Setting the Scene… USMMA travels to take on the Springfield Pride Saturday afternoon in a clash between two of the top-ten ranked rushing attacks in the nation. Both teams will be looking to bounce back from a loss as Merchant Marine fell to Rochester (NY), 44-26, and the Pride dropped a 28-7 decision at #9/12 Hobart. The two sides meet for the first-time as conference rivals as Springfield is competing in its inaugural season as a member of the Liberty League; both teams have identical overall and conference records in 2012.
Series History... Springfield holds an 8-2 advantage in the all-time series against Merchant Marine and has won eight in a row against USMMA. The Pride picked up a 41-21 victory over the Mariners in last year's meeting. In that game John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, NH) ran for 115 yards and quarterback Alex Coviello (Cape Coral, FL) threw for a pair of touchdowns. USMMA last defeated Springfield on the road in 1997, a 42-28 triumph.
View From The "Toop"… Check out the weekly video preview with Merchant Marine Head Coach Mike Toop as he discusses the Mariners' week seven match-up:
Ground and Pound… The Mariners option attack has produced huge gains in 2012 as USMMA has averaged 300 rushing yards per game. Statistically, Merchant Marine currently ranks 9th in NCAA Division III in rushing offense. John-Leon Gosselin (Nashua, NH) leads the team with 524 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012. Quarterback Alex Coviello (Cape Coral, FL) has racked up 441 yards and six touchdowns in his four games played.
Scouting the Pride... Springfield ranks 10th in NCAA Division III in rushing yards, racking up 292.5 per game operating out of an option offense. The Pride's two conference losses this season have come against the two remaining teams with perfect records against league opposition. Springfield has two potent weapons in the backfield in Joel Altavesta, who has 463 yards and seven touchdowns, as well as Mike Davis, who is responsible for 384 yards and six touchdowns while averaging 10.7 yards per carry. USMMA's option attack will neutralize one of the best pass rushers in the nation as Max Nacewicz currently has nine sacks in six games played in 2012. Mike Dublin paces the Springfield defense with 48 total tackles, including 33 solo stops and seven tackles for a loss.
Third and Efficient… The Mariners are ranked 29th in NCAA Division III, and second in the conference, converting third downs at a 47.6% clip. However, USMMA struggled in these situations against Rochester and was successful on just 4-of-11 (36%) third down attempts.
Around the Liberty League... After last week's games there are just two teams remaining in the Liberty League, Hobart and Union, with an unbeaten record in conference play. The Statesmen are a perfect 6-0 in 2012 and are now eighth in the AFCA DIII Coaches' Poll. RPI and Rochester (NY) sit one game back at 2-1 while WPI and St. Lawrence are both still searching for their first win in Liberty League action. Blowouts were the order of last week, around the league, as all four tilts were decided by at least 15 points. RPI will travel to Rochester this week while Hobart, WPI, St. Lawrence, and Union will all stay home with a bye week.
By Land and Air… Alex Coviello (Cape Coral, FL) had a fine day rushing and passing the ball against Rochester. The senior quarterback rushed for 152 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. However, he also completed passes when called upon. Coviello went 8-of-9 for 84 yards and a touchdown pass to Connor Kennedy (Bellerose, NY) in the fourth quarter.
Fast and Furious… Merchant Marine has started each of the last two games with a touchdown on its opening drive. Coviello broke free on a fourth-and-one for a 30-yard score on the Mariners first drive against Rochester. One week prior, USMMA kicked-off the meeting against RPI with an 11-play march that concluded as Gosselin found his way across the goal line from eight-yards out.
Washington Stands Tall … Junior Tyler Washington (Chatham, NY) leads the Merchant Marine defense with 46 total tackles in 2012, including 34 solo stops. He also has one interception and 1. 5 tackles for a loss on his season stat line. Washington was the team's leading tackler last week against Rochester, recording eight stops.
Thriving Under Pressure… USMMA's three victories have all come in one possession games. The Mariners knocked off Coast Guard by six points, Maritime (NY) by five points, and RPI in a three point affair. All three of Merchant Marine's losses in 2012 have been by a double digit margin.
Up Next... The Mariners return home next week for a Saturday showdown with WPI. The clash against the winless Engineers will take place at 2:30 pm on Captain Tomb Field at Brooks Stadium.