Setting the Scene… Merchant Marine will take on an unbeaten team for the second straight week as they welcome Rensselaer to Brooks Stadium Saturday afternoon for a showdown on Homecoming. The Mariners will look to bounce back after a 42-21 road loss at the hands of then-#13 Hobart last weekend. USMMA was within one score of the Statesmen at halftime but 21 unanswered points allowed Hobart to pull away late. Conversely, RPI has won its first three games of 2012, including a 39-17 triumph over WPI last week in the "Transit Trophy Game". The Engineers have won all of their games this season by a double-digit margin.
Series History... USMMA holds an 11-9 advantage in the all-time series against Rensselaer. The two programs have played each other exceptionally tight over the last four seasons. During that span, every game has been decided by a single possession with each team claiming a pair of victories. Merchant Marine came out on top, 31-24, on the road in last year's clash, which also served as the season finale. The Engineers were victorious at Brooks Stadium in 2010 as RPI got the better of a 29-27 decision.
View From the "Toop"… Check out the weekly video preview with Merchant Marine Head Coach Mike Toop as he discusses the Mariners' week five match-up:
Scouting the Engineers... Rensselaer boasts a powerful offense that is averaging 39.7 points per game this season. Quarterback Mike Hermann leads the Liberty League in every passing category, throwing for 783 yards and nine touchdowns in 2012. Freshman Steven Burpoe tops the circuit's receptions list with 6.00 catches per game. The RPI defense has forced six turnovers this year, all coming on interceptions. Matthew Day paces the defense with 23 total tackles while Wade Hansen has been trouble for opposing quarterbacks, posting a team high 3.5 sacks. However, RPI has been the most penalized team in the Liberty League, coughing up an average of 87.7 yards per game.
Around the Liberty League... The Liberty League standings began to take shape as conference action kicked-off last week. Hobart, RPI, Springfield, and Union all picked up a victory in their league openers. The Dutchmen were the only team to win on the road last week as every game on the schedule was decided by at least ten points. All eight league members will be in action against each other again this week.
Up Next... The Mariners return home next week as they play back-to-back contests at Brooks Stadium for the first time in 2012. Rochester arrives in Kings Point, NY for a 1:00 PM kick-off on Saturday.
Mariner Quick Hits
Ground and Pound… The Mariners option attack has produced huge gains in 2012 as USMMA has averaged 288 rushing yards per game. Statistically, Merchant Marine currently ranks 12th in NCAA Division III in rushing offense. John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, NH) leads the team with 343 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.
Stidham Steps Up… Quarterback Luke Stidham (Baltimore, MD) has come into his own over the last two games while filling in for opening day starter Alex Coviello (Cape Coral, FL) who is out with an injury. Stidham broke out for 161 rushing yards against Hobart, including a 54-yard touchdown run. The sophomore is averaging 4.8 yards per carry this year.
"Stone" Cold Defense... Freshman cornerback Skyler Stone (Glen Allen, VA) recorded his third interception last week versus the Statesmen. Stone's pick halted Hobart's opening possession, which had reached USMMA territory. Stone's trio of interceptions currently puts him atop the Liberty League leaderboard.
"Special" Teams… Freshman Daniel Kennedy (Youngstown, OH) kicked a pair of first half field goals last week. He converted on all five of his kicks, including three extra points. Kennedy has knocked through four consecutive field goal attempts dating back to USMMA's meeting with Maritime (NY).
Controlling the Ball… The Mariners are the top ranked team in the Liberty League in time of possession, holding the ball 34:38 per game. USMMA also ranks 12th in NCAA Division III in time of possession. Merchant Marine held the ball for 31:20 against #13 Hobart.