San Diego (4-1, 4-1 PFL)
at Valparaiso (3-2, 3-2 PFL)
Game #6 Saturday, April 17, Noon CT
Brown Field (5,000) – Valparaiso, Ind.
This Week in Valpo Football: The regular season comes to an end on Saturday at Brown Field as the Valparaiso University football team closes out the home slate by hosting Pioneer Football League preseason favorite San Diego. Valpo will attempt to cap off a successful spring by knocking off a traditional league powerhouse on Saturday. A victory would allow the Brown & Gold to secure the program’s best winning percentage since 2003 and give the team an opportunity to earn a share of the PFL title if Stetson defeats Davidson. Saturday will be Senior Day at Brown Field.
Previously: Valpo roared from 21 points down to force a 21-all tie in the second half of the Week 5 game at Morehead State, but the host Eagles edged their way to a 28-24 victory as Valpo couldn’t complete what would have been its largest comeback since 1995. Gabe Lawson scored a pair of touchdowns, Robert Washington ran for 180 yards and Keyon Turner notched his fourth interception of the season.
Series Notes: Valpo is 5-20 all-time against San Diego and has dropped 14 straight head-to-head meetings dating back to Oct. 18, 2003, a 41-34 win at Brown Field. The most recent matchup saw the host Toreros come away with a 42-17 victory on Oct. 19, 2019. San Diego will make its first trip to Northwest Indiana since Sept. 26, 2015, a 38-6 victory for the guests. The closest Valpo has come to knocking off the perennial PFL favorites in recent years was Nov. 15, 2014, one of the most heartbreaking defeats in Valpo football history. Valpo scored a go-ahead touchdown with 28 seconds remaining to grab a 27-26 lead, but San Diego won on a 44-yard desperation pass with no time on the clock to prevail 32-27.
Following Valpo Football: The game will be broadcast on ESPN3 with Todd Ickow (play-by-play) and Dave Huseman (analyst) on the call. In addition, Zach Collins (play-by-play) and Noah Godsell (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 (4-13) 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 a win vs. San Diego, Valpo would…
- Clinch a winning season.
- Snap a 14-game losing streak to the Toreros and earn its first victory over San Diego since 2003 after already ending a 17-game skid by picking up its first win over Drake since 2003 earlier this season.
- 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.
- Remain alive for a share of the PFL title and clinch a share of the title with a win and a Davidson loss to Stetson. That would mark Valpo’s third PFL title and first since 2003.
- Hold its best record through six games since 1999.
- Holds its best record through six league games since 1964.
Valpo in Finales
- Valpo won the season finale for the third time in four years in 2017, but dropped the final game of the 2018 and 2019 campaigns.
- Valpo had won its final home game in three straight seasons before falling to Marist on Senior Day in 2019.
- This marks the first time ever that Valpo and San Diego will face off in the final game of the regular season.
Record Book Watch
- If Ben Niesner’s current average holds, he will set Valpo’s single-season record for punting average. Niesner is averaging 43.8 yards per punt, narrowly ahead of Greg Wood’s 2010 program record of 43.6. (The standard for qualify is a minimum of two punts per team game, which Niesner will easily meet.) Second in the program record book is Roy Carlson at 42.1 in 1953 and third is Wood at 42.0 in 2011.
- Running back Robert Washington is flirting with the best per-game rushing average in program history. The top single-season rushing average is Jeff Horton at 123.5 yards per game in 2005. Washington enters this week at 124.2 rushing yards per game, so if he goes above 124 this week, he’ll own the program’s single-season record for per-game rushing average.
- Washington has 621 rushing yards for the season entering the game vs. San Diego. He would need to get to 824 (Ross Wiemer, 1984) to crack the Top 5 in program history for rushing yards in a single season. Washington has 121 rushing attempts and the mark needed for the single-season Top 5 is 179 (Bobby Mason, 1986).
- Quarterback Chris Duncan is among the program’s career leaders in both passing yards (4,086, sixth) and total offense (4,902, fifth) entering Saturday’s game vs. San Diego. In addition, Duncan ranks 19th among active FCS players in career yards of total offense.
- Brian Bartholomew has a field-goal percentage of 83.3 (5-of-6) that would be Valpo’s best since at least 2005. Jacob Newman was 80 percent in both 2013 and 2014.
Ground & Pound
- Valpo is outrushing opponents 928-569 this season, a sharp contrast to the 2019 season, when Valpo was outdone 2211-1159 in rushing yards.
- Valpo is in position to finish a season with more rushing yards than its opponents for the first time since 2007.
- Entering Week 6, Valpo is averaging 185.6 rushing yards per game, which would mark the program’s highest total since averaging 206.7 yards per game in 2007.
- Starting running back Robert Washington has finished with 100 or more rushing yards in four of his five games this season.
- Washington is the first Valpo player with four 100-yard rushing games in the same season since Jeff Horton had six in 2005.
- Valpo has outgained its opponent on the ground in four of its five games.
- Washington ranks 12th nationally in total rushing yards with 621 and fourth nationally with 124.2 rushing yards per game. In addition, he ranks ninth nationally in all-purpose yards per game at 148.2.
- Washington is Valpo’s first 500-yard rusher since Jarrett Morgan finished the 2016 season at 576. Despite playing during a shortened six-game season, Washington has the most single-season rushing yards by a Valpo player since Brandon Hall finished 2014 with 855.
- Valpo punter Ben Niesner ranks eighth nationally at 43.8 yards per punt, giving him an opportunity to shatter the program record for single-season yards per punt if he hits his average in Week 6 vs. San Diego.
- This season, Niesner has pinned nine punts inside the 20 and rocketed six punts for 50+ yards with a long of 58.
- Niesner has twice been named PFL Special Teams Player of the Week.
- Keyon Turner notched an interception for the fourth straight week in Week 5 at Morehead State. The rookie also recovered a fumble in Week 1, so he has been part of a Valpo takeaway in each of his five career contests.
- Over the last 12 seasons, Turner is one of only five Valpo players with four or more interceptions in a single season. He joins Jamari Booker (2019, 5), Josmar Diaz-Martinez (2016, 5), Kellan Hughes (2015, 4) and Eli Crawford (2009, 4). All of the others came in full seasons, while Turner’s four picks have come over the first five weeks of a shortened six-game season.
- Turner ranks tied for eighth nationally in FCS with 0.8 interceptions per game. He leads the nation in interceptions among freshmen.
- Turner is the first Valpo freshman with four interceptions in a season in over 20 years.
- The rookie is the first Valpo player with an interception in four straight games in over two decades.
Competing in Close Ones
- Valpo has played three straight games decided by four points or fewer entering Week 6 vs. San Diego. This marks the first time since October 1965 that Valpo has played three consecutive games decided by four points or fewer.
- All five Valpo games this season have been decided by 11 points or fewer. Dating back to the end of the 2019 season, Valpo has played 10 straight games decided by 12 points or fewer.
- 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.
- Valpo’s three-point victories over Butler and Drake in Week 3 and Week 4 marked the first time the program had won back-to-back games both by three points or fewer since 1997, two-point wins over Evansville (Oct. 11) and Butler (Oct. 18).
- Valpo is allowing 279.6 yards per game, a significant improvement after permitting 381.6 yards per game during the 2019 season.
- If the team can keep that number (279.6) below the 1999 mark of 296.5, this will be Valpo’s best defensive season in terms of total defense in the last 40 years.
- Valpo is allowing 165.8 passing yards per game, which would be the program’s best mark for passing defense in a season since 2008.
- If Valpo can sustain its scoring defense (currently allowing 18.2 points per game), it will be the program’s best single-season scoring defense since 1999.
- The Brown & Gold enter this week allowing just 113.8 rushing yards per game, which would be the program’s best rushing defense since allowing 99 rushing yards per game in 1999.
Valpo Defensive Per Game Averages by Year
Yr. Total Scoring Rushing Passing
Spring 2021 279.6 18.2 113.8 165.8
2019 381.6 32.0 184.2 197.3
2018 447.1 35.6 215.0 232.1
2017 419.1 28.5 158.6 260.5
2016 429.6 33.3 203.0 226.6
2015 396.9 43.2 174.5 222.4
2014 406.4 28.1 188.2 218.2
2013 506.5 44.8 210.5 296.0
2012 541.5 45.1 257.8 283.7
2011 514.9 45.5 253.5 261.5
2010 507.0 46.7 272.5 234.5
2009 380.5 31.3 197.2 183.4
2008 363.4 30.5 205.3 158.1
2007 347.6 29.2 123.3 224.4
2006 347.7 34.4 162.9 184.8
2005 412.5 38.5 198.1 214.5
2004 360.6 27.3 231.8 128.8
2003 395.2 27.8 142.4 252.8
2002 457.5 45.3 214.5 243.0
2001 332.0 25.6 128.3 203.7
2000 299.1 21.7 114.5 184.5
1999 286.5 18.1 99.0 187.5
Scouting San Diego
- After the longest conference winning streak in the history of FCS and the third-longest in NCAA history ended at 39 games with a 31-25 loss to Davidson on April 3, the Toreros bounced back with a 34-10 victory vs. Stetson last week.
- San Diego was tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the PFL for the 10th consecutive year.
- The six-time defending PFL champions can clinch at least a share of this year’s title with a victory on Saturday.
- The Toreros are second in the league in scoring defense (17.0 ppg) and first in passing offense (271.4 yards/game).
- Quarterback Mason Randall leads the league in passing at 271.4 yards per game, while running back Emilio Martinez is fourth in the league at 79.6 yards per game. Michael Carner is second in the PFL in both receptions per game (6.2) and receiving yards per game (91.6).
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
- Ben Niesner has twice been named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Week this season.
- 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.
- 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 #62 Carter Woody, Fr. – Native of South Carolina… Also played four years of rugby in high school… Helped his high school football team to a 56-6 record throughout his career.
- 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 #82 Alex Conlin, R-Fr. – Played football at basketball for all four years at duPont High School, where he was Vice President of the Best Buddies Program, an international nonprofit organization… Played in one game during his freshman year in 2019.
- 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… Had a team-high 40 receiving yards on three catches in the April 10 game at Morehead State.
- 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.
- #5 Ben Nimz, R-So., QB – Has seen action in two games this season and three in his career… Helped his high school team to a 23-3 record in 26 career starts.
- #3 Robert Washington, Jr., 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… Had his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season on April 10 at Morehead State, accruing 180 yards on 26 carries and scoring one touchdown.
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.
- #46 Austin Martins, DE, R-Jr. – A junior college transfer from Modesto JC… Started his collegiate career as a Division-III running back… Had 2 ½ sacks to lift Valpo to the April 3 win at Drake, the most sacks in a single game by a Valpo player since 2015… Was named the Marines Valpo Valor Player of the Game following that performance.
- 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… Had a team-high nine tackles on April 10 at Morehead State.
- LB #24 Trey Psota, R-So. – Finished third on the team with 69 tackles and had the most tackles among non-seniors in 2019… Had two tackles for loss, a pass breakup, a QB hurry, a fumble recovery, a forced fumble and a blocked kick during his redshirt freshman season… Had a season-high 11 tackles on two occasions, Sept. 28 vs. Charleston and Oct. 26 vs. Stetson… Played in the 13U Little League World Series during his youth, taking on teams from all over the United States as well as Mexico, Puerto Rico and other international opponents… Shared the team lead in tackles with nine including four solos and 1 ½ TFL on March 20 vs. Drake.
- 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 #20 Austin Chilton, R-Fr. - Recorded seven tackles on April 10 at Morehead State, the first seven of his collegiate career, including ½ TFL.
- 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… Averaged 44.4 yards per punt over five punts, pinning a pair inside the 20 and booting a long of 56 on April 10 at Morehead State.