The Pioneer Football League Report: Postseason Week 2

Wednesday, November 29, 2017
by Cody Bush, PFL Media Relations

All times Eastern.

San Diego at #2 North Dakota State, 3:30 p.m.

Location: Fargo, North Dakota
Stadium:  Fargodome
Series: NDSU leads, 1-0
Previously: North Dakota St. def. San Diego, 45-7 (2016 2nd Round)
Video: ESPN3


Setting the Scene: For the second consecutive year, San Diego won a first-round contest in the Division I Football Championship and for the second-straight year their second round opponent will be North Dakota State. The Toreros reached the second round after defeating Northern Arizona, 41-10 in Flagstaff, Arizona last week. The Bisons were the No. 2 national seed in the championship after winning its third outright Missouri Valley Football Championship and had the opening weekend off.

San Diego Story to Watch: Dominate the Line Again. The biggest takeaway from the Toreros opening-round win was how they dominated the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Offensively, San Diego did not allow a sack and only three tackles for loss at Northern Arizona. On the other side of the line, the USD defense racked up four sacks and nine tackles for loss. That combination saw San Diego outgain Northern Arizona, 439-238. Underscoring the Toreros dominance at the line this season, they saw three offensive linemen named First-Team All-PFL and senior defensive lineman Jonathan Petersen was a unanimous First-Team pick.

North Dakota State Story to Watch: Generate Ground Force. In a matchup between two of the FCS’ top three scoring offenses (NDSU 3rd, USD 2nd), the Bisons biggest advantage comes on the ground where they are ranked fifth in rushing yardage per game (265.1 ypg). North Dakota State has generated an impressive 38 rushing touchdowns this season from nine different rushers, four of those posting six or more scores this season. Junior running back Bruce Anderson leads NDSU’s ground game with 796 rushing yards this season, striking for six touchdowns. Junior quarterback Easton Stick also has run for 493 yards and nine touchdowns.

Complete news and notes available in PDF version

PFL’s 25th CAMPAIGN | The 2017 season marks the 25th year for the Pioneer Football League – the nation’s only non-scholarship, football-only NCAA Football Championship Subdivision conference. The league will feature 11 teams each playing an eight-game schedule to determine the league champion and recipient of the automatic bid to the 2017 NCAA FCS Championship.

PRESBYTERIAN TO JOIN PFL IN 2021 | Pioneer Football League Commissioner presidents’ council has agreed to accept Presbyterian College’s request for membership, effective for the 2021 season. Presbyterian College’s football program will remain a Big South member for the 2018 and 2019 seasons while beginning to phase out scholarships in order to obtain PFL eligibility. The Blue Hose will play one season as a Division I independent in 2020 before joining the PFL in 2021

VALPO’S CECCHINI NAMED ROBINSON AWARD FINALIST | After taking a team that was picked to finish 10th of 11 in the Pioneer Football League to its first winning season since 2003, Valparaiso University football coach Dave Cecchini has been named one of 18 finalists for the 2017 STATS FCS Eddie Robinson Award, which is presented annually to the FCS Coach of the Year.

PFL QUARTET AMONG FCS AWARD FINALISTS | Four PFL student-athletes were named as finalists for each of the STATS FCS Awards. San Diego quarterback Anthony Lawrence is a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, presented to the FCS Offensive Player of the Year. San Diego defensive lineman Jonathan Petersen is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award for the FCS Defensive Player of the Year. Campbell quarterback Daniel Smith and Davidson running back Wesley Dugger are both finalists for the Jerry Rice Award for the FCS Freshman of the Year.

TOREROS LAWRENCE, PETERSEN HIGHLIGHT 2017 AWARDS | San Diego junior quarterback Anthony Lawrence, the PFL’s 2015 Freshman Offensive Player of the Year, was named the league’s 2017 Offensive Player of the Year, Monday. USD senior defensive lineman Jonathan Petersen was a unanimous pick as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Dayton return specialist Christian Searles was named the PFL Special Teams Player of the Year. In addition, Valparaiso head coach Dave Cecchini was selected as the league’s Coach of the Year.

CAMEL’S SMITH, HATTERS HENDERSON LEAD FRESHMAN AWARDS | The PFL also presented its top freshman awards, Monday. Campbell quarterback Daniel Smith was tabbed the PFL Freshman Offensive Player of the Year and Stetson defensive back J.J. Henderson nabbed the league’s Freshman Defensive Player of the Year.

USD’S MICHAELS EARNS PFL’S TOP ACADEMIC HONOR | San Diego senior nickelback Max Michaels was named the 2017 PFL Scholar-Athlete of the Year, Wednesday, leading a group of 50 student-athletes named to the 25th annual Academic All-PFL Teams, as selected by the league’s athletic communications directors. Michaels is majoring in accountancy and has posted a 3.95 grade-point average during his academic career. In addition to being named the league’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year, he earned his third consecutive First-Team Academic All-PFL selection.

TEN TOREROS PACE 25TH ALL-PFL TEAMS | A league-best 10 San Diego athletes were named First-Team All-PFL among a group of 59 athletes recognized on the 25th All-PFL Teams, released Tuesday. USD senior defensive lineman Jonathan Petersen was joined as a unanimous First-Team All-PFL honoree by Dayton punter Sean Smith and Butler wide receiver Pace Temple.

TOREROS CLAIM NINTH PFL TITLE, LEAGUE’S AQ SPOT | San Diego clinched its ninth PFL title all-time in Week 11. The Toreros also have won four straight league crowns and all nine of their titles have come since winning the 2005 championship. 

SAN DIEGO EXTENDS PFL RECORD WIN STREAK | San Diego posted its 21st consecutive PFL victory in its regular-season finale against Marist. It is the second-longest active conference win streak in Division I entering Week 11, trailing only Ohio Valley Conference member Jacksonville State’s 32-game conference win streak.

TOREROS PETERSEN LEADS THREE FCS LISTS | San Diego fifth-year defensive lineman Jonathan Petersen, a Buck Buchanan Award Finalist, enters the postseason as the FCS leader in sacks (1.25 per game) and tackles for loss (1.90) while ranking second in fumbles forced (0.50 per game). Among FCS active career leaders, he ranks No. 1 in total sacks (41.0), sacks per game (0.87) and forced fumbles per game (0.32) as well as tackles for loss (1.52).

LAWRENCE MAKING PAYTON AWARD PUSH | San Diego junior quarterback Anthony Lawrence also was named a Walter Payton Award Finalist. He enters the postseason ranked among the FCS Top 50 in 11 statistical categories, including No. 2 in passing touchdowns (33), No. 4 in both passing efficiency (169.3) and No. 7 in completion percentage (66.5) and No. 8 in yards per pass attempt (8.66). Lawrence owns a career 159.49 pass efficiency rating that ranks No. 3 among NCAA career active leaders.

MARTINEZ IMPRESSES IN ROOKIE CAMPAIGN | Freshman running back Emilio Martinez has been a breath of fresh air in the San Diego offense after losing 2016 PFL Offensive Player of the Year Jonah Hodges. Martinez has become the FCS’ No. 9 ranked all-purpose runner (135.33 yards per game) thanks largely to his No. 25 ranking in rushing (84.3 yards per game).