District notebook: High-powered offenses dominate in PSAC

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Defense may win championships, but the team that emerges as champion of the PSAC better be able to score points, too.

That's because the teams in the conference are quite offensive these days.

Four PSAC teams -- Shippensburg (No. 2), Bloomsburg (No. 3), Kutztown (No. 14) and California (No. 15) -- average more than 480 yards of total offense per game and rank in the top 15 in total offense in NCAA Division II.

Shippensburg (4-0) has been by far the most potent.

The Raiders have averaged 568.75 yards of total offense per game and are second in NCAA Division II in scoring at 54.25 ppg.

The Raiders have scored 30 touchdowns in four games and are one of only four teams in NCAA Division II that have scored at least 200 points.

But beyond the top four teams, there are four other PSAC teams -- East Stroudsburg, IUP, West Chester and Mercyhurst -- that rank in the top third in total offense and average more than 400 yards per game.

Individually, the conference also boasts three of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the nation in California's Peter Lalich (No. 8) and Edinboro's Cody Harris and Kutztown's Kevin Norton (tied for ninth).

Another big game

California has been a Division II power for some time and annually is one of the top teams in the PSAC, so the Vulcans must play nearly every week against a team hoping to make its mark by knocking them off.

So, one week after beating rival IUP, the Vulcans will play host Saturday to surprising West Chester (3-1).

West Chester is 2-0 in the PSAC East and after a 45-24 win against Kutztown and is off to its best start since 2007.

A victory against California would validate the Golden Rams' early success.

Not surprising, the story for California, which beat IUP, 26-24, on a late field goal, has been a high-powered offense led by Lalich, who has thrown for 1,433 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Vulcans average 482 yards of total offense per game and 358 yards passing. Receiver Mike Williams is the nation's fourth-leading receiver at 121 yards per game.

Back on top?

Youngstown State won a showdown of top-10 Division I-AA teams this past weekend when the Penguins beat Northern Iowa, 42-35, to improve to 4-0 and move into the top three in both I-AA national rankings for the first time since the '01 season.

The Penguins, idle this week, won four I-AA national titles from '91-97, but they have not been able to duplicate that level of success since.

They will find out if they are again ready to make a run for a national championship a week from Saturday.

That is when they visit North Dakota State to take on the defending national champion and No. 1-ranked Bison.

Getting defensive

Washington and Jefferson under Mike Sirianni annually has been one of the most prolific offensive teams in NCAA Division III and one of the most fun teams to watch.

But the Presidents proved they can play a little bit of defense as well Saturday and sent a message they are going to be a force in the PAC this season.

That's because the Presidents held Thiel to 168 yards of total offense and shut them out, 17-0, to improve to 2-0 in the PAC and remain in a first-place tie with Waynesburg.

The Presidents forced five sacks and two interceptions against the Tomcats.

They rank second in the PAC in scoring defense (12.8 ppg) and third in total defense (244.2 ypg).

Rankings

California is No. 6 in both the coaches' and D2football.com polls, and IUP is No. 22 in the coaches' poll and No. 23 in the D2Football.com poll despite its loss to California.

No district colleges are ranked in the Division III polls, although Carnegie Mellon and Waynesburg are receiving votes in the coaches' poll.

Allegheny, CMU and Washington and Jefferson are receiving votes in the D3Football.com poll.

sportscollegedistrict

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1720 and Twitter @paulzeise.


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