Saturday, October 3, 2015

Statesmen Offense Awakens En Route to 37-7 Rout of WPI for Homecoming Weekend

The 25th ranked Hobart College Statesmen hosted the WPI Engineers in LL action Saturday at Boswell Field on Family and Homecoming Weekend.

The Statesmen took their opening drive and like a #TBT, transformed into the 2014 edition, marching 74 yards in 12 plays with SO QB Tom Sydeski connecting on a six yard TD pass to JR WR Sean Cunningham put Hobart up 7-0 half way through the 1st quarter.

SR RB and Co-Captain Conner Hartigan would score from two yards out on the ensuing drive that was set by JR DB Todd Collier, who forced a WPI fumble at the Engineers' 33 yard line.

JR RB Bradley Burns and JR PK Sean Kirshe would add a rushing TD and 25 yard FG, respectively and Hobart took a commanding 24-0 lead into the half.

The Statesmen out gained the Engineers 240 yards to 45 in the first half and 13 first downs to one.

The second half was more Hobart as FY RB Tynard Barfield scored on a five yard TD run and SO WR Brandon Shed caught a halfback option pass from Hartigan for a 74 yard TD!

Although WPI's SR RB Zach Grasis would score, the Statesmen won the game 37-7. The Hobart defense bottled up the WPI air attack, limiting the Engineers to only 101 passing yards. The Statesmen also held WPI to only two of 12 third down conversions. JR OLB Michael Harper had a 40 INT return to cap a solid defensive performance (holding WPI to 250 total yards).

The Hobart offense was led by Hartigan with a combined 162 total yards and two scores. Sydeski had his best game so far, going 11 of 18 for 113 yards and a TD. Defensively the Statesmen defense was led by Collier and FY LB Aaron Louis with six tackles each. A special shout out to SR DL Elliot Adler who tallied a TFL on a 3rd and 8 from the Hobart 32 yard line and helped keep WPI from a late score.

The win improves the Statesmen to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in the LL. With Rochester (3-1, 1-1) losing 20-0 today, it looks like the LL will come down to RPI (4-1, 2-0) and SLU (4-1, 2-0).

Thanks for reading and hope everyone enjoyed a great Homecoming Weekend. Go 'Bart!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Week 5 (& Homecoming) - WPI Game Preview

The WPI Engineers will make the trek up the Mass Pike and down I-90 tomorrow for a key Liberty League showdown against the #25th ranked Hobart College Statesmen on Saturday in Geneva, NY.

WPI (3-1, 0-1) is coming off a tough 28-21 loss to industry and LL rival RPI (3-1, 1-0). The NY Engineers jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead but the MA ones made a comeback that ultimately came up short.

Last season Hobart beat WPI in Worcester, 28-14, in a game not unlike last weekend's RPI-WPI showdown. The Statesmen took a 21-0 lead into the half and had a 28-0 advantage until about the nine minute mark of the fourth quarter when WPI scored the first of two late TDs to make the final look a little more competitive.

This season is a new year of course and both programs aren't exactly in the same boat as 2014. Hobart (3-1, 1-0) and WPI actually come into the contest with identical overall records, but the Statesmen have had a tougher schedule. The Engineers offense is off to a great start but last year's #3 ranked defense seems to have dropped off, especially from a yards allowed perspective.

Scouting WPI

The Engineers are led by #9 JR QB Dan Eckler who leads the LL in total offense (305 YPG), passing (66 of 99 for 1,077 yards, 7 TDs to 3 INTs) and efficiency (175.3 rating). Eckler's favorite target has a similar last name. #89 JR WR Brandon Eccher leads the LL in receiving yards (426) with a long of 96, scoring three receiving TDs. The #2 ranked WR in the LL (Bryant of SLU) is 204 yards BEHIND Eccher.

Far from being one dimensional, the WPI running game is paced by #3 SR RB Zach Grasis who missed most of last season due to injury. At 6' 215 lbs, Grasis is a physical runner who's carried the ball for 315 yards (good for 4th best in the LL) and scored three rushing TDs.

For all of that the Engineers best player is probably #35 JR LB Brian Murtagh. He leads the LL in total tackles with 41, including 29 solo and two INTs. #94 SO DL Dereck Pacheco leads the LL with six sacks. In the secondary, #37 SR DB Eric Lacroix has 31 stops and an INT. #20 SR DB Sean Murphy doubles as a return man and has had some rather epic pick sixes in his WPI career.

#2 JR PK Blaine Bursey has gone five of six on FGs while notching 11 PATs which is good for 2nd in the LL for overall scoring. Bursey recently earned recognition from the Fred Mitchell Award watch list which is a first for a WPI kicker. He's one of 21 players across all of CFB cited for consideration. A link to the article on this story can be seen here.

Keys to the Game

1. The Pass - WPI is the top ranked passing unit in the LL right now averaging 269.3 YPG while Hobart boasts the best pass defense only allowing 101.3 YPG. The forecast looks cool and cloudy but dry in Geneva this weekend for homecoming so the Statesmen can't count on the weather to slow down the Engineers. That's good news for the Hobart offense too as they need to improve their stats as the worst (or close to) LL offense, statistically speaking, in yards (244.5 YPG), rushing (95 YPG), and passing (149.5 YPG). WPI is nearly the worst passing defense in the LL, allowing 244 YPG via the air. Their rushing defense is above average, however, allowing 136 YPG.

2. Third Down - WPI has excelled on third down this season, converting 43.4% of their tries, ranking 2nd in the LL in that category. Hobart on the other hand is the toughest defense to convert against, leading the LL with a stingy 19% conversion rate. Unfortunately the Statesmen lost SR LB Jacob Stanley to a career ending ACL injury and the status of JR OLB Marcus Jemison is week to week with a sore shoulder so the Hobart defense may have some new faces in key LB positions Saturday. On offense if SO QB Shane Sweeney is still injured you can probably expect SO QB Tom Sydeski to get the start and hopefully improve from his five of 19 passing day against the USMMA (1-2, 0-1).

3. The Little Things - the statistics have this as a fairly even match up between the #4 overall scoring (26.5 PPG) / # 3 total offense (386 YPG) of WPI vs. the # 3 scoring (15.8 PPG) and #1 total defense (200.5 YPG). What the stats belie is #25 has played a tougher schedule and defensively is much stronger than the Engineers. If the Hobart offense can finally kick into gear, this game should be decided early on and give the home crowd a lot to cheer about. If turnovers, penalties and field position go against the Statesmen, this game will have a different feel altogether.


While I've liked seeing the improvement in WPI from earlier this season, the wins over MIT (1-3), Worcester State (0-4) and Norwich (0-3) don't look that good now in the rear view mirror. I initially thought this may be a 28-21 close one but I'm going to agree with my ITH co-host that Hobart should win this one fairly convincingly, 35-14.

Hoping all you alums, fans and family enjoy what I'm sure will be a great Homecoming Weekend up in Geneva. While I wish I could be there in person, I will be tuning into WEOS at 12:40 PM and will be there in spirit.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Good & The Bad of Week 4

The Hobart College Statesmen had a both a good and bad weekend down in Kings Point, NY yesterday. I intended to recap the game but held off because of a bad cold plus wanting to see how a few things panned out today.

The good news is that Hobart overcame a sluggish start to take a 30-15 win over the Mariners (1-2) with several key players out. JR OLB Marcus Jemison and SO QB Shane Sweeney did not play, but the Statesmen did enough against an improved Merchant Marine squad to overcome 118 yards in penalties (likely because it was the Mariners homecoming - the Merchant Marine by comparison only was flagged for 22), a lost pick six TD by SR LB and Co-Capt Jacob Stanley (one of the aforementioned penalties) and a SO QB Tom Sydeski 0 for 6 start to the game.

Sydeski finally found his form in the second quarter finding JR WR Jack Pfohl and SO TE Zach Withers (the latter being his first career TD) on consecutive possessions to post a 14-0 lead. A special teams break down gave the Mariners the ball at their 41 and they were able to drive 59 yards to score with 39 seconds remaining in the first half to cut the lead to 14-7. Sydeski would find SO WR Brandon Shed on a nice 40 yard pass play to potentially set up a FG attempt, but of course, he was flagged for offensive pass interference.

The Statesmen would come out and notch their third TD of the game after Stanley blocked a Mariner punt and JR DB Todd Collier recovered the ball and ran it back to the end zone. A JR PK Sean Kirsche 31 yard FG would follow and Hobart was in good shape, up 23-7. Although the Merchant Marine scored with about 7 minutes left in the game, SR RB and Co-Captain Connor Hartigan would score his first TD of the season to put the game away on the following possession.

Although he only completed five passes out of 19, Sydeski made them count and Hobart did enough to improve to 3-1 overall and 1-0 in Liberty League. The win (along with a few upsets in the Top 25) was enough to get the Statesmen back in the Top 25 poll.

A link to the poll can be found here.

Unfortunately the bad news is that Stanley suffered what's apparently a season-ending injury during the game, further thinning the already beat up Hobart LB corps (if not starting 22). The Statesmen OL's struggles continued as they gave up five TFL and a sack against an undersized Mariner defense. Hobart also had it's third week in a row of rushing under 100 yards (which was pretty rare leading into this season - see prior post on the preview), carrying the ball 40 times for only 85 yards.

The road only gets more difficult for the Statesmen as WPI (3-1, 0-1) comes into town next Saturday. The Engineers are definitely improved from the 4-6 squad from last season, playing solid defense and an able offense.

I'll preview that game - which we also covered in tonight's ITH - which you can listen to here (goes live at 7:30 PM ET tonight). We cover off on the Statesmen's game vs. the Merchant Marine (thanks as always to Ted Baker from WEOS for the game highlights) and discuss whether or not Hobart deserved to go back into the Top 25 (apparently I was persuasive ;).

Anyway, will have a preview of the Homecoming / WPI game later this week. Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Week 4 - US Merchant Marine Game Preview

The Hobart College Statesmen will travel to Kings Point, NY on Long Island this weekend for their 2015 Liberty League opener against the United States Merchant Marine Academy Mariners. The Mariners (1-1) are coming off the emotional high of a 14-3 Secretaries Cup victory over their rivals Coast Guard (1-2) and a low of a lopsided 24-14 loss to the SUNY-Maritime Privateers (2-1) where they were out gained 313 to 175 total yards.

The Statesmen (2-1) have never lost to the Mariners since the Merchant Marine joined the LL as an affiliate for football in 2004. Hobart leads the all-time series 11-4 and won last year's contest at Boswell Field in convincing fashion, 42-7.

The once maligned Mariner defense seems to have improved after finishing dead last in almost every key defensive category in 2014. Their LB corps has improved and they boast two of the better DBs in the LL in #6 SR DB Skyler Stone (two INTs so far) and #20 JR DB Patrick Keyes (2nd team All-Conference selection last year).

Scouting the Merchant Marine

The key to the Mariners' triple option rushing attack is #11 SR QB Matthew McDaniels. McDaniels gained 190 yards and one TD so far this season and is ranked ninth in the LL with a 114.5 YPG average. Complimenting him is #14 SO FB Luke Tiefenthaler who's rushed for 222 yards and one TD.

Leading the defense is #49 JR LB Josh Woodburn with 22 total tackles and three sacks.

The special teams unit has a strong return man in #7 SO RB Robert Moore with a LL high 30 YPR average. #98 SO PK Eric Swayze averages a solid 35.9 average net in the kicking game on punts.

Keys to the Game

1. Resurgence - If I told you in the preseason that the Hobart-USMMA game would be between the two worst total and scoring offenses in the LL you'd probably think I was crazy. As it stands Hobart comes into this one as the seventh rated scoring (21 PPG) and last ranked total offense (254.3 YPG) in the LL. The Mariners aren't much better averaging 271 YPG and a LL low 14 PPG. That said it's on the Hobart OL to regain control of the LOS and dominate what is an undersized Mariner DL. To their credit, the Merchant Marine is the third rated total defense only allowing 237.5 YPG and is second in scoring "D" only allowing 13.5 PPG.

2. DTR - Both teams in this game should be "DTR" (or "Down to Run") given each team's respective strengths. The Mariners have a very strong secondary and their pass defense has been stingy only 117 YPG. The Merchant Marine's third ranked (251.5 YPG) rushing offense will crash into Hobart's top ranked (58 YPG) rushing and total (186 YPG) defense Saturday.

3. Third down conversions - The Statesmen can really control this game if they can exploit a Mariner weakness which is their league low 27.3% third down conversion percentage. Hobart is first in the LL holding opponents to a 15.9% conversion rate.

4. Turnovers - The Statesmen committed six turnovers against Ithaca (2-0). Enough said.


I like the Statesmen to get back on track versus a tough, but beatable Mariner squad. It'll be a lower scoring affair unless the Hobart "D" collects some turnovers of their own. Regardless, I'll take Hobart to win, 28-7.

Thanks to all the long-time, new and other readers of the blog. We cracked 100k in views today which is pretty cool.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hobart Drops Out of Top 25, ATN & ITH podcast discussions

The Hobart College Statesmen have fallen from the 16th ranked team on to "Receiving Votes" in the Week 3 Top 25 poll. Two weeks of offensive struggles and other teams leapfrogging the Statesmen led to this change. Hobart has been ranked in the polls for several years now and is likely to return should they go on and win the Liberty League and make another playoff push.

The Statesmen are one of only about eight (of the 247) D3 programs that has been to playoffs every year for the past four seasons (even defending National Champions University of Wisconsin-Whitewater can't make that claim).

This topic (and the related Ithaca-Hobart game) was covered by on the "Around the Nation" podcast (which came directly as a clip from our 9/20 ITH show).

A link to both podcasts are listed below:

Later this week I'll preview / expand upon the Liberty League opener for Hobart (2-1) against the United States Merchant Marine Academy (1-1).

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Statesmen's Regular Season Win Streak Snapped By Six Turnovers in 24-6 Loss to #24 Ithaca

Hobart College's heralded 32 game regular season win streak came to an end today against #24 Ithaca College in what was a much anticipated match up between two Top 25 programs.

Although the Statesmen defense played a great game holding the Bombers (2-0) offense to 204 yards (97 of which came on two pass plays), the Statesmen couldn't stop shooting themselves in the foot in what was just an unfortunate offensive performance. I'll give the Ithaca defense some credit - they did a great job in coverage against the Hobart receivers and the defensive line won the line of scrimmage. The pressure and blitzes the Statesmen OL simply failed to pick up were a big reason for the three INTs thrown by SO QB Tom Sydeski and SR QB Parker Thelander. SO QB Shane Sweeney missed today's game because of a shoulder injury suffered against Endicott.

Another sign that the OL is struggling is that for the second week in a row Hobart was held to under 100 yards rushing. That's a troubling trend given (thanks to SID Ken DeBolt) the Statesmen have only rushed for less than 100 yards on eight occasions previously dating back the last eight seasons:

47 at RPI
55 vs ROC
94 vs CMU
80 at WES
91 at WPI
91 at WES
57 vs END
93 at IC

Adding to the concern is that Saint Lawrence (2-1) absolutely dominated Endicott (0-3) today by a score of 34-9 which SLU led 20-0 at the half and 34-3 at the start of the 4th quarter.

In spite of the loss (and the likely drop out of the Top 16, if not 25), there were a few bright spots for the Statesmen. SO TE Chris Cyr had two catches for 28 yards and SR WR Cooper Merrill had two big catches for first downs to go with one other reception to lead the team with 29 yards. FY RB Tynard Barfield took a SR RB Conner Hartigan wildcat hand off in for Hobart's lone TD.

The Statesmen will look to regroup next week against the Merchant Marine (1-2) in Kings Point. Tune in tomorrow night's ITH for more discussion about this and the other 7 league teams that played this weekend, among other games.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Week 3 - Ithaca Game Preview

Looks like I picked a good one for my 400th post on this blog. Hard to believe there's been that many, not to mention it looks like we'll crack 100k views any day now!

The #16 Hobart Statesmen will face off against #24 Ithaca College in what's a 2014 NCAA First Round Playoff rematch, Saturday at Butterfield Stadium. The Bombers (1-0) have had an extra week's rest and preparation for this game and will be looking to avenge last season's 22-15 playoff loss to the Statesmen.

Hobart fans will probably never forget coming back from being down 15-7 and seeing QB Patrick Conlan '15 lead two late drives to tie and, with only 13 seconds left, win the game. Although both Conlan and (former IC QB) Tom Dempsey have graduated, this year's game will definitely be defined by QB play.

#12 JR QB Wolfgang Shafer is the son of Syracuse University HC Scott Shafer. Slender but strong, Shafer has a strong arm and was very accurate against Union (0-2) a couple weeks ago. The JR QB went 25 for 33 against the (suspect) Dutchmen defense, racking up 265 passing yards and two TDs. Ithaca did try to run the ball (34 carries) but mostly gained their first downs via the air (18 of 24). #33 SO RB Tristan Brown and #24 SO RB Dan Porter got the bulk of the carries (eight and 13, respectively) for a combined 64 yards. Up front the Bombers are led by #71 SR OL and Co-Captain Scott Anderson. Union did have some success with their pass rush, sacking Shafer twice in Week 1.

#2 JR WR Josh Oliver was Shafer's favorite target, catching eight passes for 80 yards. Oliver is a dual threat in that he threw a TD pass against Union for 32 yards. Other receiving weapons for the Bombers are #88 JR TE Kyle Hastings and #11 JR WR Brian Balsamo. Both had five catches and a TD each in Week 1. Hastings is a match up challenge for Hobart given his size (6'4" and 237 lbs).

Defensively Ithaca is led by #94 SR DL and Co-Captain Logan Murphy. #9 SR DB and Co-Captain Malik Morris led the Bombers pass defense with a game high 11 tackles and an interception against Union.

The special teams unit is led by German born #34 SR PK Max Rottenecker (aka "Das Boot"). Rottenecker was one of two on FG's against the Dutchmen, connecting on a 39 yarder and five PATs. A 31 yard attempt was wide right in the Union game.

Keys to the Game:

1. Stop Shafer - Union made Shafer look like an All American so the pressure will be on the Hobart secondary to make plays like they did last Saturday in the win over Endicott. JR CB Todd Collier earned the LL Defensive Player of the Week Award for his two (almost three) INT performance last Saturday.

2. Pass Protect / Move the Chains - The Hobart OL struggled picking up blitzes against Endicott, allowing two sacks, forcing SO QB Shane Sweeney's first career INT and only converting five of 14 third down conversions (and were 0 for two on fourth down). Ithaca dominated time of possession (35 to 25 minutes, effectively) against Union so Hobart will need to keep their offense on the field and convert on key plays (like this play that earned the Play of the Week thanks to an awesome effort by JR RB Brad Burns).

3. Special Teams - save for the awesome JR WR Sean Cunningham PR TD play, the Statesmen kicking and special teams game was off last Saturday. The bad punt snap can't happen again because with an offense like Ithaca's it's a guaranteed six point play. Coverage on returns needs to improve and the angle kicks need to avoid ending up out of bounds and giving the Bombers extra yards. "Das Boot" is a solid kicker but not automatic. The Statesmen will need to try and hold Ithaca to FGs and/or win the battle of field position.


If you've followed this blog, you know I've almost never picked against Hobart, at least certainly not in the last four seasons. Exactly four years ago I did in this post which ended up with the Statesmen lighting up a favored Empire 8 team by 36. That was my intention again when I picked Ithaca 17-13 on In The HuddLLe last Sunday night. While I think my co-host Frank Rossi's pick of Hobart winning 24-20 is probably more accurate, I'm sure it'll be a close game either way.

It's a big test for both clubs and will garner a lot of local and national attention. The loser's season isn't over because of the automatic qualifier / conference opportunity, but it will sting from a bragging rights perspective.

The Statesmen are riding a 32 game regular season winning streak. Ithaca is probably the one team that could break it if Hobart plays like they did against Endicott.

I'll be tuning in to WEOS at 12:40 PM and can't wait to see how this one turns out.