(STATS) – When the coaches in the Pioneer Football League submitted their preseason votes, San Diego was chosen to repeat as league champion with Dayton also receiving some first-place nods to rank right behind the Toreros.
After the first five weeks, those coaches are looking pretty smart.
San Diego visits Dayton on Saturday for a key showdown between two of the remaining four teams that are unbeaten in PFL action.
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The Toreros won their last seven league games in 2014 to capture the PFL title and advance to the FCS playoffs for the first time. They returned 13 starters and had four players on the all-PFL preseason team, leading to them receiving seven of the 11 first-place votes in the coaches poll.
Dayton posted its most wins last season since 2010 and brought back 2014 PFL offensive player of the year Connor Kacsor. That landed the Flyers three first-place votes in the poll and 87 points overall, just two behind San Diego.
Those predictions have been spot on thus far.
San Diego (3-1, 2-0) leads the PFL and Dayton (4-0, 1-0) is off to its best start in eight years as one of nine FCS teams that has yet to lose. Butler has won its only league game, and Jacksonville is 2-0 but ineligible for the PFL title due to league-imposed penalties.
San Diego extended its league win streak to nine – third-longest in the FCS – with a 30-27 home victory over Marist last Saturday. The Toreros’ 30 wins in PFL play since 2011 lead the league, and they’ve lost only four such contests in that span – including one in double overtime at Dayton in 2013.
Dayton has won the most PFL titles and its 97-31 record in league play is the best in PFL history. The Flyers began their quest for a 12th championship last Saturday with a 27-14 victory at Stetson, but this time they needed more than a dominating rushing performance by Kacsor.
Kacsor carried the ball 40 times for 244 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Duquesne on Sept. 19, then had 44 rushes for 229 yards and another three scores in a win over Kennesaw State the following week. That performance earned him PFL offensive player of the week honors after he was named co-offensive player of the week for his effort against Duquesne.
Last Saturday, though, proved to be a different story. Kacsor was held to 61 yards on 24 attempts, but redshirt freshman Alex Jeske picked up the slack by completing 15 of 23 passes for 223 yards with three touchdowns.
Kacsor still leads the FCS with 151.5 rushing yards per game.
"It is going to be really hard. Kacsor is a great back and he does a fabulous job," San Diego coach Dale Lindsey said. "You might hold him on one or two downs and the next thing you know he finds a crease. He’s got a great burst and he’s very physical. … It is going to take all 11 to get him down."
San Diego won for the third time in four meetings last season, 40-29 at home despite Kacsor’s 115 yards, but trails 15-7 in the all-time series.
"(The Toreros) always get up for the Dayton Flyers," Dayton coach Rick Chamberlin said. " … The Dayton game is a big game for everybody. I don’t care that San Diego is No. 1 in the league, Dayton is still a big game for them."
One of these teams has either won the PFL title outright or been co-champion in five of the last six years.
"Well, ever since I’ve gotten here it’s been the rivals game right here," said Lindsey, in his third year with the Toreros. "It was already in place when I got here, and San Diego and Dayton really went at each other.
"They’ve swapped a number of PFL titles so it’s a good rivalry. They’re a very good team. They are well coached. They have a lot of talent and they’re tough to play whether you play them at home or at their place."
A look at the other Week 6 games Saturday in the PFL (all times Eastern):
Davidson (0-4) vs. Kentucky Wesleyan (1-3), 1 p.m.
The Wildcats are the only PFL team playing outside of the league after having their losing streak reach 15 overall and 19 in PFL play with a 42-35 defeat to Valparaiso last weekend. Division II Kentucky Wesleyan is coming off its first win, 35-7 at Central State, as these teams get set to meet for the first time.
Butler (3-1, 1-0) at Morehead State (2-3, 1-1), 1 p.m.
The Bulldogs and Eagles own two of the best passing offenses in the league behind Matt Shiltz and Austin Gahafer, respectively, and that also proved to be the case in last season’s meeting when Butler pulled out a 62-52 win at home. Morehead State is second in the PFL this season with 289.8 passing yards per game and has a league-best 15 TDs through the air, while Butler is first with an average of 31.0 points and ranks third with 240.3 passing yards per game and 10 passing scores. Shiltz is also the league’s top rushing quarterback with 320 yards. Butler hasn’t played since beating Campbell 25-24 on Sept. 26, and Morehead State fell 30-26 at Jacksonville last Saturday. The Bulldogs have won the last three meetings, averaging 53.0 points compared to 38.0 for the Eagles.
Valparaiso (1-3, 1-1) at Drake (2-3, 1-1), 2 p.m.
The Bulldogs have won 11 straight in the series but enter this matchup after losing for the third time in four games last week, 24-14 at Campbell. Drake is now on the verge of falling below .500 in PFL play for the first time since starting 0-1 in 2013. The Crusaders, meanwhile, have a chance to move above .500 in league play for the first time in 12 years after PFL offensive player of the week Ryan Clarke tied a school record with five TD passes at Davidson.
Marist (1-4, 0-2) at Campbell (3-2, 1-1), 6 p.m.
Turnovers have doomed the Red Foxes as 13 of them have turned into 80 points for opponents, and Marist is tied for second in the FCS with 19 sacks allowed. That doesn’t bode well for this matchup with the Fighting Camels, who recorded nine sacks against Drake. Ugonna Awuruonye collected three of them to tie a single-game school record and set the Campbell career mark with 19, earning STATS FCS National Defensive Player of the Week honors. Marist has won three straight and five of six all-time meetings.
Stetson (1-3, 0-2) at Jacksonville (4-0, 2-0), 6 p.m.
The Dolphins are looking to win their first five games for the first time when they host a Hatters team that is facing another unbeaten squad following the visit from Dayton. Jacksonville has won seven in a row at D.B. Milne Field, tied for the seventh-longest home win streak in the FCS, after beating Morehead State. The Dolphins received three votes this week in the STATS FCS Top 25. Stetson has lost both meetings by a combined score of 75-31 since restarting the program in 2013.