After a thrilling overtime victory in their PFL opener against Valparaiso, Marist (1-2, 1-0 PFL) is heading back to Tenney Stadium to take on Stetson (2-2, 0-1 PFL), who are coming off of a close loss in their PFL opener to Davidson.
Throughout the early part of the season, a big emphasis has been put on the Marist rushing attack and its ability to set the tone for their offense. And that finally clicked this past weekend. Redshirt junior running back Hunter Cobb rushed for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns on 18 carries, a performance that awarded him with the Center Stage performer of the week honors as voted by the fans.
This spark couldn’t have come at a better time for the Red Foxes, as Stetson is prone to giving up rushing yards to opposing teams. In their loss to Davidson last Saturday, Stetson gave up a total of 309 rushing yards, including 4 touchdowns on the ground. The dual tandem of Cobb and his explosive backup, redshirt senior Mekhai Johnson, should be looking forward to getting a heavy workload because of these prospects.
The game against Valpo also proved to be a nice confidence boost for Marist redshirt senior quarterback Austin Day, who completed 10 passes for 149 yards after missing the game prior against Bryant due to a nagging groin issue. 2 of his 10 completed passes were for touchdowns, including the game-winning, overtime touchdown to redshirt sophomore tight end Max Mazzella, who caught his first ever pass on the play.
Day probably won’t need to carry the show against Stetson as he’s still recovering, but he will definitely need to make plays like he did in his last showing to keep the Hatters defense honest. All of his completed passes against Valparaiso seemed to be crucial moments in the game, even the ones he made early on. They either gave Marist important first downs to continue drives or led to necessary scoring plays. This was actually Davidson’s game plan against Stetson, and it definitely worked as it got them the win.
Davidson’s starting quarterback in the game, Louis Colosimo, completed only 5 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown. While this may not seem like a lot, Davidson was able to control the game with their rushing attack and didn’t need their quarterback to do too much. This should be a factor in how Marist gameplans against Stetson, especially since they have their own running back tandem in Cobb and Johnson.
On the other side of the ball, the Red Fox defense should be on their toes because Stetson’s offense is one that has proven to be formidable in the first third of the season. In three of their first four games, the Hatters have put up scoring totals of 54, 49, and 28 points. What might be more impressive about Stetson’s offense is that they can both pound the ball on the ground or air it out, and they’ve done this with three different starting quarterbacks this season.
In their last game, they started a grad transfer Justin Agner who put up the best statistical performance out of all their quarterbacks. Agner passed for 287 yards and four touchdowns to go along with rushing for 103 yards on the ground. The Hatters also like to hand the ball off to their redshirt sophomore running back Jalen Leary, who had a huge performance three weeks ago against Ave Maria rushing for 190 yards and two touchdowns.
To contain this explosive and dynamic Stetson offense, the Red Foxes have to be able to control time of possession. The best way to do that is to limit the number of times Stetson gets the football. They have to be able to sustain drives and not have quick three and outs that force the Marist defense to get back on the field. This has been an issue early on in the season for Marist, as the defense takes a lot of snaps early on in games and gets worn out quickly. This allows opposing offenses to take advantage of tired legs and make big plays down the field which destroys momentum.
By being able to control the clock, Marist doesn’t just limit the time Stetson’s offense has the ball, but it gives their defense a break that will prove to be important for their stamina the rest of the game. This also has great benefits on the offensive end because it means that Stetson’s defense will grow more fatigued the longer they are on the field. With this reversal, Marist would be able to accomplish what has been done to them with a tired defense, and they have more than enough weapons on offense to take advantage.
A newfound sense of confidence and enthusiasm in this football team seemed to arise after winning their first game of the season and this confidence has come at the perfect time. If the Red Foxes are able to hone in on all of these aspects and succeed, then fans should be looking at a positive result Saturday afternoon as Marist looks to stay undefeated in Pioneer Football League play.
Edited by Sam DiGiovanni and Connor Kurpat
Photo from Marist Athletics