Merchant Marine faces a tough road at Hobart (4-0)
KINGS POINT, N.Y. -- In a season in which the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy tried to slow down Johns Hopkins run-and-gun passing attack and Springfield College's relentless ground game, the Mariners take on arguably their most formidable foe of the season on Saturday.
They visit undefeated Hobart College (4-0, 2-0) in a Liberty League game at 1 p.m.
The Statesmen, who moved to No. 25 in the D3Football.com poll, the first time they have been ranked in two years, have been a tough nut to crack this season. Coming off a bye week after a 41-24 win over Union on Oct. 8, the Statesmen have outscored their opposition, 153-53 (averages of 38.2 points for, 13.2 against).
Moreover, they have been quite successful in stopping the ground attack, surrendering but 439 yards in those four games. Of course, rushing the ball has the Mariners' forte this season and it will be intriguing to see how Kings Point coach Mike Toop and his staff tries to offset the Statemen's imposing front line and linebackers at Boswell Field.
The Mariners are coming off a 45-16 homecoming loss to the University of Rochester. They will get a bye on Oct. 29 before returning to action against Union College at 1 p.m. on Nov. 5.
To give you an inkling on how good the Statesmen are on both sides of the ball, in the Liberty League, they are first in total offense (433.25 yards), offense (38.25 points), sacks allowed (0.75), rushing defense (109.25 yards), pass defense (136.5 yards), pass efficiency defense (98.7), total defense (245.75 yards), scoring defense (13.25 points), sacks (3.75 a game), tackles for a loss (7.0 a game) and turnover margin (+1.5 a game).
Individually, it has been more of share of the wealth on offense. Quarterback Nick Strang leads the way, completing 59 of 103 passes for 779 yards and nine touchdowns, plus running for another 223 yards and three TDs for a 5.5 yard average per rush. Running back Steven Webb has contributed 265 yards and two TDs for a 5.2 average and Bobby Dougherty has rushed for 194 yards and three TDs and a 5.1 average.
Any team would have their work cut out against an offense like that. And that's not to forget an imposing and relentless defense.
The Statesmen rank among the top 25 in the nation in sacks (11th), total defense (16th), scoring defense (21st), turnover margin (22nd), pass defense (22nd), rushing offense (23rd, 235.5 yards a game), and scoring offense (25th).
Senior cornerback Drake Woodard began the week tied for first in the nation in interceptions (1.0 per game), while freshman defensive end Tyre Coleman is second in sacks (1.62 a game) and 20th in tackles for a loss (1.88).
Junior running back John-Leon Gosselin is the Mariners' leading ground gainer with 733 yards and two TDs in 146 carries and a 5.0 average. Junior quarterback Alex Coviello is next with 436 yards and four TDs in 78 rushes for a 5.1 average. Sophomore wide receiver Chase Dunn has a team-high 16 receptions for 425 yards, six TDs and a 26.6 average.
The Statesmen lead the all-time series between the schools, 7-4. The Mariners won the first four meetings, but Hobart has dominated since the Academy joined the Liberty League in 2004. Merchant Marine dropped last year's meeting, 40-33.
You can listen to play-by-play man Seth Cantor and color analyst Jaden Daly. The pre-game show is set for 1:30 p.m., followed by the opening kickoff at 2 p.m.
To listen to the game, visit: http://kpmariners.blogspot.com/
Photo: Jake Harrison and his Mariner teammates take on a tough Hobart team on Saturday. Photo by Shawn Antonelli