Wednesday, September 11, 2013

MAC Football: Lebanon Valley at Widener Preview

Coming off a nail-biting win against Montclair State in Week 1, Lebanon Valley heads to defending MAC champion and 24th-ranked Widener with revenge on their minds after a heartbreaking 40-37 overtime loss at Arnold Field a year ago.

If You Only Know Five Things
Lebanon Valley is trying to avenge a heartbreaking 40-37 overtime loss to then-18th ranked Widener in 2012. LVC led much of the second half before the Pride scored 16 unanswered points to win on James McFadden's 33-yard field goal in overtime.

The Dutchmen won their season opener last week, 15-14, over Montclair State with a fourth-quarter comeback. Widener fell at #5 Wesley, 33-21, after taking a tie game into the fourth quarter.
Junior linebacker Frank Gaffney was named to the MAC Weekly Honor Roll for his play in LVC's 15-14 win over Montclair State last week. Gaffney had five tackles, a sack, and two break-ups.
Every player who scored for LVC vs. Widener last year returns for this year's game - Evan Fink (3 TDs), Joey Miller (2 TDs), and Sean Fakete (1 FG).

Widener enters ranked #24 in the top 25 poll. LVC has not defeated a ranked opponent since Susquehanna in 2000 and has never beaten an opponent ranked in the poll.

The LVC-Widener Series
The game is the 69th meeting all-time ... Widener leads the series 42-24-2 ... LVC has won three of the last five, including overtime at home in 2008 20-13, a 24-0 shutout in Chester in 2009, and then a 42-38 comeback thriller in 2010 ... Two of the last five meetings have gone to overtime, including last year's 40-37 shootout in Annville won by the Pride ... Coach Jim Monos is 6-14 against the Pride ... The two teams first met on Nov. 30, 1933, a scoreless tie. Widener was still known as Pennsylvania Military College until 1972.

Recapping Montclair [Full Story]
Lebanon Valley's defense carried the Dutchmen to a thrilling 15-14 season-opening win over Montclair State in the first night game at Arnold Field. Evan Fink and Nate Luckenbill scored touchdowns to go with Sean Fakete's career-long 42-yard field goal. Both offenses were held under 300 yards, but LVC made the most by converting all three of its red zone opportunities. Brian Murphy completed 12 passes for 122 yards and the go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown to Luckenbill, while LVC's running-back-by-committee approach saw Fink and Austin Hartman lead the ground attack. Ryan Davies was 19-of-32 for 148 yards and a score for Montclair, but he was hit three times, including third-down sacks by Frank Gaffney, Zach Halpin, and Alex Beamesderfer, as LVC kept him off balance all night long. Safety Bryan Kasper led the defense with 11 tackles, including a punishing hit late in the fourth on Malcolm Robinso that helped set the tone on Montclair's final drive.

Last Year vs. Widener [Full Story]
 #18 Widener scored the last 16 points of the game, including a late interception return for a touchdown and James McFadden's 33-yard field goal to win it in overtime, to come back and stun Lebanon Valley 40-37. The Dutchmen seemed to be on the cusp of upsetting the nation's top-ranked offense, up 37-21 with 5:44 left in the game, but two late touchdowns and two-point conversions by the Pride forced overtime. Leo Kyte '13 had a career day for LVC, throwing for 395 yards - the fourth-best game in program history - and two touchdowns. Joey Miller caught 11 balls for 182 yards and both touchdowns. Widener, coming in averaging 65.2 points and 540 yards of offense per game, put up 449 yards overall as Chris Haupt was 22-for-37 for 257 yards and a score, albeit with three interceptions. Four Pride runners combined for the bulk of their 196 yards on the ground. A pair of Evan Fink touchdowns in the fourth quarter put LVC up 37-21, but a quick-strike drive by the Pride and Colin Masterson's 64-yard interception return for a touchdown with 2:11 remaining tied the game at 37-37. LVC missed a field goal going first in overtime, and McFadden connected from 33 yards to win for the Pride.

Noting LVC's Offense
No offensive two-deep changes anticipated for Week 2 ... Quarterback Brian Murphy had a solid outing vs. Montclair State, overcoming a slow start to complete 12 of 22 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown, and he also ran three times with a long rush of 10 yards ... Murphy finished strongly, with his six-yard touchdown strike to Nate Luckenbill, a perfectly-executed play fake, winning the game early in the fourth quarter ... On that series he also completed 24-yard passes to both Jake Zeigler and Joey Miller ... His only interception came on a 34-yard jump ball in the end zone to start the second half ... LVC went running-back-by-committee, with Evan Fink (45 yds, 1 TD), Austin Hartman (40 yds), and Matt Richmond (35 yds) getting the bulk of the work ... Freshman Brendan Irving also saw five carries for 22 yards ... Miller led all receivers with four catches for 43 yards, while Zeigler had a game-high 50 yards on three catches ... Brendan Kozub started his team-high 23rd career game at left guard last week ... Zack Smith started his first career game, at right guard, while Chris Taggart started at right tackle, returning for his first game action since 2011.

Noting LVC's Defense
A pair of two-deep changes on defense, where Frank Gaffney has won the starting outside linebacker position and sophomore Eric Campbell will back up Joey Scerbo at defensive end ... LVC's defense allowed only 14 points against Montclair State, the lowest opponent point total in a season opener since 2006 ... Safety Bryan Kasper led LVC with 11 tackles and a key pass break-up on a huge hit during MSU's final fourth-quarter drive ... David Kennedy had seven tackles in his first career start at inside linebacker ... Kevin Smith stopped six with a batted pass and a hurry, and Frank Gaffney ball-hawked two swats with a sack among five solo tackles ... Ryan Melley generated LVC's only turnover, a fourth-quarter interception that nearly resulted in a touchdown before he was driven out at the five yard-line ... Zach Halpin and Alex Beamesderfer combined for a sack, and Josh Borreli, Tyler Laudeman, and Trevor St. Clair each had hits on the quarterback ... Andrew Burkholder broke up a pass to go with five tackles.

Noting LVC's Special Teams
Sean Fakete hit a 42-yard field goal, his career long, in the first quarter ... Fakete's only extra-point try was blocked on a low snap ... He averaged 62 yards per kick-off ... Jake Zeigler had a good punting night, going seven times for a 36.7 average, putting three inside the 20 with a touchdown ... He boomed a 52-yarder pinned in his own end zone for his longest punt of the night ... Zeigler converted a fake punt late in the third quarter on a 13-yard rush which didn't lead to a score, but signaled a clear momentum shift in the game towards the Dutchmen ... Matt Richmond averaged 7.8 yards per return on punts, and Bryan Ek had one take for 16 yards ... Ek took all three kickoffs for a 17.7 yard average.

Gaffney Named to MAC Honor Roll
Junior linebacker Frank Gaffney was named to the MAC Weekly Honor Roll last Sunday for his play against Montclair State. Gaffney, playing his first game for the Dutchmen as a transfer from Stevens Tech, had five solo tackles, a sack, a hurry and two batted passes to lead a tough defensive effort by the Dutchmen (1-0). Both his hurry and sack came on third downs in the second quarter, including a hit on Ryan Davies to halt a Red Hawk drive at the end of the half. Gaffney broke up a pair of passes in the second half, including one at the line that nearly resulted in a pick-six, and four of his five tackles came in the fourth quarter as LVC held on to its one-point lead. Gaffney is expected to earn his first career start this week at outside linebacker.

Instant Impact
LVC got some immediate help from its four transfers in the opener. Wide receiver Tyler George (Muhlenberg), running back Austin Hartman (Shippensburg), outside linebacker Frank Gaffney (Stevens Tech), and free safety Kevin Antol (East Stroudsburg) all played and made significant contributions. Gaffney had five tackles with a sack and two batted passes to be named to the MAC Honor Roll, and Antol had three tackles. George caught a pair of passes for 16 yards and had another called back on a holding flag, while Hartman saw the most touches out of the backfield with 15 carries for 40 yards.

Last week represented the second leg of the two-year MAC-NJAC Challenge, an interlock series between members of the two conferences. After a 4-4 split in 2012, MAC teams went 4-2 in 2013 to claim the series 8-6, including wins by LVC, Albright, Delaware Valley, and Wilkes. FDU-Florham and TCNJ will play their series game this week, but the MAC already has the edge.

Lights-Out Defense In Opener
Giving up only 14 points and 263 total yards to Montclair State, LVC's defense had its best season opener since 2006, when it held Gettysburg to just 127 yards of offense and 12 points in a 13-12 win. Coincidentally, that was also the last time LVC won by a single point.

Fourth Quarter Defense Steps Up
LVC's defense got big stops when it needed to last week against Montclair, holding the Red Hawks to 5-for-15 on third down and 0-for-1 on fourth down. None of Montclair's conversions came in the fourth quarter as the LVC defense stopped them four times on third down and once on fourth. Montclair had just 51 yards off 17 fourth-quarter plays and had to punt three times.

Fink Rumbles To Career High
Senior fullback Evan Fink picked up last week where he left off in 2012, leading the Dutchmen with 45 yards rushing and a touchdown on 10 carries. It represented a career high in yardage for Fink, who scored 14 touchdowns last year - including a three-TD game against Widener - but set a previous best of 38 yards against Stevenson. His 10 carries against Montclair were a touch off his career high, as well. As the lead blocker out of the backfield, Fink set the pace for the tailback trio of Matt Richmond, Austin Hartman, and Brendan Irving to combine for 97 yards on the ground.

Miller vs. Widener
Senior wide receiver Joey Miller has had plenty of success against Widener in his career. As a sophomore, he caught a 38-yard touchdown at Quick Stadium, and as a junior in 2012, he unloaded the best game of his career, catching 11 passes for 182 yards and touchdowns of 75 and 5 yards. Last week against Montclair, Miller had a quiet start, going untargeted in the first half, but ended up with four catches on six throws for 43 yards, including a critical 24-yard strike at midfield in the fourth quarter that set up LVC's game-winning touchdown to Nate Luckenbill.

Fakete Connects On New Career Long Field Goal
Senior Sean Fakete made a new career long field against Montclair State, easily hitting a 42-yarder in the first quarter that ultimately proved to be the difference in the 15-14 win. Fakete has made four consecutive field goals dating back to last year's game at Delaware Valley, including hits from 32, 22, 40, and 42 yards. For his career, his 17 field goals ties him with Doug Zook '92 for second on the all-time list; he is chasing the standard of 22 set by Jay Mosely '79.

Scouting Widener
Widener, ranked 24th in this week's poll, fell 33-21 at #5 Wesley in their season opener, nearly pulling off an upset with a tie game heading into the fourth quarter. The Pride took advantage of three Wesley fumbles, but ultimately couldn't withstand 644 total yards by the Wolverines, including 510 yards passing and Steve Koudossou's 266-yard, four-touchdown receiving night. Quarterback Seth Klein played well for the Pride in his first start, completing 26 of 35 passes for 189 yards and a touchdown, but took eight sacks in the game. Anthony Davis caught eight passes for 106 yards, while Couve LeFate was the leading rusher at 52 yards and a score on 15 touches. Brandon Harper led the defense with 12 tackles and a forced fumble.

Next Time
The Dutchmen are home against King's Sept. 21.