GAME #7: Plymouth State College (3-3, FFC 2-2) at Bentley College (2-5, 1-5 EFC)
Sat., Oct. 23, 1999, 2:00 p.m., Bentley Field, Waltham, Mass.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - After three consecutive home games against Freedom Football Conference opponents, the Plymouth State College football team shifts gears this Saturday, playing a non-conference road encounter against the Falcons of Bentley College.
The Panthers and Falcons will kick off at 12 noon Saturday at Bentley Field in Waltham, Mass., with both teams looking to get back on the winning track. It's the rematch of last year's first ever meeting between the two schools, which was captured by Bentley at PSC's Currier Field, 30-19.
Plymouth State, 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the FFC, is looking to regroup under first-year head coach Chris Rorke. The PSC defensive unit dominated teams the first month of the season and the offense has gotten on track the last two weeks, but a 51-33 setback at home last Saturday to Springfield College all but eliminated any conference title hopes for PSC this season. The loss also knocked PSC out of the ECAC Division III New England poll for the first time since 1996.
The bright spot in the defeat to Springfield was the 414 yards and five TDs put up by the Panther offense. Sophomore Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) rushed for 111 yards and one TD, and freshman Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine) completed 20-of-36 passes for 286 yards and two scores.
Bentley, 2-5 overall and 1-5 in the Eastern Football Conference under veteran coach Peter Yetten, is coming off back-to-back conference losses at Bryant (44-39) and Pace (34-27). The Falcons, who have a string of 21 consecutive winning seasons, have a potent offense led by a host of proven veterans like tailback Matt Rapoza, quarterback Ted Larkin and wide receiver Mark DeBrito. An inexperienced defense, though, with only one returning starter, has left the Falcons sub-.500.
The 84 points by PSC and Springfield last Saturday is the most ever scored in a Plymouth State football game, eclipsing the 76 points put up in the Panthers' 70-6 victory over UMass Boston in 1989. Unfortunately for the Panther defense, which had been ranked among the NCAA Division III national leaders and still leads the conference in total defense, the 51 points allowed is 10 more than PSC has ever surrendered. In fact, only three times has a Panther defense given up as many as 40 points in a game (a 40-7 loss at Springfield in 1998, a 41-6 defeat at Norwich in 1979, and a 41-13 setback to Nichols in PSC's inaugural game in 1970).
THE SERIES: The 1998 encounter at Currier Field was the first time Plymouth State and Bentley have met on the gridiron, with the Falcons piling up 380 yards of total offense en route to the 30-19 victory. Bentley led 24-0 at the half and 30-0 in the third quarter before PSC scored 19 unanswered points. Ted Larkin completed 15-of-29 passes for 245 yards and two touchdowns, and Matt Rapoza rushed for 116 yards. Russ Massahos came off the bench for PSC to gain 123 yards on the ground, his first career 100-yard rushing game.
FFC PICTURE: Western Connecticut (6-0, 3-0) has continued its terrific season, while WPI (4-1, 2-0) is still very much alive for the conference title. WCSU is at non-conference Montclair this week, while WPI has a key FFC game at Springfield. Western Conn and WPI, picked fourth and sixth, respectively, in the FFC pre-season poll, meet in Worcester on Oct. 30th. PSC (3-3, 2-2) and Springfield (2-4, 2-2) are in the middle of the pack, with Coast Guard (1-5, 1-2), Norwich (3-4, 1-3) and Kings Point (2-5, 1-3) all looking up from the bottom. This is the first year that the FFC champion receives an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Championship Tournament.
WEEKLY HONORS: Plymouth State had three individuals earn weekly honors, providing a consolation prize in light of last Saturday's outcome. RB Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) earned ECAC and FFC Honor Roll accolades after his 168 all-purpose yards against Springfield, 111 on the ground and 57 on six receptions. QB Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine) made his fourth straight appearance on the FFC Rookie Honor Roll after completing 20-of-36 for 286 yards and two TDs. PR/RB Eric Taylor (Saratoga Springs, NY) received his first career FFC Honor Roll selection after racking up 155 all-purpose yards. He returned four kickoffs for 114 yards, including a 65-yarder, and he caught a 41-yard TD pass from Simpson for his first career touchdown.
A LOOK AHEAD: The final home game of the season for PSC is a week away (Oct. 30), against Coast Guard at Currier Field (12 noon). The Panthers then close out the regular season on the road - at Kean (NJ) on Nov. 6th and WPI on Nov. 13th.
-- 30 --