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California University's Walker eyes record

| Friday, Oct. 30, 2009

Talk about California University's red-hot football team, which hosts Mercyhurst Saturday at 3:30 p.m., and the names that keep popping up are Josh Portis and A.J. Jackson.

It's understandable considering Portis and Jackson make up one of the country's top passing acts.

Portis shares the PSAC lead with 21 touchdown passes and is No. 2 in passer rating at 149.4, behind Edinboro's Trevor Harris' 149.7.

Jackson, meanwhile, has caught a conference-high 11 touchdown passes and his 55 receptions for 807 yards is second only to Clarion's Jacques Robinson (56 catches for 650 yards).

While Portis and Jackson lead the conference's highest scoring team which is averaging 35 points, senior tackle Willie Walker has quietly been leading the PSAC's second-ranked defense.

Walker may be only the Vulcans' eighth leading tackler with 31 including 17 solos but those numbers don't tell the real story.

A 6-3, 250-pounder from Aliquippa, Walker is closing in on a school record. His 29 1/2 career tackles for loss is 1 1/2 shy of the mark set by Jim Lukacs in 2001.

Walker's performance in a Cal uniform since his freshman campaign hasn't surprised Vulcan coach John Luckhardt.

"He was an outstanding player in high school and his playing level has gone up here," said Luckhardt. "He plays so hard all the time and is an outstanding leader.

"He's one of the guys who brought us back from the edge at the beginning of the season," he went on. "He's extremely quick and difficult to block one on one.'

Despite Mercyhurst's overall 4-5 record, Luckhardt feels the Lakers will be a good tuneup for next week's PSAC championship game.

"They're a very physical team," he said. "Most of their games have been close and they like to go with a ball control offense."

Mercyhurst's two running backs, Gerald Anderson(463) and Ben Jennings (462) have combined for 925 yards and each scored five touchdowns.

Mercyhurst quarterback Joe Laffey has thrown for 1,380 yards and 11 touchdowns with 11 interceptions.

Josh Szeluga (33 for 423) and Trevor Kennedy (30 for 434) are Laffey's leading receivers.

LEFTOVERS: The contest will be televised Sunday at 4:30 p.m. on Fox Sports. Despite last week's 44-7 romp at Slippery Rock, Cal slipped from third to fourth in the Super Regional One ranking. West Liberty, Shippensburg and Bloomsburg are the top three teams.

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