Chuck Bitner

PSAC Regular Season Finale

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For most of Division II and most of the PSAC, the season will come to an end this Saturday. After all the summer practices, two-a-days, workout sessions, film sessions, classes missed, injuries, victories and defeats, it comes to an end for the 2012 season.

Before we run down the schedule, I would like to say best wishes to all the seniors that will take the field for the final time this Saturday.

East Stroudsburg (5-4, 4-3) at Mercyhurst (8-2, 6-1)

We talk about ‘trap games’ a lot on the message boards and this could be one for Mercyhurst. The Lakers are coming off an impressive 40-7 beat-down of California. It was the worst loss the Vulcans have suffered since being manhandled by UMD in the 2008 national semifinals. Unfortunately for Mercyhurst, they fall in line behind all the other two loss teams in SR1 which gives them almost no chance at making the playoffs. Could that disappointment leave the Lakers feeling a little ‘flat’ this weekend?

Maybe so, but I’m not betting on it. The Lakers are one of the best coached teams in the conference, in my opinion, and they will be ready to play. They will have to be because East Stroudsburg is a hot team at the moment. The offense has taken off with Matt Soltes under center. The dual threat QB has been named PSAC East offensive player of the week three times since mid-season and running backs Eric Deery and Kendrick Williams have been productive as well. The problem for ESU is that Mercyhurst has the PSAC’s best pass defense, and it showed last week against California. It think Soltes will keep them honest with his rushing ability, but I don’t think it will be enough.

Mercyhurst 34 East Stroudsburg 30

LIU Post (3-5, 2-4) at Gannon (2-8, 1-6)

LIU Post will make the long trek to Erie for their final cross-over game as a member of the PSAC. The Pioneers haven’t fared that well in cross overs (5-9 since 2008) but here is an interesting trend: From 2008-2011, The Pioneers lost their first two crossovers of the year, but won their season finale against a western division team. This year they are 1-1 against the west and with a victory over Gannon, they could finish their final PSAC season with a winning record in cross-overs.

I’m not really confident though. Neither team has been very good this year but Gannon has a little bit of momentum. They snapped a seven game losing streak two weeks ago at Lock Haven and put in their best performance of the year one week ago with a courageous effort against IUP. Post has been vulnerable to the passing attack, and that’s Gannon’s game. The Knights have good skill players at the receiver position and Liam Nadler has a tendency to throw picks, but he will get some yards too. It’s a long trip from Brookville to Erie so I think the home team has an edge.

Gannon 31 LIU Post 28

Kutztown (5-4, 3-3) at Edinboro (4-5, 3-4)

Expect a lot of offense in this one. Both teams love to move the ball through the air and each has one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the nation. Kutztown is coming off an unplanned bye week, due to ‘Sandy’ so they may be a bit healthier and better prepared. It may also be a little bit of a lift to know they will get to finish their season at home next week, rather than on the road at Edinboro. The Fighting Scots are a little better on defense, but Kutztown has a lot of weapons at the skill positions. It should be a fun game if you like offense, but I don’t think Edinboro is built to keep pace in a shootout.

Kutztown 42 Edinboro 28

West Chester (6-4, 4-3) at Clarion (4-6, 2-5)

You could lump West Chester in with a handful of other teams that may be a little deflated coming into this final game. The Golden Rams saw their playoff hopes come to an end in a tough one point loss at Bloomsburg last Saturday. Getting back into the top six would require an incalculable number of miracles, but that shouldn’t deter the Rams from playing their best football this week. The Golden Rams have put their program back on track and left the losing seasons behind them. A win at Clarion would give them a 7-4 finish. There is a world of difference between 6-5 and 7-4 so this is still a very important game for West Chester.

Clarion would love to recover from their late season nose dive and finish on a positive note. The Golden Eagles have lost four of the last five and were blown out in the last two. Clarion’s offense has had a knack for accumulating yards and first downs, but not having the points to show for it. They average just under 400 yards per game, which is competitive, but their 17 points per game is only good enough for 13th in the PSAC. They are facing a good West Chester defense that recently held Shippensburg and Bloomsburg below their season averages for yards and points.

West Chester 31 Clarion 17

Millersville (2-8, 1-6) at California (7-3, 5-2)

Millersville has trudged through another tough season at the bottom of the PSAC East. They will close out the season with an ailing California team that is likely to miss the post season for the first time since 2006. One could forgive the Vulcans if they come into this game a little deflated after consecutive losses that have cost them a berth in the PSAC Championship game. It may be an opportunity for the Marauders to put a scare into the home team, but talent will still win the day. Cal has struggled without star quarterback Peter Lalich, but they should have no problems running the ball against the PSAC’s worst rush defense. It probably won’t be the most inspired performance we’ve seen from the Vulcans, but they should close out the campaign with a victory and an 8-3 record.

Bloomsburg (9-1, 6-1) at Slippery Rock (6-4, 5-2)

Bloomsburg rebounded from the heartbreaker at Shippensburg with a hard earned victory over rival West Chester last week. The Huskies are in good position for the post season but a win will definitely cement their place in the top 6 in SR1. Slippery Rock has quietly won four straight since their disappointing loss at IUP. Nigel Barksdale has provided a big spark to the Rock offense with his dual threat ability. Since taking over as the starter, he has led the team in rushing and has put up impressive passing stats as well. However, he has thrown nine interceptions and has fumbled a few times. Bloomsburg’s defense is opportunistic so turnovers could be a big factor.

The Rock may have a good chance to stand up to the Huskies’ running game with their strong defensive front. However, Bloomsburg faced two of the league’s best rushing defenses in the last two games and still did their damage with the ground game. Franklyn Quiteh has rushed for over 100 yards in every game this year and is closing in on 2,000 for the season and 5,000 for his career.

Slippery Rock is playing very well right now and this has a bowl game feel for them. They have a winning streak going and have a chance to knock off a ranked opponent to finish the season. Bloomsburg has to treat this like a playoff. They’re in a good position for the post season but a loss would leave them vulnerable. I think that will be all the motivation they need to be fully focused and ready to execute.

Bloomsburg 34 Slippery Rock 24

Cheyney (1-9, 0-7) at Lock Haven (0-10, 0-7)

It’s come down to this. It has been five full years since Lock Haven University’s last football victory. Five years. I know Coach Allen and his players don’t talk about the streak, but it’s impossible to ignore it. The last victory this program had was the 2007 finale – and that was the only victory of that season. If they hadn’t somehow defeated winless Clarion on that day 17-14, the streak could be 11 games longer than it already is. An entire class of students has cycled through LHU since the last win. Barak Obama has been elected President TWICE since the last Bald Eagle victory.

No, they don’t talk about the streak at Lock Haven. But it’s there. It’s always there, and it’s always the first (and only) thing people think of or talk about when it comes to Lock Haven football. It will always be part of their history. But it’s time to make it just that – History.

Coach John Allen, his staff and his players are fighting to turn things around. They are still working towards that first victory together, but they have already had a handful of games this year that have been more competitive than any others over the past five years. They’ve come very close to victory on two occasions and although there is still a very long way to go, they are moving forward.

Progress is progress but ending this streak is the first thing that has to happen in order for this program to turn the corner. They have to win a game, end this streak and put it behind them forever. The good news for the Bald Eagles as that the upcoming game gives them the best chance they’ve had since 2007. Cheyney has won a couple of ball games, during “the streak” but they haven’t been much better than Lock Haven. They’ve only won two games in the past two years and both have been over Lincoln.

The matchup should be pretty even. I think Cheyney has some good skill players on offense and their triple option can be difficult to adjust to. Blaze Wasserleben has done a commendable job running their offense, and Marcus Jones is a talented and strong runner. They don’t have much of a passing threat though, and I think Lock Haven will be better at the line of scrimmage. The Bald Eagles have played pretty well on defense this year and if they play disciplined, assignment football against the Wolves, I think they can contain them.

Lock Haven’s biggest struggles have been on the offensive side of the ball. They are dead last in the PSAC in scoring, total offense and rushing offense. However, Cheyney is definitely the weakest defensive team they will have faced, so it may be an opportunity for LHU to break out.

Neither has an advantage in talent, and there aren’t any areas where one team is clearly better. It really has to come down to one thing…Lock Haven has to want this more. In the grand scheme, it would just be one victory, but it would be so much more than that. There is not a single player on that team that has even won a college game. There are seniors that have played for five years at that University and not once have they been able to walk off the field with a win. They deserve a win, and based on the progress they have made this year, they deserve to be the group that puts this streak behind them. Once this streak is over, they don’t have to hear about, talk about or think about it. One victory, heading into the off season would give this team a lot of momentum and a lot of incentive to work hard towards being a more competitive team next year.

Every player at Lock Haven needs to put in the best week of practice he’s ever had. For himself, his coaches, his school, and especially his senior teammates. Send them out with a win.

Lock Haven 27 Cheyney 20

PSAC Championship Game

The PSAC Championship preview blog has been posted here:

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Updated 11-09-2012 at 09:38 PM by Chuck Bitner

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