GAME #10: Plymouth State University (7-2, 5-1) at Salve Regina University (4-5, 3-3)
Saturday, Nov. 7, 2009, 12:00 p.m., Gaudet Field, Middletown, R.I.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University football team wraps up the regular season this Saturday with a road trip to Rhode Island to take on New England Football Conference Boyd Division foe Salve Regina University.
The Panthers and Seahawks will kick off at 12 noon Saturday at Gaudet Field in Middletown, R.I.. PSU (7-2, 5-1) still has post-season hopes and wants to finish the season on a winning note, while Salve (4-5, 3-3) is wrapping up the season with its final home game.
Ranked seventh in this week's New England Division III poll, Plymouth State got back on the winning track last Saturday with a 24-7 win over MIT. The Panthers ran the ball on every play except two, and they completed both passes, one for a touchdown. It was a nice rebound victory for the Panthers, who were defeated by Curry the previous week in the key Boyd Division match-up of the season.
Plymouth State has used a strong running game all season, with 243 of its 373 yards per game coming on the ground. PSU has run the ball on 472 plays and passed it just 111 times, but lead the league in pass efficiency with 15 touchdowns and only five interceptions. The Panther defense ranks third among the 16 teams in the NEFC in rushing defense, allowing just 131 yards per game, and fourth in total defense, giving up just 298 yards per contest.
Salve Regina hasn't had a winning record since 2000, and a win over the Panthers would at least put the Seahawks at the .500 mark for the season. Salve lost a dramatic affair to Western New England College last Saturday, leading 14-0 only to see WNEC score the game-winning TD with 2:34 remaining. The Seahawks still got deep into WNEC territory in the closing seconds but a potential game-tying field goal was blocked. Salve has the league's second-best passing offense with 243 yards per game.
PSU has defeated Salve the past three seasons and owns a 5-1 lead in the all-time series. The first three games came within a 365-day span a decade ago, including two ECAC Championship games. Salve took the first contest, 36-6, in Newport, R.I. on Nov. 21, 1998, for the ECAC Northeast title. The teams met again to open the 1999 season, with PSU winning 16-7, and they made it three contests in less than a year when the Panthers captured a 13-7 win for the ECAC Northeast Championship on Nov. 20, 1999. The Panthers took a 27-7 decision in Plymouth in 2006, a 21-0 victory at Salve in 2007, and a 34-7 verdict last year in Plymouth.
NEW ENGLAND POLL: Plymouth State stayed in seventh in this week's New England Division III poll. Springfield (7-1) moved to the top of the poll with its fifth straight win, receiving 14 of 15 first-place votes. Trinity (5-1) fell from the top following its first loss since 2007. Amherst (6-0) is now second, Trinity and Curry (7-2) tied for third, and Williams (5-1) fifth. The lower half of the poll includes Maine Maritime (7-1), Plymouth State (7-2), Westfield State (6-3), Bridgewater State (6-3), and Norwich (6-3).
NEFC PICTURE: Curry has clinched the Boyd Division title, and will host the NEFC Championship game on Saturday, Nov. 14. Maine Maritime (7-1, 5-1) holds the lead in the Bogan Division and faces Fitchburg State (4-5, 2-4) this Saturday. Bridgewater State (6-3. 4-2) and Westfield State (6-3, 4-2) are both a game behind. The host of the NEFC title game rotates each year, and 2009 is the Boyd Division winner's turn to host.
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 seventh in total offense. Senior WR Alex Smith (Walpole, Mass.) is eighth in receiving yards per game, and senior captain Alex Battaglino (Avon, Conn.) is tied for second in sacks and tied for eighth in tackles-for-loss. Sophomore Christian Mulcahy (Norwich, Conn.), leads the NEFC in both kickoff return avg. and kick scoring. Freshman Nick Provost (Stratham, N.H.) leads the league in punting with an average of 44.8 yards a boot.
NEFC HONORS: Two players represented PSU on this week's NEFC Weekly Honor Roll, senior DT Alex Battaglino (Avon, Conn.) and freshman RB Ty Long (Dover, N.H.). Battaglino made nine tackles and recovered a fumble and Long rushed for a season-high 127 yards, including a season-best 51-yard TD run. 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)
Nov. 2 RB Ty Long (NEFC Honor Roll), DT Alex Battaglino (NEFC Honor Roll)
PSU AT CURRIER FIELD: The Panthers ended the regular season with a 17-game home winning streak. PSU is 5-0 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 141-54-3 for a .720 winning percentage. PSU is 22-3 at home since 2005.
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 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 post-season berths will be announced on Monday, Nov. 16, and PSU is hoping to be considered for an ECAC play-off game on Nov. 21.
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