GAME #10: Plymouth State College (6-3, FFC 3-2) at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (5-3, FFC 3-2)
Sat., Nov. 13, 1999, 1:00 p.m., Alumni Field, Worcester, Mass.
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Riding a three-game winning streak and still clinging to post-season hopes, the Plymouth State College football team concludes the regular season this Saturday with a Freedom Football Conference encounter at Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
The Panthers and Engineers will meet at 1 p.m. on the turf at Alumni Field in Worcester Saturday in a battle of FFC upper division teams. PSC (6-3 overall, 3-2 FFC) and WPI (5-3, 3-2) currently share third place in the conference, and the winner of Saturday’s game will move into a tie for second with Springfield (4-5, 4-2).
Plymouth State also remains alive for a third consecutive and record 11th ECAC post-season berth. The regular season ends Saturday, NCAA bids are awarded Sunday, and ECAC committee announces its selections on Monday.
Led by first-year head coach Chris Rorke, the Panthers posted their third straight win and second consecutive shutout last Saturday with a 40-0 whitewash of Kean in Union, N.J. The Panthers have also beaten Bentley (17-12) and Coast Guard (42-0) the past two weeks, and are ranked seventh in the ECAC New England Division III weekly poll.
Under the direction of first-year head coach Ed Zaloom, has exceeded expectations this season. WPI finished 4-5 and 3-3 last season, and was picked sixth in this season’s FFC pre-season poll. The Engineers captured four of their first five games, including an impressive win at Union, but like many teams, ran into difficulty when facing Springfield and Western Connecticut.
This will be PSC’s first trip to WPI since the memorable Snow Bowl game in 1997. A snow- covered field limited both teams all day, but WPI drove the length of the field in the final minute of the game and pulled out a 9-7 victory, costing PSC a share of the FFC title and home-field advantage in the ECAC play-offs. The Panthers got some measure of revenge by winning 25-20 last year at Currier Field. Plymouth State has now won four of the last five against WPI and leads the career series, 5-3.
The program with the highest winning percentage among all NCAA Division III teams (with at least 25 years on the gridiron), Plymouth State is closing in on victory No. 200. The Panthers go into the WPI game with a 30-year career record of 199-83-7 (.701). The next school, entering the season, was Wisconsin-Lacrosse, which had a .696 winning percentage in 74 years of football (456-188-40).
FFC PICTURE: Western Connecticut continues to do the unthinkable, registering a remarkable 9-0 record and clinching the conference title and automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament before Halloween. The Colonials, who had never been 3-0 in a season before, were the first team in the nation to qualify in this first year of automatic bids. Springfield (4-5, 4-2) will share second place with either PSC (6-3, 3-2) or WPI (5-3, 3-2). Norwich (4-5, 1-4), Kings Point (2-7, 1-4) and and Coast Guard (1-8, 1-4) go into the final weekend in a three-way tie for fifth place. Western Connecticut is the sixth school to win or share the FFC title since the conference was formed in 1992, joining WPI (1992, 1993), Plymouth State (1994, 1995), Kings Point (1994), Springfield (1996, 1998) and Coast Guard (1996, 1997).
ECAC NEW ENGLAND POLL: Plymouth State remained seventh in this week’s ECAC New England Poll. The last two undefeated teams WCSU (9-0) and Bridgewater State (9-0) are tied for the top spot, followed by Williams (6-1), Mass. Maritime (8-1), Salve Regina (7-2), Wesleyan (5-2), PSC (6-3), Amherst (5-2), Nichols (6-2), and Middlebury (5-2). WPI, Springfield and Trinity also received votes.
WEEKLY HONORS: Senior LB Sans Milbury (Danvers, Mass.) was appropriately honored as FFC Defensive Player of the Week and an ECAC honorable mention after picking off three passes and returning one for a touchdown against Kean. Sophomore Russ Massahos (Windham, NH) continued his terrific season and earned ECAC and FFC Honor Roll selections after rushing for 191 yards and two touchdowns. Senior Jason Marcell (Stoughton, Mass.) had a fine day on special teams, blocking a punt and gaining two first downs on fake punts, once with a 22-yard pass completion and once on a 42-yard run. Freshman QB Matt Simpson (Auburn, Maine) was also an FFC honor roll pick after a respectable 16-for-28 performance for 138 yards, a TD and no interceptions.
1,000-YARD CLUB: Massahos has been PSC’s workhorse all season, and has gotten stronger as the season goes by. He has rushed for 380 yards and eight touchdowns the past two weeks alone. Massahos has improved his season totals to 1,023 yards on 204 carries (5.0 average) and 12 rushing touchdowns, becoming PSC’s first 1,000-yard back since Shawn Redburn in 1996. Massahos has also caught 16 passes for 113 yards and a TD.
SIMPSON EXCELS: After starting the season fourth on the quarterback depth chart, Simpson not only took over as starter midway through PSC’s third game of the season, but he is now ranked second in the FFC in pass efficiency. Simpson, who has thrown 10 TD passes but only two interceptions, has completed 91-of-178 attempts (51.1 pct.) for 1,328 yards for a QB rating of 130.09. The FFC leader, WCSU’s Matt LeFever, leads the nation in all divisions with a 215.10 rating.
A LOOK AHEAD: The Panthers have made a record 10 ECAC post-season football appearances, and are hoping for an 11th when the selections are announced Monday.