November 20, 2013

Lebanon Valley Football Heads West For NCAA Date At No. 12 Wittenberg

A LVC Photo
Lebanon Valley will try to make some noise in their first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament as they visit #12 Wittenberg in the first round in the first meeting between the two schools.

Online Video
The game is being video streamed live and for free on Wittenberg's Tiger Sports Network.

If You Only Know Five Things
  1. Lebanon Valley is making its first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, winning the automatic berth as champion of the Middle Atlantic Conference. Wittenberg, champion of the North Coast Athletic Conference, is making its 16th appearance and has won five national titles, most recently in 1975.
  2. Lebanon Valley finished as co-champion of the Middle Atlantic Conference - its first title since 1969 - with Lycoming, but earned the NCAA automatic bid via their head-to-head win over the Warriors.
  3. This will be LVC's fourth postseason appearance in five years, with the Dutchmen making ECAC Bowl appearances in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Wittenberg has won four of the last five NCAC titles to make the NCAA field.
  4. LVC is seventh in the nation in sacks, led by linebacker Frank Gaffney and defensive end Zach Halpin, who are ranked second and 33rd, respectively, in NCAA Division III.
  5. Wittenberg's offense, led by quarterback Reed Florence, is ranked fifth in the nation with 517.5 yards and 46.5 points per game.

The Series
This will be the first meeting between Lebanon Valley and Wittenberg ... LVC is 0-2 against NCAC members, both losses against Allegheny in 1983 and 1984 (although Allegheny was not an NCAC member in 1983) ... Lebanon Valley has played an Ohio opponent just once in its history, a 20-6 loss to Youngstown in 1946 ... This will be the furthest west LVC has ever played, beating out the 1951 Burley Bowl vs. Morris-Harvey in Johnston City, Tenn. ... This is the latest LVC has played into November since 1968, when they beat Widener 21-6 on Nov. 23 ... This will be LVC's third game of the season against a ranked opponent, an all-time high ... Lebanon Valley is 3-2 in the postseason all-time.

Albright Recap
Lebanon Valley clinched its first-ever berth to the NCAA Tournament, getting help from around the league despite a 40-25 loss to Albright in the regular-season finale. The Dutchmen co-share the MAC title with Lycoming - LVC's first since 1969 - but earned the NCAA berth after Delaware Valley beat Widener 50-28. By virtue of their 14-7 win over Lycoming earlier this season, LVC holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Warriors for the MAC's automatic berth to the NCAA field of 32. Turnovers hurt Lebanon Valley as Albright scored three times off giveaways, and the Lions racked up 454 yards of offense led by TJ Luddy's 173 yards and two touchdowns passing and Ty Hughes' 130 yards on the ground. Brendan Irving recorded his fourth straight 100-yard game, going for 105 yards, while Brian Murphy and Austin Hartman each ran for touchdowns. Murphy threw for 214 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown to Jake Zeigler, who ended with a career-best 146 yards on six receptions.

Noting LVC's Offense
Lebanon Valley's offense averages 29.7 points and 377.8 yards per game ... Freshman running backBrendan Irving continued his outstanding second half with his fourth straight 100+ yard game at Albright last week ... Irving went for 105 yards on 18 carries and is averaging 132.3 yards per game in four outings since the bye week ... Austin Hartman had a limited day, carrying five times for 16 yards and a touchdown, while quarterback Brian Murphy ran just twice but had a big 20-yard touchdown sweep in the first quarter ... Murphy passed for 214 yards and a touchdown on 12-of-23 completions with two picks ... Jake Zeigler had a career day, catching six balls on eight targets for 146 yards all in the second half, including a 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter ... Tyler George and Darryl Sweeper each caught two passes, and Joey Miller and Nate Myers had a catch apiece ... LVC's line allowed just a single sack at Albright for a loss of a yard ... Four linemen - left tackle Tyler Dean, left guard, Brendan Kozub, right guard Zach Smith, and right tackle Chris Taggart - have started every game this season ... Center Aaron Cummins missed the Albright game but is listed as a game-day decision on this week's two-deep along with freshman Bryant Weller ... Fullback Evan Fink returned to start at Albright after missing the Stevenson game and is expected to start at Wittenberg ... Turnovers hurt LVC at Albright, with a Murphy interception and Irving fumble each leading to Lion scores ... LVC ran a season-low 52 offensive plays as Albright dominated time of possession, limiting LVC to 24:11 with the ball ... The Dutchmen went 3-for-3 on red zone chances last week and are 32-for-37 this year.

Noting LVC's Defense
Lebanon Valley allows 19.1 points and 322.8 total yards per game ... The Dutchmen allowed a season-high 40 points to Albright last week, spending a season-high 35:49 on defense ... Josh Borreli made a key first-quarter interception that led to LVC's opening touchdown ... LVC had three sacks - by Trevor St. ClairTyler Laudeman, and Adam Soltys - and 10 tackles for a loss, led by St. Clair's 1.5 ... Frank Gaffney led LVC with 11 tackles, and he also broke up a pass ... Andrew Burkholder disrupted two passes to go with five solo tackles and a tackle for a loss ... David Kennedy had eight stops and Bryan Kasper seven ... Soltys made his second straight start at defensive end for Joey Scerbo, who is expected to be back this week ... LVC has allowed 14 or fewer points in five of nine games this year ... In LVC's only other match-up with a spread option offense this season, at Misericordia, they clamped down after the opening drive and gave up just 278 yards of offense and 14 points.

Noting LVC's Special Teams
Frank Gaffney blocked his third PAT of the season and second in as many games at Albright ... The Lions forced a fumble on a Matt Richmond punt return that led to a touchdown, but Richmond had a good game on kick returns with a 27 ypr average on three takes ... Bryan Ek had one kick handle for 20 yards ... Sean Fakete made a 23-yard field goal and was 2-for-2 on PATs ... Jake Zeigler caught a two-point conversion from Brian Murphy following his 75-yard touchdown in the third quarter ... It was Zeigler's second conversion of the season ... Zeigler had the best punting average of his career, kicking three times for a 46.7-yard average, including a career-long 61-yard punt.

First Time For Everything
Lebanon Valley is making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Football Championship tournament, winning its first MAC title of the Division III era to clinch a Pool A automatic bid. The Dutchmen gathered in the LVC Gymnasium on Sunday night to watch the live selection show, and were the fourth name called in the field of 32.

Postseason History
Lebanon Valley is making its sixth postseason appearance of any kind and fourth in the last five seasons. The Dutchmen are 3-2 dating back to a 6-0 win over Tampa in the 1935 Tampa Bowl. LVC's last postseason game was in 2011, when they hosted and beat Saint Vincent in the ECAC Southwest Bowl.

Experienced Dutchmen
LVC may be making its first-ever NCAA appearance, but that doesn't mean they aren't familiar with an 11th game. Among active Dutchmen, 18 have postseason experience and nine have played in two extra games. Right tackle Chris Taggart, fullback Evan Fink, nose tackle Kevin Smith, cornerback Ryan Melley, and kicker Sean Fakete all started the 2011 ECAC Southwest Bowl against Saint Vincent, and 13 others - Andrew BurkholderZach HalpinBrendan KozubNate LuckenbillJoey MillerDrew Murphy,Kyle WengerJake ZeiglerMike PughJoey ScerboDarryl SweeperZach Wierman, and Nate Myersplayed in that game as freshmen or sophomores. Kozub and Smith also started in the 2010 ECAC Southeast Bowl at Johns Hopkins, and Zeigler, Fakete, Taggart, Miller, Burkholder, Halpin, and Luckenbill also played in that game. Fakete is the only active Dutchman to have scored in a postseason game, kicking a 28-yard field goal and a pair of PATS in 2011 and two extra points in 2010.

Fakete Approaches 200 Points
Senior Sean Fakete is already the highest-scoring kicker in program history, and he has the chance to become just fourth player in program history to reach 200 points. With 196 career points (24 field goals, 124 PATs) Fakete would join Ben Guiles '12, Adam Brossman '08, and Charlie Parker '10 on the all-time list.

Dutchmen Excel Inside the 20
Lebanon Valley has one of the nation's top red zone offenses, ranking 24th in the nation with an 86.5 percent (32-of-37) conversion rate. Since the bye week four games ago, LVC has been nearly automatic, going 15-for-16 with only a missed field goal against Stevenson blemishing the record. This year, LVC has scored 24 touchdowns (17 rushing) with eight field goals with only one red zone turnover in 37 trips.

Keep on Sacking
With three sacks last week, LVC continued to be one of the nation's top pass rushing teams, and they rank seventh in NCAA Division III with 3.5 sacks per game. LVC has two players in the national top 35, with linebacker Frank Gaffney second in the nation with 1.3 sacks per game and defensive end Zach Halpin 33rd with 0.9 per game. Eleven different Dutchmen have recorded a sack this year.

Taking A Guess
The 2013 season in the MAC proved that preseason polls aren't always the most accurate. While the MAC's coaches got one thing right - preseason favorite Lycoming earned a share of the MAC title - there were plenty of surprises in the final standings. Co-champion Lebanon Valley was originally picked fifth, and King's, which finished tied for third, was picked ninth.

Two-Headed Monster
It appears that sophomore Austin Hartman and freshman Brendan Irving are having no trouble settling into the LVC run game. The pair have nine combined 100+ yard performances this season, including six in the last four games. Since a tentative start to the season, the pair are averaging an impressive 233.3 yards per game combined over the last four weeks.

Hartman Nears 1,000 Yards
With 878 yards this season, sophomore Austin Hartman has a chance to become the seventh running back in LVC history to record a 1,000-yard season. There have been seven 1,000-yard seasons by six backs, most recently in 2011 when Ben Guiles '12 ran for 1,226 yards.

Another Nine?
A win over Wittenberg would be LVC's ninth, making the 2013 Dutchmen only the second team in program history - joining 2009 - to win nine games.

We're Going Streaking!
Last week's loss snapped a seven-game win streak for LVC, the longest in program history. The Dutchmen won six straight from a win over Washington & Jefferson on Nov. 12, 1960, to a win over Dickinson on Oct. 28, 1961, the previous best.

We've Met
Although LVC and Wittenberg have never met on the football field, the two schools have met three times before in NCAA play in other sports. Men's basketball beat the Tigers in the NCAA Final Four in 1994 on their way to the national title, going to overtime to win 93-83 after being down 14 points with five minutes to go. Field hockey has played Wittenberg twice in the NCAA first round, in 1997 and 2009, winning both games.

Scouting Wittenberg
Wittenberg, ranked #12 by, is 9-1 with its lone loss coming to Division I FCS Butler in the season opener. The Tigers possess one of the nation's top offenses, working the spread option to the tune of 46.5 points and 517.5 yards per game. Quarterback Reed Florence is among the Tigers' all-time leaders with 2,695 yards passing and 30 touchdowns this season. Florence's favorite target is senior wide receiver Brendon Cunningham, who has 51 receptions and is one of four receivers with at least 29 catches in 2013. Wittenberg has 2,245 rushing yards led by Sean Gary and Jimmy Dehnke, who have combined for more than 1,400 yards and 16 touchdowns, while Florence has added 329 yards and nine scores on the ground. Defensively, the Tigers are led by senior linebacker Spencer Leno, who has 96 tackles, including 6.5 for loss. Wittenberg ranks in the top 30 nationally in both total defense and scoring defense, allowing 17.6 points and 291.1 yards per game. Wittenberg has a 12-3 record in NCAA Division III Tournament first round games, and a perfect 7-0 at Edwards-Maurer Field.

Next Time
The winner of the Lebanon Valley/Wittenberg game will face the winner of the Mount Union/Washington & Jefferson game on Nov. 30 at a site to be determined.