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October 29, 2008

Plymouth State Football visits MIT

GAME #9:    Plymouth State University (7-1, 5-0) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (5-3, 3-2)

                     Saturday, Nov. 1, 2008, 12:00 p.m., Steinbrenner Stadium, Cambridge, Mass. 

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State University makes its final road trip of the regular season this Saturday, visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for a New England Football Conference Boyd Division affair.

            The Panthers and Engineers will kick off at 12 noon Saturday at Steinbrenner Stadium in Cambridge.  Plymouth State, ranked third in this week's New England Division III poll, is looking to extend its winning streak to seven games and clinch at least a share of the Boyd Division crown, while MIT is enjoying its best season in nine years and will be out to upset the title-hungry Panthers.

            PSU, 7-1 overall and 5-0 in the Boyd Division, is coming off one of the biggest regular season wins in school history, a 28-17 triumph over Curry College last Saturday, snapping the Colonels' 37-game winning streak against NEFC opponents.  The Panther defense continued to excel, holding Curry to 296 yards and 17 points below its season average. PSU leads the NEFC in rushing defense, scoring defense and total defense.  The Panther offense, which has relied on a power running game this season, rushing the football nearly 90 percent of the time, used big plays to knock off the Colonels. PSU had five plays of 23 yards or longer, and four plays that gained at least 45 yards.

            MIT, 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the Boyd Division, is coming off back-to-back wins over Western New England College and Salve Regina. MIT features the nation's leading rusher in DeRon Brown, who has run for 1,474 yards (6.7 avg.) and 21 touchdowns.  The Engineers have put plenty of points on the board, averaging almost 37 points an outing, but are surrendering 35 points a game.  MIT, which finished 2-7 overall the past two seasons, has a chance at its first winning season since going 6-4 in 1999.

            Saturday will be just the third career meeting in football between Plymouth State and MIT, since the Panthers were out of the NEFC before MIT was admitted in 1997. The first two games the past two years have both ended in lopsided Panther victories, PSU winning 35-3 two years ago in Cambridge and 27-0 last year in Plymouth.

            PSU wraps up the regular season on Nov. 8 at home against Salve Regina.  The Panthers need just one win in their final two games to clinch the honor of representing the Boyd Division in the NEFC Championship game on Nov. 15 at the home of the Bogan Division champion.

               RED-HOT RED ZONE:  PSU has been terrific when it counts, leading the NEFC in both red-zone offense (90 percent, scoring on 27 of 30 attempts) and red-zone defense (56.7 percent, allowing points on 17 of 30 chances). One of the keys to PSU's win over Curry was allowing just 10 points to the Colonels in their five first-half visits inside the Panther 20-yard line. Plymouth State also leads the league in stopping fourth-down attempts, allowing only 12 first-down conversions in 30 opponent tries. 

              RUNNING OFFENSE:  The Panthers have relied most of this season on its power running game, gaining 290 of its 340 yards per game and scoring 30 of its 34 touchdowns on the ground. PSU has thrown just nine passes over the past two weeks, but the six completions average 36 yards a play and include gains of 45, 31, 12, 45, 62 and 23 yards. 

              MACK ATTACK:  The PSU ground game is led by senior Jeff Mack (Milford, N.H.), who is tied for fourth in the NEFC in rushing with 1,294 yards and ranked third in scoring with 16 touchdowns.  He has three 200-yard rushing performances and another 197-yard effort, and his 1,294 yards is fourth on PSU's single-season rushing list.  Mack has climbed into the second spot PSU's all-time rushing chart with 3,459 yards on 614 carries (5.6 avg.) with 39 touchdowns.  PSU's all-time rushing leader is Joe Dudek, who ran for 5,560 yards (7.1 avg.) 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 WR J.J. Brooks and sophomore LB Zack Brooks of Seabrook, N.H. and senior LB Brian Keenan and freshman TE Mike Keenan of Hampstead, N.H. 

              NEFC HONORS:  Panther players have been regulars on the weekly list of NEFC honors.  The latest to be recognized are sophomore LB Steve Campbell (Northborough, Mass.), who was the Co-Defensive Player of the Week after making nine tackles against Curry, including a sack, and sophomore WR J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H.), who was on the Honor Roll after catching two passes for 107 yards and a TD. 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)

     Oct. 27     LB Steve Campbell (NEFC Co-Defensive Player/Week), WR J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll)                                                                                                                

              PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers are 4-0 at home this season, running their Currier Field winning streak to 11, 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 135-54-3 for a .711 winning percentage.  PSU is 17-3 at home since 2005. 

              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.

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