GAME #5: Plymouth State University (3-1, 1-0) at Western New England College (1-3, 0-1)
Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009, 1:00 p.m., Golden Bear Stadium, Springfield, Mass.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Riding a three-game winning streak, the Plymouth State University football team travels to Springfield, Mass., this Saturday for a New England Football Conference Boyd Division clash at Western New England College.
The Panthers and Golden Bears will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Golden Bear Stadium. PSU extended its winning streak last Saturday with a 34-0 whitewash at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in the Boyd Division opener, while WNEC got run over by visiting Curry College in its Boyd Division debut, 41-0. Plymouth State has also won 10 straight regular season Boyd Division games, dating back to 2007.
Ranked fourth in this week's New England Division III poll, PSU used big plays from five different players to knock off UMD. Panther running backs scored rushing touchdowns from 31 and 64 yards, and junior quarterback J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H./Winnacunnet) threw TD passes to three receivers from 17, 26 and 51 yards. The Panther defense allowed a season-low 207 yards en route to its first shutout of the season. PSU is averaging 356 yards of offense and 32.8 points per game this season, while the defense has allowed 322 yards and 18.5 points per outing.
WNEC edged Norwich University in its season opener, 28-27, but has suffered consecutive losses to Westfield State, Maine Maritime and Curry. The Golden Bears gained 274 yards against Curry last Saturday but were intercepted eight times by the Colonels. WNEC averages 374 yards of offense and 13.8 points per game, while the defense allows over 400 yards and 32.5 points per contest. The Golden Bears have finished 3-7 overall the past two seasons.
This Saturday will be the 12th career meeting in football between Plymouth State and Western New England, and the Panthers have won the 11 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 PSU has won by 20 point the last two years, 49-29 in 2007 in Springfield and 40-20 last season in Plymouth.
SPECIAL ON SPECIAL TEAMS: Plymouth State has been successful on special teams this year, and two players have stood out. Sophomore Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.) leads the NEFC in kick-off returns, averaging 33.0 yards a return with one touchdown, and freshman Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) leads the NEFC in punting, averaging 49.0 yards a boot. Mulcahy is also the top-scoring place-kicker in the league with 23 points, converting 14-of-16 on extra point kicks and 3-for-6 on field goal tries, all six coming in the season-opening overtime loss at Saint Anselm.
NEW ENGLAND POLL: Trinity took over the top spot in this week's New England Division III poll, receiving 14 of the 18 first-place votes. Springfield is second, WPI third (with three first-place votes) and Plymouth State fourth, with the final top vote. Williams, which is at Trinity this week, is fifth, while the bottom half of the poll includes Amherst, Bridgewater State, Husson, Curry and Framingham State.
NEFC HONORS: Junior QB J.J. Brooks and senior DE Jim Sestito were on the receiving end of NEFC weekly honors this week, Brooks for throwing three touchdown passes and Sestito for making seven tackles and one-and-a-half sacks in PSU's win over UMass Dartmouth. Here are the Panthers who have received weekly honors this season:
Sept. 7 DB Christian Mulcahy (NEFC Defensive Player/Week)
Sept. 14 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll)
Sept. 21 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Offensive Player/Week, ECAC Northeast Co-Player/Week)
Sept. 28 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll), DE Jim Sestito (NEFC Honor Roll)
PANTHER CAPTAIN: The Panthers have only one captain this season - senior defensive tackle Alex Battaglino from Avon, Conn. Battaglino has made the most of his senior season, as he is tied for third in the NEFC with three sacks and ranks fifth with six tackles for lost yardage.
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.
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.
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 return home to Currier Field for its next two games, hosting Endicott and Nichols the next two Saturdays. PSU will have to avoid looking ahead to an Oct. 24 visit to Curry College.
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