GAME #7: Plymouth State University (5-1, 3-0) at Nichols College (2-4, 0-3)
Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008, 1:00 p.m., Vendetti Field, Dudley, Mass.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University football team continues Boyd Division play in the New England Football Conference this Saturday with a visit to Nichols College.
The Panthers and Bison will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Vendetti Field in Dudley, Mass., just south of Worcester. Plymouth State is riding a four-game winning streak and is tied for first place in the Boyd Division, while Nichols has dropped three in a row after starting the season at 2-1 and is in the basement of the division. The Bison are looking to get back on the winning track, while PSU will have to avoid looking ahead to a potential showdown next Week with NEFC co-leader Curry College.
Plymouth State, tied for fifth in this week's New England Division III poll, improved to 5-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play last Saturday with a 36-14 win at Endicott. The story of this year's team continues to be the ground game, where PSU has run 335 of its 376 offensive plays, gained 304.5 of its 335 yards per game and scored 23 of its 25 touchdowns. In fact, the Panthers have won their last two games without completing a pass. The offense has stolen the headlines from the Panther defense, which leads the NEFC in fewest points allowed (17.2 per game) and fewest yards allowed (261 per game) and ranks second in rushing defense (116.7 yards per game allowed).
Nichols has suffered consecutive setbacks to MIT, Endicott and Salve Regina to drop to 2-4 overall and 0-3 in the division. The Bison had posted consecutive non-conference wins in September over Framingham State and Worcester State. The Nichols offense averages nearly 350 yards and 24 points per game, while the defense has given up more than 348 yards and 24 points an outing. Nichols is coming off back-to-back winning seasons, going 5-4 in both 2006 and 2007 after a winless 2005.
The PSU-Nichols series goes back to 1970, Plymouth State's first year with a football team. The Panthers lead the career series, 14-9-1. Plymouth State won 12 in a row from 1980-91, but the teams did not play each other from 1992-2005. When the series resumed in 2006, Nichols won the first game, 19-14, at Vendettti Field, and PSU took last year's contest at Currier Field in Plymouth, 30-0.
The Panthers will return home next Saturday, Oct. 25, to host Curry in what looms as a potential showdown game in the Boyd Division.
MACK ATTACK: The PSU ground game is led by senior Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H.), who leads the NEFC in rushing (177 yards per game) and ranks fifth in scoring (12 touchdowns). He has compiled three 200-yard rushing games this season, including a career-high 227 yards last week at Endicott, and a 197-yard effort in a game when he only played the first half. An All-New England player last year, Mack has also moved into third place on PSU's career rushing list with 3,230 yards on 572 carries (5.6 avg.) and 35 touchdowns. His next target is Russ Massahos, who gained 3,276 yards and 36 TDs from 1998-01. PSU's all-time rushing leader is Joe Dudek, who ran for 5,291 yards and 73 touchdowns from 1982-85.
O-LINE BROTHERS: Many offensive linemen refer to their fellow linemates as their brothers, but for the Panthers, they mean it. PSU has two sets of brothers starting on the offensive line, opening the holes for PSU's powerful ground game. Senior guard Joe Duval (Dover, N.H.) and junior tackle Zac Duval (Dover, N.H.) start on the right side, and juniors Matt Vahey (Fremont, N.H.) and Mike Vahey (Fremont, N.H.) start on the left side. Senior Aaron Ashburner (Barrington, R.I.) and sophomore Nick Fuccillo (East Falmouth, Mass.) have also seen significant playing time on the Panther offensive line.
NEFC HONORS: After Honor Roll recognition from the NEFC three times in the first four weeks, senior Jeff Mack was named NEFC Co-Offensive Player of the Week the past two weeks. In addition, four different Panthers have earned Defensive Honor Roll accolades. 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)
Oct. 6 RB Jeff Mack (NEFC Co-Offensive Player/Week), LB Steve Campbell (NEFC Honor Roll)
Oct. 13 RB Jeff Mack (NEFC Co-Offensive Player/Week)
ECAC CO-PLAYER OF THE WEEK: The honors continue to pile up for senior Jeff Mack. In addition to being honored five times in six weeks by the NEFC, he was named ECAC Northeast Co-Player of the Week on Oct. 7 after his outstanding performance in PSU's win over WNEC. He ran for 197 yards and four touchdowns, including a career-long 66-yard dash, before sitting out the entire second half.
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.
PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers are 3-0 at home this season, running their home winning streak to 10, 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 134-54-3 for a .709 winning percentage. PSU is 16-3 at home since 2005.
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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