Westminster College hopes to end skid vs. Washington & Jefferson

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Westminster College has not fared well against Washington & Jefferson -- either historically or recently.

The Presidents have won 31 of 33 games in the series, including the past 11 in a row. And most of those 11 games were of the ugly blowout variety, with an average 40-12 score.

But there are some signs that the Titans (2-2, 1-2 PAC) will be able to reverse that trend this year and upset the Presidents (4-2, 2-1) when the two teams meet today at Cameron Stadium in Washington.

The Titans are well rested and coming off their second open week of the season, while the Presidents are still recovering from the death of tailback Tim McNerny and a 54-18 destruction at the hands of Thomas More.

More important, Westminster has drawn closer to Washington & Jefferson in recent years and last year nearly pulled off a win before falling, 20-16.

Earlier this year, Westminster also proved it could play with the top teams in the conference. The Titans led powerful Thomas More by three points until the final minute but ultimately lost a heartbreaker, 27-23.

The key for the Titans will be defense, which has been the team's strength this season and is one of the top-ranked units in the PAC.

Westminster allows only 14 points per game (No. 1-ranked scoring defense in the PAC) and ranks No. 2 in the conference in total defense (277.5 ypg), rushing yards (111.2) and total interceptions (7).

Other games

IUP at Edinboro, Sox Harrison Stadium, noon -- This is essentially an elimination game in the PSAC West Division: Contenders IUP (5-1, 2-1 PSAC West) and Edinboro (3-2, 2-1) have one loss apiece, hanging just below undefeated Mercyhurst and California.

The key for the Crimson Hawks will be tailback Harvie Tuck, who is coming off a monster game, running 36 times for 233 yards in a win against Slippery Rock. The PSAC's leading rusher is averaging 165.8 yards per game and has scored 10 touchdowns.

Edinboro, whose rush defense has been porous (168.2 ypg, 10th in the PSAC), will have to figure out a way to stop Tuck as well as solve the Crimson Hawks defense, the top-ranked unit in the PSAC.

Youngstown State at Illinois State, 2:04 p.m., Hancock Stadium -- The contest is a big one for both Youngstown State (4-1, 1-1 MVFC) and Illinois State (5-1, 2-1), as each seeks to rebound from its first loss of the season.

The Penguins, ranked No. 8/9 and coming off a 42-7 loss to No. 1 North Dakota State, face a ranked opponent for the third week in a row.

Illinois State is No. 14/16 in the two polls. The Redbirds were shut out last weekend by Southern Illinois and lost last year at Youngstown State, 27-13.

Youngstown State, however, lost in its previous trip to Hancock Stadium, 42-35. The Penguins lead the all-time series 11-10.

It should help that tailback Jamaine Cook and quarterback Kurt Hess have had big games against the Redbirds the past two years. In those two games, Cook rushed 72 times for 335 yards and two touchdowns, while Hess completed 50 of 67 passes for 543 yards and six touchdowns.

Robert Morris at Bryant, 1 p.m., Bulldogs Stadium -- Time is running out for Robert Morris (1-4, 0-2 NEC) to turn around its season and salvage a winning record, and it would seem like the Bulldogs (0-6, 0-4) would be the perfect opponent to get things started.

Though Bryant is down this year, perhaps this game won't be as easy for the Colonials as it seems.

Bryant is 4-0 all time against Robert Morris and is the only team that the Colonials have played at least three times that they have never beaten. Last year, Bryant came from behind to win, 34-27, a recurring theme in these games.

The other common theme is close competition: Bryant has won each of the past three meetings with Robert Morris by a touchdown.

If the Colonials can win this game, they certainly would have an opportunity to get on a bit of a winning streak as their next opponent is Central Connecticut State (0-5, 0-2).

sportscollegedistrict

Paul Zeise: pzeise@post-gazette.com or Twitter: @paulzeise.


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