GAME #9: Massachusetts Institute of Technology (1-6, 1-4) at Plymouth State University (6-2, 4-1)
Saturday, Oct. 31, 2009, 12:00 p.m., Currier Field, Plymouth, N.H.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University football team will be looking to bounce back from a tough loss and get back on the winning track this Saturday when the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes to visit for a New England Football Conference's Boyd Division contest.
The Panthers (6-2, 4-1) and Engineers (1-6, 1-4) will kick off at 12 noon Saturday on Senior Day at Currier Field in Plymouth. PSU is coming off its first Boyd Division setbck in two years while the Engineers have dropped three in a row. Plymouth State will be out to keep alive post-season hopes while MIT is looking for a strong finish to the 2009 campaign.
Ranked seventh in this week's New England Division III poll, Plymouth State had its six-game winning streak and 13-game Boyd Division streak snapped in last Saturday's 20-9 setback at Curry. Turnovers doomed the Panthers as they threw three interceptions, lost a fumble and muffed a punt. PSU had been victimized for only two interceptions all season. The powerful Curry defense limited PSU to 269 yards, the Panthers' lowest output in their last 18 games. Plymouth State has used a more balanced offense this season and has already thrown for 300 yards more than last season. PSU ranks on the top four among the 16 teams in the NEFC in both total offense (379 yards/game) and total defense (315 yards allowed/game).
MIT had high hopes this season after finishing 5-5 last year, its best season in 10 years, but the Engineers have managed just one victory, a 26-0 whitewash of winless UMass Dartmouth the first Saturday in October. MIT has an All-American running back and the league's leading rusher in DeRon Brown, who has rushed for 1,257 yards and 10 touchdowns this season and over 4,000 yards and 38 TDs in his career. He rushed for 246 yards and two touchdowns in his final home game last Saturday in a loss to Salve Regina. The Engineers are fifth in the NEFC in rushing as a team but they have struggled on the other side of the ball and rank near the bottom of the league in team defense.
Saturday will be just the fourth 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 three games have all gone in favor of the Panthers. PSU posted lopsided victories the first two years, 35-3 in 2006 and 27-0 in 2007, and the Panthers pulled away to a 27-14 victory last season in Cambridge.
SENIOR DAY: A college athletics tradition continues today as Plymouth State honors the seniors who are playing in their final regular season home game here at Currier Field. This year's Panther seniors include nine members - defensive tackle and captain Alex Battaglino (Avon, Conn.), fellow defensive linemen Jim Sestito (Foxboro, Mass.), Mike Carone (Newington, Conn.) and Bill Horan (Stoughton, Mass.), offensive linemen Zac Duval (Dover, N.H.), Matt Vahey (Fremont, N.H./Pinkerton) and Mike Vahey (Fremont, N.H./Pinkerton), wide receiver Alex Smith (Walpole, Mass.) and injured running back Jay Baird (Worcester, Mass./Holy Name).
PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers bring a 16-game home winning streak into Saturday's game. PSU is 4-0 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 140-54-3 for a .718 winning percentage. PSU is 21-3 at home since 2005.
NEW ENGLAND POLL: Plymouth State dropped from third to seventh in the New England Division III poll after the loss to Curry. Trinity (5-0) maintained the top spot, receiving 11 of the 15 first-place votes. Springfield (6-1) is second (with the other four first-place votes), and Amherst (5-0), Curry (6-2) and Williams (4-1) round out the top five. The bottom half of the poll includes Maine Maritime (6-1), Plymouth State (6-2), Westfield State (5-3), Bridgewater State (5-3), and Norwich (5-3).
NEFC LEADERS: Several Panthers are among the NEFC statistical leaders, led by QB J.J. Brooks (Seabrook, N.H./Winnacunnet), who ranks first in pass efficiency and fifth in total offense. Senior WR Alex Smith (Walpole, Mass.) is seventh in receiving yards per game, and senior captain Alex Battaglino (Avon, Conn.) is tied for the NEFC lead in sacks and tied for seventh in tackles-for-loss. Sophomore Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.), is second in the NEFC in kickoff return (28.8 yards/return with one touchdown); Mulcahy is also second in kick scoring, converting 27-of-31 on extra point kicks and 6-of-10 on field goal tries. Freshman Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) leads the league in punting with an average of 45.8 yards a boot.
OH BROTHER: Many offensive linemen refer to their fellow line mates as their brothers, but for the Panthers, they mean it. For the second year in a row, PSU has two sets of brothers starting on the offensive line, opening the holes for PSU's powerful ground game. Seniors Matt Vahey and Mike Vahey of Fremont, N.H. (Pinkerton) are joined by junior Nick Fuccillo and freshman Xander Fuccillo of East Falmouth, Mass. (Falmouth). The fifth starter is senior Zac Duval of Dover, N.H., who played alongside his brother Joe Duval the past two seasons before Joe's graduation last year. PSU has another set of brothers as well, junior QB J.J. Brooks and junior linebacker Zack Brooks of Seabrook, N.H.
NEFC HONORS: This week marked the first time this season that PSU did not have any representatives on the NEFC weekly honor roll. 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)
Oct. 19 QB J.J. Brooks (NEFC Honor Roll)
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: Both teams will wrap up the regular season next Saturday with divisional games, PSU visiting Salve Regina and MIT traveling to Endicott. The NEFC Championship game is set for Nov. 14, with the Boyd Division champion hosting the Bogan division champion, and Nov. 21 marks the start of the NCAA Tournament and the ECAC post-season games.
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