Friday, September 23, 2016

Lebanon Valley Football - Dutchman Look to Slow Down King's Passing Attack

Photo Courtesy of Lebanon Valley Athletics
Five Things
  1. Lebanon Valley is looking to bounce back from a 24-13 loss at No. 24 Stevenson last Saturday.
  2. This is the 18th meeting between LVC and King's. The Dutchmen lead the overall series 10-7.
  3. The past two meetings between the teams have resulted in defensive struggles. LVC won 10-6 last fall after the Monarchs earned a 10-6 victory in 2014.
  4. Both squads enter this weekend's matchup with identical 1-2 overall records and 1-1 records in Middle Atlantic Conference (MAC) play.
  5. Saturday's matchup pits the MAC's top passing offense in King's against the conference's top passing defense in Lebanon Valley.

Series History
Today's game is the 18th meeting all-time ... Lebanon Valley leads the series 10-7 ... The Dutchmen claimed a 10-6 victory at Arnold Field a year ago ... LVC had won eight in a row before King's earned a 10-7 victory in 2014 ... The Monarchs had won four straight prior to the Dutchmen's dominant run ... The teams have met every year since 2003 ... The first meeting was Sept. 30, 1995 at King's, an 18-11 LVC win. 

Last Year
Lebanon Valley rode a stellar defensive performance to a 10-6 victory over King's at Arnold Field last November. A flea-flicker on LVC's second possession saw Tim Pirrone connect with Gary Wise for the game's only touchdown from 33 yards out followingRyan Fink's run-and-lateral back to Pirrone with 11:27 remaining in the first quarter. Ricky Feggins recovered a fumble followingTommy Garner's strip-sack of Tom Hehre on the previous drive to set up the Flying Dutchmen in King's territory. The Monarchs got on the board after coming away with the game's only turnover midway through the first quarter. Pirrone's errant pass was intercepted by Tyler Mejasic and King's capped its ensuing 11-play, 47-yard drive with a 27-yard field goal from Mikhail Kniaziewicz at the 4:43 mark. Following a scoreless second quarter, King's cut the deficit to 7-6 when Kniaziewicz converted his second field goal of the afternoon, this time from 38-yards out to finish off a 12-play, 51-yard drive with 8:47 left in the third quarter. Marcus Brown got a second chance at knocking down a field goal of his own after his first kick, a 39-yard attempt, was blocked to end LVC's first possession of the second half. On his next attempt, Brown was true, connecting from 32 yards out to extend the lead with 34 seconds remaining in the third quarter. On the ensuing kickoff, the Monarchs were on the verge of taking their first lead when Justin Burke broke free and scampered down the LVC sideline towards the end zone. Kecelet Metramade the play of the game when he chased down Burke from the opposite side of the field and made a diving tackle at the Dutchmen nine-yard line. His hustle play proved even more valuable when the defense and special teams combined to keep King's off the board on the ensuing drive. Tom Gallagher sacked quarterback Tom Hehre on third-and-goal and Tyler Conlonblocked Kniaziewicz's 35-yard field goal attempt to preserve the lead early in the fourth quarter. Spencer Moser pinned the Monarchs deep in their own territory with a 43-yard punt that was downed at the King's six-yard line with 4:21 remaining. After gaining a first down, an illegal blocking penalty backed up the visitors inside their 15-yard line. Zachary Adams sacked Hehre three plays later, forcing a fourth-and-25 at the King's seven-yard line with 2:13 left to play. The Dutchmen defense held, the offense got the ball back, and Fink rushed three times to drain the clock.As a unit, the swarming Dutchmen defense sacked Monarchs' Hehre seven times on the day and held King's runners to just 24 combined yards rushing. Garner (3.0), Gallagher (1.5),Andrew Livingston (1.5), John Salcedo (0.5), and Adams (1.0) recorded sacks on the day. 

Last Week
A lack of a passing game, a failure to convert a crucial red zone opportunity, and a pair of turnovers doomed Lebanon Valley in a 24-13 loss at No. 24 Stevenson on Saturday, Sept. 17. The Flying Dutchmen fell behind early when the Mustangs put together an impressive 96-yard opening drive that was keyed by a pair of long Jainard Crawley-Williams runs and capped off when quarterback Daniel Williams converted a 3rd and 15 by hitting wideout Preston Addo for a 30-yard touchdown with 5:53 remaining in the first quarter. After LVC was forced to punt following its second possession, Stevenson scored again when Crawley-Williams finished off a 7-play, 42-yard drive by punching it in from eight yards out with 1:03 left in the opening quarter. The Lebanon Valley offense came to life on its next drive, as the team moved the ball from inside its own red zone all the way down to the Mustang 4-yard line. The Stevenson defense kept the Dutchmen out of the end zone with a pair of tackles for loss and LVC was forced to settle for a 25-yard field goal attempt midway through the second quarter. A bad snap kept Marcus Brown from getting his kick off, however, and the Dutchmen came away from the impressive drive with nothing to show for it. Tim Pirrone's third-down pass was tipped and picked off on LVC's first possession of the second half and the Mustangs converted the turnover into points on the ensuing drive when Williams hooked up with Kenneth Scott-Kellow who nabbed the pass in the flat and scampered 10 yards to paydirt to make it 21-0 with 8:34 left in the third quarter. The Dutchmen put together a 14-play drive after getting the ball back and this time came away with points when Pirrone sneaked across the goal line from one yard out. A consistent run game powered by Pirrone, Brendon Irving, andJon Jones keyed the team's first scoring drive of the day. Special teams plagued LVC for the second time, however, when Brown's extra-point attempt was blocked with 1:57 remaining in the third. The Mustangs responded with a field goal drive capped by Tim Sternfeld's 25-yarder to push the advantage to 24-6 with less than 13 minutes to play. LVC put together its third long drive of the game on the ensuing possession and Pirrone scored his second rushing touchdown on the 15th play, this time from two yards out, to draw the Dutchmen to within 24-13 with 6:47 remaining. With time against them, the Dutchmen attempted an onside kick and Tom Gallagher appeared to come down with Nick Bentz's try exactly 10 yards from where the ball was kicked. But LVC was flagged for illegal touching, the Mustangs took over, and Lebanon Valley ran out of time.

No Offense. None Taken.
The past two meetings between LVC and King's have proven to be defensive struggles, producing little in the way of points scored. Last fall, the teams combined for just 16 points in a 10-6 Dutchmen victory. In 2014, King's held on for an even slimmer 10-7 win in Wilkes Barre. In both contests, Lebanon Valley's defense held the Monarchs to less than 200 yards of total offense. 

Something's Gotta Give
Saturday's matchup pits the MAC's top passing offense in King's against the conference's top passing defense in LVC. The Monarchs are averaging 312.3 yards through the air per contest with a 60.1 completion percentage. King's has scored six touchdowns through the air in 2016. On the other hand, the Dutchmen are allowing a MAC-low 147.3 passing yards per game. LVC has allowed four touchdowns through the air but ranks third in the league with four interceptions.

Young But Ready
Lebanon Valley has seen a number of freshmen contribute immediately during their rookie campaigns, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Safety Brendan Yetter ranks fourth among Dutchmen with 13 tackles and is one of four defenders to record an interception. Fellow safety Anthony Jenkins is fifth on the team with 11 tackles, including a sack and a pass breakup. Linebacker Dylan Lobach has posted three tackles for loss among his six stops. Kickoff specialist Nick Bentz is averaging 54.8 yards per attempt and has forced the team's lone touchback of the season. 

4.3 Yards and a Cloud of Dust
To this point in the season, King's has struggled stopping the run. The Monarchs are allowing 206 yards on the ground per game and have surrendered a MAC-worst 10 rushing touchdowns. The King's defense is allowing 4.3 yards per carry, a number that should entice the Dutchmen to stick to their bread and butter and pound the rock. LVC is the conference's top rushing offense, averaging 223 yards per contest. Lebanon Valley has scored seven of its eight touchdowns on the ground and is averaging 4.6 yards per attempt.

Air For the Taking
LVC currently ranks last in the MAC in passing offense with just 56 attempts and 95.7 yards per game through the air. The chance might be there for the Dutchmen to expand their aerial attack this weekend, however, as King's is surrendering 258.3 passing yards per outing. The Monarchs have allowed six touchdowns through the air but Tim Pirrone's 25-yard strike to Gary Wise in Lebanon Valley's win over Wilkes two weeks ago remains the team's lone passing score of the season. LVC may have an opportunity to increase its 5.1 yards per pass average against a King's defense that has allowed nearly eight yards per pass attempt so far this season.

Kick to Him, If You Dare
Michael Gaval has proven to be one of the most dangerous kick returners in the MAC through the early portion of the season. The senior ranks third in the league with a 21.1 yards per return average and his 169 total return yards are tops among conference kick returners. His longest return of the fall was a 34-yard jaunt which came in the season opener at Franklin & Marshall.

Maybe You Should Punt
Among the nine MAC defenses that have seen an opposing offense attempt to convert on fourth down, LVC ranks tied for second with Stevenson in creating turnovers on downs. Of the five attempts by the opposition to convert on fourth down so far this season, the Dutchmen defense has held on three occasions - a 60 percent average. 

Running Down History
Thanks to back-to-back seasons racking up more than 1,000 rushing yards as a sophomore and junior, tailback Brendon Irvingjoined former running back and current assistant coach Ben Guiles as the only LVC players to scamper for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. If Irving becomes the first player in program history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark three seasons in a row, he'll also overtake Guiles as LVC's all-time leading rusher. The senior currently ranks third all-time with 3,248 rushing yards and needs 677 more to set the program's career record. 

Noting LVC's Offense
LVC continues to make its living on the ground. The Dutchmen lead the MAC with a 223 rushing yards per game average. Running back Brendon Irving is the team's leading rusher with 185 yards on the ground, while fellow tailback Ryan Fink leads the team with a 6.2 yards per carry average. Quarterback Tim Pirrone was LVC's top rusher against Stevenson last week. The dual threat racked up 106 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Pirrone has also thrown for 273 yards and one score this fall. Receivers Michael Gaval and Travis Saylor lead Lebanon Valley with eight catches each and fellow wideout Gary Wise has the team's only touchdown reception of the season.

Noting LVC's Defense
The Dutchmen defense will look to continue to improve upon its 24.7 points allowed per game average this weekend. LVC is allowing just 147.3 passing yards per outing, the best of any team in the MAC. Cornerback Spencer Moser is the team's top tackler with 22 total and one TFL. Safety Kyle Murray and outside linebacker Tommy Garner have made 14 stops apiece, while safety Anthony Jenkins, outside linebacker Tim Schumacher, and defensive end Guy Zimmerman have each recorded a sack. Garner, safety Brendan Yetter, linebacker Alex Trujillo, and defensive back Mike Gilger have each picked off one pass this fall.

Noting LVC's Special Teams
LVC's special teams struggled last week at Stevenson, as a high snap negated a potential first-half field goal before the unit saw an extra-point attempt by kicker Marcus Brown blocked in the third quarter. Brown is 1-1 on field goal attempts this season after converting his only try from 22 yards out in a win over Wilkes two weeks ago. Michael Gaval has been a bright spot for the Dutchmen in the return game, averaging more than 20 yards per return. Punter Spencer Moser is averaging 36.1 yards per punt, while kickoff specialist Nick Bentz is booting the ball 54.8 yards on average per attempt. 

Scouting King's
Like LVC, the Monarchs are off to a 1-2 start, coming off a 49-14 loss at the hands of No. 14 Delaware Valley a week ago. King's possesses the MAC's top-ranked passing offense and is averaging 312.3 yards through the air per game. Quarterback Zach Whitehead has completed 60.9 percent of his passes for 905 yards with six touchdowns and four interceptions. Wide receivers Tyler Marroni has made 20 catches for 271 yards and fellow wideout Mike Palmer has 19 catches for 209 yards. Linebacker Bruce Damon leads the MAC with 45 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss, and five sacks. Fellow linebacker Bobby Russell, a two-time All-MAC selection, follows with 22 tackles and an interception.

Who's Next?
It doesn't get any easier for the Dutchmen when they return to the friendly confines of Arnold Field for the first time in three weeks. LVC hosts No. 14 Delaware Valley for the team's annual Coach to Cure MD contest on Saturday afternoon, Sept. 1.

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