The Westfield Voice

The Student News Site of Westfield State University

The Westfield Voice

The Westfield Voice

WSU Football Already Exceeding Expectations
Client: Mass. State College Building Authority (617) 933-8345 Project: Westfield State – Football Field (Alumni Field) | Westfield, MA For more information Contact Gregg Shupe 508-877-7700

It is no secret that the football team here at Westfield State has struggled over the past number of years. With struggling offenses and defenses, not many expected the Owls to be a major threat this year. However, the 2018 squad is a completely new team and despite only playing a handful of games, this team has quickly put everyone on notice.

            A team that finished 3-7 last season is currently 2-3 with two big victories against Nichols College and Worcester State University. Even though the Owls are one game under .500, there is a lot of hype for this team that is loaded with talent.

            The Owls have gone from 303.2 YPG (yards per game) to 348.8 YPG led by Junior quarterback Jake Cassidy. At the beginning of last season, Cassidy was considered to be the backup to then-Senior Phil Cohen, but then an impressive showing against Worcester State where he threw for 92 yards and ran for 59 yards earned him the starting spot.

The Lynn, Massachusetts native used his mobility to finish with nearly 500 yards rushing and led the Owls to three victories in their final five games. This season so far, Cassidy has thrown for 541 yards and four touchdowns and rushed for 195 yards and two touchdowns. Cassidy has taken advantage of the opportunity he was given last year and has not let up since.

            A bulk of those nearly 350 yards per game comes in the form of rush yards, 217 yards per game to be exact. As expected, the Owls rushing attack is led by their leading rusher the last two years, Senior Travon Holder. A 1,000 yard rusher a year ago, Holder only rushed for less than 70 yards twice, and has had six games where he rushed for over 100 yards.

The Hartford, Connecticut product leads all MASCAC eligible players with six rushing touchdowns including a three touchdown, 149 rushing yard performance against Worcester State University.

Despite Holder’s incredible numbers, the surprise performer on offense has been his running back counterpart RJ Darby. The Sophomore from Norwich, Connecticut got the start on opening night against Nichols College when Holder was inactive and ran away with the MASCAC Offensive Player of the Week with 205 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Darby had his breakout performance after only rushing for a total of ten yards on fourteen rushing attempts during his first season with the Owls. Westfield State plays a run-heavy offense and it’s always helpful to have two guys who know how to attack a defense.

This is a team that allowed an average of over 325 yards per game and has shrunken that number to 296 yards with a tough defensive line and line-backing corps. With help from Zack Kane who leads the team in sacks (2.5) and Andrew Carpenter who leads the team in tackles per game (7.3), this year’s defensive lineup is anchored by Graduate student linebacker Zach Howard.

Last season’s leading tackler (104 total tackles in 2017) has been all over the place with thirty-six total tackles, and has a MASCAC Defensive Player of the Week award with his 51-yard interception return touchdown against Worcester State. Howard is one of the reasons why the Owls have made it difficult for teams to generate consistency with their offenses.

The Owls’ next game will be another conference matchup this Saturday, October 6th when they travel to Massachusetts Maritime Academy. No matter what the results have been or will be, there is a lot of optimism when speaking about the Westfield State football program.

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