San Diego looks to clinch playoff berth
(STATS) – Picked to finish first in the Pioneer Football League for the sixth straight season, San Diego has barely been challenged in league action. A win over Stetson by any margin Saturday would send the Toreros to the FCS playoffs for the second time.
San Diego (7-1, 6-0) was a one-point favorite over Dayton to win the title in preseason voting by the league's head coaches, though the Flyers received six first-place votes while the Toreros got the other five.
Those teams opened PFL play against each other on Sept. 24, with San Diego beating visiting Dayton 34-22. That 12-point win has been the Toreros' closest call in PFL play, as they've beaten their last five opponents by a combined score of 210-33.
Heading into this matchup with Stetson (4-5, 2-4) and next week's season finale at Campbell (4-4, 2-3), San Diego needs one win to clinch a share of its eighth PFL title. A seventh PFL victory would also guarantee the Toreros no worse than a tie with Dayton (8-2, 6-1) and Marist (5-4, 5-1) for the league title and would give San Diego the tiebreaker and the league's automatic playoff bid due to head-to-head wins over both.
“A win, that's we'd like to do,” coach Dale Lindsey said. “It's a chance to possibly get a playoff spot and win the conference and that's what we've been wanting to do. No place better to do it than your own home stadium.”
San Diego won the PFL championship outright in 2014 and made its first appearance in the FCS playoffs, losing 52-14 at Montana in the first round. The Toreros shared the title with Dayton in 2015, but the Flyers beat the Toreros during the season to hold the tiebreaker for the playoff berth.
A return trip seems likely given the way San Diego has dominated league opponents.
In PFL action, San Diego is first in scoring offense (40.7 points per game), scoring defense (9.2) and total defense (243.5 yards per game) while ranking second in total offense (484.3). The Toreros, though, are also dominating on the national level. They lead the FCS in scoring defense (11.6) and passing efficiency defense (85.88 rating), and sit fourth in total defense (269.6).
On the offensive end, San Diego is second in the FCS in third-down conversion percentage (56.8) and sacks allowed (one) while ranking 17th in scoring offense (35.9) and total offense (445.1). The Toreros are stacked on that side of the ball with redshirt sophomore quarterback and STATS FCS Walter Payton Award Watch List member Anthony Lawrence, redshirt senior running back Jonah Hodges, redshirt junior tight end Ross Dwelley and senior wide receiver Brian Riley leading the way.
In overall play, Lawrence leads the PFL in pass efficiency (161.6) and completion percentage (67.4) while throwing for 1,996 yards and 17 touchdowns to just five interceptions. Hodges leads the league with 890 rushing yards, 170.5 all-purpose yards per game, 13 total TDs and 12 rushing scores. Dwelley is tied for first with eight TD catches and Riley is fourth with 90.3 receiving yards per game while hauling in five touchdowns.
Add in the fact that the Toreros have won 25 straight at home in PFL play and all three matchups in this series while averaging 45.7 points and allowing 13, and it would appear the Hatters are in for a long day. Stetson, though, won its first three road games before losing 21-10 at Dayton on Oct. 29.
“Their quarterback is very efficient and doesn't make mistakes,” coach Roger Hughes said. “Their receivers all catch the ball; they don't drop anything. They are not going to make mistakes. They can put up a lot of points, fast. Teams have been down by 24 or 34 points by the half and then you are out of your game plan to trying to make it up.”