GAME #7: Nichols College (3-3, 2-1) at Plymouth State University (5-1, 3-0)
Saturday, Oct. 17, 2009, 1:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A large Homecoming and Family Week crowd is expected this Saturday at Currier Field when the Plymouth State University football team hosts Nichols College in a New England Football Conference Boyd Division match-up.
The Panthers and Bison will kick off at 1:00 p.m. Saturday at Currier Field. Both teams are still in the hunt for the divisional crown and Saturday's outcome will certainly affect the race. The Panthers, 5-1 overall and 3-0 in the division, are on a roll and are looking to keep their momentum going, while the Bison, 3-3 Overall and 2-1 in the division, have won three of their last four and can make a statement with a win over the defending champions.
Ranked third in this week's New England Division III poll, PSU posted its fifth straight victory last Saturday with a dramatic 31-28 victory over Endicott College. The Panthers trailed 28-10 late in the third quarter before rallying for the win with three unanswered touchdowns. PSU had a solid running game as usual, rushing for 197 yards, but also unloaded a strong passing attack as junior QB J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H./Winnacunnet) threw for 237yards to two touchdowns. It was the most passing yards for PSU in a game since a 250-yard performance at UMass Dartmouth on Sept. 22, 2007. Junior WR John Creamer (Hanover, Mass./Abington) had a career game, making nine catches for 150 yards and two scores. The Panther defense is again quietly putting together a solid campaign and ranks in the top five in the NEFC in rushing, scoring and total defense.
The improved Bison have already posted more wins that they did all of last season; Nichols had winning seasons in 2006 and 2007 before slipping to 2-8 last year. The Bison have won two of three Boyd Division games this year and remain in the hunt for the top spot. A 31-24 victory last Saturday over Salve Regina pushed the Bison into third place in the Boyd Division and into the race for the title. Sophomore QB Sean Smith-Vaughan completed 21 of 33 passes for 213 yards and a career-high three touchdowns. The Nichols defense kept the opponents under 300 yards for the first time in three games. The Bison are ranked sixth in the NEFC in total defense, but 15th in total offense.
The Plymouth State-Nichols series goes back to 1970, Plymouth State's first year with a varsity football team, and the Panthers lead the career series, 15-9-1. Plymouth State won 12 in a row from 1980-91, and 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 in Dudley, Mass., and PSU has taken the last two - 30-0 at Currier Field in Plymouth in 2007 and 36-9 last season at Nichols.
STREAKS ALIVE: Plymouth State will put several winning streaks on the line again Saturday. The Panthers have won five in a row this season since its dramatic 5-OT loss on opening day at Saint Anselm. PSU has won all three Boyd Division games this year, extending its regular season divisional winning streak to 12 straight, dating back to 2007. The Panthers have also captured 15 consecutive victories at Currier Field, dating back to 2006.
PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers bring a 15-game home winning streak into today's game. PSU is 3-0 at home this season after going 6-0 and 5-0 at Currier Field in 2007 and 2008, respectively, the eighth and ninth unbeaten home records in school history. Plymouth State has an all-time home record of 139-54-3 for a .717 winning percentage. PSU is 20-3 at home since 2005.
NEFC LEADERS: Several Panthers are among the NEFC statistical leaders, led by QB J.J. Brooks, who ranks first in pass efficiency, fifth in scoring and seventh in total offense. Senior captain Alex Battaglino (Avon, Conn.) tops the NEFC in sacks and ranks seventh in tackles-for-loss. Sophomore Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.) is averaging 28.8 yards per kickoff return with one touchdown, and freshman Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) is averaging 49.0 yards a punt; Both would be right with the leaders of the NEFC but neither has enough attempts to meet the NEFC minimums. Mulcahy is also second in kick scoring, converting 21-of-23 on extra point kicks and 5-of-9 on field goal tries.
NEW ENGLAND POLL: Trinity maintained the top spot in this week's New England Division III poll, receiving 13 of the 15 first-place votes. Springfield is second (with one first-place vote) and Plymouth State third, with the final top vote. Amherst and Williams round out the top five, while the bottom half of the poll includes Curry, Maine Maritime, Bridgewater State, Fitchburg State, and WPI.
NEFC HONORS: Junior John Creamer made his first appearance on the NEFC weekly honor roll this week after making a career-high nine catches for 150 yards and two touchdowns. 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)
Oct. 5 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll), LB Mike Bruning (NEFC Honor Roll)
Oct. 12 WR John Creamer (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 tops the NEFC lead with five sacks and ranks seventh with eight 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.
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: A showdown looms ahead for Plymouth State as the Panthers travel to Curry next Saturday, Oct. 24. PSU and Curry enter today as the only two unbeaten teams in the Boyd Division. The Panthers will be back at Currier Field in two weeks, Oct. 31, to host MIT on Senior Day.
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