District college football preview: W&J visits undefeated Grove City
Game of the week: Washington & Jefferson at Grove City
• When: 7 p.m. Saturday
• Records: WJ: 1-1, 0-0; GC: 2-0, 0-0
What stands between Grove City and its first 3-0 start since 1994 is W&J, the Presidents' Athletic Conference preseason favorite and a team that has beaten the Wolverines in 13 of their past 14 meetings.
Grove City comes into the contest with a stingy defense that's allowing 310 yards and five points per game — both marks are second-best in the PAC. The Wolverines, using a multiple ground attack, also lead the conference in rushing at 238.5 yards per game. Running back Steve Maskrey is the team's top rusher at 84 yards per game. Quarterback Brian Pell follows at 70 per game, and three other ballcarriers average at least 20 per game.
Perhaps more than their predecessors, the current Wolverines know they're a few key plays away from a better record against Presidents. Grove City topped W&J, 24-21, in 2011. And the teams' last three meetings were decided by a combined 17 points.
The Presidents, however, seem prepared to answer Grove City's power-oriented football with their own attack. They average more than 500 yards and 39 points per game. Their defense plans to improve after struggling to slow No. 18 St. John Fisher during a 42-21 loss last week.
Expect W&J to answer Grove City's one-two punch of Maskrey and Pell with running back Dion Wiegand, who averages 93.5 yards per game. And then there's do-it-all Alex Baroffio, a wide receiver and return specialist who ranks second in Division III in all-purpose yards per game (281.0).
Grove City and W&J are tied for first in sacks in the PAC, as each has seven.
Saturday's other games to watch
• Edinboro at California (Pa.), 3:30 p.m.
Close to cracking the Division II Top 25, Cal (2-0, 0-0) opens PSAC West play against a team it has beaten in its past eight meetings. The Vulcans allow a PSAC-best 50 yards per game on the ground, but Edinboro (1-1, 0-0) will test their secondary with All-PSAC West second-team quarterback Cody Harris and wide receiver Marcus Johnson. Harris averages 333 yards per game. Johnson, also a threat as a kick returner, averages 206 all-purpose yards.
• Mercyhurst at Clarion, 6 p.m.
Clarion (2-0, 0-0) has a perfect record through two weeks for the first time since 1996, but it's 1-4 in five games against Mercyhurst (1-1, 0-0). Also, Golden Eagles quarterback Ben Fiscus, the 2012 All-PSAC West first-team selection, suffered a leg injury last week. His playing status is unknown.
• Duquesne at Youngstown State, 4 p.m.
The Dukes (1-1) play perennial Division I FCS power Youngstown State (2-1) for the first time. The Penguins dominated two FCS opponents to start the season but fell from the top 25 after a 55-17 loss at Michigan State.
• Washington & Jefferson senior wide receiver Alex Baroffio became the Presidents' all-time leader in receptions during last week's loss to St. John Fisher. His 13 catches gave him 200 for his career, which bettered the 192 accumulated by David Ravida, who last played in 2008. Baroffio was one catch shy of matching W&J's single-game record.
• Two PSAC West quarterbacks rank in Division II's top 10 in passing yards per game. Slippery Rock's Nigel Barksdale and Gannon's Liam Nadler are tied for sixth, each averaging 384.5 yards. Barksdale also ranks second in passing TDs with 10.
• Thiel sophomore Tim Canady leads Division III in kickoff return average at 53.3 yards. Last week, he returned a kickoff 94 yards — but didn't score. He was 5 yards short. Thiel reached the end zone two plays later.
• Slippery Rock senior punter James McCombie ranks No. 1 in Division II in average punt distance at 48.8 yards.
• Indiana (Pa.) has scored a touchdown on all nine of its trips to the red zone this season.
• Youngsters are Duquesne's tackle leaders as they head to Youngstown State. Redshirt freshman linebacker Aaron Reed, a Montour grad, has a team-high 19 tackles. Sophomore linebacker Christian Kuntz, a Chartiers Valley alum, follows with 17.