The Susquehanna University Football team returns home after consecutive road games to face Franklin & Marshall. The River Hawks enter the game with a 2-1 overall record and a 1-1 Centennial Conference mark. The Diplomats are tied for the conference lead with a 3-0 overall record and 2-0 record in Centennial games.
The game against Franklin & Marshall marks the third straight opponent for the River Hawks that was in the top three positions in the Centennial Conference preseason poll with road games against Johns Hopkins and Muhlenberg. The Diplomats defeated Juniata (52-7) and McDaniel (43-41) for its two conference games. Juniata and McDaniel were picked to finish eighth and ninth in the preseason poll. F&M also has a non-conference win over Lebanon Valley (48-7).
The games between Susquehanna and Franklin & Marshall date back to 1898 when Susquehanna dropped a 6-0 decision just one week after falling 45-6 to Penn State. The teams played 11 times between 1989 and 2010 before Susquehanna finally won a game in the series when Steve Briggs led the squad to a 40-14 victory in 2011. Prior to that win, F&M held a 9-0-2 lead in the series. Since 2011, the series is an even 3-3 after Susquehanna won 20-10 last year.
Only three teams that still exist have a series with Susquehanna that dates back further than F&M. Susquehanna started playing Bloomsburg in 1893, Dickinson in 1896 and Gettysburg in 1897.
In the first 10 meetings between the two schools, F&M outscored Susquehanna by an average of 24.3 to 3.7 as the Diplomats posted four shutouts. Since 2010, the series has been much closer as Susquehanna has outscored F&M by a slim 22.1-21.7 margin.
In the 2016 meeting, Nick Crusco threw for a career-high 393 yards including a 69-yard TD pass to Robert Marks in the third quarter. Marks finished with 175 yards on seven receptions while Chris Beals added 122 yards on nine catches. David Simpson led the team with 10 tackles and Danial Shelton picked off two passes to lead the defense. The River Hawks defense forced three three-and-out drives in the fourth quarter and Dixon intercepted a pass to stop the final Diplomat drive to seal the victory.
Susquehanna rebounded from a road loss at Johns Hopkins to post its first Centennial Conference win at one of the toughest places to play in the league. In fact, no Centennial team other than Hopkins had won a game at Muhlenberg since 2010 until Saturday as the River Hawks claimed a 14-11 come-from-behind victory.
Connor Thompson led another solid defensive effort in the win with 10 tackles, a sack, a fumble recovery and an interception. He was named the Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts. David Simpson also had 10 tackles and Craig Roumes chipped in five tackles, a forced fumble and an interception.
Offensively, Nick Crusco had 145 yards passing and 10 rushing while Mikah Christian racked up 70 yards on two catches on consecutive plays with a 39-yard reception followed by a 31-yard TD catch.
Franklin & Marshall put up 442 yards of total offense with nearly 300 yards passing with three TDs and also scored on a 94-yard kickoff return. The Diplomats trailed by 10 points in the fourth quarter but scored twice early in the final stanza to escape with the win.
Keeping Track of the Players
The River Hawks more than a few double numbers on this year's roster causing some confusion to announcers at games and on the air. The biggest issues are with the three backup quarterbacks on the roster sharing numbers with other players. Number 16 is shared by Matt Thies and Craig Roumes. Thies can be seen most games as the holder for kicking situations while Roumes is a starter on defense. Number 17 is shared by quarterback Eddie Shields and punter Glenn Dobron and the number 18 is shared by Nicholas Brotzman who is listed as the primary backup to Nick Crusco and punter Jake Wiles.
Award Winning Defensive Stars
The Susquehanna defense was awarded for the third consecutive weekend as Connor Thompson earned Centennial Conference Defensive Player of the Week honors following the Muhlenberg game. Tucker Garner (week one) and David Simpson (week two) earned D3football.com National Team of the Week honors.
D-Backs Come Alive in Week Three
In week one, the Susquehanna defense intercepted a pass (Ryan Ganard) to extend a run of interceptions in six consecutive games. The run was brought to an end at Hopkins but the River Hawks started a new streak with four interceptions in the win over Muhlenberg. Craig Roumes and Jason Brougham each picked off their first career passes and Danial Shelton grabbed his first of the season.
The four interceptions from last week also moved the River Hawks up to 25th in the nation in the category and they also are tied for the lead in the Centennial Conference with Muhlenberg and the five total interceptions for the year.
Probably Won't Punt
After all that has happened in the first three games and based on the statistical numbers, we may not see a punter all day. The River Hawks have successfully faked three punts this season earning the first down yardage and then some. The Diplomats are leading the country with a 100 percent success rate on fourth down conversions going a perfect 6-for-6 so far this year.
The River Hawks have had three very close games this season. The NCAA statistical programs do not track the point differential but the River Hawks have had just eight points separate them from opponents this season with a one-point win in the opener, a four-point loss in the Hopkins game and a three-point win over Muhlenberg.