(September 22, 2004)

For the first time in 2004, all 14 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference football teams will be in action as league play begins. For the remainder of the regular season, six games will pair divisional match-ups and there will be one Eastern Division vs. Western Division crossover contest.

This week's crossover game pits Indiana (Pa.) at Bloomsburg, a battle of two teams ranked in the D2Football.com poll. IUP is ranked 19th, down one spot following its bye week, while Bloomsburg re-enters the poll at No. 25. Shippensburg has the highest designation in the poll at No. 13, up two spots from a week ago. East Stroudsburg climbed from No. 25 to No. 21. In the American Football Coaches Association poll, Shippensburg is ranked No. 10 (No. 12 last week), followed by IUP at No. 20 (18) and East Stroudsburg at No. 23 (25).

In addition to PSAC divisional titles, in 2004 conference teams will be competing for one of six playoff spots awarded to teams in the NCAA Northeast Region. This year's playoffs have been expanded to allow eight more participants - two each in the nation's four regions - allowing a total of 24 Division II schools to take part in the postseason. The first regional polls are scheduled for release on September 27.

Following is a brief preview of this week's action:

Saturday, September 25

West Chester (2-2) at Cheyney (1-3) - 1 p.m.

West Chester owns a commanding 36-1-1 record against Cheyney and has not lost to the Wolves since 1979... WEST CHESTER enters the final game of a five-game road trip to start the season... Last week the Golden Rams were respectable in a 24-6 loss to defending Division I-AA national champion Delaware... RBs Osagie Osunde (60.8 ypg) and Brent Steinmetz (58.2 ypg) lead the ground game... Brandon Simmons and Matt Chambers have led the receiving corps with 18 and 12 catches, respectively... The West Chester defense yielded an average of 250 yards in the team's two wins... The group is headed by LB Dan Faubel (30 TT, 4 TFL) and SS Isaiah Harrison (29 TT, 2 TFL, 2 INT)... CHEYNEY was undaunted from its worst loss in school history two weeks ago and rebounded to post a 6-0 win over West Virginia State last week... The Wolves got a special effort from LB Cavanaugh Nweze, who had 12 TT, including the key stop on fourth and goal to thwart the best WVS scoring opportunity... Nweze leads the team with 33 TT... DB Orlando Payton has 19 TT and a team-high 3 PB... RB Tyrone Bryant hopes to see action after playing only in the season opener (153 yds vs. Lock Haven)... WRs Jamal Clark (16 rec) and Charles Johnson (10) are other key threats.

Slippery Rock (2-2) at Lock Haven (1-3) - 1 p.m.

Slippery Rock has won every game played in the series since 1981 with the exception of a 21-21 tied in 1988... Last year The Rock came out on top, 24-13... SLIPPERY ROCK has overcome a deceiving 0-2 start to win the last two weeks... In its most productive offensive effort to date, SRU racked up 409 yards in a 49-14 win over Fairmont St. last week... RB Josh Kniess posted three straight 100+ yard games to start the year before limited action last week... He ranks 4th in the league in rushing... Corey Manfull kept the team's streak alive by rushing for 129 yards on 18 carries last week... HB Brandon Richardson and WR Luke Wetzell are the team's top receivers with 10 and 9 catches, respectively... The Rock ranks third in the PSAC with 246 ypg allowed and has not allowed more than 220 yards against any of their DII opponents... They have also posted 35 TFL, four each from LB Justin Poorbaugh, DE Mike Jennings and DL Brian Godfrey... LOCK HAVEN has dropped three straight games after its lidlifter win over Cheyney... The Bald Eagles struggled in a 54-0 loss at Bloomsburg last week, gaining just 65 yards of total offense while surrendering 498... Lock Haven has played much better at home, though, outscoring opponents by a combined 55-47 margin opposed to its 116-7 disadvantage on the road... The main weapon on offense is RB Maurice Walker who is 8th in the league with 89.0 yards per game and has added 7 receptions for 69 yards... WR Rafael Smith has 10 catches for 136 yards and 3 scores... The defense DB David Show has 33 TT and one INT, while DL Brad Sones boasts a team-best 5 TFL.

Edinboro (2-1) at Shippensburg (4-0) - 1 p.m.

These two teams were picked by the coaches in the preseason to finish in the top two spots in the Western Division... Shippensburg was Edinboro's only blemish in Western Division play last year, winning an exciting 40-34 battle... Shippensburg has won six of the last seven match-ups, including three straight... EDINBORO has rebounded from an opening season loss to East Stroudsburg to win its last two games by a combined 102-33 margin... Edinboro outscored W. Va. Tech and Tiffin by a combined 88-0 during the first half of those contests... Tailback Andre Burke is second in the PSAC in rushing and leads the league with 14 ppg... QB Justin Bouch is 5th in the league in passing yardage and throws primarily to WR Justin Lipscomb, who ranks 4th in receiving yards and 6th in receptions... The defensive strength lies in the LBs... Dylan Wessell and Seth Fragale both rank among the league's top 10 tacklers and Wessell has 2 FF... DB Chris Avery (4 PB) has helped fill the void while FS Raji El-Amin has missed action due to injury... Edinboro is 4th in DII by allowing just 45 ypg via the rush... SHIPPENSBURG is off to a 4-0 start for the first time since 1993... The Red Raiders attribute much of their success to FB John Kuhn who rushed for a career-high 234 yards and totaled 58 more on 3 catches in a 49-27 win over Millersville... His total was just over half of the team's 418 rushing yards on the day... Shippensburg's rush offense should be a good gauge of Edinboro's defense as it leads the league in rushing with 277.8 ypg and ranks second in total offense with 457.2 ypg... The Red Raiders are stout on defense as well, leading the league in points allowed (11 ppg) and ranking third against the rush (63 ypg)... Six players have between 16 and 25 tackles... LB Chris Leonetti and DE Ryan Hoffman each have 6 TFL... Hoffman has 4.5 sacks on the year... The team has a PSAC best 14 sacks.

Millersville (1-2) at East Stroudsburg (3-0) - 1:05 p.m.

East Stroudsburg has won the last three meetings, including a 28-24 triumph last season... MILLERSVILLE hung tough with Shippensburg through the first 22 minutes, but the Red Raiders rattled off 21 straight points to close out the half and eventually downed the homestanding Marauders by a 49-27 count... QB Dan Csencsitz continues to lead the charge... He completed 72.2 % of his passes last week for 304 yards and 2 TD... He has thrown for no less than 264 yards in each of Millersville's games this year and heads up the PSAC in passing yardage per game... WRs Omar Sanders, Andy Neupauer and Ryan Clift all average over 6 catches per game... LB Joe Hollister leads the team with 36 tackles and DL Chuck Koch tops Millersville with 3 sacks... EAST STROUDSBURG will try to match Millersville's passing game with one of its own... QB Jim Terwilliger is 2nd in passing efficiency and passing ypg... Terwilliger's favorite targets are WR Tim Strenfel (1st rec yds; 2nd rec), WR Evan Prall (8th rec, 10th rec yds) and FB Anthony Carfagno (9 rec, 149 yds)... The Warriors big-play defense is led by LBs Matt Rapa and Henry Breckenridge, as well as CB Matt Crispell, the league INT leader (4)... ESU has not started a season 4-0 since 1976.

Mansfield (0-3) at Kutztown (2-1) - 1:05 p.m.

Mansfield ended a nine-game losing streak to Kutztown with last season's 45-24 win... MANSFIELD has led or been tied at the half in its last two games, but its opponents have gone on to outscore the Mountaineers, 41-10, in the second half of those games... Coming off a bye, Mansfield did get some encouragement in the passing game two weeks ago against Clarion... The Mountaineers threw for 215 yards after hitting for just 67 combined yards through the first two games... WR Joe Bennett has caught 12 passes for 126 yds and 2 TD... RB Earnest McNeal is averaging 63 ypg on the ground and hopes to regain the form that he displayed last year in rushing for a school-record 1,684 yards... The defense has 11 players with double-digit tackles, led by LB Andre Turner with 25... KUTZTOWN, like Mansfield, is coming off a bye week... The Golden Bears have won two straight after opening the season with a 35-0 loss to Shippensburg... In its most recent action, RBs Tony Bria (117 rushing yds) and Stephen Gammage (77 yds) spearheaded a 28-20 win over Lock Haven... Bria ranks 9th in the league in rushing... WR James Brooks (12 rec, 141 yds) teams with All-PSAC East wideout Trevor Smith (60 rec, 843 yds, 7 TD in 2003) to ignite the aerial attack... Kutztown's defense has improved in its last two contests, giving up just 201 rushing yards and 34 points... That unit gets a lift from LBs Drew Hicks (30 TT, 4 TFL) and Yusef Turner (19 TT, 6 TFL).

IUP (2-1) at Bloomsburg (2-1) - 3 p.m.

IUP has won seven of the last eight against Bloomsburg, including last year's wild 42-40 outcome in which the Indians overcame three two-touchdown deficits and survived a late flurry by the Huskies... IUP, coming off a bye week, has been on an emotional rollercoaster in its last two contests... The Indians hammered highly touted Nebraska Omaha on the road, 42-21, before returning home and suffering one of its worst-ever losses, a 52-19 setback to nationally ranked Catawba... IUP has not lost on the road since the first game of 2002, a string of 10 straight games... The key offensive component has been RB Mike Jemison, who ranks 5th in the PSAC in rushing and has rushed for over 100 yards in 11 of his 12 games at IUP... QB Kevin Weidel throws for 209.7 ypg and (4th) and has big-play WR Joe Slappy (12 rec) and LeRon McCoy (11 rec) at his disposal... The defense is a quick one, led by DE Kirby Griffin (20 TT, 7 TFL, 5 Sk) and LB (brother) Kris Griffin (16 TT, 5 TFL, 2 Sk)... BLOOMSBURG recovered from a 48-10 setback to Shippensburg two weeks ago to dominate Lock Haven, 54-0, last week.. The Huskies outgained LHU, 498-65 in total offense, including a 431-49 advantage on the ground... They just missed having a trio of 100-yard rushers as Mike Ceroli (19-156), Julius Brown (16-122) and Jamaar Brittingham (12-95) carried the load... QB Jack Lydic threw for 22 TDs, including 5 against IUP, last season, but has managed just one scoring toss so far in 2004... LB Rodney Johnson leads the team with 19 TT and 2 INT... Minus the Shippensburg game, Bloomsburg has yielded just 17 points on the season... This is Bloomsburg's fourth straight game against a PSAC-West school to start the season, and fifth overall dating back to last season's finale vs. IUP.

California (3-0) at Clarion (2-2) - 6 p.m.

California ended a four-game slide to Clarion with last year's 13-7 win... CALIFORNIA's undefeated march has been impressive, as it has outscored opponents by an average of 46 to 18 ppg... An offense that was lacking in 2003 seems to be a strength this season... The team has already racked up 19 TD on the season, just one shy of its 2003 total... Every "skill" position has been solid, headed up by PSAC leading rusher Antoine Bagwell (167 ypg, 6 TD)... WRs Garvin Graves and Claude Whittaker have both caught 16 passes, and both rank among the league's top six in yardage and catches... QB Joe Ruggiero completes 62.3% of his passes and has an efficiency rating of 158.3 (3rd)... The defense has an amazing 40 TFL, with nine players with at least 3... LB Brian Oddi has a team-best 23 TT... The Vulcans rank 3rd (38.3 ypg) in the country in rush defense and 4th (199.7 ypg) in total defense... CLARION, like last year, has been in some close games... None of the team's contests have been outside a two-TD margin... After dropping its first two game, the Golden Eagles now ride a two-game win streak... The most points Clarion has allowed this year was 25 at Kutztown, but 3 of the TDs allowed that day were scored by Kutztown's offense or special teams... The defense has been a strength, as Clarion matches Cal's 40 TFL on the year and is tied for the league lead with 10 INTs... Standouts include LB Zach Gourley (6 TFL), DL Ben Heisel (8 TFL, 2 Sk) and two-time West Defensive Player of the Week DB Dwaon Woodard (18 TT, 2 INT, 7 PB)... Woodard also leads the league in punt returns with a 17.6 yard avg... The offense relies on the running game, particularly Marcus Lowe, who is tied for sixth in the league... Glenn Lovelace (32 ypg) is another threat... TE Dan Tucker has a team-best 9 receptions.

Number of the week:

26 - Number of TD receptions Mansfield WR Joe Bennett has in 30 career games with the Mountaineers.