Valparaiso (2-8, 2-5 PFL)
at Stetson (7-2, 5-2 PFL)
Game #11: Saturday, Nov. 17, Noon CT
Spec Martin Memorial Stadium (6,000) – DeLand, Fla.
This Week in Valpo Football: It’s one day, one game and one more time for the Valparaiso University football team. The season ends after Saturday’s visit to Stetson, which represents the last time this group will be together and the final time a number of Valpo players will ever play competitive football. It’s not about what this one means in the standings or in the record book, but instead about what this means to these players as they attempt to add one more victory to the foundation, tradition and legacy that they will leave behind.
Last Time Out: There was never much doubt about last week’s game as Valpo led from start to finish in a 48-30 victory over Jacksonville on Senior Day at Brown Field. And by “start,” we mean the very start as Griffin Norberg scored a 75-yard touchdown on a pass from Chris Duncan on the first play from scrimmage. Norberg had a stylish senior day, going off for a career-high 173 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Junior Jamari Booker forced a fumble, had an interception and finished with 11 tackles, while redshirt junior Matthew Messler accumulated a team-high 18 stops. Redshirt junior running back Elias Earley had his best day in a Valpo uniform, rushing for 75 yards and two scores on 15 carries, while Duncan tossed for 302 yards, exactly matching a career high set two weeks prior.
Following Valpo Football: This week’s game will be carried on ESPN+, which is available on a subscription basis at the cost of $4.99 per month. The game can also be heard on 95.1 FM Valparaiso with Dave Huseman (filling in for Todd Ickow) relaying the play-by-play and Spencer Krock (filling in for Brandon Vickrey) adding the color commentary this week. Links to live video, audio and stats can be found on ValpoAthletics.com. In addition, stay up to date with all things Valpo football by following @valpoufootball on Twitter.
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 17-37 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: This will mark the fourth all-time meeting between Valpo and the Hatters with Valpo having won two of the first three. Valpo will seek its third straight head-to-head win. Each of the last two meetings have been three-point games with Valpo winning 21-18 in DeLand in 2016 and 27-24 at Brown Field in 2017. J.J. Nunes notched a game-sealing interception to secure the victory in last year’s meeting, which was the Homecoming game and PFL opener at Brown Field.
Valpo in Season Finales: Although Valpo has had good success in season finales that have come at Brown Field in recent years, winning the final game of the season when that contest falls on the road hasn’t been as easy. The only time Valpo closed the season on the road under Dave Cecchini was in 2015 at Jacksonville, a game the Dolphins won 58-13. Valpo hasn’t won a season finale on the road since 2005, a 13-7 win over Aurora. Overall, Valpo will look to close the year with a win for the third straight season and the fourth time in five years under Cecchini.
Sunshine State: Trips to Florida are always a homecoming of sorts for a number of Valpo players. This season, 13 members of the roster call Florida home, including several who will have the opportunity to play the final game of their collegiate careers in their home state.
Norberg, That’s Wonderful: The accomplishments of senior wide receiver Griffin Norberg are so numerous that they deserve their own bulleted list:
- Turned in a career-high 173 receiving yards on Senior Day last week against Jacksonville, the most receiving yards by a Valpo player in a single game since Tanner Kuramata had 200 on Nov. 16, 2013 vs. Dayton.
- Also had two touchdown receptions against the Dolphins, lifting his season total to nine, which is the most by any Valpo player in a single season since Rob Giancola set the school record with 23 in 2003.
- Enters this week’s game ranked tied for fifth in program history for touchdown receptions in a single season with Dan Bogar (1983). He needs two more to move into a tie for second with Giancola (2002), Bogar (1984) and Mike Healey (1985).
- Has 1,660 career receiving yards, which ranks seventh in program history. He’ll finish seventh as the sixth-place number is 2,308 (Kevin Knutson, 2001-2004).
- Needs 98 receiving yards to hit the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
- Will finish with the most receiving yards in a single-season by any Valpo player since Steve Ogden had 1,048 in 2006.
- Has six TD catches of 58 yards or more and seven of 45 yards or more this season.
Tacking on the Point After: After setting the single-season program record with 35 PATs in 2017, kicker Dimitrios Latsonas now owns two of the top four single-season PAT marks in program history. He also became the first player in program history with two seasons of 30 or more successful extra points with his 6-for-6 showing in that category last week. Latsonas is up to 32 made PATs this season and enters the season finale three shy of equaling his own school record. He is currently fourth in program history and needs two more to move into a tie with Andrew McCawley (2003) and Eric Strasser (1999) for second.
Third One’s a Charm: Valpo enters this week seeking a season with three or more league victories for the third straight year. The last time the program registered three or more consecutive seasons of three conference wins or more was 1961-1964 in the Indiana Collegiate Conference under co-head coaches Emory Bauer and Walt Reiner. Last year’s senior class graduated with 11 PFL victories over four seasons, while this year’s class has a chance to garner its 12th PFL win on Saturday.
Snouffer Hits 100: With his 11-tackle performance on Nov. 3 at Marist, senior linebacker Drew Snouffer is up to 106 tackles for his collegiate career. This marks the third consecutive season that Snouffer has surpassed the century mark. He finished with 102 tackles as a sophomore and 106 as a junior. Snouffer became just the second Valpo player in the last 25 years to enjoy three straight seasons with 100 tackles or more, joining Alex Green (2013-2015).
Scouting Stetson: Stetson saw its impressive four-game winning streak come to an end last week with a 28-23 loss to Butler in Indianapolis. That marked just the second league defeat for a Stetson team that enters the final week of the season locked in a three-way tie for second in the Pioneer Football League standings with Drake and Marist. San Diego has outdistanced everyone with a 7-0 mark. Stetson leads the league in turnover margin at +7 and ranks third in both scoring offense (36.4) and total offense (473.2). Colby Duncan ranks fourth in the league in tackles per game at 8.2, while kicker Jonny Messina is 9-for-10 on field-goal tries. Donald Parham ranks second in the league with 132.8 receiving yards per game and leads the PFL in receptions per game at 9.1. Quarterback Colin McGovern is second only to San Diego’s Anthony Lawrence with 280.2 passing yards per game. Stetson has rebounded from a 2-9 record in 2017 and clinched its first winning season since 1950 (the program had a 57-year hiatus). Head coach Roger Hughes has been at the helm since Stetson began its rebirth seven years ago.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Offensive Starters
- WR Griffin Norberg – Part of an elite group of five PFL wide receivers who average 90 or more receiving yards per game along with San Diego’s Michael Bandy, Stetson’s Donald Parham, Marist’s Juston Christian and Butler’s Pace Temple.
- 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. Local to Northwest Indiana as a Highland graduate. Has played in 35 straight games.
- C Jack Jarnigan – Has missed just one game since the start of the 2016 season…. Has lived in Minnesota, Oklahoma, Colorado, California and now Illinois… Went on an exchange trip in fifth grade to Mexico and was there for two months.
- RG Tom Schofield – Became the first Valpo offensive lineman to catch a pass since 2003 on Sept. 29 vs. Davidson. Has played in all 42 games during his collegiate career. Member of the 2017 All-PFL Second Team.
- RT Shannon Taliaferro – Has appeared in 27 straight games… Father is the cousin of the late George Taliaferro, the first African American football player drafted by an NFL team.
- TE Mason Sutter – Has played in all 42 games of his collegiate career. Has caught at least one TD pass in each of his four seasons and has six for his career… Led the team with 82 receiving yards on five receptions on Oct. 13 against Butler, earning the team’s Offensive Player of the Week award… Had a career-high 96 receiving yards on Oct. 27 against Drake.
- WR Bailey Gessinger – Found the end zone for the third straight week on Oct. 27 vs. Drake, this time via his first TD reception of the season and the third of his career.
- WR JD Koehler – Has recovered a pair of Valpo on-side kicks this season after previously no Valpo player had made an on-side kick recovery in over a decade.
- QB Chris Duncan – Has passed for exactly 302 yards in two of the last three weeks (vs. Drake & vs. Jacksonville), a career high… Was a child actor and made it in a Pussycat Dolls music video, “Wait a Minute.”
- RB Cody Boxrucker – On Oct. 13 against Butler, had three rushing TDs in a single game for the second straight season after he did so against Trinity International last year. He became the first Valpo player to rush for three touchdowns in a game against a Division-I opponent since Jake Hutson on Sept. 28, 2013 against Campbell… Owns 17 career rushing touchdowns.
Player-by-Player Quick Hits – Projected Defensive Starters
- DE Jesse Studyvin – Back after missing last season with an injury. Recipient of Team Type 1 Foundation scholarship for individuals with Type 1 Diabetes and played against fellow recipient and Truman State quarterback Jaden Barr earlier this season… President of Valpo’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
- NT James Reed – High school teammates with Jesse Studyvin at Saint Pius X… Named the Valpo Defensive Player of the Week for his performance on Oct. 13 against Butler, when he racked up a career-high eight tackles, second on the team in that game.
- DT Jake Trumpower – Has played in 25 consecutive games.
- OLB Mike Wheeler – Was named the team’s Defensive Player of the Week after achieving a career-high 13 tackles in a Nov. 10 win over Jacksonville… Co-President of Valpo’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes…. Had 2.5 TFL on Nov. 3 at Marist, equaling the most by a Valpo player in a single game since 2015.
- OLB Austin Petrie – Had a career-high 10 tackles in the season opener against Duquesne. Started his collegiate career as a running back before being converted to linebacker… Had 2.0 sacks on Oct. 27 vs. Drake, the most by a Valpo player in a single game since John Guilford in 2015.
- ILB Matthew Messler – Racked up a team-high 18 tackles on Saturday, Nov. 10 vs. Jacksonville, joining teammate Jamari Booker as the only PFL players with 18 or more tackles in a single game this season. … Redshirt junior who made the most of his first career start on Oct. 13 against Butler. He made a critical interception with 6:54 remaining in the fourth quarter and returned it all the way to the Butler 2, helping Valpo secure the Hoosier Helmet rivalry trophy for the second straight season.
- ILB Drew Snouffer – Over 100 tackles for the third straight season. Leads the PFL and ranks sixth in the FCS nation with 11.6 tackles per game. Has two defensive touchdowns this season, one on a fumble return and one pick six.
- CB Cam Kelly – Had three pass breakups and a pair of tackles on Oct. 20 at Morehead State.
- FS Jamari Booker – Contributed to a pair of turnovers on Nov. 10 vs. Jacksonville, forcing a fumble and making an interception – his second of the season and the third of his career… Had 20 tackles on Sept. 29 against Davidson, becoming the fifth player in the FCS nation with 20 or more tackles in a single game this season. Also became the first Valpo player since at least 2002 with 20+ tackles in a single game.
- SS Michael Scarsella – The Valpo native and true freshman made his first career interception to highlight his first career start on Oct. 13 against Butler… Turned in 10 tackles on Oct. 20 at Morehead State.
- CB Jalin LeAndre – Made his third appearance of an injury-riddled season last week vs. Jacksonville. Can play on Saturday at Stetson and remain eligible for a redshirt with just four games played.
- CB Josmar Diaz-Martinez – The senior captain returned to the field on Senior Day for his first game action since Oct. 20 and just his second game since Sept. 29 during an injury-riddled campaign… Made an immediate impact with a fumble recovery in the win over the Dolphins.
Specialist Quick Hits – Projected Starters
- K Dimitrios Latsonas – Had a perfect week last week against Jacksonville, going 2-for-2 on field goals and 6-for-6 on extra points.
- P Kyle Ulbrich – Has averaged 34.8 yards per punt over 26 punts (long 49) this season.
- RS Bailey Gessinger – Member of the 2017 All-PFL Second Team... Named PFL Special Teams Player of the Week on Oct. 14… Has two kickoff returns for touchdowns this season and four in his career, one shy of tying a PFL record.
Preseason Accolades: Valpo had a trio of representatives on the 2018 Preseason All-Pioneer Football League Team. Senior linebacker Nick Turner, senior offensive lineman Tom Schofield and junior return specialist Bailey Gessinger all garnered preseason recognition. Turner was one of two Valpo players and four in the entire PFL to exceed 100 tackles last year. Schofield started all 11 games for an offensive line that helped Valpo finish tied for 10th nationally in fewest sacks allowed per game. Gessinger was on the preseason all-league team as a return specialist for the second consecutive year. Valpo was picked to finish tied for fourth in the 2018 PFL Preseason Poll, the team’s highest predicted finish since the PFL combined into one division in 2006.
Oh Captain, My Captain: Valparaiso enters the 2018 season with four captains: junior quarterback Jimmy Seewald, senior linebacker Drew Snouffer, senior linebacker Nick Turner and senior defensive back Josmar Diaz-Martinez. Snouffer is the lone captain in his second season in that role.
Wrapping Up 2017: Valpo football turned a corner a year ago, assembling its first winning season since 2003 while finishing in a three-way tie for third in the PFL after being picked to place 10th of 11 in the preseason poll. Valpo won four of its last five games and completed the season with 330 points scored, the second most in a single season in program history. Valpo also finished the year second in program history in yards of total offense with 4,398. Valpo defended Brown Field well, going 4-0 in PFL home games and winning four league home games in the same year for the first time ever. Valpo captured five league wins in the same season for the first time since 1961 and finished ahead of six teams in the league standings for the first time since 1954.