Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Offseason Update and Looking Ahead In 2016

I hope 2016 is off to a great start for everyone and apologize that it's been a little while since I've had made the time to cover off on all things Statesmen Football.

I had the chance to catch up with Head Coach Mike Cragg and other HWS staff at the Buccaneers-Falcons game back on December 6th. Ali Marpet '15 had a great game and helped lead the Bucs to a hard fought, 23-19 victory.

A number of articles on Ali's first season were published by the Buccaneers this week and I've posted them on @ITHuddLLe (on Twitter) if you haven't seen them already. A couple of my favorites included this one, which featured Coach Cragg and this film session review by former Jets and Bucs TE Anthony Becht.

While the graduations of SR LBs Trayvon Toney and SR LB Jacob Stanley will be big shoes to fill, Coach was optimistic in the coaching staff's offseason recruiting efforts. As of last Monday, the final Early Decision letters should have gone on and the Class of 2020 will start to come together. Updates on team captains and other newsworthy items will be coming out in the next month or so.

One big news item in the offseason was Ithaca College becoming a full member of the Liberty League. The Statesmen and Bombers will renew their rivalry in what appears to be under the lights of Boswell Field, Saturday, September 17th at 7pm! This is big news for the stability of the LL as a viable football conference but so far the announcement on the seventh LL team did not materialize in January as expected. While rumored this new member would come from PA, it has yet to be confirmed, and given the delay, could have fallen through. While not an issue for the Statesmen's playoff chances in 2016, a lack of a seventh team come 2017 would be a problem for all six LL teams going forward.

This fall Hobart will open the season with back to back road trips to play SUNY Brockport and Endicott College. These OOC games will be followed by a three game home stand against Ithaca, Union and the United States Merchant Marine Academy (who along with WPI and Springfield will depart for the NEWMAC in 2017). After a road trip to LL rival RPI, the Statesmen host Springfield off their bye week. Back to back road trips to WPI and SLU follow leading up to the regular season finale against Rochester for the Centennial Cup.

Also of note was the "resignation" of Union College HC John Audino who has been replaced by former Stony Brook OC/QB coach Jeff Behrman. A link to that story can be found here. Springfield College conducted a national search but ultimately decided to promote OC Mike Cerasuolo to the HC job. A link to that announcement can be found here. Hobart lines up against the Dutchmen and the Pride at the "Boz" on September 24th and October 22nd, respectively.

A couple of weekends ago, Marpet and his former team and classmate Mike Berkowitz '15 returned to campus to meet with incoming recruits and discuss their respective college and professional careers. While most folks know about Ali ending up in Tampa Bay, Mike landed an excellent job with a Goldman Sachs subsidiary in the Albany area and is doing great. You definitely do not need a "business" major to land a great job in Finance, Banking or Marketing if you get a BA from HWS.

Check out this cool highlight video produced by Connor Cough '17 which the recruits got to see during their visit to campus.

I'll be on the look out for more Hobart Statesmen news and thanks for reading!

Go 'Bart!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Burns Makes GEICO POTW

JR RB Brad Burns was honored as the GEICO PLAY OF THE YEAR based on a tally of votes across the country.

A link of the award and YouTube clip with Burns accepting it can be found here.

In other HFB news, it was recently announced that Ithaca College will become a full member of the Liberty League which is good news in that it keeps the LL access to the NCAA playoffs in better shape after USMMA, WPI and Springfield depart for the NEWMAC in 2017.

A seventh member for FB will be announced just after the New Year so stayed tuned.

Congratulations to the 14 HFB players who earned LL All-Academic recognition also! A link to that announcement can be seen here.

Wishing everyone has had very happy and safe holidays! Happy New Year and more will be "Comin Atcha" in 2016!

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Statesmen Finish Strong With 42-20 Win Over Rochester

The Hobart College Statesmen may not have ended up in the NCAA playoffs, but the offense and defense clicked to take a 42-20 victory over Rochester last Saturday at Fauver Stadium. Hobart scored 113 points in their final three games of the 2015 season.

Although the Statesmen controlled the clock for the vast majority of the game, the Yellow Jackets (5-4, 3-4) kept coming back until Hobart pulled away in the second half and shut out Rochester for nearly 26 minutes to wrap up another Centennial Cup victory.

SO QB Shane Sweeney broke a single game record with six TD passes, connecting twice with classmates SO TE Zach Withers and SO WR Brandon Shed along with TD passes to FY RB Tynard Barfield and SR FB Christopher Holoman.

The Statesmen defense was led by SR LB Trayvon Toney with seven tackles.

The win ends Hobart's 2015 campaign with a 7-3, 5-2 overall mark and the Class of 2016 finishes their Statesmen careers with a 41-6 overall record, including three league championships.

Although there will be losses to graduation, this Statesmen squad is still young and has a lot of key players returning in 2016. I will post a season retrospective in the coming week(s).

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Week 11 - Rochester / Centennial Cup Game Preview

The Hobart College Statesmen (may) close out their 2015 season on the road to long time rival, the Rochester Yellow Jackets Saturday at Fauver Stadium. Order up a garbage plate from Nick Tahou's and sit back for what's a great rivalry between these two programs.

There's a lot on the line in this game other than the trophy. Rochester (5-3, 3-3) is on the cusp of earning it's sixth win, a feat they haven't accomplished since the 2007 season. If Hobart (6-3, 4-2) wins the game, they have an outside chance at returning to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season. That will require some help however, as both Saint Lawrence (7-2, 5-1) and RPI (7-2, 5-1) would need to lose to Merchant Marine (3-5, 2-4) and Union (0-9, 0-6), respectively.

The Statesmen lead the all time series, which dates back to 1892, 52-48-7. So far Hobart is 6-1 overall in the Centennial Cup series, losing to the Yellow Jackets back in 2010 by a score of 35-34. Last season the Statesmen entered this contest ranked eighth in the nation but had to hang on after jumping out to a 21-0 lead, to win the game, 28-23.

This season Rochester enters this contest as (now) the top passing offense in the LL, averaging 239.8 YPG. The Yellow Jackets average 30.9 PPG and have rushed for an average of 167.5 YPG, which are good for second and third in the LL, respectively. Hobart by contrast is second in the LL allowing 17.4 PPG and leads the LL in both rushing and passing "D" allowing only 122.2 and 122.3 YPG, respectively.

Scouting Rochester

It's been a tale of two seasons for Rochester after the 2014 LL ROTY and now #2 SO QB Dan Bronson  was injured. To his credit, #12 SR QB Justin Redfern has stepped in capably, passing for 1,132 yards and eight TDs compared to five INTs. Given it's the final game of the season, I could see either or both QBs play in this one.

#44 JR RB Shane Saucier has ran the ball more in recent weeks after Bronson (a solid runner who's tallied 334 rushing yards and three TDs) was limited. Saucier has carried the ball 70 times for 287 yards and four TDs. #26 JR RB Nick Perpignan has added 231 rush yards on 61 carries.

The Yellow Jackets have a solid receiving corps led by a trio of deep threats. #9 SR WR Farid Adenuga (520 receiving yards and five TDs), #3 JR WR Kyle Allegrini (326 yards and four TDs) and #1 SR WR Derek Wager (435 yards and one TD) are all solid players. #83 JR WR Luke Szumski isn't targeted very often (five catches) but his size (6'5" 205) and speed (72 yard TD run) make him a viable jump ball threat, and he's caught three TDs this season.

Defensively Rochester is led by #39 SR LB Thomas Marone who's ranked third in the LL with 71 total tackles. #34 SO LB Isaiah Smith can play the run or rush the passer, tallying 62 tackles and three sacks and seven TFL on the season.

On special teams, Rochester has the best kicker in the LL in #10 SR PK Andrew Haber who's gone five of six on FGs this season with a long of 38. The Yellow Jackets also lead the LL in kickoff return average. Rochester otherwise struggles in other parts of special teams play however, ranking fourth in punt returns (8.9), seventh in KO coverage (35.4), sixth in punting (31.5) and seventh in PATs (24 of 29) which could play a role in field position and the last stat could be key in a close game.

Keys to the Game

1. Defense

Last Saturday the shutout pitched by the Hobart defense in the second half went a big way in giving the Statesmen a chance to win the game late. Another part was holding the Saints to six of 17 on third downs overall and, more importantly, only allowing SLU into the red zone twice and allowing only one score in the first half.

2. Line of Scrimmage

The one knock on the Saints was the fact they didn't run the ball much or well in 2014. Hobart took the SLU run game off the table last Saturday, holding the Saints to 81 yards on 38 attempts (2.1 average). The Statesmen defense penetrated the SLU OL and racked up six sacks and eight TFL. Forcing Redfern and the Yellow Jackets offense to be one dimensional is a critical component of Saturday's game plan.

3. Finish

While 7-3 isn't the same as the undefeated seasons Hobart has enjoyed in recent years, it's a solid season when you consider the injuries and changes that the Statesmen had to overcome in 2015. While I understand the institutional stance on participation in ECACs (which for the first time this year will be held at a single site, just outside my hometown of Hartford, CT), if Hobart doesn't end up winning the LL, it's a shame this squad, especially the Class of 2016, won't get one more game. That said I hope the team rallies once again to finish the season strong against a determined rival. Rochester will come out "guns blazing" so the Statesmen need to take their best shot and not flinch. A steady combo of solid possessions and an early lead would go far in making it an uphill battle for the Yellow Jackets.

Final Thoughts

The Statesmen have had Rochester's number of late and the Yellow Jackets have struggled to win games in the final month of the season. They needed a miracle to defeat Union and held on for a one TD win against USMMA.

Given the way Hobart has fought in recent weeks makes me think the Statesmen can and will outlast Rochester with a strong defensive performance. I'll take Hobart to win this one and retain the Centennial Cup, 30-20.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Statesmen Stun #25 Saints, 19-17

The Hobart College Statesmen celebrated a big Senior Day win when SO QB Shane Sweeney found SR WR Cooper Merrill from four yards out with nine seconds remaining to give Hobart (6-3, 4-2) a hard fought, 19-17 comeback victory against the #25th ranked Saint Lawrence University Saints (7-2, 5-1).

The last second TD saved the Statesmen from having to see the Saints celebrate their first LL title since 2010 on the Boz. We covered this game and Hobart's playoff chances on "In The HuddLLe" which you can listen to here.

The win was the 40th in the careers of the Class of 2016 and these Seniors got to enjoy a "W" in their final home game at Hobart:

2 Trayvon Toney 
6 Cooper Merrill
7 Jacob Stanley
10 Conner Hartigan
14 Parker Thelander
22 Christopher Holoman
28 Justin Burke
54 TJ Scamurra  
56 Julian Jackson
65 Emiliano Acosta
66 Brendan Casey
67 Levi Boyer
80 Josh Britton
87 Yanni Zulia
89 Nick Liverio
98 Tucker Gumkowski

SR TE Josh Britton caught one of Sweeney's three TD passes to open the scoring for Hobart. SO WR Brandon Shed made a great catch for a TD in the fourth quarter that kept the Statesmen in the game. Ultimately it was the defense's bend but don't break second half performance and shutting out the Saints.

Hobart will travel to Rochester (5-3, 3-3) looking to retain the Centennial Cup. Although a long shot, if Saint Lawrence and RPI lose Saturday, the Statesmen can clinch their fifth consecutive LL championship if they beat the Yellow Jackets.

I'll have a preview up for the Centennial Cup game later this week. Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Week 10 - Saint Lawrence Game Preview

The Saint Lawrence University Saints (7-1, 5-0) head to Geneva this weekend looking to avenge last year's 29-27 Liberty League (LL) Championship game loss to Hobart. A Saints win Saturday will effectively clinch the 2015 title for Saint Lawrence.

The Saints have been a program on the rise the past couple of seasons, winning 23 of their last 29 ball games after going 0-10 in 2012. Saint Lawrence is also the last program to win the LL title since the Statesmen's 2011-14 run. That 2010 season the Saints upset Hobart in Canton, capitalizing on four Statesmen turnovers, to hang onto a 24-21 win - their first over Hobart since 1991. The Statesmen lead the all time series, which dates back to 1901, 48-37-2, making Saturday's contest the 88th overall between the two Upstate rivals.

This season Saint Lawrence boasts the LL's best scoring offense (32.8 PPG) and passing attack (229.4 YPG). Hobart counters with the LL's best total defense (240.6 YPG), passing defense (113.3 YPG), second ranked scoring defense (17.5 PPG) and rushing defense (127.4 YPG).

Saint Lawrence also enters this game as the #25 ranked team in the D3football.com poll and as the third ranked team in the recently released NCAA Playoff Regional Rankings for the "East".

Scouting the Saints

Saint Lawrence's offense is led by #6 SR QB Mike Lefflbine, who shared the 2014 Offensive POTY award with Ali Marpet '15. Lefflbine is once again the top QB in the LL, passing for 1,789 yards (223.6 YPG) and an impressive 22 TDs to only six INTs. Although small in size, #21 SR RB Maurice Irby has gained 512 yards on 98 carries, 5.2 AVG, which is fifth best in the LL.

Lefflbine has a number of options in the passing game, including two "power forward" type of WRs/TEs. These players include #81 SO WR Vincenzo Ferrraro (480 yards and four TDs), #15 JR TE Mitch Gallagher (418 yards and six TDs), #9 SO WR Patrick Bryant (319 yards and three TDs) and #86 JR TE Matt Gardiner (275 yards and three TDs).

Adding to the above is All-American #3 SR DB/WR Leondre Simmon who plays on both sides of the ball, catching 16 passes for 166 yards and five TDs to go with a LL second best five INTs, including one for a TD.

Defensively the Saints are led by #43 SO LB Skyler Williamson and #15 JR LB Alec Dietsch. This tandem has combined for 130 total tackles. On the DL Saint Lawrence is led by Preseason All-American #55 JR DL Chyron Brown Wallace, who is a big reason why the Saints led the LL with 29 sacks. Also in the secondary with Simmon is #4 JR DB James Holley-Grisham who leads the LL with six interceptions.

On special teams, #30 JR PK Andrew Carvalho is in the middle of the LL statistics wise, connecting on only two of four FG attempts, but being a very reliable kicker of PATs (34 of 36).

Keys to the Game

1. The Best Defense is a Rushing Offense - I sat in Sec 241 of the Georgia Dome Sunday watching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers rush the football for most of the game against the Atlanta Falcons second ranked rush defense in the NFL on the way to hard fought 23-20 OT victory. The Statesmen will need to do the same in order to keep Lefflbine and the high powered Saints offense off the field Saturday. We spoke to SR OL Brendan Casey about the nearly 280 yard rushing performance against Union on Sunday's ITH. A link to that podcast and a preview of Saturday's game can be heard here. The Statesmen will need another big day by Casey and the Hobart OL to battle Saint Lawrence's tough defense.

2. Protect the Football - The Saints last two seasons have been built off of creating turnovers on defense and cashing them in for points. The Statesmen can ill afford to fumble or throw an interception against this ball hawk defense. On the flip side Hobart will need to take a page from the Bucs defense and cause their opponents to turn the ball over, whether it be forced, or unforced errors.

3. Send Off the SRs With A "W" - The Class of 2016 has enjoyed a 39-6 run over the last four seasons. There will be 16 SR players who will be recognized and accompanied by their friends and families on Boswell Field for the final home game of their Hobart careers. A win for them on this day would be one that would match or maybe even surpass some of the playoff wins at the Boz from prior seasons.

Final Thoughts:

The Saints seem primed to run away with this one as they have outscored their opposition by a combined 90-21 in the first half over their last three games. If Hobart can establish the run, protect the football and not fall behind early, Saint Lawrence will be in unfamiliar territory in a game in which they are "favored".

In Week 1 the Morrisville State Mustangs got behind the vaunted Saints secondary on two long pass plays after the Saints stacked up the box. If the Statesmen can get some conversions early on and draw the LBs and DBs in, then SO QB Shane Sweeney can look for SO WR Brandon Shed and the Hobart receiving corps on a couple of well timed deep routes to catch Saint Lawrence off guard.

This game will be a tough one, and honestly a Saints victory wouldn't surprise me, although it would be disappointing. I am hoping the Statesmen and the SRs in particular go ahead and play the game of the season Saturday.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Statesmen Offense Erupts to Defeat Union, 52-14

The Hobart College Statesmen scored early and often in their best offensive performance of the season Saturday at Frank Bailey Field.

The Union defense clearly rested in a contest that the Statesmen ran up a season high 52 points - the most since Hobart defeated WPI by a score of 61-8 back in September of 2012.

The biggest one-two punch was by classmates SO QB Shane Sweeney and SO WR Brandon Shed who connected on scoring plays of 81, 48 and 41 yards en route to a 52-14 rout of Union (0-8, 0-5).

On what was described by the WEOS as a perfect day for college football, the Statesmen opened the game with the longest scoring play of the season. Hobart would run out to a 31-7 lead before giving up a late passing TD with about two seconds remaining to take a 31-14 lead into the half.

The second half saw more Statesmen TDs as players like SO RB Joe Letizia notched themselves into the record book with six points.

In the end Hobart out-gained Union 581 to 221 total yards, behind an impressive 15 for 20 and 305 yard passing day by Sweeney and 276 rushing yards by the Statesmen OL. SR RB Conner Hartigan led the attack with 95 yards on 12 carries.

The win improved Hobart to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in the LL. A big match up which we discuss on Sunday's ITH with SR OL Brendan Casey is coming up against Saint Lawrence (7-1, 6-0) this Saturday at Boswell Field.