Madness PFL Offensive Player of the Week, so in total the team has earned six weekly awards through the first four weeks of the season.
- Niesner’s aforementioned PFL Special Teams Player of the Week recognition for Week 4 came after he had three punts of 50+ yards and three pinned inside the 20 while accruing the 47.8-yard average on six punts in the win at Drake. He also provided a quality hold for Brian Bartholomew’s 49-yard field goal that proved to be the difference in the game. Niesner’s punts played a major role in the field-position battle in the low-scoring affair.
- Niesner rocketed a 58-yard punt in the April 3 game at Drake that marked a career long and the longest boot by any Valpo punter since Alex Ng sent one 59 yards on Sept. 10, 2016 at Sacred Heart.
- Niesner ranks eighth nationally in Division-I FCS in yards per punt this season at 43.7.
Martins Making Plays
- Austin Martins was named the Marines Valpo Valor Player of the Game by Valpo Athletics following his 2 ½ sacks in Saturday’s win at Drake.
- Martins, who accrued five tackles including three solos, became the first Valpo player with 2 ½ or more sacks in a single game since John Guilford matched that total on Oct. 17, 2015 vs. Dayton. Martins’ sacks set Drake back 19 yards in the Valpo victory.
- Only 10 players in the nation have accrued more than 2 ½ sacks in a single game this season.
- Martins was part of a sack for a loss of eight on a key third-and-1 play in the fourth quarter that proved to be the final offensive snap of the game for Drake.
- Another standout from the Week 4 win at Drake was Keyon Turner, who notched an interception for the third consecutive week and has been part of a turnover in all four games he’s played at Valpo.
- Over the last three seasons, Turner and Jamari Booker (five, 2019) are the only two Valpo players with three or more interceptions in a single year, and Turner’s have come over the first four games.
- Turner ranks tied for 10th nationally in FCS in interceptions per game at 0.8. He leads the nation in interceptions per game among freshmen.
More on the Dominant Defense
- Evan Annis led Valpo with eight tackles in Week 4 at Drake, pacing the team in that area for the third straight week.
- The team leader with 32 total tackles, Annis has accrued six tackles or more in every game this season and eight or more in three straight contests.
- Valpo ranks second in the PFL in both total defense (281.5) and scoring defense (15.8).
- The Brown & Gold also rank in the Top 20 nationally in both major defensive categories – 17th in both scoring defense and total defense.
Winning the Turnover Battle
- Valpo owns a +1.25 turnover margin per game, a mark that is tied for 12th Valpo is one of 14 teams in FCS with a turnover margin of +1.25 per game or better.
- Valpo has gained seven turnovers (four interceptions, three fumble recoveries) while committing just two (both interceptions) through the first four weeks of the season.
- Among teams that have played four or more games this season, Valpo is one of six with a turnover margin of +1.25 per game or better.
- In the team’s three victories this season, Valpo has forced five turnovers and committed none.
- Valpo is one of 10 teams in the nation that has not lost a fumble this season. Of those 10 teams, Valpo is the only one that has played more than three games.
- Valpo is one of 25 teams that have had two or fewer passes intercepted this season.
Ground & Pound
- Valpo is outrushing opponents 708-506 this season, a sharp contrast to the 2019 season, when Valpo was outdone 2211-1159 in rushing yards.
- Valpo is hoping to finish a season with more rushing yards than its opponents for the first time since 2007.
- Starting running back Robert Washington has finished with 100 or more rushing yards in three of his four games this season.
- Valpo has outgained its opponent on the ground in all three victories.
- Washington ranks eighth nationally with 110.2 rushing yards per game. In addition, he ranks 11th nationally in all purpose yards per game at 135.75.
- Entering Week 5 at Morehead State with 441 rushing yards this season, Washington has an opportunity to become Valpo’s first 500-yard rusher since Jarrett Morgan finished the 2016 season at 576.
Winning the Close Ones
- Valpo lost three straight games by six points or fewer late in the 2019 season before closing the year with a 12-point setback that was closer than the final score would indicate.
- That was the first time Valpo had lost three straight by seven points or fewer since 1960.
- Those struggles in tight games made winning close contests an important key entering the 2021 spring season, and Valpo came through in that regard on March 27 vs. Butler, prevailing 28-25, and on April 3 vs. Drake, prevailing 10-7.
- The three-point win in Week 3 was Valpo’s closest triumph in a head-to-head meeting with Butler since a 19-17 victory on Oct. 18, 1997.
- The Week 3 victory over the Bulldogs also marked Valpo’s first win in a game that featured a single-figure margin since Nov. 18, 2017, an 8-7 win over Dayton.
- The Week 4 10-7 win over Drake made it back-to-back weeks with victories by a three-point margin.
- This is the first time Valpo has won back-to-back games both by three points or fewer since 1952, when head coach Emory Bauer’s team beat Ball State and Butler consecutive weeks, both by the score of 14-13.
Duncan Climbing Career Charts
- In the March 28 game vs. Butler, Valpo quarterback Chris Duncan cracked the Top 5 in program history for career yards of total offense. Entering Week 5 at Morehead State, he now has 4,896, recently surpassing his former teammate Jimmy Seewald (2016-2019) for fifth in the Valpo record book.
- In addition, Duncan crossed the 4,000-yard precipice for career passing yards in Week 3 vs. Butler, becoming just the eighth player in program history to do so. He enters Week 5 at Morehead State with 4,075 career passing yards, recently passing Dave Lass (1962-1964) for sixth on Valpo’s all-time list. Seewald is fifth at 4,682.
- Duncan ranks 16th nationally among active players in career yards of total offense.
Scouting Morehead State
- After being picked seventh of seven in the PFL Preseason Poll, Morehead State has exceeded expectations with wins in two of their last three games and a 2-2 PFL record.
- Both wins for the Eagles came in lopsided fashion, as they topped Stetson 31-14 on March 20 and Butler 35-14 on April 3. Those victories were sandwiched around a narrow 24-21 loss to undefeated, first-place Davidson on March 27.
- Quarterback Mark Pappas leads the PFL in passing yards at 1,128 and in passing touchdowns with 10. BJ Byrd leads the league with 376 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
- The Eagles are second in the PFL in passing offense at 240.8 yards per game.
- Head coach Rob Tenyer has been at the helm of the program since Dec. 13, 2012.
- For the first time in program history, Valpo faced Butler twice in the same season. The Brown & Gold created another first by sweeping the season series from their instate rivals with a 24-14 victory on March 13 in Indianapolis and a 28-25 win on March 27 at Brown Field.
- The matchup has occurred every season since 1951.
- This marks the first time Valpo has won four of five over Butler since winning seven straight from 1994-2000. Valpo’s only defeat in the last five matchups came by three points in 2019.
- The Hoosier Helmet rivalry trophy will officially reside in Northwest Indiana through at least next autumn, as the March 27 game at Brown Field decided which school would own the Hoosier Helmet for this season.
A Dazzling Debut
- Valpo junior Robert Washington was named the College Sports Madness Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Week following his standout showing in Week 1 at Butler.
- Washington rushed for 199 yards including a 7-yard touchdown run to help Valpo secure its first season-opening victory since 2007, a 24-14 triumph over the rival Bulldogs on Saturday. Washington had the highest single-game rushing total by a Valpo player since Jake Hutson accrued 248 rushing yards on Nov. 2, 2012 at Campbell.
- Washington had 39 carries, two shy of matching Valpo’s single-game record of 41 set by Jeff Horton in 2005. The tailback averaged 5.1 yards per carry to help the team finish with 241 rushing yards in his Valpo debut.
- Washington’s 39 carries were the most by a Valpo player since the aforementioned 41 by Horton in 2005, also in a game at Butler. No Valpo player had cracked 30 carries in a game since Horton on Nov. 12, 2005 at Aurora until Washington’s Week 1 performance.
- Washington also had a 49-yard kickoff return that required the kicker to make a touchdown-saving tackle. The Old Dominion transfer finished the day with 275 all-purpose yards.
- During the entire 2019 season, there was only one instance of a PFL player accruing more than 275 all-purpose yards in a game. Washington’s all-purpose yard total marked the highest by a Valpo player in a single game since Hutson had 323 in the aforementioned November 2012 game at Campbell.
- The 39 rushing attempts were the most in a single game by any Pioneer Football League player since Dayton’s Connor Kacsor had two games with 40 or more carries in 2015.
A Look Back at 2019
- Valpo ranked in the Top 5 in the PFL in scoring defense (32.0, fifth), total defense (381.6, fourth), rushing defense (184.2, fourth) and passing defense (197.3, fifth). The defense also thrived in critical down-and-distance situations, as the team’s opponent third-down conversion percentage of 32.4 ranked second in the league and its opponent fourth-down conversion percentage of 46.2 was third.
- Valpo ranked in the Top 5 in the PFL in scoring defense for the first time since the 2004 season. The team finished fourth in the PFL in total defense, its best ranking in that area since 2007. The rushing defense (fourth) and passing defense (fifth) cracked the top five in the league for the first time since 2007 and 2008, respectively. On third down, the Valpo defense permitted opponents to convert just 32.4 percent of the time, the team’s best third-down defense since holding opponents to 28.7 percent in 2000. The 2019 campaign marked the first time Valpo finished in the top five in the PFL in scoring defense, total defense, rushing defense and passing defense all in the same season since at least 2001.
- Valpo’s defense had a knack for dropping opponents behind the line of scrimmage as the team racked up 70 tackles for loss, the program’s most since 2007 and tied for the fourth-most in a single season in program history. Valpo had seven or more tackles for loss in four different games, a feat the team had achieved just once in the previous three seasons combined.
- Jamari Booker racked up 101 tackles and five interceptions, earning All-PFL Second Team honors.
About the 2021 PFL Spring Season
- This marks the 28th year of the Pioneer Football League, an NCAA Division-I Football Championship Subdivision conference.
- Seven teams will compete for the PFL title this spring: San Diego, Davidson, Drake, Stetson, Valpo, Butler and Morehead State.
- Presbyterian College (Clinton, S.C.) and the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.) will both join the PFL for the fall 2021 season.
- Presbyterian will play a PFL schedule during the 2021 spring season but will not be eligible for the league championship.
- Dayton and Marist have opted out of the PFL’s 2021 spring season.
- The Spring 2021 Division-I FCS Championship will feature 16 teams with 11 FCS conferences – including the PFL – receiving an automatic bid.
- San Diego was tabbed as the PFL preseason favorite for the 10th consecutive season, while Valpo was picked to finish fifth based on a preseason survey of the league’s head coaches. The Brown & Gold are picked to finish ahead of Butler and Morehead State.
- Five Valpo players were named to the Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List – wide receiver Deuce Larose, punter Ben Niesner, linebacker Jaxon Peifer, defensive end Trejuan Purty and wide receiver Ollie Reese.
- All five were 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention selections and were named Phil Steele Preseason All-Conference in July 2020.
- Reese led the team in receptions (34), receiving yards (545) and receiving touchdowns (five) while averaging 16.0 yards per catch and 45.4 receiving yards per game in 2019. He finished 10th in the PFL in receiving yards per outing and sixth in all-purpose yards at 110.7. The Tennessee native finished seventh in the league in kick return average at 22.0.
- Reese had the most all-purpose yards by a Valpo player – both total (1,328) and per game (110.7) – since 2008. He jumped from four receptions for 35 yards as a freshman in 2018 to 34 receptions for 545 yards as a sophomore in 2019.
- Purty played in 12 games in his first season on campus after joining the program as a transfer. He finished tied for sixth in the PFL with 3.5 sacks and had six tackles for loss totaling 31 yards. Purty snagged the first fumble recovery of his Valpo career on Oct. 26 vs. Stetson and had a season-high five tackles on Nov. 2 at Davidson.
- Peifer saw action in 11 of the team’s 12 games a year ago and registered 62 tackles (31 solos) and 3.0 tackles for loss. He forced a pair of fumbles while also receiving credit for two QB hurries and a pass breakup. Peifer tied for fourth in the PFL in forced fumbles per game and tied for 23rd in the league at 5.6 tackles per contest. After having seven tackles over eight games during his freshman season, he exceeded his 2018 season total with 10 in the season opener at Eastern Kentucky and later equaled that season high on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State.
- The 2019 campaign saw Niesner average 39.4 yards per punt over 65 punts, the best mark by a Valpo punter with at least 20 attempts since Greg Wood’s 40.9 yard average in 2012. He ranked fifth in the league in yards per punt and knocked 12 punts inside the 20 while booting six punts 50 yards or longer.
- Larose recorded 30 catches for 484 yards, averaging 16.1 yards per catch and 48.4 yards per game. He hauled in three touchdown passes on his way to ranking 10th in the PFL in receptions per game at 3.0 and ninth in receiving yards per game at 48.4. He finished the season on a high note, accruing 90 or more receiving yards in each of his final three games including a career-high 112 on Nov. 9 vs. Morehead State.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
*Based on two-deep, starters subject to change
- WR #13 Braden Contreras, Fr. – Two-time all-conference selection at Hinsdale Central High School… Father Steve played football at Amherst from 1995-1999… Earned all-state second team status and his team’s Offensive Player of the Year Award in high school… Recovered a Butler onside kick in the final two minutes to help seal a 28-25 victory on March 27.
- LT #68 Aaron Byrd, R-So. – Majoring in bioengineering with a strong interest in prosthetics… The launch of Valpo’s bioengineering program within the school’s nationally-ranked College of Engineering attracted him to the University… Has performed undergraduate research in the Human Movement Research Laboratory under Craig Goehler, Ph.D., an associate professor of mechanical engineering and bioengineering… Serves as a student tutor in the Hesse Learning Center on campus… Was a starter in 2019 and saw action in all 12 games.
- LG #70 Jeremiah Orr, Fr. – Also played three years of basketball in high school… Owns Drone Pilot Certification… all-region selection in high school in 2018 and 2019… Started his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler.
- C #67 Joe Monahan, R-Fr. – Native of Hinsdale Central, Ill… Made his first collegiate start and his collegiate debut in Week 1 at Butler on March 13… Was ranked as high as 36th nationally at the center position by 247 Sports in high school… Also ranked as the 101st-best overall prospect in the state of Illinois by 247 Sports… Volunteered for Young Men’s Education Network (YMEN) in Chicago during the 2020 summer… Built a community garden in Chicago that was used to chop cars and dump trash.
- RG #73 Danny Files, R-Fr. – Did not see action in his first season on campus in 2019, retaining four years of eligibility… Started his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler.
- RT #72 Drew Parrish, R-Fr. – Did not see game action in his first season on campus in 2019… Started his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler… Received the award given to the player with the highest GPA on his high school football team… Played six years of baseball including two in high school… Received numerous academic honors in high school… Majoring in electrical engineering… Enjoys hiking in Arizona when on vacation to visit his family there… Goes on a fishing trip every Thanksgiving to Branson, Mo. and stays at Lazy Valley Resort… Tutors other engineering students at Valpo’s Hesse Learning Resource Center.
- TE #84 Brett Bittner, R-Jr. – Played all 12 games in 2019 and had six catches for 24 yards… Had a season-high three receptions on Nov. 9, 2019 vs. Morehead State including his first career touchdown catch, a six-yard grab from Chris Duncan.
- WR-z #6 Ollie Reese, Jr. – Had a 95-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on Oct. 12, 2019 vs. Dayton… Father Steve is a financial wholesaler and mother Margie works at an antique shop in the city of Franklin… Has one sister, Bailey, who is a member of the University of Tennessee Knoxville Class of 2019… Father and grandfather both played college football… Father played football and baseball at Bridgewater College in Virginia and graduated in 1985… Set career highs in receptions (six) and receiving yards (78) on Oct. 19, 2019 at San Diego… 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention, Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List… Appeared in all 12 games in 2019 and led Valpo in receptions (34), receiving yards (545) and receiving touchdowns (five) while averaging 16.0 yards per catch and 45.4 receiving yards per game… Four of his five receiving touchdowns came over the final three weeks of the season… Finished 10th in the PFL at 45.4 receiving yards per game and sixth in all-purpose yards per game at 110.7… Had the most all-purpose yards by a Valpo player – both total (1,328) and per game (110.7) since 2008, when John Popper totaled 1,356 and averaged 123.3… Established career highs in both receptions (8) and receiving yards (86) on March 20 vs. Drake, earning the team’s Offensive Player of the Week Award.
- Slot #17 Deuce Larose, Sr. – Played ice hockey in middle school and didn’t start playing tackle football until eighth grade… Father Dan played safety at Florida State… Followed his career-high 112 receiving yards against Morehead State on Nov. 9, 2019 with 99 at Butler on Nov. 16, 2019… 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention… Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List… Accrued 90 or more receiving yards in each of his final three games of the 2019 season… Had 30 catches for 484 receiving yards in 2019, 16.1 yards per catch and 48.4 yards per game… Ranking 10th in the PFL in receptions per game (3.0) and ninth in receiving yards per game (48.4) in 2019… Had a team-high 46 receiving yards on three catches including a 15-yard TD from Chris Duncan in the March 13 season opener at Butler.
- QB #14 Chris Duncan, R-Sr. – Captain… Had a 76-yard TD run in the 2019 game against Dayton, Valpo’s longest touchdown run since 1995… On Sept. 14, 2019 vs. Central Connecticut, went 24-of-47 through the air, the most completions by a Valpo quarterback since 2017 and the most pass attempts by a Valpo player in a single game since 2015… Rushed for 154 yards and passed for 148 on Oct. 12, 2019 vs. Dayton, putting together Valpo’s top rushing performance in seven years and the team’s highest rushing total by a QB since 2007… His late grandfather Mike Shatusky also wore #14 and was the quarterback at Michigan in the late 1950s… Had a career-high 304 passing yards on Nov. 9, 2019 vs. Morehead State, throwing for three touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed 30 passes in the game, the second most in a single game by a PFL player during the 2019 campaign… Enjoyed his first career game with 200+ passing yards and 100+ rushing yards on Nov. 16, 2019 at Butler… Finished the 2019 season as the team’s leading rusher (386 yards on 113 carries) while accounting for six of the team’s nine rushing touchdowns… Completed 151 of 307 passes in 2019 while throwing for 1,658 yards and 10 scores… Entering the Spring 2021 campaign already in the Top 10 in program history in both career passing yards and career yards of total offense… Ranked seventh in the PFL in passing yards per game and fifth in total offense (204.4 yards per game) in 2019… Tossed two touchdown passes while going 8-of-13 for 85 yards through the air in the March 13 season opener at Butler… Passed for 101 yards on 11-of-30 through the air on March 20 vs. Drake… Had a season-high 94 rushing yards in the March 27 win vs. Butler. Also become just the eighth player in program history to cross the 4,000-career passing yard threshold and climbed into the Top 5 in program history in career total offense in the game vs. the Bulldogs.
- #3 Robert Washington, RB – Named the College Sports Madness PFL Offensive Player of the Week on March 15 for his 199-yard rushing performance in Week 1 at Butler… Also named the team’s Offensive Player of the Week and the Valpo Athletics Marines Player of the Week for Week 1… Had the most carries in a single game by a Valpo player since 2005 with 39, two shy of the program record… Had Valpo’s highest single-game rushing total and all-purpose yard total (275) since Jake Hutson in 2012 in Week 1 at Butler… Played in 12 games and made three starts at Old Dominion in 2019… Previously spent the 2016 season and part of the 2017 campaign at Charlotte… Was rated a four-star recruit by ESPN.com out of high school… Ranked as the 13th-best running back prospect nationally by ESPN.com out of high school... Named the PFL Offensive Player of the Week, the College Sports Madness PFL Offensive Player of the Week, the Team Offensive Player of the Week and the Valpo Athletics Marines Valpo Valor Player of the Game for his 120 rushing yards and three touchdowns (two rushing, one receiving) in the March 27 win vs. Butler… Had his third 100-yard rushing output of the season in the April 3 win at Drake.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
*Based two-deep, starters subject to change
- DE #45 Trejuan Purty, Sr. – Transferred to Valpo for the 2019 season after spending the previous two years at East Tennessee State… Recovered a blocked punt on Sept. 14, 2019 vs. Central Connecticut… Had a fumble recovery on Oct. 26, 2019 vs. Stetson… Finished 2019 tied for sixth in the PFL with 3.5 sacks… Had six tackles for loss totaling 31 yards and racked up 31 tackles including 14 solos in 2019… 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention and Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL Watch List… Had a sack and a fumble recovery in the March 27 win vs. Butler.
- NG #92 Drew Gedrys, Sr., - Appeared in all 12 games and totaled 21 tackles during the 2019 season.
- DT #94 Nathan Orlandini, Sr. – Majoring in mechanical engineering… Competed in all 12 games in 2019 and totaled 28 tackles (12 solo) during his junior campaign… Notched a season-high five tackles on Nov. 2, 2019 at Davidson.
- DE #98 Nick Price, Fr. – Had three tackles in his collegiate debut on March 13 at Butler… Local product who attended Merrillville High School… Named first team all-area, all-DAC and a Region 1 All-Star while serving as a team captain during his senior year with the Pirates.
- LB #2 Evan Annis, R-Fr. – Appeared in four games in his first season on campus, retaining four years of eligibility… Had eight tackles for the season including five in his debut on Sept. 21, 2019 at Truman State… Had three tackles including a sack for a 10-yard loss on Oct. 5, 2019 vs. Drake… Also a four-year letter winner in lacrosse in high school… Member of a fraternity on campus and majoring in bioengineering while playing football… Maintained a 4.0 GPA all through high school… Shared the team lead in tackles with nine including 1 ½ TFL on March 20 vs. Drake… Again tied for the team lead with nine tackles on March 27 vs. Butler… Led the team in tackles for the third straight game and had eight or more for the third consecutive contest with an eight-tackle output in the April 3 win at Drake.
- LB #10 Jaxon Peifer, Jr. – Had 10 tackles in his first career start, the 2019 season opener at Eastern Kentucky, earning the team’s Defensive Player of the Week nod that week… Majoring in nursing… Registered 62 tackles (31 solos) over 11 games in 2019, notching 3.0 tackles for loss… Forced a pair of fumbles while also receiving credit for two QB hurries and a pass breakup during his breakout 2019 season… Tied for fourth in the PFL in forced fumbles per game and tied for 23rd in the league at 5.6 tackles per game… Accumulated eight tackles in the Spring 2021 opener at Butler, his third collegiate game with eight or more stops… Named the team’s Defensive Player of the Week for his March 20 performance vs. Drake, when he had six tackles, 0.5 TFL and a QB hurry… Tied for the team lead in tackles on March 27 vs. Butler with nine including six solos and one sack.
- LB #22 DJ Hutcherson – Transfer from Howard… Had a fumble recovery in the March 20 win vs. Drake… Accrued seven tackles in the March 27 win vs. Butler…Named the team’s Defensive Player of the Week after the March 27 Hoosier Helmet triumph.
- CB #11 Henry Hebda, Sr. – Had a strong performance on Sept. 21, 2019 at Truman State, highlighted by his first career interception. Turned in a career-high six tackles (three solos) against the Bulldogs, second on the team in that contest… Twin brother David is also a member of the Valpo football team… Majoring in nursing… Played in all 12 games and made 38 tackles (23 solos) while recording a team-high seven pass breakups and one interception in 2019… Ranked tied for 10th in the PFL with eight passes defended… Made a season-high seven tackles on Nov. 16, 2019 vs. Butler.
- CB #29 Kohlton Sherman, Jr. – First names starting with the letter K is a family tradition for males… Enjoys golfing… Played in all 12 games in 2019 and had 57 tackles including 31 solos and 5.0 TFL while also recovering a fumble and breaking up seven passes… Racked up eight tackles in Week 1 of the 2019 season at Eastern Kentucky before posting his first career double-figure tackle output on Nov. 2, 2019 at Davidson while also recovering a fumble in that contest.
- S #18 David Hebda, R-Jr. – Twin brother of Valpo’s Henry Hebda… Had 17 tackles (13 solos) in 2019… Made one fumble recovery, two TFL, one sack and three pass breakups… Picked up a season-high six tackles on Nov. 16, 2019 at Butler… Led the team with 11 tackles to nearly double his previous career high of six in the March 13 season opener at Butler. His Week 1 performance included 11 solo stops.
- CB #8 Jadarius Horton, Jr. – Transfer from Southwestern College… Accounted for one of Valpo’s five pass breakups in Week 1 at Butler, when he got a start in his Valpo debut.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- K #87 Brian Bartholomew, R-So. – Did not seen game action in either of his first two seasons on campus (2018 and 2019)… Went a perfect 1-for-1 on field goal tries and 3-for-3 on PATs in the Spring 2021 opener at Butler, his first collegiate game… He also booted a pair of touchbacks and averaged 56.0 yards per kickoff over four kicks in the game against the Bulldogs. Bartholomew was named the team Special Teams Player of the Week for his Week 1 showing… Made a pair of field goals to account for all six points on March 20 vs. Drake, going 2-of-3 in the game… Went a perfect 4-for-4 on extra points in the March 27 win over Butler… Hit a 49-yard field goal that proved to be the difference in the game in the April 3 10-7 win at Drake. That marked his career long and the longest by any Valpo kicker since the final game of the 2018 season.
- P #33 Ben Niesner, Sr. – Joined the team in 2019 as a transfer after spending the previous two seasons at Portland State, where he earned the starting role at punter… Started school at Oregon State in 2016-17 before transferring to Portland State, where he beat out a scholarship punter to become the starter for the final game of 2017 and all of 2018… Didn’t begin teaching himself how to punt until after his senior year of high school… Before his first year at Portland State in 2017, hadn’t played football in his life except a brief stint of youth football… Booted a 56-yard punt in his home debut on Sept. 14 vs. Central Connecticut, the longest Valpo punt since the second game of the 2016 season… Had 10 punts for 404 yards on Sept. 21 at Truman State, becoming the 17th punter in the FCS nation with a 10-punt game that season and the first Valpo player to hit double figures in in single-game punts since 2013… Ran for 10 yards and a first down on a fake punt play on Oct. 5, 2019 at Drake. Booted a pair of punts for 50+ yards in that game against the Bulldogs… Had two punts of greater than 50 yards on Oct. 19, 2019 at San Diego… Averaged 40.7 yards per punt on six punts, including a punt of 48 yards and two downed inside the 20 on Nov. 9, 2019 vs. Morehead State… Earned 2019 All-PFL Honorable Mention and Spring 2021 Preseason All-PFL… Averaged 39.4 yards per punt over 65 punts in 2019, the best mark by a Valpo punter with at least 20 attempts since Greg Wood’s 40.9 yard average in 2012… Ranked fifth in the PFL in yards per punt in 2019… Named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week after averaging 45.0 yards per punt on eight punts including a long of 54 in the March 20 game vs. Drake. He pinned the Bulldogs inside the 20 on three occasions, including once inside the 2. His efforts also helped him earn the team’s Special Teams Player of the Week nod… Named co-PFL Special Teams Player of the Week on April 4 after averaging 47.8 yards per punt over six punts including a long of 58 in the Week 4 win at Drake. The 58 yarder set a career long.