Setting the Scene... Merchant Marine returns to the field for the first time in four weeks Saturday afternoon as they travel to Worcester, MA to take on the WPI Engineers. The Mariners were last in action October 28 as they dropped a 24-8 decision to # 5/7 Hobart. USMMA is off to the program's best start in 15 years and will be playing just its second road game of the 2013 campaign. WPI is coming off of back-to-back losses, most recently falling 35-6 at Union. The Engineers have been better at home this year, posting a 2-1 record at Alumni Field, including their only conference win so far this season.
Series History... Merchant Marine currently leads the all-time series against WPI, 15-6, including last year's 28-13 win over the Engineers. The Mariners have won four straight against WPI in a series that dates back to 1992. In the game's 2012 edition, USMMA scored 28 straight points after the Engineers posted the opening touchdown of the game. The Mariners held the ball for 38:21 and racked up 277 rushing yards in the victory at Brooks Stadium.
McDaniels in NCAA Statistics... Quarterback Matthew McDaniels (Malverne, NY) remains fifth in NCAA Division III in rushing yards per game, totaling 633 yards and seven touchdowns in his first four career games under center. The sophomore has reached the end zone at least once in every game this season and is a two-time Liberty League Offensive Performer of the Week. McDaniels is averaging 5.97 yards per carry and has also thrown two touchdown passes in 2013.
Surprise Aerial Attack... USMMA's traditional triple-option offense found some success in the passing game when forced to go to the air against Hobart in its last contest. McDaniels completed 7-of-11 for 121 yards, including two plays for over 30 yards. The Mariners passing game also converted a two-point conversion as senior wide receiver Matthew Berglund (North Kingstown, RI) made a superb diving catch, at full extension, in the back of the end zone.
Chasing "300"... The Merchant Marine football program currently sits at 299 victories, one shy of a milestone 300. USMMA's 50th, 100th, 150th, 200th, and 250th program wins have all come in the friendly confines of Brooks Stadium. In those games, only one opponent scored in double digits with the Mariners posting two shutouts in milestone victories. However, on Saturday USMMA will be looking to earn a milestone win on the road for the first time in program history.
Scouting the Engineers... WPI has employed a two quarterback system in 2013 with Jacob Grills and John Antonopoulos sharing time under center. The duo has nearly identical yardage totals and have both posted four touchdown passes. Zach Grasis is the squad's leading rusher with 697 yards, seven touchdowns, and a 4.9 yard per carry average this year. Ehab Hamdan paces the receiving corps with 34 catches for 431 yards and six touchdowns. Eric Lacroix is the anchor on defense with 44 total tackles and two interceptions. The Engineers have been vulnerable in the first quarter this year and are being outscored 51-20 in the opening 15 minutes of games.
Around The Liberty League... There were just two games on the Liberty League schedule last week with Rochester (NY) earning a 37-31 victory over RPI and Union falling 33-30 in a non-conference tilt against Western New England. #6 Hobart and St. Lawrence currently share the top spot in the standings with identical 3-0 conference records. This week's slate features four league match-ups: RPI vs. Hobart, Union vs. Rochester, St. Lawrence vs. Springfield, and USMMA vs. WPI.
Up Next... The Mariners will remain on the road next week to make-up the postponed October 5 contest at RPI. The two sides will meet November 2 for a 1:00 pm kick-off.