WORCESTER, Mass. - No. 12 Assumption looks to run its record to a program-best 8-0, when the Hounds host 4-3 Stonehill on Saturday afternoon at 1 pm during homecoming weekend.
Last Time Out: Assumption
Assumption improved to 7-0 last Saturday with a dominant 41-6 victory over New Haven. The Hounds scored on their opening possession of the game on an 11-yard touchdown from Marc Monks to Ashton Grant and after forcing a three-and-out Deonte Harris returned a punt 78 yards for a 14-0 lead just seven minutes into the game. The Hounds added ten more points to take a 24-3 lead at the half, and pushed it to 31-3 only 1:44 into the third on another Deonte Harris punt return for a touchdown. Ten more points stretched the lead to 41-3, before a field goal in the fourth provided the 41-6 margin. Dylan Oxsen rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 22 attempts while Sam Blake caught five passes for 34 yards as Marc Monks threw for just 126 yards with one touchdown.
Offense: The Hounds lead the NE10 and rank sixth in the nation averaging 45.4 points per game. They are third in the NE10 at 425.4 yards per game, with 238.1 through the air and rank third in the conference with 187.3 on the ground. Assumption does rank second in the NE10, converting on 42% of its third downs and is 5-for-7 on fourth down. Monks has thrown for 1518 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions while completing 59.6 percent of his passes. Harris (36) and Grant (33) lead the team in receptions, combining for 934 yards while catching a combined 11 touchdowns. Dylan Oxsen leads the team with 612 rushing yards and six touchdowns while Khaleed Exum-Strong has 291 yards and two touchdowns while averaging 7.3 yards per carry.
Defense: The team currently ranks third in the nation, allowing just 11.3 points per game and leads the conference, giving up just 303.3 yards per game. They rank second nationally in passing efficiency defense (84.5) and lead the NE10 in interceptions (15) and passing yards allowed (161.4). On the ground, they are allowing 141.9 yards per game but do lead the NE10 and are seventh nationally with 3.71 sacks per game.
Last Time Out: Stonehill
Stonehill is coming off a dramatic 41-35 overtime victory against Bentley last Saturday evening. The Falcons led 21-10 and pushed their lead to 28-10 early in the third quarter. However, Brian Kearns Jr. scored a pair of rushing touchdowns and a field goal tied the game 28-28 going into the fourth. Matt Foltz threw a touchdown to give the Skyhawks a 35-28 lead with 7:35 left, however, Bentley moved down the field and tied the game with just 49 seconds remaining. The Falcons got the ball to start overtime and drove to the on-yard line. On third down they fumbled, giving Stonehill back the ball. The Skyhawks used six plays to move to the Bentley four-yard line and Malachi Baugh rushed up the middle for the game-winning touchdown. Kearns Jr. finished the day with a career-high 243 rush yards on 34 attempts with two touchdowns while Foltz threw for 218 yards and two scores.
Scouting the Skyhawks
Offense: Stonehill is third in the NE10, averaging 31.7 points per game, while totaling 381.3 yards per game. The team is passing for 241.6 yards per game and rushing for 139.7 per contest while averaging 3.8 yards per rush. Matt Foltz has started all seven games, throwing for 1,677 yards with 15 touchdowns and five interceptions while completing 62.3 percent of his passes. His primary target is Andrew Jamiel, who has caught 47 passes for 568 yards and seven touchdown. Kevin Dick is second on the team with 28 receptions for 379 yards and three scores. Kearns Jr. leads the team with 622 rushing yards and seven touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry.
Defense: The Skyhawks are allowing 31.0 points and 425.3 yards per game. They are giving up 248.4 through the air and then 176.9 on the ground. Only one opponent has scored less than 21 points against them this year. Senior Nick Bona leads the team with 47 tackles, 2.5 stops for a loss and two interceptions. Nat Bresson is second on the team with 37 tackles while Malik Wiggins has 32 stops with two interceptions and seven pass breakups. As a team, Stonehill has eight sacks and seven interceptions.
Assumption has won three straight against Stonehill and is 3-1 against them since Bob Chesney took the helm. Three of the four match-ups have been decided by seven points less, including 2013 (L, 41-38), 2014 (W, 28-21) and 2015 (W, 28-24). Last year the Hounds shut down Stonehill 30-6, but it was a 6-6 game at the half. Assumption trailed the Skyhawks 6-3 late into the second quarter, but Cole Tracy hit a 49-yard field goal with 29 seconds left in the half to tie the game. The Hounds put up a pair of touchdowns in the third to extend their lead to 20-6 and added ten more points in the final 15 minutes for the 24-point win. Stonehill had 172 yards of offense while Assumption totaled 326. Ashton Grant caught six passes for 89 yards and two touchdowns while
Sacking the Competition
Assumption has tallied an NE10-best 26 sacks through seven games after totaling 28 in 12 games a season ago. Ray Sarkodieh leads the team with 8.0 while seven different players have at least 1.5 sacks, including Goran Krasic (3), Jedidiah Scott (2), Bryce Jacob (2) and Kaleb Silva (2).
Tackle by Committee
Assumption doesn't have any players ranked in the top ten in the NE10 in tackles, however, they have succeed with their depth. Overall 19 players have at least ten tackles and ten have recorded at least 2.0 tackles for a loss. Bryce Jacob has a team-high 20 tackles over the team's past two games and leads the team with 47 stops. Joe Kim and Kaleb Silva are second on the team with 44 tackles.
Despite graduating three of its starting four defensive backs from last year, Assumption has been dominant against the pass this year. Andrew Benson is the only returning starter and leads the team with seven interceptions, 39 tackles and a pair of fumble recoveries. The team leads the NE10 and is third nationally with 15 interceptions while also recording 31 pass breakups. Shawn Springs Jr. and Carlins Platel are each tied for fourth in the NE10 with six passes defended while Springs Jr. has three picks and Platel has two.
Picking off the Competition
Andrew Benson earned NE10 Defensive Player of the Week earlier this year after picking off a school-record three passes against the LIU Post Pioneers. Benson leads the nation with 1.0 interceptions per game and his seven this year is just one away from the Assumption single season record of eight set by Bob Doyle in 1973. Last week Benson set the career record for interceptions with 15, passing Bob Doyle, who played from 1970-73. Over his last 14 games, dating back to the 2016 season, Benson has 13 interceptions and only failed to intercept a pass in three of those contests.
Assumption's 56-0 shutout of Pace was its first shutout since the 2014 season. In 2014, Assumption shut down the Setters by a 52-0 margin. Over the past three seasons, the team has allowed less than ten points in a contest ten times. This year alone they have allowed nine or fewer points in four of their last six games.
Assumption has outscored its opponents 103-7 in the first quarter this year. In NE10 play, the scoring differential is 96-0, to take an average lead of 16-0 after the first quarter in conference play.
First Half Juggernaut
Assumption has been dominant in the first half this year, outscoring opponents 222-34 over the opening seven games, for an average lead of 32-5 at the half. The team has also held a lead of at least 21 points in the first half of each of the past four games.
The Hounds have scored 50+ points in four games this year, including each of the past three contests. Overall, Assumption has scored at least 20 points in 14 consecutive games and put up at least 17 points in 37 straight contests. Overall the team has surpassed the 50-point plateau ten times over the past three seasons. They did it twice in 2016 and then four times – including a pair of 60-point games – in 2015.
The Hounds have scored in 33 of 35 redzone trips this year, the top mark in the conference and sixth in the nation. They have scored touchdowns on 24 of those trips and settled for field goals on the other nine. Conversely, the team has allowed just 14 redzone trips to opponents through seven games and have only allowed touchdowns on five of those 14 trips.
Grinding Out Yards
Assumption has rushed for at least 141 yards in every game this year, while also surpassing the 200-yard barrier twice as a team. Oxsen leads the team with 612 yards on 103 attempts, averaging a career-best 5.9 yards per carry – which ranks third in the NE10. Khaleed Exum-Strong has been a revelation after not appearing in a game as a freshman. His 7.3 yards per carry would lead the NE10 if he qualified, and he has totaled 291 yards on 40 attempts with two touchdowns.
Keeping it Close
Assumption's three-point win against Kutztown was its closest game since a 19-18 loss to LIU Post on Oct. 1, 2016. It was the only Assumption game in 2016 decided by less than 14 points. This year since the Kutztown win every other game has been decided by at least 16 points.
The Field Position Game
Sophomore Seamus Wallace has been impressive this year as a punter, leading the NE10 and ranking 13th nationally in punting at 41.7 yards per punt. Of his 32 punts, 17 have been inside the 20 and 15 were fair caught.
Senior Cole Tracy was one of 12 Division II kickers and 35 in all divisions to be named to the Fred Mitchell Award Watch List prior to this season. This isn't his first appearance on the Watch List, as in 2015 he was one of ten finalists after finishing the year with 22 field goals and ranking third nationally with 117 points. Against Saint Anselm last year he tied an NCAA Division II record with six made field goals, and also tied a DII record with 21 points as he added three extra points.
Senior Sam Blake has come into his own this year, ranking third on the team with 21 receptions for 390 yards and four touchdowns. He leads the team with 18.6 yards per reception and has three catches of 40 yards or more this year – the most on the team. Over his first three seasons, Blake totaled just 14 receptions and 200 yards.
Tracy currently ranks first among kickers in scoring and ranks eighth nationally with 10.9 points per game. He also ranks third among all active players in NCAA Division II with 9.4 points per game. His 53 career field goals are tied r second among all active players while his 1.66 field goals per game is the best mark among all Division II kickers and ranks fourth among all NCAA Divisions. Tracy has also made 24 consecutive field goals of less than 40 yards for the Hounds, dating back to the first game of the 2016 season. Finally Tracy is already tied for 14th all-time in Division II field goals with 53 and needs four more to move into the top-10 all-time.
Senior Ashton Grant currently is tied for first among NCAA Division II players with 33 touchdown receptions and fifth among all Divisions. He also ranks 10th among all Division II players in receiving yards (2,859) and eighth in receptions (202). Grant ranks first all-time in Assumption history in touchdowns and yards while ranking second in receptions. Two weeks ago he became the second Assumption player to catch 200 passes.
Deonte Harris currently leads active NCAA Division I, II or III players with nine career return touchdowns, as three have come on kickoff returns and six more on punt returns. His nine career returns and six punt return TD's are both the best in NCAA Division I, II or III. He is second among NCAA Division II active leaders in career kickoff return average (31.8) and is third in career punt return average (17.6).
Return Record Watch:
Harris is just one punt return touchdown from tying the NCAA Division II single-season record of five punt return touchdowns, set by James Rooths of Shepherd in 1998. He is two shy of the NCAA Division II combined return touchdown record of 11, set by Stephan Neville of Stonehill from 2008-11 (7 punt, 4 kick).
Assumption has moved up to tie for 12th in this week's AFCA National Poll with Ashland (Ohio). It is the highest ranking program history, surpassing the previous high of 14 set last week. Assumption opened the year unranked but have moved up the rankings during the season: 22nd, 20th, 17th and then 14th. Last year the team was ranked as high as 15th twice.