GAME #5: Western New England College (0-4, 0-1) at Plymouth State University (3-1, 1-0)
Saturday, Oct. 4, 2008, 1:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Boyd Division play in the New England Football Conference continues this Saturday as Plymouth State University hosts Western New England College in the Homecoming and Family Week contest.
The Panthers and Golden Bears will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Currier Field. Plymouth State (3-1, 1-0) has won two straight games and looks to keep the momentum going, while Western New England (0-4, 0-1) has played better than its record indicates but is still looking for its first victory of the season.
PSU, which is ranked sixth in this week's New England Division III poll, has used a power running game to post consecutive victories over Coast Guard and UMass Dartmouth, running the ball on 130 of 139 plays from scrimmage. The Panthers gained 415 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground in last Saturday's win over UMD. The defense has also tightened up, allowing only 17 points over the last two weeks. Plymouth State now leads the NEFC in scoring defense, allowing just 17.2 points per game, and total defense, holding opponents to 279 yards an outing.
After a pair of close non-conference games against Westfield State and Maine Maritime, WNEC was on the short end of a lop-sided loss to defending champion Curry in the Boyd Division opener last week. The Golden Bears have had success throwing the ball and rank second in the NEFC in passing offense (252 yards per game), while the defense allows an average of 42 points a game. WNEC has managed just two winning seasons in the last 10 years, going 5-4 in 2004 and 2006.
This Saturday marks the 11th career meeting in football between Plymouth State and Western New England, and the Panthers own victories in all 10 previous encounters. PSU easily won all eight games in the 1980s, scoring at least 20 points and keeping WNEC to single-digit scoring in all eight. When the series resumed in 2006, the Golden Bears led after three quarters before the Panthers pulled out a 19-18 win, and last year PSU ran away with a 49-29 decision.
PSU is on the road the next two Saturdays with conference games at Endicott and Nichols. The Panthers will have to avoid looking ahead to a potential showdown at Currier Field on Oct. 25 against defending champion Curry.
MACK ATTACK: The PSU ground game is led by senior Jeff Mack, who ranks third in the NEFC in rushing (160 yards per game). He ran for a career-high 218 yards last week against UMD, his second 200-yard game this season. An All-New England player last year, Mack has also moved into third place on PSU's career rushing list with 2,805 yards. 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.
PICK-OFF ARTISTS: Saturday's game will features two of the three players who share the NEFC lead in interceptions. PSU's Zach Parsons and WNEC's Casey Dunne, along with Curry's Scott Driscoll, have all picked off three passes to share the conference lead.
PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers are 2-0 at home this season, running their home winning streak to nine, 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 133-54-3 for a .708 winning percentage. PSU is 15-3 at home since 2005.
NEFC HONORS: PSU senior RB Jeff Mack made his third appearance in four weeks on the NEFC Weekly Honor Roll after his 200-yard rushing game last week, and sophomore Zach Parsons made his first appearance after making seven tackles and an interception. 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)
Sept. 29 RB Jeff Mack (NEFC Honor Roll), DB Zach Parsons (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.
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