No. 10 Football Heads To Western Connecticut
Springfield College Pride (No. 10, AFCA, 5-0, 2-0 FFC)
at Western Connecticut Colonials (3-1, 1-0 FFC)
Sat., Oct. 11, 2003 • 1 p.m. • Danbury, Conn.
What’s At Stake:
Since 1998, the winner of this game has gone on to win at least a share of the FFC championship and has earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
SC leads, 7-2.
The Last Meeting:
The Pride rallied for an 18-15 win over the Colonials in the driving rain on Benedum Field on Oct. 11, 2002.
Last Time Out:
SC topped No. 13 Ithaca, 51-22, on Oct. 5 in Springfield; Western Connecticut shutout Plymouth State, 43-0, on Oct. 5 in Plymouth, N.H.
About the Pride:
Saturday's game pits the top two teams in this week's Division III New England poll. The Pride, which received 10 of 11 first-place votes, is ranked No. 1 ... the home team has won the last three meetings, and the margin of victory has been just 5.3 ppg ... in its last three victories, including two wins over nationally ranked opponents, the Pride has scored 149 points (49.6 ppg) and has rushed for 1,283 yards (427.7 ypg) ... SC and Western Connecticut dominate the FFC statistically, ranking in the top two in 12 categories. The Colonials are number one in scoring offense (46.0 ppg) and scoring defense (6.2), followed by SC, which averages 41.8 ppg and allows 16.2 ppg ... the Pride has won nine straight regular-season games dating back to last season's loss at Ithaca, and has won eight consecutive FFC contests. SC has gone over the 40-point mark eight times in the last 14 regular-season games ... SC, which is currently second in Division III in rushing (367.2 ypg), is 23-2 in games when it rushes for more than 300 yards over the past four seasons.
With a win Saturday, the Pride will become just the fifth team in the 111-year history of SC football to open the season 6-0 ... the school record for the fastest start is 9-0, a feat accomplished by the undefeated 1965 squad (9-0 overall), the '98 team (9-2 overall) and the 2000 club (11-2 overall) that reached the East Regional Final of the NCAA Tournament ... in this week's American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) national poll, the Pride is ranked No. 10. This is the program's highest national ranking ever, and it equals the No. 10 rating SC earned in the season-ending national poll following the 2000 campaign.
On the Road Again:
Saturday's contest at Western Connecticut is the Pride's toughest road test of the '03 season, but SC has been very successful away from Benedum Field. The Pride is 3-0 on the road this season, and is 7-2 in its last nine trips dating back to the '01 campaign.
SC, which is nationally ranked in rushing defense (78.8 ypg, 18th) and total defense (249.4 ypg, 34th), has allowed just 29 points in the first half through five games ... at Salve Regina (Sept. 6), SC allowed the just three first downs and 58 yards in the first half ... at Montclair St. (Sept. 13), SC forced five turnovers and blocked two field goal attempts ... against No. 25 Kings Point (Sept. 20), SC held All-America back David McNeal to 56 yards on 20 carries, which was 87 yards below his average....'02, coordinator Jack Holik’s 3-4 defense ranked at the top of the FFC in scoring defense (17.5 ppg) and rushing defense (117.9 ypg). SC recorded five turnover returns of at least 30 yards, and scored three TDs.
SC's efficiency in the red-zone is big reason it is one of Division's III top-scoring teams, averaging 41.8 ppg. SC is 20-of-22 (90.9%) in the red zone (18 TDs, two FG) ... this trend began last season, when the Pride scored 24 of 28 times in the red zone (85.7%), and averaged 36.5 ppg.
SC's 481 rushing yards in the win over Kings Point (Sept. 20) are the most by a Division III team this season, and are fourth only to Division I-AA Northeastern (593 rushing yards) and Nicholls State (515 and 496 rushing yards) in college football ... SC has gone over the 400-yard mark five times over the last two seasons, and its 586-yard effort in a 55-27 win over Union (Nov. 16, 2002) is the best performance by a D-III squad since the '01 campaign.
Get Used To Them:
Junior FB Tim Lutgens and junior QB Ryan Sylvia are part of an outstanding backfield comprised predominantly of juniors. In fact, of SC's top seven top rushers, six will be back next season. Lutgens (110.2 ypg), who has gone over 100 yards five times in two seasons, and Sylvia (101.6 ypg), who has broken the 100-yad mark six times in his career, rank second and fourth, respectively, in rushing in the FFC ... SC's backfield includes junior all-conference HB Kevin Domurat (10.5 ypr), junior QB Michael Judge (4 TDs), junior HB Will Davis (10.3 ypr) and sophmore FB Mike Fiscella.
Although the Pride possesses one of the best running games in college football, it also uses the pass effectively. SC QBs are 14-of-26 for 431 yards with eight TDs and just one interception this season, and receivers are averaging 30.8 ypc ... junior QB Ryan Sylvia typifies the Pride's big-play capability with seven TD passes of 20 yards-or-more ... in the last two seasons, senior SE Farrand Violette has seven catches, including four TDs, and is averaging 35.4 ypc. Junior TE Louis Conte is another favorite target. He has three catches - all for TDs - for 96 yards (32.0 ypc) ... in '02, SC completed 23 passes for an average of 24.0 ypc and 11 TDs.
Junior QB Ryan Sylvia is 20th in Division III in scoring (10.8 ppg), and the Pride ranks among Division III's leaders in five categories:
Rushing Offense: 367.2 ypg (rank: 2nd)
Scoring Offense: 41.8 ppg (rank: 8th)
Total Offense: 453.4 ypg (rank: 11th)
Rushing Defense: 78.8 ypg (rank: 18th)
Total Defense: 249.4 ypg (rank: 34th)
It came as no surprise that senior PK Greg Switaj was selected to the D3Football.com and Don Hansen's Football Gazette Pre-season All-American teams. A first-team D3Football.com All-American in '02, Switaj was one of the nation's most efficient place-kickers, drilling 9-of-10 attempts and converting 40-of-44 point-after touchdown attempts. He led all conference kickers in scoring (6.7 points-per-game, 26th nationally) and field goal percentage on the way to winning FFC Special Teams Player-of-the-Year honors ... Switaj has converted 30-of-31 PAT dating back to last season.
Pride of New England:
Entering this season, SC had the fifth winningest program currently playing Division III football in New England. SC had a 469-403-55 (.536) record in 110 seasons entering the '03 campaign. Williams (571 wins, 122 seasons), Amherst (554 wins, 123 seasons), Trinity (477 wins, 118 seasons) and Wesleyan (470 wins, 119 seasons) are the top four ... with 114 wins in 21 seasons (including two seasons at Maine Maritime), SC head coach Mike DeLong was second among active Division III New England coaches and was 20th in Division III.