GAME #4: Western Connecticut State Univ. (3-0, 0-0 FFC) at Plymouth State College (0-3, 0-1 FFC) Saturday, Oct. 5, 2002, 1:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The two teams who shared the 2001 Freedom Football Conference championship meet Saturday when Western Connecticut State University visits Plymouth State College for a key FFC encounter.
The Panthers and Colonials will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Currier Field in the rematch between the two, as both programs finished 5-1 in league games last year and were declared co-champions. Western Conn. won the head-to-head encounter over PSC last season and represented the FFC in the NCAA Tournament. The two teams are at opposite ends of the spectrum this fall, as Western has captured its first three games and PSC is winless in three tries.
PSC is hoping to rebound from a disappointing 14-0 loss to Norwich last Saturday in its FFC opener. The outcome broke PSC's 11-game winning streak over the Cadets. PSC has also dropped non-conference games at UMass Dartmouth and William Paterson (N.J.). The Panthers are averaging 323 yards of offense per game, but have been hurt by 15 turnovers.
After winning FFC titles in 1999 and 2001, Western Conn. appears to have another squad capable of contending for the league championship, outscoring its first three opponents 107-42 and earning rankings of #2 in New England and #16 in the NCAA Division III (AFCA). Led by first-year head coach John Burrell, the Colonials make their FFC debut today after consecutive non-conference wins over Salve Regina, New Jersey City, and William Paterson. WCSU leads the FFC in passing offense (272.0 yds/game), and ranks second in both total offense (394.7) and total defense (231.3).
Plymouth State leads the all-time series over WCSU by a whopping 21-4 margin, but the Colonials have won the last three meetings. PSC took 16 straight from 1977-1998, but Western broke the streak in 1999 with a field goal on the final play of the game for a 12-9 win, and has taken 56-7 and 33-17 decisions the last two years. This week's game will be the first in Plymouth since the stunning 12-9 upset in 1999; because of a quirk in the FFC schedule, PSC played at Western the last two years.
FFC LEADERS: Several Panthers are currently ranked among the FFC statistical leaders. Senior WR Chris Holton (Bellows Falls, Vt.) is the leader in receptions/game (7.00) and receiving yards/game (88.7); senior QB Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine) is third in passing yardage (193.3/game) and Holton, senior RB Mike Bicchieri (Londonderry, N.H.) and senior WR Jay Zinis (Manchester, N.H.) are all in the top 10 in all-purpose yards. Senior LB Tim Boothroyd (Amesbury, Mass.) ranks second in the conference with 9.3 tackles/game.
WEEKLY FFC HONORS: PSC had one player honored this week by the FFC, as senior LB Tim Boothroyd (Amesbury, Mass.) was on the FFC Weekly Honor Roll. Boothroyd led the Panthers in tackles with 12 (five solo) against Norwich, including two behind the line of scrimmage. Boothroyd leads the team in tackles after three games with 28 stops.
2002 PSC WEEKLY HONORS:
Sept. 16 WR Chris Holton (FFC Honor Roll)
Sept. 23 PK Eric Calderwood (FFC Special Teams Player/Week, ECAC Honor Roll), WR Jay Zinis (FFC Honor Roll), DB Matt Trombley (FFC Honor Roll)
Sept. 30 LB Tim Boothroyd (FFC Honor Roll)
FFC POLL: Defending co-champion, Western Connecticut was picked as the pre-season favorite in the FFC pre-season coaches' poll, receiving four first-place votes. Springfield picked up two top votes and finished runner-up, while PSC got one first-place vote and was picked third. Kings Points was selected fourth, followed by WPI, Norwich and Coast Guard.
PSC AT CURRIER FIELD: PSC has had plenty of success over the years at Currier Field, capturing just over three-quarters of the contests. Plymouth State now has an all-time home record of 118-38-3 for a .752 winning percentage. The Panthers were 4-1 at home last year, and are 36-12 (.750) at Currier Field since 1993.
ALL-TIME SUCCESS: The Panthers entered the 2002 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 .696 with an overall record of 213-91-7, just ahead of Wisconsin-Lacrosse, which has a .691 winning percentage in 77 years of football (474-201-40).
A LOOK AHEAD: After two straight home games, PSC is on the road the next two weeks with tough FFC encounters at Kings Point and Springfield. The next game at Currier Field is the Homecoming contest against Bentley on Oct. 26. Western Conn. has FFC road games the next two weeks as well, at Springfield and Coast Guard, before its next home affair on Oct. 26 vs. Kings Point.