Tigers Host An Old Foe Saturday

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, November 18, 2010

Irony is an overused term, but this weekend, Montclair State will celebrate the 40th anniversary of its 1970 Knute Rockne Bowl championship team this Saturday in New Jersey – a 7-6 victory over the Hampden-Sydney Tigers.

Meanwhile, and for just the second time ever, the two teams will be facing one-another in a NCAA Division III Playoff Game at noon in Hampden-Sydney.

If not irony, Saturday's match-up is easily coincidental.

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The world of Division III athletics is quite more diverse than what one may think at first glance. Small, private schools make up a good portion of the division's membership, but there are a number of rather large public schools that dot the D-III landscape as well.

Saturday's game is a textbook definition in this contrast of schools.

Montclair State is roughly ten miles from the Meadowlands Sports Complex. Hampden-Sydney is just down the road from the Fireman's Sports Arena.

Founded in 1908, Montclair State has an undergraduate enrollment of 18,402 students. Hampden-Sydney, which was founded in 1775, has an enrollment of around 1,100.

The male-to-female ratio of students at Montclair State is 40-60. At Hampden-Sydney, it's 100-0.

On the gridiron, things begin to even up considerably. Both teams are 9-1 entering the playoffs, and received at large bids into the tournament. The Redhawks are ranked 20 (AFCA) and 21 (d3football.com) in the two major Division III polls, while H-SC is ranked 23 (d3football) and 25 (AFCA).

The Red Hawks captured a three-way share of the New Jersey Athletic Conference with a 21-8 victory over William Paterson last week. H-SC missed out on the Old Dominion Athletic Conference championship by one game.

Montclair State was led offensively by Matt Jimenez, who gained 85 yards and a touchdown on 23 carries, while AJ Scoppa had 49 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries. The Redhawks rushed for 118 yards as a team on 39 carries, while quarterback Tom Fischer was 6-13 passing for 134 yards and a passing touchdown to leading receiver Joe LaSala, who had three catches for 69 yards.

On the season, Jimenez has gained 498 yards and scored four touchdowns on 142 rushing attempts, while Chris D'Andrea has 453 yards and three touchdowns on 72 carries and Scoppa has 408 yards and four scores on 82 rushes. As a team, the Red Hawks have gained 1652 rushing yards on the season and have scored 12 touchdowns.

Fischer is 134-231 passing for 1993 yards, and has 21 touchdown tosses and eight interceptions.

The Red Hawks rely on their defense, which is giving up just 216.4 yards per game. MSU is averaging 27.6 ppg. offensively, while giving up just 9.7 ppg. defensively.

In last week's 31-28 victory over Randolph-Macon, the Tigers gave up two quick scores, but found a groove in the second and third quarters. Junior quarterback Travis Lane threw for 299 yards and a touchdown, while running in two more scores, while sophomore tailback Evan King scored the other touchdown on a 41-yard run. Sean Cavanagh had seven receptions for 125 yards, and senior linebacker Trevor Ikwild earned ODAC Defensive Player of the Week honors after accounting for 12 tackles and a game-saving interception that stopped R-MC from possibly tying the game in the third quarter.

On the season, Lane is 242-371 (65.2 percent) passing, and has 27 touchdowns and 17 interceptions on the season. He has thrown for 3024 yards in ten games. King has 440 yards rushing on the year, and 12 touchdowns on 94 attempts.

The trio of Kyle Vance, Cavanagh and Andrew Bruckner have proven to be solid outlets for Lane's tosses. Vance has 1077 yards and seven touchdowns on 76 receptions, while Cavanagh has 832 yards and seven scores on 54 grabs. Bruckner, who had a TD reception in last week's game against R-MC, has 457 yards and six touchdowns on 42 catches. As a team, H-SC is averaging 307 yards through the air per game, while gaining 112.3 yards per contest on the ground.

The H-SC defense is giving up 334.2 total yards per game (150.6 rushing and 183.6 passing). The Tigers are averaging 35 points per game, while giving up a solid 21.7 ppg. defensively.

As was the case in the only other meeting of the two teams back in 1970, the defenses could again set the tone. As different as the two schools are in mission, the similarities on the football field are strikingly similar. Expect another close game, though it's almost a given that the offenses will at least have more to say about the outcome in the rematch.