Thursday, October 16, 2014

Midseason Review

The eighth ranked Hobart College Statesmen have reached what’s effectively the midpoint of the season with an undefeated 6-0 overall and 3-0 Liberty League record. The Statesmen are averaging 35.2 PPG and 399.7 YPG on offense while surrendering only 13.3 PPG and 242.2 YPG on defense. All of these marks rank second in the LL, but I’d venture a guess Hobart would be first if they kept starters in later in the second half.

Although D3football.com views the Statesmen as having “floated high” (meaning they may not merit their high ranking given who they’ve beaten, a group of teams that are 12-18 overall), I think this team is showing a lot of potential to reclaim the LL crown and make a run in the playoffs. Time will tell, but the first half of the schedule has provided this young team a chance to gel.

SR QB Patrick Conlan is completing over 60% of his passes in LL play and has averaged 155.7 YPG with the second highest efficiency rating in the conference. He’s connected for five TDs and only one interception over the past three games. The OL has allowed only four sacks on the season and has helped pave the way for the Statesmen’s 227.2 rushing YPG and 19 TDs. The passing game has picked up and allowed Hobart to have a more balanced attack, a roughly 57-43 running to passing ratio (especially compared to last season’s 70-30 mark).

Leading the ground game is JR RB Conner Hartigan with 382 yards and five TDs. SR FB Dominique Ellis leads the team in rushing scores with six TDs. JR RB Alex Furtado has added another dimension to the run game, while adding 252 yards and four TDs.

SR WR Elvin Souffrant leads the receiving corps with 18 catches for 310 yards and two TDs. SR TE Mike Berkowitz leads the team in receiving scores with three.

Hobart’s offense overall has been very good and has scored on 22 of 23 (95.6%) red zone trips. The only time they failed to score was when SO PK Sean Kirshe missed a 39 yard FG at Endicott (4-2). Otherwise Kirshe has been fantastic, going three of four on FGs with a long of 39, averaging nearly 60 yards on kickoffs and converting 26 of 29 PATs (89.6%).

Defensively JR LB Trayvon Toney leads the Statesmen with 42 tackles. Classmates Jacob Stanley and Marcus Jemison have tallied 36 and 33 stops a piece. The young Hobart secondary has yet to be really tested but several players, including SO DB Todd Collier and SO FS Matt Cragg have played well in their first season as starters. SR DB Fajri Jackson has broken up a team high five passes.

Hobart will face off against their traditional LL rivals on the remainder of the schedule, starting at RPI (4-2, 2-1) next Saturday, October 25th. Next week we’ll preview that game among other news.

Thanks for reading and go ‘Bart!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Hobart Ranked 2nd in Initial Lambert Cup Poll

The Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference (ECAC) published its first 2014 Lambert Cup poll today. Hobart (6-0) debuted in second place, behind Wesley College (6-0) of Delaware. The Wolverines have won the Lambert four times, including three years in a row during the 2009-11 seasons. Last year Saint John Fisher won the Cup.

The Statesmen won the Lambert Cup trophy in 2012. It's awarded to the best eastern football team at each level of play at the end of the season. A history of the award can be found here.

A link to the new Lambert rankings / today's press release can be found here.

I'll have a mid season review up soon and preview the RPI game middle of next week.

Thanks for reading this update and go 'Bart!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Hobart Rolls Pride, 37-7

The eighth ranked Hobart College Statesmen made a statement yesterday holding the Springfield College Pride to 175 yards of total offense. JR LBs Trayvon Toney and Marcus Jemison were all over the field, tallying 15 and 12 tackles respectively.

After settling on a SO PK Sean Kirshe FG on their first drive, Toney set up the offense after stripping Springfield SR QB Jonathan Marrero of the football. The Statesmen (6-0, 3-0) took over at the seven yard line and only needed two plays for SR FB Dominique Ellis to find the end zone from four yards out.

The Pride (4-2, 2-1) would recover and catch the Statesmen secondary napping when Marrero found backup QB turned WR Tim O'Brien wide open for a 30 yd completion to get Springfield into Hobart territory. It took two fourth down conversions, but the Pride cracked the end zone on a one yard FY FB Stephen Spiedel TD run.

To paraphrase Ted Baker of WEOS, it's not that you gave up the TD, it's how you respond. The Statesmen offense went right back to work and Ellis had his second TD of the game. Up 17-7, the Statesmen never looked back. 

Ellis would complete the football equivalent of the hat trick with a third TD and SR TE Mike Berkowitz and SR WR Elvin Souffrant added receiving TDs from SR QB Patrick Conlan (who's played outstanding in the past two weeks) to win 37-7.

Basically this was exactly the right combination of play calling and execution by Hobart that should convince the skeptics of the quality of this year's squad. The Statesmen get a well timed week off before traveling to RPI (4-2, 2-1).

I'll look back on the season to date and tune in tonight to ITH for highlights of this game and our interview with Trayvon Toney. We're live at 7:30 pm and on podcast after 9 pm.

Thanks for reading and go 'Bart!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Springfield Game Preview

The eighth ranked Hobart College Statesmen (5-0, 2-0) will face their first real test of the 2014 season when they line up against the Springfield College Pride. The Pride (4-1, 2-0) lead the Liberty League in scoring offense (45.4 PPG), total offense (505 YPG), rushing (417.2 YPG), and first downs (23.2 PG). The speed and quickness of their triple option offense is explosive and although focused on the run, is able to pull up and go deep when you least expect it. The Pride are coming off a 42-35 shootout win over Union College (0-4, 0-2) and are in the midst of a four game winning streak. Last season Hobart beat Springfield 49-21 in a game that didn’t even feel that close. This year’s Pride team is improved and more importantly, much healthier, team than the squad the Statesmen saw in Springfield, MA last season. Hobart and Springfield have only met twice and the 2012 game was a 28-7 Statesmen win.

Scouting the Pride:

#2 SR QB Jonathan Marrero – The key to Springfield’s offense is the play of their QB. Marrero has really blossomed after combating injuries in his JR season to be a true leader of the Pride offense and football team. Marrero leads the LL in rushing and scoring, averaging 108.6 YPG and racking up 54 points (eight rush TDs, six passing TDs and four 2 point PAT conversions). While he’s only attempted 34 passes on the year, Marrero has completed almost half of them (16 of 34 or 47.1%), averaging 79.6 YPG and has only thrown one interception in five games.

#6 JR FB Keith Rodman – The triple option is all about the FB and Rodman is a good one. He’s rushed for 427 yards and six TDs on the season.

#35 FY FB Stephen Speidel – Spelling Rodman is the stocky but speedy Speidel. The FY has 344 rushing yards and five scores.

#13 SO HB Blake Joppy - Joppy has moved up the depth chart due to injuries to #42 JR Louis Fenaroli and #4 SR Franco Bianchi. He’s rushed for 215 yards and a TD. Joppy has also caught four passes for 114 yards and two TDs.

#1 GR HB Andres Martin - While Martin is listed as HB, his contributions have primarily come as a WR. Martin has five catches for 209 yards and three TDs. One of those scores was a 77 yarder against Union where he got behind his defender and ran in otherwise untouched.

#49 SR DE / OLB Max Nacewicz – An All American level player, Nacewicz missed all of 2013 due to injury. He’s back with a vengeance this season and leads the Pride with 55 total tackles, seven sacks and 10 TFL.

#41 SR LB Danny Macalena – Macalena has 42 tackles on the season, one sack and a tackle for loss. Although he’s only 5’10”, he blocked two PATs that gave Springfield one point victories over Saint Lawrence and Norwich last season.

#8 SO LB Kenny Calaj – Calaj has 28 stops on the season, five TFL and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions (#22 SO FS Nick Welsh has three INTs as well).

#53 JR LB/PK Nick Pydeski – The Pride have not attempted any FGs so far this season so it’s hard to gauge Pydeski other than he’s hit 21 of 25 on PATs (which is pretty good for 6’3” 245lb LB if you ask me!). Otherwise Springfield’s kickoff coverage has been a bit low at 30.8 net average. Duncan Preston was listed in the Union BX as the kickoff specialist but for some reason he’s not on the Pride’s roster (on their online one anyway). Based on a quick review of the Union game, it looks like Preston has a strong leg, booting several 50+ yard kickoffs.

#84 FR QB Whitton DeVaux – serves as the punter for the Pride, averaging 35.3 YPP with a long of 45.

Keys to the Game:

1. Win the Line of Scrimmage – This game will be decided in the trenches. Hobart’s rushing defense is tops in the LL allowing a paltry 77.8 YPG and at least half of that average is due to the second string. The pressure will be on SO DE James Hedger who Springfield Coach Delong is likely to test early and often in the game. The Hobart DL will need to stay in their gap assignments while aggressively moving to the ball in order to shut down the potent Pride offense.

2. Pass Protection - The Hobart OL will likely see another stacked box similar to the scheme WPI used in last Saturday’s game. Hobart has only allowed four sacks all season and SR QB Patrick Conlan has been intercepted only once, and not since the first game of the season. The Pride has eight INTs on the season so far and 13 sacks. The OL will need to key in on Nacewicz and give Conlan time to find receivers. Springfield has allowed 201.6 YPG passing and a league high 12 passing TDs. Given Conlan’s career game vs. WPI, the Statesmen may need a similar performance (or better) against Springfield Saturday.

3. Field Position / Turnovers – Given the Pride’s recent struggles in kick coverage (although Preston acquitted himself very well vs Union), Hobart could have a field position advantage. Hobart is second in the LL averaging 33:20 in time of possession and keeping the Pride offense off the field is really their best defense. Tackling with intent to strip the football is also something the Statesmen should exploit as Springfield rushers have lost seven of 11 fumbles this season.

4. Play Smart – Springfield has been flagged for 230 yards in penalties the last two games. Field position and creating longer yardage situations for a rush oriented team will cause some issues for the Pride from a play calling perspective, so the Statesmen should look to take advantage of the same.

Prediction:

On Sunday’s ITH I picked Hobart to win 28-21. While I am not changing the initial prediction, after looking at the defensive stats, I have a feeling this game may end up like the 2012 meeting. In that game Hobart took a 14-0 lead into halftime, then saw the Pride make it 14-7 before the Statesmen pulled away and won the game in the fourth quarter. Hobart held the Pride to 150 rushing yards, forced a fumble and took advantage of TOP by a 32:36 to 27:24 margin. That said I’ll go with a revised 31-14 score.

Either way this should be an excellent test for Hobart right before they go into the bye week. While I doubt it would quiet the "scheduling" critics for long, a win over a great team like Springfield would say a lot about where the Statesmen are headed in 2014. I know I’ll be tuning in to hear about it plays out. Thanks for reading and go ‘Bart.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Statesmen Air It Out, Beat WPI 28-14

The ninth ranked Hobart College Statesmen gained a 28-0 advantage before settling for a 28-14 win over WPI today in Worcester, MA. SR QB and Co-Captain Patrick Conlan had a career day, going 22 for 38 (58%) while passing for 257 yards and three TDs. The OL struggled in the run game against the Engineers (1-4, 0-2) as Hobart (5-0, 2-0) only gained 92 yards on 43 carries (2.1).

SR WR Elvin Souffrant led the Statesmen with six catches for 83 yards. SR WR John Fasano and SR TE and Co-Captain Mike Berkowitz each scored on short routes. SO WR Sean Cunningham opened the game with a 31 yard catch for a TD, his first career score, as well. The other Hobart TD was a one yard JR RB Conner Hartigan run.

Hobart out gained WPI 354 to 205 yards but struggled on third down, converting only five of 18 tries (28%). The Statesmen dominated TOP, holding the ball for nearly 39 minutes.

WPI only mustered 20 rushing yards on 13 carries and only had 10 first downs, all via the pass. Hobart's defense was led by JR LBs Trayvon Toney and Jacob Stanley with six stops a piece.

With seventh ranked Saint John Fisher losing in OT to Salisbury I expect Hobart to jump a spot to #8 in the National Rankings. I'll have highlights from today's game and discussion around Hobart's first half of the regular season tomorrow night on www.inthehuddlle.com. Tune in live at 7:30 pm or catch the podcast.

More thoughts on this game and the upcoming contest against a rolling Springfield (4-1, 2-0), who defeated Union in a 42-35 shootout today in Schenectady.

Thanks for reading and go Bart!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

WPI Game Preview

The ninth ranked Hobart College Statesmen (4-0, 1-0) will make their third trip to New England Saturday to square off against WPI. The Engineers (1-3, 0-1) have struggled after losing their best offensive player to injury and committing nine turnovers (seven interceptions and two fumbles) in four games.

WPI ranks last in the LL in scoring offense (14.8 PPG), total offense (244.8 YPG), rushing offense (98.8 YPG), passing efficiency (76.9), kickoff returns (17.8 yard average), field goals (60%), offensive first downs (13 per game) and third down conversions (21.7%). 

The Engineers defense has played tough however and is the fourth ranked LL scoring defense allowing 18.5 PPG. Their pass defense efficiency and sacks by totals are ranked second with a rating of 91 and 12 sacks, respectively. Their DL and secondary (which has eight interceptions, including one returned for a TD) are solid, but often left out to dry because the offense's possession issues.

Scouting the Engineers 

Given last week's struggles my guess is Coach Robertson will start #18 SR QB Jacob Grills given his benching of #9 SO QB Dan Eckler after throwing three interceptions against RPI (3-1, 1-0) last Saturday in a 27-6 defeat.

A pair of SO WRs named Joe Igoe (81) and Brandon Eccher (89) lead WPI with 20 and 15 catches for 233 and 136 receiving yards each. Defensively #35 SO LB Brian Murtagh leads the Engineer defense with 43 tackles. 

#92 SR PK Blaine Bursey handles the kicking duties on special teams. #93 JR PK Vinny Tavernelli leads the LL in punting with a 42.8 YPP average, including a long of 68 yards.

Keys to the Game 

1. Show Up / Final Tune Up - This comes across harsh, but this will be Hobart's fifth game against a team with a losing record (I get Dickinson was 0-0 on 9/6 but they are 1-3 since and their sole, one point, win was against a team that is 0-4). Overall the Statesmen have beaten teams with a combined 6-14 mark. Those six wins by Hobart's opponents came against teams that are a combined 1-17. The good thing for the Statesmen in this "extended preseason" is that it's given this young team a chance to gel, get a lot of new (to varsity) players on the field and so far avoid any serious injuries. Hobart's defense has been fantastic against the run, and don't expect a offensively struggling WPI team to give the Statesmen much trouble. It should be noted that the Statesmen are a perfect 10-0 against the Engineers. In the past two seasons Hobart has rolled up a combined 102 (while only giving up 15) points against WPI.

2. Don't Get Caught Looking Ahead - The second half of the Statesmen's season comes against Hobart's main LL rivals and teams currently sporting an 11-7 overall record. The only team on that list that has a losing record is Union (0-3, 0-1) who are off to another bad start. To the Dutchmen's credit, their opponents are a combined 10-1, and Union lost those games by the equivalent of a TD or less. The other three 1-0 LL teams chasng Hobart (RPI, SLU and SC) were a combined 10 points away from being 12-0 overall.

3. Keep on Running (But Maybe Some Roll Outs Could Work Too) - 
WPI has a good rush defense, allowing 138.2 YPG but Hobart's rushing attack is above and beyond what the Engineers have seen to date. It also has emerged as their best foot forward (pun intended) given the initial struggles of SR QB and Co-Captain Patrick Conlan. Conlan is ranked fifth in the LL with a sub 50% completion percentage. To his credit he has four passing TDs and hasn't thrown an interception in the last three games. While he clearly has the arm strength, his accuracy and consistent timing with the WR corp hasn't clicked just yet. Hobart's SR WRs haven't been as much of a factor in the offense (five catches for 54 yards in the last two games) given the emergence of new talent like FY WR Brandon Shed and SO WR Jack Pfohl, as well as injuries, including that to National Football Foundation Award Semifinalist, SR WR and Co-Captain Troy Robinson. Conlan is very athletic and can run so I'd think some pistol style and/or roll out plays might better suit him vs a more traditional drop back and read style of QB play.

Prediction

On Sunday night's InTheHuddLLe.com podcast I predicted thst the Statesmen would win by a lopsided score of 55-7. I'll dial it back to 45-7 but I'm still going with Hobart. Their rush offense will keep churning away and the defense will bottle up WPI.

Thanks for reading and go Bart!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Weekend Wrap Up

The Statesmen went back to basics, rushing for 404 yards and six TDs in a 42-7 win over the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

Donning orange home jerseys for the first time since the 1980's, Hobart (4-0, 1-0) got off to quick start as JR RBs Connor Hartigan and Alex Furtado scoring on one and five yard runs to post the Statesmen to a 14-0 lead with 5:06 to go in the first quarter.

The home team had a lot to cheer about and Mr McGriff led the Homecoming crowd in several H-O-B-A-R-T chants like this one.

The Mariners (2-2, 0-1) looked to make it a game, driving into Hobart territory. SO FS Matt Cragg ended the threat when he intercepted Merchant Marine QB Matthew McDaniels in the end zone for a touchback.

Two plays later this happened. Hear this play and other highlights here.

The second Hartigan score made it 21-0 with 13:24 to go in the first half. The Statesmen would add two more scores by SO RB Brad Burns and SR FB Dominique Ellis to take a commanding 35-0 halftime lead. 

Although JR RB Mario Colangelo would break the shutout, Hobart would win the game. Leading the Statesmen were Furtado and Hartigan with 98 and 90 yards and a pair of TDs. SR RB Colin Hinchey led the Mariners with 104 yards on 13 carries.

Defensively JR DT Tucker Gumkowski led the Statesmen with seven tackles, including a forced fumble. USMMA were led by Dillon Reaves and Cody Fields with six tackles each.

Hobart, who moved up to ninth in the D3football.com Top 25, will travel to Worcester to take on WPI (1-3, 0-1) this Saturday.