Southern Virginia Football: Ave Maria Preview

Written by Sean Dahlin

Game Information

Date: September 22, 2012
Time: Noon EST
Opponent: Ave Maria Gyrenes
All-Time Series: 1-0
Last Meeting: November 19, 2011 vs. Ave Maria (W, 27-24)

Preview

The Southern Virginia University football team heads south to Naples, Fla. for its second consecutive game away from home on Sept. 22 and its first contest of the season against a fellow-USCAA member in Ave Maria University.

"We expect a tough battle on the road for 60 minutes against an experienced and well-coached Ave Maria [University] football team on Saturday," said fourth-year Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald. "At the same time, our primary concern this week is to prepare our team to execute on offense, defense and special teams while game planning for our opponent is secondary." 

Coach Fitzgerald is looking for his team to add another game in the win column and earn its first road victory after falling last Saturday to Ferrum College 20-7. Ave Maria will enter Saturday in its home opener in search of its first win of 2012, having lost last week to Birmingham-Southern College 61-14. 

Series

Saturday's matchup between Southern Virginia (1-2) and Ave Maria University (0-1) marks the second meeting between the two schools after having faced each other last season in the Gyrenes' inaugural season.

In last year's Nov. 11 season finale, Southern Virginia pulled out a 27-24 comeback victory at home over Ave Maria, highlighted by a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown from then-sophomore linebacker Dakoda Winsor (Richland, Wash). Winsor's momentum-swinging 90-yard return—the Knights' first kickoff return for a touchdown since 2004 and only the second in program history—came mid-way through the second quarter after Southern Virginia had fallen behind 10-0. The Gyrenes' three-point loss at Southern Virginia proved to be their closest contest of 2011.

Southern Virginia Head Coach DeLane Fitzgerald 

DeLane Fitzgerald is in his fourth season as head football coach at Southern Virginia and is in his eleventh year of coaching collegiate football, making previous stops at his alma mater James Madison University (NCAA DI-FCS), the University of Tennessee at Martin (NCAA DI-FCS) and Bethel College (NAIA).

In his three-plus years as Southern Virginia's head coach, Fitzgerald has posted a 12-24 overall record, including back-to-back 4-7 season in 2010 and 2011. 

Fitzgerald became the winningest coach in Southern Virginia football's nine-year history last season, passing Mike Smith who went 9-13 overall from 2007-08. 

Ave Maria Head Coach Kevin Joyce 

Kevin Joyce begins his first season at the helm as head football coach and athletic director at Ave Maria University in the program's second year of existence. 

Before being recently named to his posts in athletics, Joyce worked in the development office at Ave Maria starting in 2010. 

Prior to Ave Maria, Joyce was defensive line coach from 2001-04 at Saint Xavier University (NAIA) and coached at Marist High School in Chicago, Illinois. 

Outside of his athletic experience, Joyce served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 2003-10. 

Joyce earned his bachelor's degree in political science from John Carroll University where he also played football and was a member of the wrestling team. 

Last Week vs. Ferrum: L, 7-20 

Despite a solid defensive performance in which the Knights forced five turnovers, the Southern Virginia University football team struggled to put points on the board at Ferrum College on Saturday eventually falling 20-7 to the Panthers.

After falling behind 7-0 late in the first quarter on a 2-yard run by Panthers running back Kyle Chambers that capped a 9-play, 53-yard drive for Ferrum, Southern Virginia turned up its defensive pressure forcing its host into three second-quarter turnovers. 

The Knights were unable to convert any of their second-quarter takeaways into points, however, and entered intermission down a touchdown. Southern Virginia's halftime deficit might half been worse, if not for Luke Herndon's (Mechanicsville, Va.) blocked field goal on a 42-yard attempt by Ferrum with 24 seconds remaining in the first half. 

Southern Virginia's defense wore down after halftime as Brubaker had a 7-yard touchdown run putting the Panthers up 13-0 at the 9:16 mark in the third quarter. Just under six minutes later, Ferrum added its third and final touchdown of the afternoon on a 4-yard run by Tim Reynolds.

Trailing 20-0 late in the fourth, Winsor forced Brubaker's third fumble setting up Southern Virginia's only score of the afternoon—a 30-yard touchdown strike from sophomore quarterback Mitch Stevenson (Muskogee, Okla.) to senior wideout Cameron Williams (Sacramento, Calif.) with 4:44 left to play. 

Last Week's Standouts 

Matt Gregory (Staunton, Va.) led Southern Virginia's defensive effort as the sophomore defensive back made his presence felt all over the field recording a game-high 15 tackles—11 solo and 4 assisted—and forcing Ferrum's running back Tyler Brubaker to commit his first of three fumbles on the afternoon early in the second quarter. 

Jake Palmer (Alpine, Utah) grabbed two interceptions, both in the second quarter, to go along Gregory's forced fumble.  

Williams, who leads all Southern Virginia receivers with 14 catches for 203 yards and 2 touchdowns this season, had another solid outing for the Knights hauling in 5 receptions for 83 yards, including his 30-yard touchdown catch. 

This WeekAve Maria Scouting Report 

Entering only its second year as a program, Ave Maria is coming off a 0-9 finish in its inaugural season; however, the Gyrenes have at the helm this year newly-appointed athletic director and head football coach Kevin Joyce. Ave Maria is looking to bounce back in its season home opener from its 61-14 loss to Birmingham Southern last Saturday. 

Ave Maria showed a two-quarterback look in its first game against Birmingham Southern with sophomore Drake Sutherland and junior Matt Novak both taking their first snaps of their careers at Ave Maria under center while combining for 193 yards, one touchdown and one interception including completing 14-of-36 passes through the air. 

Sophomore running back Rashad Kelley−who led the team last season with 575 rushing yards and three touchdowns as a freshman−looks to be the feature back having gained 60 yards on 10 carries and scored a touchdown so far. Look for fellow-sophomore Scott Jones to get some touches as well as he had 43 yards on 9 carries as well. 

The wide receiving corps' deep threat is sophomore Chris Fahey−last season's leader with 253 yards on 19 receptions−who caught a 53-yard touchdown in the first game of 2012. Also look for Ian Bacon and Travis Makauskas to be open down the field as they combined for 7 catches and 103 yards respectively against Birmingham Southern. 

With a combined 8 tackles-for-loss last week, linebacker Tanner Bowling who made 11 tackles (6 solo, 5 assisted) while adding two tackles-for-loss to the team's total, has been the disruptive threat so far.