NO ONE'S DOING IT BETTER The Flyers entered the season with the second-best winning percentage (.788, 78-21) in FCS football since 2000 AND have produced the most football Academic All-Americans (17) at any level of competition in the same time frame.
STREAKING UD has not been shut out in 368 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 Oct. 16, 1976. That is also the all-time FCS record.
SERIES STUFF The series is tied 3-3, even though the football relationship between the two schools dates back to 1920. Duquesne won the first meeting, Dayton the next three contests in 1923, 1924 and 2001, and the Dukes took the last two, including last year's 24-16 game at Rooney Field on Sept. 27.
THE DUKES ARE... 1-2, despite outgaining their opponents by an average of more than 100 yards a game (385.7 to 285.3). This is the third of three straight road games for Duquesne, and the Dukes have lost both by seven points -- 14-7 at Nicholls State and 17-10 at Monmouth. The Duke defense has only allowed five TD's in three games and is led by linebackers Anthony Rhoades and Nathan Totino. Rhoades has 25 tackles, and Totino (a 2008 First Team All-NEC selection) is right behind with 23. Michigan State transfer Dave Williams is the favorite target of quarterbacks Kevin Rombach and Connor Dixon. Williams is tied for 15th nationally in receptions per game (7.0) and is 10th in yards per game (106.7).
LAST YEAR'S GAME--DU 24, UD 16 Duquesne scored 14 points in the final nine minutes of the game to hand Dayton its first loss of 2008. The Flyers outgained Duquesne 405 to 353, but committed three turnovers to just one gained. Field position played a huge role in the game. Duquesne started seven of its drives around midfield or better, while Dayton started every possession in its own territory. Ben Shappie led the way offensively for UD, carrying the ball 16 times for 94 yards. DU's Cleo Williams had 103 yards on 25 carries. Connor Dixon was 12 of 32 for 230 yards and two TD's for Duquesne.
CAPTAIN MY CAPTAIN UD is led by captains Drew Fumagalli, Sean Heenan and Steve Valentino. Fumagalli is a redshirt senior linebacker from Naperville, Ill. He played in only nine games due to injury, but still had 21 solo tackles and 36 total tackles with a sack and three tackles in the backfield. Heenan, a redshirt senior defensive tackle from St. Joseph, Mich., is the OCF Preseason Defensive Player of the Year among FCS Subdivision teams in the state of Ohio. He was Second Team All-PFL after finishing second on the team in sacks (7.0) and tackles in the backfield (12.5). He was also selected a Second Team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American in 2008. He is this year's Flyer nominee for the NFF Scholar-Athlete Award. Valentino is a senior wide receiver/quarterback/kick returner from Solon, Ohio. He was First Team All-PFL after catching 50 passes (2nd on the team) for 626 yards (1st) and four TD's (1st). He was in the top five in the PFL in receiving yards per game (5th, 52.2), punt return average (5th, 11.8), kickoff return average (2nd, 23.9) and all-purpose yards per game (4th, 122.2).
ALL PFL ALL BACK Four of the ten UD players who were named All-PFL in 2008 are back in the Red & Blue in 2009. Wideout Steve Valentino was a first team selection, as were defensive tackle Kalen Hemmelgarn and linebacker Joe Ries. Defensive tackle Sean Heenan was a second-team selection.
DAYTON D The Flyers return eight starters from the team that finished in the FCS top ten of all four major defensive statistical categories last year. The Flyers were ninth in pass efficiency defense (100.61), sixth in total defense (255.83), fifth in scoring defense (15.33) and second in rushing defense (60.67). Four of the starters are in the heart of the defense - all-conference performers Kalen Hemmelgarn and Sean Heenan at tackle and Joe Ries at linebacker, and co-captain Drew Fumagalli at the other linebacker. The other four returning starters on defense are defensive end Brandon Wingeier, cornerback Scott Horcher, safety Kevin Burns and cornerback/safety Matt Smyth. Smyth started at both positions in 2008, and led FCS football in passes defended per game (1.75). He is expected to start at corner in 2009. Wingeier was just one of four non-seniors named a 2008 ESPN The Magazine First Team Academic All-American. Horcher's 27 career starts are the most of anyone on the team. Burns moved into the starting lineup for the last 10 games of the season, and only two returning players had more tackles than his 52 hits. One of those two players with more tackles was James Vercammen, who had 62 tackles (36 solo). Vercammen is expected to start at Flyer, UD's hybrid safety/linebacker position, after starting the last three games of the year (FYI, Ries was the other player with more tackles than Burns. Ries had 74.)
ENDANGERED SPECIES The top three quarterbacks coming out of spring ball for the Flyers are laid up with shoulder injuries. Redshirt sophomore Jeff Pechan, who started two games last year suffered an on-the-job accident over the summer and tore his labrum. Pechan is out for the year. Redshirt freshman Timmy Fogarty started the Urbana game and went 7-of-14 for 28 yards before spraining his shoulder when he landed on it as he was being sacked. Fogarty is expected to be out at least one more game. Sophomore Jared Phillips came in for Fogarty and was 14 of 32 for 145 yards, but injured his shoulder on the last play of the Urbana game. He was in uniform at Robert Morris, but has been limited in practice. To make matters worse, the top freshman QB, Paul Fackler, is just now back after missing time with an injured elbow. Ironically, the player on the roster with the most passes is UD's all-conference receiver, Steve Valentino, who came into the year with 20 career passes filling at QB the last two seasons. He got the start and led UD to the win at RMU.
V IS FOR VERSATILE... When the UD football team had its annual Picture Day, none of the six quarterbacks in the "QB Group" photo wore number seven. But after leading UD to a 21-14 win at Robert Morris and being named the Pioneer Football League's Offensive Player of the Week, it's safe to assume that senior captain Steve Valentino is in the picture now. Valentino played quarterback in high school and spent his redshirt freshman season running UD's scout team. He then played backup QB and threw just five passes in 2007, but was moved to wideout the following spring. Last year he caught 50 passes and was named First Team All-PFL. Voted a team captain last spring, he did not take any snaps at quarterback until Tuesday, Sept. 15. With four days practice, Valentino threw for two touchdowns and was 14 of 29 passing for 192 yards with one interception. He was also UD's leading ground gainer, carrying the ball 21 times for 58 yards. In the season opener against Urbana he started at wideout and turned 10 "touches" in to 150 yards in the Urbana game. He caught five passes for 45 yards (including a 10-yard TD), returned three punts for 36 yards (12.0 avg.) and two kickoff s for 69 yards (34.5 avg.). He'll get plenty of "touches" this week, as he is slated to start at quarterback in place of the two injured QB's from week one. Even though it's unlikely he will get a chance to pad his totals as long as he is playing quarterback, he leads UD in kickoff return average (34.5) and punt return average (12.0). He is still second in the PFL in punt return average.
GOOD HANDS PEOPLE Although none of the active quarterbacks heading into the season for the Flyers had thrown a pass in a college game, there's plenty of experience at the other end of the transaction. UD returned four of its top five receivers from last season, and a record-setting wideout from two years ago. Redshirt senior JMichael Jonard caught a then-school-record 64 passes (for 756 yards and six touchdowns) in 2007. He was not enrolled in school during the 2008 season, and in his absence, redshirt sophomore Justin Millio pulled in the current record of 66 passes for 526 yards and three TD's. Also back are Steve Valentino (2nd on team, 50 catches for 626 yards, 4 TD's), Nick Collins (3rd, 33 for 482, 3 TD's) and Justin Watkins (5th, 16 for 286, 3 TD's). Valentino, a team captain, was First Team All-PFL in 2008. With Valentino starting at QB, Watkins is expected to be the team's primary deep threat. While Valentino is the fastest player on the team, Watkins' career 16.9 yards-per-catch average is the best on the team by nearly four yards a catch.
ELEMENTARY... Senior wideout Justin Watkins caught seven passes for 97 yards and a touchdown at Robert Morris. He leads UD in receiving this season (10 catches for 136 yards), and is fourth in the PFL in catches per game (5.0) and yards per game (68.0).
WELCOME BACK... JMichael Jonard's return after a year away from football didn't show any rust. He caught a career-high nine passes for 71 yards in the Urbana game. He is sixth in the Pioneer Football League in receptions per game (4.5).
NICKED UP(FIELD)... Nick Collins leads UD in yards per catch after two games played, averaging 14.5 yards per reception.
GROUND GAME... After being held to just 10 yards on the ground in the Urbana game, Dayton got a little more respectable with 114 at Robert Morris. Steve Valentino leads the team in rushing with 58 net yards.
IT'S WHAT'S UP FRONT THAT COUNTS Up front, starting redshirt sophomore center Blake Saul and senior right guard Tyler Friedrich are the only two returning starters back on the offensive line, although Saul is yet to play in 2009 due to injury. Whoever starts at the other three (Eric Studt and Dan Prindle at the tackles and Dan Fornek at left guard) will be a varsity letterwinner, taking advantage of UD's great depth on the line. Redshirt sophomore Justin Griffis, another letterwinner, started in place of Saul in the first two games of the season. In 2008, UD quarterbacks threw 425 passes, while being sacked just 18 times. That's just one sack for every 24 pass attempts. By contrast, Dayton opponents were sacked once every 13 times they threw the ball. So far in 2009, Flyer QB's are averaging 24 passes for every sack again, and the Flyer foes are being sack every nine passes.
THE FLYER FLYER... Senior James Vercammen has taken over the "Flyer" position (a hybrid DB/LB role) in the Dayton defense, and he was named the PFL Defensive Player of the Week after getting 10 solo tackles and two assists at Robert Morris. Included in his 12 tackles in the RMU win were three in the backfield and a sack. Vercammen leads the PFL and is tied for fifth nationally in tackles per game (13.0). He also leads the league in hits in the backfield (2.5) and is tied for second in FCS football. He came through with 14 tackles in the opener. That's the best in the PFL and second-best in FCS football. His two tackles in the backfield also tie him for first in the league.
FILLING SOME BIG SHOES... After playing opposite and in the shadow of PFL Defensive Player of the Year Scott Vossler, defensive end Brandon Wingeier has stepped up his game. He currently leads the PFL and is tied for third nationally in sacks (1.5), and is second in the league in tackles in the backfield (1.75). At Robert Morris, he had five tackles (four solo), with two sacks and two in the backfield, with a fumble forced and a fumble recovered.
STARTER JACKET... Cornerback Scott Horcher has started a team-high 28 games in his UD career. Number 27 was one to remember against Urbana. He had 10 tackles (eight solo), broke up two passes and intercepted another. He added seven tackles at Robert Morris. He has seven career interceptions, tied for third among active PFL players.
BURNSIE... Senior safety Kevin Burns had 12 hits in the Urbana game, including one in the backfield.
McGLAVIN Senior Nick Glavin returns at kicker for the Flyers after doing most of the placekicking for the last two seasons. Last year, he was second on the team in scoring with 72 points. He was 39 of 42 on PAT's, and 11 of 16 in field goals with a long of 42 yards. He led the PFL in kick scoring (averaging 6.0 points a game). He also punted in 2008, averaging 34.0 yards a punt. Of his 54 punts, 14 were downed inside the 20 and another 11 were fair caught. Glavin was one-for-two in field goals in the Urbana, opening the scoring with a career-long 43-yarder. He has 15 career field goals, the best in the PFL among active players.
MILLER'S CORNER... Redshirt sophomore Nate Miller's debut as UD's punter was a solid one. He punted nine times for a 38.9 yard average, but five of his nine punts were downed inside the 20. He had a long punt of 50 yards. On the season, Miller averages 37.4 yards a punt, and seven of his 14 punts have been inside the 20-yard line this year.
FIVE FLYERS RECOGNIZED BY OHIO COLLEGE FOOTBALL Ohio College Football.com selected a preseason All-Ohio NCAA FCS/NCAA II/NAIA Team, and honored five UD players on it, including DT Sean Heenan, who was tabbed their preseason defensive player of the year. Also chosen were fellow defensive tackle Kalen Hemmelgarn, linebacker Joe Ries, center Blake Saul, cornerback Matt Smyth and wide receiver Steve Valentino.
TOUCHDOWNS FOR TOTS Chamberlin has announced a new charity initiative for the upcoming season. In 2009, UD will conduct "Touchdowns for Tots" benefitting the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve's Toys for Tots program. For every touchdown scored by the Flyers, National City, now a part of PNC Bank will donate $50 to Toys for Tots. In addition, the home football game against San Diego will be "Touchdowns for Tots Day" and fans will be encouraged to bring a toy to donate to Toys for Tots.
TUESDAY NIGHT LIGHTS The Flyers are continuing "Tuesday Night Lights," the free program where pee wee football teams take the field for a practice with the University of Dayton football team, for the third straight year. For eight Tuesdays in September and October, teams that sign up in advance will get a pre-practice talk from Flyer head coach Rick Chamberlin, take the field to warm up with the UD football team, and then observe practice until their evening is over at 8:15 p.m.
ONE SCORE AGO The 1989 NCAA Division III national championship team will be inducted as a unit into the University of Dayton Athletic Hall of Fame at the Davidson game.
THE PFL COACHES HAVE SPOKEN The UD football team has been predicted to place second (tied with defending champ Jacksonville) in the annual PFL coaches poll. For the fourth consecutive season, the Pioneer Football League's coaches have tabbed San Diego as the preseason favorite, but only voted them five of 10 possible first-place votes. The league's coaches also expect a competitive conference race as only six points separate the Toreros from Dayton and Jacksonville. Dayton picked up three first place votes and Jacksonville received the other two first place votes. Following Jacksonville were Morehead State (51) and Butler (42) to round out the league's top five. Drake (40) was picked to finish sixth followed by Davidson (37), league newcomer Marist (32), Valparaiso (20) and Campbell (nine).
600 CLUB The Flyers became the 11th NCAA FCS team (and the first west of the Alleghenies) to win at least 600 games in its football history when UD beat Davidson on October 18, 2008. Here are the 12 members of the club, heading into the 2009 season. Yale (853), Harvard (798), Penn (796), Princeton (780), Fordham (738), Dartmouth (643), Lafayette (640), Delaware (633), Lehigh (625), Cornell (616), Dayton (603) and North Dakota State (601). Of the 600 Club members, Dayton has played the fewest seasons (101, nine fewer than Fordham's 110).
MORE THAN HIS FAIR SHARE UD head coach Rick Chamberlin has been a part of 304 of UD's 604 wins - 26 as a player, 268 as an assistant coach, and 10 as a head coach.
PFL POWER The Flyers' 61-18 PFL record is the best in the history of the league. UD has won nine league championships (including ties) in the 15 years the PFL has existed. The rest of the league has 11 combined.
WELCOME MAT The UD Flyers moved to Welcome Stadium in 1974. The word "Welcome" implies hospitality, but UD has been anything but hospitable to its opponents at home, where it is 190-39-2 (.827). The "Welcome" in Welcome Stadium is not a greeting, but an honor to the late Percival Welcome, longtime AD for the Dayton Public Schools.
GREAT GRAD RATES UD's was one of two PFL teams and only 23 teams nationally to earn Public Recognition Awards from the NCAA for their performance in graduating their student-athletes in the sport of football. Public Recognition Awards are given to those programs recognized by the NCAA as one of the teams in the top 10 percent for Academic Progress Rate in their respective sport. The teams recognized were Air Force, Brown, Bucknell, Colgate, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Davidson, Dayton, Duke, Harvard, Holy Cross, Navy, New Hampshire, Penn, Princeton, Rice, Richmond, Rutgers, Stanford, Villanova, William & Mary and Yale. Only 19 of the 331 NCAA Division I schools had more teams cited than the eight that Dayton had. The UD sports recognized were men's and women's basketball, football, men's and women's golf, women's soccer, men's tennis and women's indoor track.
HITTING THE BOOKS The Dayton football program has produced 17 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-Americans since the 2000 season. That's most at any level of college football. Last season, four Flyers were named Academic All-American, the most in one year in school history. Named to the first team were Bart Bergfeld and Brandon Wingeier, while Sean Heenan and Patrick McCormick were selected to the second team. In the history of the Academic All-America program, UD has had 48 Academic All-Americans. Among schools currently playing Division I football, only Nebraska (97) and Notre Dame (52) have had more. Ohio State has also had 48. UD's total includes safety Brandon Cramer who was named the 2007 Division I football Academic All-American of the Year, capping a career that saw him named an Academic All-American for three straight seasons. Covering all sports, at least one University of Dayton student-athlete has been named an Academic All-American for 25 straight years.
THE BOOKS TOOK A BEATING LAST YEAR The University of Dayton placed 13 Flyer football players on the 2008 University Division ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District IV Team, the most of any team in the country. The Dayton list included seven first-team selections which tied with Penn State's seven for the most first-team selections of any Division I program. In the district, the 13 Flyers named to the first and second teams were more than twice as many as the next team, Ohio State, who had six. UD had eight players named to the 2007 ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District Team, twice as many as any other school in the district. At least 12 Flyers were nominated for Academic All-America in each of the last four years (16 the last two seasons).
GOTTA PLAY SMART The University of Dayton placed a league-best 16 players on the 2008 Academic All-Pioneer Football League team. UD's 16 selections were almost triple as much as anyone else in the league. Drake and Butler each had six players selected. It was the sixth straight year UD had the most players on the PFL Academic team. Since the team's origin in 1993, nearly 30 percent (172 of 585) of the PFL All Academic selections have been Dayton Flyers. UD also had PFL-high 69 players on the PFL Academic Honor Roll (3.0 GPA or better). That was 13 better than the next-best school, and was the 15th time in the 16-year history of the league UD had the most.
SUPER STAT 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.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK DEFENSE--James Vercammen, 5-10, 192, Senior Flyer OFFENSE--Justin Watkins, 5-11, 185, Senior Wide Receiver D SCOUT--Joey Homan, 6-1, 225, Junior Linebacker ST SCOUT--Tom Hunt, 5-10, 185, Freshman Cornerback O SCOUT--Sal Savato, 5-10, 160, Freshman Wide Receiver Hammer--Scott Horcher, 5-11, 190 Senior Cornerback
PLAYER OF THE WEEK SCORECARD 1 each: Justin Griffis, Scott Horcher, Nate Miller, James Vercammen, Justin Watkins
SCOUTS OF THE WEEK SCORECARD 1 each: Joey Homan, Tom Hunt, Joe Janasek, Jordan Martin, Sal Savato, Zachary Splain
UP NEXT Dayton opens the PFL season at Morehead State on October 2. Game time at Jayne Stadium is 1 p.m. ET.