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September 05. 2013 11:48PM

Allen Lessels' College Football: St. Anselm, PSU look to improve

IT’S ON.

St. Anselm College and Plymouth State University open their 2013 seasons at home on Saturday, while the University of New Hampshire heads to Mount Pleasant, Mich., to get things going with Central Michigan University the same day.

Dartmouth College and Franklin Pierce University, meanwhile, have to wait a bit longer to begin their football seasons.

The Big Green start at Butler University in Indiana on Sept. 21 and return home the next week to play Holy Cross.

Franklin Pierce begins its second season of sprint football with a game at Navy next Friday.

St. Anselm and Plymouth — looking to especially shore things up on opposite sides of the ball — are both looking to bounce back from tough seasons.

St. Anselm

The Hawks went 2-9 last season and have not cracked the two-win mark in coach Patrick Murphy’s five years.

“We’ve improved every year, though the record may not reflect that,” Murphy said.

The Hawks have come a long way and the talent level has risen in the last few years since the school began to allow scholarships for football, the coach said.

“I can’t tell you we’re going to go undefeated and be in the payoffs,” Murphy said. “But I can tell you we really do have an opportunity to win every single game we play and we haven’t had that in the past. It’s been a great camp, it’s a fun team to coach and we’re excited about the future.”

Part of the enthusiasm revolves around quarterback Andrew Murphy, no relation to the coach. He burst onto the scene last year as a freshman and was named the Northeast-10 Rookie of the Year after passing for 275.6 yards a game and 26 touchdowns for the season.

Both numbers were second in the conference and the touchdown mark set a school record.

“He’s a football junkie,” coach Murphy said. “He’s meticulous with his note-taking and film watching and he’s a lot of fun to coach. To me, the sign of a great player is they make the players around them better and he definitely does that. And he does it in an unassuming way. Players want to rally around him.”

Justin Bernard, Murphy’s favorite target last season, is back for his junior season. He set school records for catches (97), yards (1,110) and touchdown catches (15).

The offense as a whole averaged 402 yards per game and broke a bunch of school records.

The problem was, the defense was unable to keep pace. For the second year in a row, the Hawks allowed over 540 yards of offense a game and just over 44 points a contest.
 
Plymouth State
 
The Panthers, who finished 2-8, had more problems on the flip side.

They allowed 23.7 points a game on defense.

Held back by a very limited passing game, the offense managed to score only 11.2 a contest.

Jake Tyler was a freshman who had never played quarterback and took over the job out of necessity a year ago, the coach said.

Tyler has improved through spring football and fall camp, coach Paul Castonia said.

Freshman Jordan Cutting, listed at 6-foot-1 and 310 pounds out of Winnacunnet High School of Hampton, will start on the offensive line.

Two or three freshmen will start on defense. One of them is Zach Ziemba, a 5-foot-10 and 167-pound cornerback out of Manchester West.

“He’s almost always in the right spot,” Castonia said. “He’s done a good job. He’s been a steady performer since Day One.”

Jake Matthews, a defensive back and punt returner out of Windham and Salem High School, is back as a 2013 senior co-captain.

The Panthers are playing in the first-year Massachusetts State Collegiate Athletic Conference with Bridgewater, Framingham, Fitchburg, Mass. Maritime, Westfield, Worcester, UMass-Dartmouth and Western Connecticut.

After posting four straight winning seasons from 2007 to 2010, Plymouth State has been under .500 the last two seasons.


alessels@unionleader.com On Twitter: @AllenLessels


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