Flyers Head to Pittsburgh for Duquesne Game

The University of Dayton Flyer football team puts its 3-0 mark and 10-game winning streak on the line Saturday when they travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Duquesne Dukes. The winning streak is the longest in FCS football, dating back to last year.

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An era that was 33 years in the making began August 31 when the University of Dayton defeated Central State University for former Flyer linebacker and long-time assistant coach Rick Chamberlin's first career win in his first career game. Chamberlin was a Football Coaches Association Kodak All-American on UD's first Division III playoff team in 1978, and then served as a defensive assistant under head coaches Rick Carter and Mike Kelly. Chamberlin retains his responsibilities as the Dayton defensive coordinator in addition to his head coaching duties.


Mike Kelly's final season at the helm of the Flyer football program was one for the books, as UD went 11-1 and earned a share of the Pioneer Football League title. That put the Flyers in the Gridiron Classic against Albany, where they won 42-21 to claim the FCS Mid-Major national championship. Seven Flyers earned All-America status, including tight end Matt Champa, who was named on six different teams, and quarterback Kevin Hoyng, who finished his career as UD's career record holder in completions, passing yardage and total offense. UD took home three of the four top awards in the PFL. Kelly was Coach of the Year, Hoyng was Offensive Player of the Year, and Joe Castaneda was Rookie of the Year. And safety Brandon Cramer was named the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year for Division I football, the first such honor for the Flyer football program.


Since 2000, the Flyers have the second-best winning percentage in FCS football (.793 at the start of the year) AND have produced the most football Academic All-Americans at all levels of college football (14).


Dayton holds a 3-2 edge in the series, which goes back to 1920. In fact, the Duquesne series dates back farther than any other current Division I series in Flyer football history (UD played Xavier in 1908, but the Muskies no longer play football). Duquesne won the first meeting, and then UD won games played in 1923 and 1924. The rivalry was renewed in 2002, with the Flyers winning at Duquesne 42-16 on Sept. 29, 2001, and the Dukes getting a road win of their own (35-28) on Sept. 28, 2002.


1-1, with a 48-42 loss at Bucknell and 21-7 win at home over St. Francis, which was Duquesne's first game in the Northeast Conference. The Dukes found themselves down 48-7 at Bucknell before scoring 35 straight points. Quarterback Connor Dixon threw a school-record six TD's in the game, which was his first in a Duquesne uniform. A transfer from Michigan State, Dixon is currently third in FCS football in total offense (329.0) and sixth in passing efficiency (172.86). Dixon is 43-of-72 (.597) for 640 yards and six TD's, despite having the following first-quarter numbers: 4-of-14 (.286) for 13 yards and 0 TD's. He has not thrown an interception this season. Freshman linebacker Chidozie Oparanozie is the reigning NEC Rookie of the Week after intercepting two red-zone passes (returning one 55 yards) and making six tackles (four solo) in the St. Francis win. The Dukes look to senior running back Greg Hough and senior cornerback Aaron Strader for leadership as the 2008 captains.


In addition to having the FCS' longest active winning streak, UD has not been shut out in 356 straight games, the best such active string in all of college football. The last team to shut out the Flyers was Marshall, 9-0, on October 16, 1976.


Dayton defensive tackle Sean Heenan leads the PFL and is third in FCS football in sacks (1.33), moving ahead of end Scott Vossler who was tied for first in FCS football after two games. Dayton has four players in the PFL's top ten in sacks. Heenan is first, Vossler is second (either one has more sacks than three league teams), end Brandon Wingeier is fourth and linebacker Joe Reis is tenth. As a team, UD leads FCS football in sacks (4.7) and is fifth in tackles in the backfield (9.7). Eleven Flyers have been in at least an assisted sack already in 2008.


UD placed 10 players on the 2007 PFL All-League teams, and five return this season. Defensive tackle Kalen Hemmelgarn, Flyer Steve McDonald and defensive end Scott Vossler, all seniors, were on the first team last year. Sophomore cornerback Joe Castaneda and senior safety Corey Vossler were on the second team.


The Flyers also had seven players named to the Sports Network's 2007 FCS Mid-Major All-America teams, with three seniors back for this season. Kalen Hemmelgarn and Scott Vossler were on the first team, and Ben Shappie was on the second team.


Serving as captains for 2008 are quarterback Rob Florian, Flyer Steve McDonald and defensive end Scott Vossler. The trio of fifth-year seniors took varied routes to become captains. McDonald and Vossler were First Team All-PFL last season, while Florian has just one career start to his credit (in which he threw for 411 yards). McDonald redshirted due to an injury, Vossler redshirted for developmental reasons and Florian has been a team leader even though he has been UD's backup QB for the last three seasons.


Early in the 2008 season, the Flyers lead FCS football in sacks (4.7), are fifth in tackles for a loss (9.7), and are seventh in rushing defense (52.7). Dayton leads the PFL in sacks and rushing defense. Last season, UD led FCS football in sacks (4.00), was second in rushing defense (75.42), fourth in scoring defense (15.58) and total defense (271.50), and sixth in tackles in the backfield (8.45). The Flyers led the PFL in seven defensive categories in 2007.


The Dayton defense returned seven starters from last year (and that does not include All-American DT Kalen Hemmelgarn) and eight of its top ten tacklers. In addition, UD returned all four players who had multiple fumble recoveries, six of the seven who intercepted passes, four of the five who caused fumbles and three of the top four "sack artists" from last season. In 2007, Valparaiso came into the game on October 20 leading the PFL in rushing, averaging 239.9 yards a game. The Dayton D held VU to less than half (114 yards), including just 30 in the first half. San Diego came into the game on October 27 averaging just under 50 points and 500 yards a game, and was held to 16 points and 340 yards.


Dayton leads FCS football in sacks (4.7) through games of September 20. UD had 48 sacks last season, after getting just 13 in all of 2006. Four of the top six sack artists in the PFL were Flyers -- Scott Vossler was second and tied for 14th nationally (0.75), Kalen Hemmelgarn was third and 20th nationally (0.71), the since-transferred Bobby Burger was fifth and tied for 25th (0.67) and Sean Heenan was sixth and tied for 33rd (0.63). UD was the only team in FCS football with two players in the top twenty. Last year, UD's six sacks at Fordham came from six different players and 17 different Flyers recorded a sack on the season. Davidson came to Dayton on October 13 leading the nation in fewest sacks allowed (3), and UD sacked Wildcat QB Ryan Alexander three times in that game. San Diego had allowed just six sacks before allowing QB Josh Johnson to be bagged three times two weeks later.


Scott Vossler was named PFL, The Sports Network and College Sporting News Special Teams Player of the Week after blocking a punt and returning it for a TD, and also blocking a PAT that Joe Castaneda took back for two more points in UD's win over Patriot League favorite Fordham.


Offensive captain Rob Florian returns for his fifth year and steps up to replace record-setting QB Kevin Hoyng. In the season-opening win over CSU, Florian was 17 of 34 for 201 yards and two TD's. He also ran for the Flyers' other offensive TD. In the Fordham win, he was 18 of 32 for 172 yards and a TD. For the year, he is 53 of 101 (.5250 for 559 yards, four TD's and three interceptions. Florian entered 2008 with only one start in his career, but what a start it was. In 2006, without ever throwing a collegiate pass, Florian filled in for the injured Hoyng at Jacksonville and threw for 411 yards, just three yards short of the school single-game record. Last season, Florian completed 26 of 42 passes (.619) for 261 yards and two TD's. He led Cincinnati Elder to back-to-back Ohio High School Division I state championships in 2002 and 2003.


Senior running back Ben Shappie leads UD in rushing (40.7 yards a game). He had 65 yards on 12 carries against Central State. Shappie is back after being listed as starter every game in 2007, and finishing second on the team in rushing. Shappie's numbers of 529 yards and six touchdowns in 108 carries (4.9 yards per carry) were also ninth in the PFL in yards per game (44.1).


QB Rob Florian completed his 17 passes against CSU to seven different receivers. Six of them caught their first college pass in the game. Justin Millio leads UD with 16 receptions for 84 yards this season (including nine vs. Fordham). Steve Valentino is second with 14 catches for 172 yards (and a team-high three touchdowns) and Justin Watkins is third with four grabs for 74 yards (and a team-high 18.5 yards per catch. Valentino was UD's Offensive Player of the Week in the Fordham win.


Senior defensive back Matt Smyth moved to safety this season due to UD's depth at cornerback and started the first two games there before moving back to corner to fill in for the injured Joe Castaneda against Robert Morris. All Smyth did was earn PFL Defensive Player of the Week honors. He snared the first two of four interceptions the Flyers came up with in the game. He returned the first one 38 yards to put Dayton up 7-0, and added a 20-yard interception return on the second. He also batted away three other passes and was in on five tackles. He is tied for second (with teammate Corey Vossler) in the PFL in passes defended (1.7).


The Flyers' 55-14 PFL record is the best in the history of the league. UD has won nine league championships in the 15 years the PFL has existed. Including ties, UD has nine titles, the rest of the league has ten.


The UD Flyers moved to Welcome Stadium in 1974. The word "Welcome" implies hospitality, but Dayton has been anything but hospitable to its opponents at home, where its record is 188-37-2 (.833). The "Welcome" in Welcome Stadium is not a greeting, but an honor to the late Percival Welcome, longtime Director of Athletics for the Dayton Public Schools. UD has won 46 of its last 55 home games (7-0 last season), and 25 of its last 31 road games.


When Jon Gruden coached the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to the Super Bowl championship in 2003, he became the second UD grad to coach a Super Bowl winner. Former UD co-captain and 1993 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Chuck Noll won four Super Bowls (IX, X, XII & XIV) as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Noll started at center and linebacker for the Flyers and graduated from the University in 1953. Gruden played quarterback at Dayton and earned his degree in 1986. UD became only the third school to have two alumni coach Super Bowl winners. The others are San Jose State, with grads Bill Walsh (XIV, XIX, XXIII) and Dick Vermeil (XXXIV), and Arkansas with grads Jimmy Johnson (XXVII, XXVIII) and Barry Switzer (XXX). Gruden is the youngest coach to win a Super Bowl, and Noll is the fourth youngest. As a matter of fact, UD has ties to 18 Super Bowl rings. In addition to Noll's four and Gruden's one, five former members of Dayton coaching staffs own a total of 14 Super Bowl rings between them. They are the late Len Fontes (New York Giants, Super Bowl XXI), Jon's father Jim Gruden (San Francisco 49ers, Super Bowls XXII & XXIV), John McVay (49ers, XVI, XIX, XXII, & XXIV), current Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore (Pittsburgh Steelers, XIII & XIV, Indianapolis Colts XLI) and George Perles (Steelers, IX, X, XII & XIV). McVay was the Flyers' head coach from 1965-72, and Fontes, Gruden, Moore and Perles were on his staff.


Dayton returns to Welcome Stadium to face Campbell in UD's PFL opener. Game time is 1:00 p.m.