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September 23, 2009

Plymouth State Football to visit UMass Dartmouth

GAME #4:     Plymouth State University (2-1, 0-0) at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (0-3, 0-0)

                       Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, 12:00 p.m., Cressy Field, North Dartmouth, Mass.

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University football team begins defense of its New England Football Conference Boyd Division title this Saturday with its first divisional game of the season at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

            The Panthers and Corsairs will kick off at 12 noon at Cressy Field in North Dartmouth, Mass.  The teams have played three non-conference games to start the season, and it will be the seven divisional games the rest of the way.  PSU finished 7-0 in the Boyd Division a year ago, and UMD finished in third place at 5-4.  Plymouth State won two of its first three games this season and takes a two-game winning streak into Saturday, while the Corsairs are looking to put their first mark in the win column.

            PSU, ranked fifth in this week's New England Division III poll, improved to 2-1 after last Saturday's 28-17 victory over Coast Guard, the 14th consecutive home win.  Junior quarterback J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H./WInnacunnet) threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more, and led the team to a pair of fourth-quarter scores to pull out the victory.  With four returning starters on the offensive line, the Panthers run the ball about 85 percent of the time, and rank fourth in the NEFC in rushing offense with 234 yards per game.

            UMass Dartmouth hasn't had a losing season since 1999, but will have work to do to continue that string after opening this year with losses to Alfred, Bridgewater State and Fitchburg State.  Those three teams were a combined 18-13 last year and are 7-2 this year.  The UMD offense has struggled, averaging 226 yards and six points per game, while the defense has surrendered 378 yards and 33 points per outing.

            This Saturday will be the 11th career meeting on the gridiron between Plymouth State and UMass Dartmouth, with the Panthers holding a 7-3 lead in the all-time series. The Panthers won the first three encounters in 1994, 1995 and 2001, but UMD came back with three straight wins from 2002-04 to even the series.  PSU has now won four in a row, including a 30-10 win last year in Plymouth and a 35-28 decision in 2007 at UMD.  Because of a scheduling quirk with the Panthers joining the NEFC, three of the last four games in the series have been played in Plymouth.

NEW ENGLAND POLL:  Springfield, WPI and Trinity take up the top three spots in the first New England Division III poll of the season, with Springfield first (five first-place votes), WPI second (nine first-place votes) and Trinity third (four top votes).  Maine Maritime and Plymouth State round out the top five, and Williams, Amherst, Husson, Bridgewater State and Westfield State comprise the bottom five spots.

NEFC PRE-SEASON POLL:  The Panthers were picked to finish second in the Boyd Division in the inaugural NEFC preseason coaches' poll.  Curry topped the poll with six first-place votes, while PSU was second with two top votes.  Salve Regina was third, followed by Endicott, UMass Dartmouth, MIT, Nichols and Western New England.  Bridgewater State edged Maine Maritime for the top spot in the Bogan Division coaches' poll, and Curry was the overall favorite to capture the NEFC title.

NEFC HONORS:  Junior QB J.J. Brooks was honored for the second straight week by the NEFC, this week as Offensive Player of the Week.  He threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others, leading PSU past Coast Guard.  Here are the Panthers who have received weekly honors this season:

            Sept. 7        DB Christian Mulcahy (NEFC Defensive Player of the Week)

            Sept. 14      QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll)

            Sept. 21      QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Offensive Player of the Week, ECAC Northeast Co-Player of the Week)

WORKING OVERTIME:  Plymouth State went into overtime in its season opener at Saint Anselm, the first overtime game in school history.  PSU and Saint Anselm played five extra periods on Sept. 5, which is tied for the second longest game in NCAA history, and the Hawks pulled it out in the fifth OT. 

PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers have a 14-game home winning streak, dating back to the 2006 season.  PSU was 5-0 at home last year and 6-0 in 2007, the eighth and ninth unbeaten home records in school history.  Plymouth State has an all-time home record of 138-54-3 for a .715 winning percentage.  PSU is 19-3 at home since 2005.

PANTHER CAPTAIN:  The Panthers have only one captain this season - senior defensive tackle Alex Battaglino from Avon, Conn.                                                                                           

RETURNING ALL-STARS:  PSU has several returnees who received post-season honors in 2008.  Senior OL Zac, Duval, DL Jim Sestito, and junior DB Kevin Whalen were All-NEFC First Team selections, and junior DB Zach Parsons was an All-NEFC Second Team choice.  Sestito was All-East Region First Team by d3football.com, and Sestito and Whalen were selected ECAC Northeast All-Stars. 

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:  The Panthers will play a second straight road game next Saturday, visiting Western New England College in Springfield, Mass., before returning home for consecutive home games against Endicott and Nichols.  UMass Dartmouth visits MIT next Saturday, with its next home game in two weeks against Western New England. 

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