GAME #4: University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (2-1, 0-0) at Plymouth State University (2-1, 0-0)
Saturday, Sept. 27, 2008, 1:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Boyd Division play begins in the New England Football Conference this Saturday as Plymouth State University hosts the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in a key divisional battle at Currier Field.
The Panthers and Corsairs will kick off at 1:00 p.m. in Plymouth in a battle of two teams with winning records. Both teams have posted 2-1 overall marks on the season and are looking to get off to a good start in Boyd Division play. PSU is coming off a solid 26-7 road win at defending Bogan Division champion Coast Guard, while UMD has won two straight and is only a quintuple-overtime loss away from being undefeated after three games.
PSU used its power ground game to capture the win over Coast Guard, running the ball on 60 of 67 plays from scrimmage and rushing for 245 yards and three touchdowns. The Panthers have averaged 220 of their 277 yards a game this season on the ground. On the other side of the ball, the Panthers have improved each week and now rank second in the NEFC In total defense (278 yards per game) and scoring defense (19.7 points per game).
UMD regrouped after falling to Worcester Polytech in five overtimes in its season opener, winning consecutive games at Bridgewater State (32-27) and at home against Fitchburg State (45-17).. The Corsairs, ranked eighth in this week's New England Division III poll, also rely on a strong running game with one of the top backs in the conference in senior J.T. Harold. UMD earns 337 of its 421 yards of offense per game on the ground. The Corsairs were 5-5 last year, 4-3 in conference play.
This Saturday will be the 10th career meeting on the gridiron between Plymouth State and UMass Dartmouth, with the Panthers holding a 6-3 lead in the all-time series. The Panthers coasted to wins in the first two encounters in 1994 and 1995 and made it three straight in 2001, but UMD came back with wins the next three years (2002-04) to even the series. PSU won a defensive battle, 14-7, in 2005, and ran past UMD the past two seasons, 27-13 in 2006 and 35-28 last year. Because of a scheduling quirk with the Panthers joining the NEFC, the PSU-UMD football games the past two years have both been played in Plymouth.
MACK ATTACK: The PSU ground game is led by senior Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H.), who ranks fifth in the NEFC in rushing (141 yards per game) and sixth in scoring with four touchdowns. An All-New England player last year, Mack has rushed 71 times for 423 yards, averaging six yards per carry. He has also moved into third place on PSU's career rushing list with 2,588 yards, passing Shawn Redburn (2,583 yards from 1994-96) last Saturday. His next target is Russ Massahos, who gained 3,276 yards from 1998-01. PSU's all-time rushing leader is Joe Dudek, who ran for 5,291 yards from 1982-85.
PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers captured the season opener at Currier Field, running their home winning streak to eight, dating back to 2006. PSU was 6-0 at home last season, the first undefeated mark in home games since the Panthers were 4-0 in 1991, and the best undefeated home record since the 1984 team went 6-0. Plymouth State now has an all-time home record of 132-54-3 for a .706 winning percentage. PSU is 14-3 at home since 2005.
NEFC HONORS: PSU had two players on this week's NEFC Weekly Honor Roll. Senior RB Jeff Mack made a return appearance on the list after rushing for 124 yards and a touchdown in the win at Coast Guard, and sophomore Kevin Whalen (Wallingford, Conn./Sheehan) made his first appearance after leading the team with 10 tackles and returning an interception to set up a score. Here are the Panthers who have received NEFC weekly honors this season:
Sept. 8 RB Jeff Mack (NEFC Honor Roll), DL Matt MacLean (NEFC Honor Roll)
Sept. 15 None
Sept. 22 RB Jeff Mack (NEFC Honor Roll), DB Kevin Whalen (NEFC Honor Roll)
GOLD HELMET: In PSU's season-opening win over Saint Anselm College, senior RB Jeff Mack rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns are earned the Boston Globe Gold Helmet Award for Division II/III. He was presented the award at the New England Football Writers' weekly luncheon at Harvard University. It was the first Gold Helmet for a PSU player since Russ Massahos rushed for six touchdowns against Coast Guard in 1999.
NEFC SCOOP: The NEFC teams will play intra-divisional games the rest of the way, and will conclude the regular season with a championship game between the first-place teams from each divisions. The winner of that game receives an automatic berth in the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament. Curry College is the five-time defending NEFC champions.
PSU FOOTBALL HISTORY: After beginning its football program in 1970, Plymouth State was a member of the NEFC from 1971-91, winning or sharing nine titles in those 21 seasons. The Panthers won or shared eight straight NEFC championships from 1981-88. PSU has the 12th-highest career winning percentage (.636) among all NCAA Division III football programs.
A LOOK AHEAD: PSU will be back at Currier Field next Saturday for the Homecoming and Family Week game against Western New England College. Then it will be a pair of road games at Endicott and Nichols before defending champion Curry College comes to Currier Field at the end of October.
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