Geneva College (7-2) vs. Westminster College Titans (3-6)
1:30 pm – Harold Burry Stadium
New Wilmington, PA
When two teams have been playing against each other since 1890, the match-up becomes more than a rivalry. When a label was to be put on the Geneva-Westminster game two years ago it was simply named “The Game”. For years, Geneva and Westminster met as members of the NAIA and now the two schools have been paired up again as members of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference. The Titans have certainly gotten the best of Geneva over the years with a 61-42-8 advantage in the series, but it has been the Golden Tornadoes entering the winner’s circle in each of the last two years. In 2008, Geneva held off Westminster 29-26 in the final game of the season. This year, the Golden Tornadoes are sitting at 7-2 with a Victory Bowl appearance coming up next week while the Titans have won just three times in nine tries and will be closing out the schedule on Saturday.
Geneva has lost two games this year with both coming against NCAA Division III top ten programs. The Golden Tornadoes lost to W & J earlier in the year and fell to 10th ranked Thomas More last Saturday. In a defensive struggle, the Golden Tornadoes watched their 10-7 halftime lead disappear in a 21-12 loss to the Saints. Geneva’s defense forced four turnovers and scored nine of the 12 points including an 80-yard fumble recovery and return from Brian Wilson. It was the sixth defensive touchdown of the season for the Golden Tornadoes. It was the first time in a long time that Geneva’s heralded running game was shut down. The Golden Tornadoes managed only 72 yards on 39 attempts. That same running game barreled through Westminster a year ago to the tune of 231 yards on 36 carries. Matt Barge led the way with 128 yards with Gerard Muschette accounting for 97 yards on only six carries. So far in 2009, Muschette leads the PAC with 950 yards and needs only 50 yards to become the sixth player in school history to rush for at least 1000 yards in a single season. Muschette’s 6.3 yard per carry average is currently tied for fourth in Geneva’s single season record book.
The Titans have dropped two straight including a 38-31 defeat at the hands of Grove City last week. A Wolverines touchdown with only 13 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter proved to be the difference in a heartbreaking loss for Westminster.
The Westminster running attack has been led by Nick McKolosky’s 656 yards and eight rushing touchdowns. Kevin Franz and Shawn Lehocky have shared the quarterback position with each taking snaps in the first nine games. Franz has accounted for 1213 yards and eight touchdowns while Lehocky has 717 yards and five touchdowns through the air. The Titans defense has kept its opponents under 24 points only once all year. They have given up over 33 points per game on average and are allowing over 350 yards of total offense per game. Cory Meeker leads the defense with 67 tackles while teammate Neil Falco has put up five sacks in 2009. In the secondary, Kyle Allen leads the takeaway category with four interceptions.
Can the Geneva offense find itself again on Saturday? Last Saturday marked only the second time all season the Golden Tornadoes were held under 30 points in a game. Still averaging over 34 points per game, Geneva will look to its junior leader David Girardi to get his offense back into the end zone after being held without a touchdown for the first time all season. Girardi is completing 63% of his passes and has thrown for 1726 yards and eight touchdowns this year. Sam Thurston has developed into a true receiving threat with a team best 40 receptions for 404 yards.
The Golden Tornadoes will play in their sixth NCCAA Victory Bowl on November 21st against Greenville College, IL. If Geneva gets past Westminster on Saturday, there is a very good likelihood that the Golden Tornadoes will get the chance to host the post-season game for the third time in their history. Geneva is 4-1 in its first five Victory Bowl games having lost the last time out to Malone in 2007.
Washington Monthly ranks Geneva among the nation’s top ten “Best-Bang-for-the-Buck” baccalaureate colleges for providing students the highest chance of graduating with an affordable degree that has marketplace value.