With just two weeks remaining on the spring schedule, the battle for second place in the Pioneer remains wide open. The Crusaders are currently tied with San Diego with a 3-1 record with an impending matchup against the Toreros next week. Meanwhile, Morehead State is trying to climb the ladder in the league standings after winning two of its last three games.
Can the Eagles keep their momentum going at home against Valparaiso on Saturday afternoon?
Crusaders shut down Drake, escape with 10-7 winValparaiso escaped with a 10-7 victory on the road against Drake last week for its second straight win. The Crusaders’ defense held Drake to just 261 yards and 2-for-11 on the third down on the night while keeping them off of the scoreboard until midway through the fourth quarter. Senior signal-caller Chris Duncan completed 12 of 22 passes for only 62 yards while running back Robert Washington rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown in the win.
Washington has been carrying Valparaiso’s offense on his back during the spring, racking up 441 rushing yards and five total touchdowns through the team’s first four games. That has helped offset some of Duncan’s struggles under center. The 6-foot-5 quarterback is completing a career-low 48.7 percent of his passes and has thrown for just 350 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions so far this season.
Despite their question marks under center, Valparaiso has gotten out to a strong 3-1 start, thanks in large part to a defense that has been one of the stingiest units in the country. The Crusaders rank 17th in the FCS in scoring defense at 15.8 points per game and it ranks 19th in the nation against the pass at just 155.0 yards per contest.
Morehead State forces four INTs in win vs. ButlerMorehead State got back on the winning track last week with a strong 35-14 win on the road against Butler. Mark Pappas had his best game of the season, throwing for 382 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while the Eagles’ defense forced four interceptions to escape with the win. Pappas completed passes to 10 different receivers on the day, led by BJ Byrd, who caught four balls for a team-high 78 yards and a score.
Pappas has brought a gun-slinging mentality to the Eagles’ offense. The 6-foot-2 junior has been unafraid to take chances through the air since taking over under center but it hasn’t stopped him from having his most efficient season to date. Through five games, he has completed a career-high 61.1 percent of his passes for 1,128 yards with 10 touchdowns and five interceptions.
On defense, Morehead State has been better against the pass than against the run. The Eagles rank 20th in the nation, allowing 155.6 yards per game through the air, but a whopping 256 yards per game on the ground, which ranks 91st in the FCS. All in all, the Eagles’ defense comes in giving up 27 points per contest, good for 58th in the nation.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Morehead State’s defense has been tough on opponents through the air but the Eagles have been bullied up front through their first five games. As a result, they’ve given up 256 rushing yards per game, which is a big reason why they come in with a 2-3 overall record. Wins against Stetson and Butler might boost their overall mark, but those teams have yet to win a game during the spring, so it’s hard to like the Eagles’ chances in this spot. Look for Washington to have a big game on the ground and the Crusaders’ defense to force Pappas into a couple of turnovers in this game. Take Valparaiso to cover the spread on the road on Saturday afternoon.
Full-Game Total Pick
These two teams are projected for 46 points but I’m not sure we’re going to reach that total in this spot. Both teams pride themselves on being able to hold up defensively. They rank 19th and 20th, respectively, against the pass, which should help keep points off of the board in this game. Not only does Valparaiso keep the clock moving with its running game, but it has also been one of the nation’s stingiest scoring defenses. Take this game to stay under the projected total on Saturday.