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Ryan Powers (9) and Chris Atkins (1) each intercepted a pass against Marist.
Hatters Seek First PFL Win, Host Campbell Saturday
Courtesy: Stetson University  
Release:  10/31/2013
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Two teams looking for their first Pioneer Football League victory of the season clash when Stetson hosts Campbell, 1 p.m., Saturday at Spec Martin Stadium.

The Hatters (1-6, 0-4) and the Camels (1-7, 0-5) are meeting for the first time. Stetson suffered a 27-0 setback at Marist last week, while Campbell dropped a 38-31 decision at home to Mercer.

The game will be broadcast by the Hatter Sports Network with Matt Musgrove and Steve Ostermann on the call of the game. Fans can tune in to WSBB AM 1230 in New Smyrna Beach or WTJV AM 1490 in DeLand. The game will also be available via video web stream through Hatter Vision on

Saturday’s game begins a stretch of four consecutive contests which Stetson head coach Roger Hughes refers to as the “Southeast Corridor Championship”. Following the Campbell game, Stetson hosts Davidson (Nov. 9) and closes the season with road contests against Jacksonville (Nov. 16) and Mercer (Nov. 23). Hughes drove that “championship” point home in practice and meetings this week.

“We tried to make sure the kids understand that while we lost the first game in our division, the next four games are within the division and we still have the opportunity to finish very high in our side of the league,” said Hughes. “This is really the southeast corridor championship for the next four weeks. There’s a lot of importance from a recruiting standpoint, and also getting ourselves on the right track for taking this season to the offseason and start seeing the kind of execution we need to win.”

In order to get a win on Saturday, the Hatters will have to figure out a way to stop Campbell’s high-powered offense. The Camels enter the contest averaging better than 30 points per game and posting more than 450 yards of total offense per game. That could be problematic for a Stetson defense which is allowing 427 yards overall, including more than 225 yards per game on the ground.

Campbell senior quarterback Brian Hudson is fourth in the PFL with 84.6 rushing yards per game, while also ranking among league leaders passing yards per game (161.9, 10th) and total offense (246.5, 7th).

“Their quarterback is a very good player and they have been putting up very impressive numbers,” said Hughes. “Since we have not been as productive offensively we’ve got to try and make them one dimensional. Even though they like to throw the ball around our first goal is to make sure they can’t run it. When they do throw it we’ve got to be able to get some kind of pressure on them and be in place in the coverage when the ball comes out. When you cover a prolific passer you have to make him throw the ball where you want it to be thrown.”

Hughes also said that despite their similar records, there really isn’t much alike about the squads.

“Campbell still has an advantage because they have more experience,” said Hughes. “There are going to be things that Coach (Mike) Minter and his staff do to us that we haven’t seen on film. But if you’ve played against it before, many times you just react. They’re going to have a major advantage on us in that area. Plus, when you can throw the ball effectively, no score and lead is too big. We’re going to have to bring our “A” game for all four quarters. That’s something we haven’t done very often.”

Stetson’s offense continued to sputter last week in the loss at Marist. The Hatters managed just 18 rushing yards and 131 yards of total offense against the Red Foxes. Hughes said the offense must do more this week and for the season’s remainder in order to aid the defense and give Stetson better opportunities to win late.

“We have to make sure we control the ball on offense to keep our defense off the field so they can stay fresh for the third and fourth quarter,” he said.

One area that could be bolstered this week is the return game. Freshman Terrence Burt, who ranks fifth among PFL leaders in kick return average at 22.6 yards per return, is expected to return after missing last week’s game.

“It looks good for having him back,” said Hughes. “He’s certainly explosive when he gets the ball in his hands.”

Having Burt back, however, may not change the way teams approach the Hatters on kickoffs. Against Marist, Hughes saw a trend he hopes changes soon.

“We got the opportunity to return a few kicks but most of them were squibs,” said Hughes. “We think we have pretty good returners and clearly other teams feel the same way because they’re not kicking it to our guys.”

On offense, the Hatters unveiled some changes to the offensive line last week. Griffin Vari and Blake Manning made their first starts of the season and overall Hughes was pleased. Both are expected to start again on Saturday.

“Every day and every practice is an audition for your position,” said Hughes. “Two weeks ago during our off week we had a pair of junior varsity games and those two did a good job of showing what they could do. They’ve come along to the point that we felt it was appropriate to reward their hard work and let them play with the varsity. Overall I thought for a first start they did well.”

Quarterback Ryan Tentzler continues to lead the Stetson offense. Through seven games, Tentzler is Stetson’s leading rusher with 178 yards while passing for 859 yards and seven touchdowns. He is completing nearly 58 percent of his passes.

Chris Crawford and Rob Coggin continue to lead the receiving corps, tying for the team lead with 19 receptions apiece. Last week Crawford had three receptions for 34 yards while Coggin was limited to four yards on one reception.

Despite allowing 439 yarsd of total offense last week, Hughes was pleased with the effort of his defensive unit.

“Defensively I thought we played a much better second half with the exception of one breakdown in the coverage,” said Hughes. “We generated a couple of turnovers in the first half that kept us within striking distance.”

Donald Payne and Zach Dyer led the defensive effort with 10 tackles apiece, while Ryan Powers and Chris Atkins each had an interception. The pick for Atkins was his PFL-leading fourth of the year. Atkins and Payne are tied for the PFL lead with nine passes defensed. As a team Stetson ranks fourth in the PFL with 10 interceptions.

One area where Hughes said the Hatters will need to continue showing improvement is on special teams. Against Marist, Stetson missed two field goals and both sides of the punt unit struggled.

“Our punt coverage struggled much more than it has in the past,” said Hughes. “It was kind of surprising and, quite frankly, not very pleasing. I was a little disappointed in our punt return team. We’ve been able to generate some short fields in the past but couldn’t last week. We also had a missed snap on one of the field goals. It’s back to the drawing board and make sure we get those things ironed out.”

Kicker/punter James LaGamma endured a long afternoon against Marist, thanks in part to a difficult wind. LaGamma managed just 32.7 yards on 10 punts and missed a pair of field goals despite having the wind at his back on each attempt.

But despite the frustrations, Hughes said he and his staff aren’t going to resort to desperate measures over the final four games. He said a back-to-basics approach is what the Hatters need.

“The two most important stats for winning are turnover ratio and explosive play ratio,” he said. “In games we’ve played well those things have been in our favor. In the games where it has gotten out of hand quickly it has usually been because we’ve turned it over quickly and given up an explosive play pretty quickly after that. So it’s just about fundamental football. That’s what we keep trying to emphasize.

“Do we want to win every game? Yeah. Do we want to win every play? Absolutely, but we are also taking a long term approach where we aren’t going to implement gimmicks just to win a game. We’re gonna try to make sure we stay focused on the long term and ingrain the basic skills and fundamentals that are going to make us successful as we catch up to people in the weight room.”

One aspect of the game Hughes and the Hatters have been able to count on every week is the fans. With average attendance of better than 5,800 fans, Stetson is expecting sellout crowds for the final two games of the season.

“The crowds have been phenomenal,” he said. “The support from not only the Stetson community and the Stetson students but from the DeLand community has been remarkable. There’s no question that they act as a 12th man for us.”

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