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Panthers host Norwich in first FFC contest

GAME #3: Norwich University (3-0, 1-0 FFC) at Plymouth State College (1-1, 0-0 FFC)

Sat., Sept. 23, 2000, 12:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The annual quest for the Freedom Football Conference championship begins Saturday for Plymouth State College when the Panthers host the Cadets of Norwich University at Currier Field.

PSC and Norwich will kick-off at noon Saturday in an FFC battle. The Panthers, 1-1 overall, are looking to rebound from a 31-3 non-conference defeat last Saturday against SUNY Brockport at Currier Field. The Cadets are off to their best start since 1983 at 3-0 and already own an FFC victory over Kings Point.

These two schools are meeting for the 16th time on the gridiron, dating back to 1975, with PSC having won 11 of the first 15 encounters, including the last nine. Since the beginning of the FFC in 1992, Plymouth State has opened the conference slate against Norwich in September, and PSC has won all eight contests. The Panthers rallied to win the 1998 game in Plymouth, 20-17, and held off the Cadets last year in Northfield, Vt., 17-7.

After an impressive season-opening victory over Rensselaer two weeks ago, PSC suffered a blowout defeat at the hands of a strong Brockport squad. The Panther offense put up 281 net yards, but committed four turnovers and surrendered a whopping eight sacks. The defense allowed an uncharacteristic 424 yards of offense to the Golden Eagles, and had no interceptions or fumble recoveries after collecting six turnovers in the first game. PSC is hoping to return to the team that performed at Rensselaer and make the Brockport game a distant memory.

Norwich has come from behind in either the fourth quarter or overtime to win each of its first three games, and the three victories have come by a combined total of seven points. After a season-opening overtime victory over Curry, Norwich won its FFC debut against Kings Point two weeks ago. The Cadets pulled out last Saturday's non-conference game at St. John Fisher in western New York on an 11-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds remaining.

NEW ENGLAND POLL: The Freedom Football Conference is well represented in this week's ECAC New England Division III poll, including both Norwich and Plymouth State. FFC schools Western Connecticut and Springfield hold down the top two spots, followed by Salve Regina in third, Norwich fourth, Williams fifth, Nichols sixth, Mass. Maritime seventh, Plymouth State eighth, Amherst ninth, and Bridgewater State 10th. Four others also received votes: Middlebury, Curry, and FFC schools WPI and Coast Guard.

FFC PRE-SEASON POLL: Defending Freedom Conference champion Western Connecticut was picked to repeat its title in the annual FFC pre-season coaches poll, receiving four of seven first-place votes. Springfield got the other three top votes and was picked second, followed by PSC in third, Kings Point in fourth, WPI and Norwich tied for fifth, and Coast Guard in seventh.

FFC LEADERS: There's still a lot of football to be played, but PSC has a couple of FFFC statistical leader at this stage of the season. DBs Jamey Funk and Mike Pelletier share the FFC lead in interceptions (1.0/gm), and KR Uriah Davis has the top kickoff return average (26.3). PSC leads the conference as a team in passing offense (206.0 yds/gm).

PSC AT CURRIER FIELD: Last Saturday's loss at home was the exception rather than the rule for Plymouth State at Currier Field. PSC has an all-time home record of 111-35-3 for a .755 winning percentage. The Panthers are 29-9 at home the last eight years, and they were 38-13-1 in the ‘90s.

ALL-TIME SUCCESS: The Panthers entered the 2000 season as the winningest Division III football program in the NCAA with at least 25 years on the gridiron. PSC has an all-time winning percentage of .703 with an overall record of 201-83-7, just ahead of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, which has a .695 winning percentage in 75 years of football (463-192-40).

A LOOK AHEAD: PSC begins a crucial three game road trip next week against the meat of the FFC slate - Western Connecticut, Kings Point and Springfield. The next home game isn't until Oct. 21st vs. Bentley.