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PSU Football hosts unbeaten Curry in battle for first place

GAME #8:    Curry College (7-0, 4-0) at Plymouth State University (6-1, 4-0)

                     Saturday, Oct. 25, 2008, 1:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H. 

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. - First place in the New England Football Conference Boyd Division will be at stake Saturday as Plymouth State University hosts five-time defending NEFC champion Curry College in a key divisional match-up.

            The Panthers and Colonels will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Currier Field in Plymouth in a battle of red-hot teams.  Plymouth State has won five straight games overall and 10 consecutive home contests while Curry has extended its streaks to seven wins without a loss this season and 34 victories in a row against NEFC opponents, dating back to 2005. Curry has been ranked first every week in this year's Division III New England poll, while PSU was not in the first poll but has since climbed to fourth.

            PSU, 6-1 overall, has a pair of road victories the last two weeks over Endicott and Nichols to extend its winning streak to five games.  The Panthers feature a power running game, gaining 296 of its 335 yards per game and scoring 27 of its 30 touchdowns on the ground.  The Panther defense is quietly putting together a strong season, leading the 16-team NEFC in scoring defense and total defense, allowing just 16 points and 266 yards per game.  PSU has been terrific when it counts, leading the NEFC in both red-zone offense (92 percent, scoring on 25 of 27 attempts) and red-zone defense (58 percent, allowing points on 14 of 24 chances).

            Curry, 7-0 overall, hasn't lost a regular season game since September of 2005.  The Colonels finished 12-1 last season, including a victory in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  They have picked up this season from where they left off, cruising past their first seven opponents and scoring 105 points the last two weeks in wins over MIT and Endicott.   Curry, which is ranked 22nd in this week's national Division III coaches poll, leads the NEFC in total offense and scoring offense, averaging 485 yards and nearly 40 points a game. The Colonel defense allows only 99 rushing yards a game and less than 20 points per contest and will be out to stop PSU's power running game.

            Saturday marks the 25th career meeting in football between Plymouth State and Curry, and the Panthers hold a 16-8 lead in the series that dates back to 1971.  Curry won six of the first seven games in the 1970s, and PSU dominated the next two decades, with 15 consecutive victories between 1978 and 1997. The Colonels have prevailed in the two games since PSU rejoined the NEFC in 2006, winning 40-26 two years ago at Currier Field and 42-14 last year in Milton, Mass.

               PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers are 3-0 at home this season, running their Currier Field 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. 

              MACK ATTACK:  The PSU ground game is led by senior Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H.), who ranks second in the NEFC in rushing with 1,179 yards and tied for fourth in scoring with 14 touchdowns.  He has three 200-yard rushing performances and another 197-yard effort.  Mack has climbed up PSU's all-time rushing list into the second spot with 3,343 yards on 593 carries (5.6 avg.) with 37 touchdowns.  He moved into second last Saturday, passing Russ Massahos, who rushed for 3,276 yards and 36 TDs from 1998-01. PSU's all-time rushing leader is Joe Dudek, who ran for 5,570 yards and 76 scores 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 Joe Duval and junior Zac Duval of Dover, N.H. and juniors Matt Vahey and Mike Vahey of Fremont, N.H., all find themselves starting on the interior line.  PSU has two other sets as brothers as well, sophomore receiver J.J. Brooks and sophomore linebacker Zack Brooks of Seabrook, N.H. and senior linebacker Brian Keenan and freshman tight end Mike Keenan of Hampstead, N.H. 

              NEFC HONORS:  Senior Jeff Mack is becoming a regular on the  weekly list of NEFC honors, earning Honor Roll accolades four times and Co-Player of the Week selection twice.  Sophomore DB Kevin Whalen (Wallingford, Conn.) made his second appearance on the Honor Roll after last week's win over Nichols.  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)

      Oct. 20      RB Jeff Mack (NEFC Honor Roll), DB Kevin Whalen (NEFC Honor Roll) 

              ECAC CO-PLAYER OF THE WEEK:  The honors continue to pile up for senior Jeff Mack.  In addition to being honored six times in seven 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 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:  There are just two weeks remaining in the regular season, giving a big advantage to the winner of Saturday's game.  PSU's final two are at MIT and home against Salve Regina, while Curry returns home to host Nichols next week and finishes up at UMass Dartmouth.  The Boyd Division winner travels to the Bogan Division winner on Nov. 15 for the NEFC Championship game, with the winner receiving an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.

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