Golden Eagles Flying High Under New Coach Weibel

clarion-university-1[1]CLARION, Pa. (EYT) – Sitting at 6-0 for the first time in 32 years, even first-year head coach Chris Weibel admits to being a little surprised at how his Clarion University football team is playing.

“I didn’t see us being 6-0,” Weibel said. “As much confidence as I do have in my ability, my team’s ability, my coaches’ ability still to be 6-0 is very hard to come by. You think in one of those six games you slip up. One big mistake where the ball doesn’t bounce your way, so we’ve been fortunate enough to have the ball bounce our way. And we’ve been able to pull off 6-0 so far.”

Going into the season, Weibel did see 3-0 – the Golden Eagles opened with Lock Haven, Millersville and Cheyney, three teams who historically have been on the lower end of the conference recently – being a reasonable goal and then wanted to see where things would go from there.

“I thought we could get the first three games and then it was let’s get into the (PSAC) West, where it’s a little bit of a tougher battle with the momentum of being 3-0 and see how far it can carry us,” Weibel said. “They guys are still responding and they are still playing hard. I don’t think it matters who we play, I think the guys will rise to the occasion and do well.”


The first indication that this Clarion team was different the 2013 team that also started 3-0 only to finish 4-7 was a trip to preseason PSAC West favorite Gannon Sept. 26. Clarion came away with a 47-31 win and then kept the momentum going a week later when it took out a very good Mercyhurst team on homecoming, 41-27, before traveling to Edinboro last week and getting a 36-23 win.a href=””>Weibel Chris

“The Gannon game was important not so much for us, Clarion football, we know how good we are,” Weibel said. “I think it was more for important to the outsiders. The people who said the same thing, who did you really play in the first three weeks. Let’s see what happens when you play No. 1. That kind of gave us a little drive that week to try to open up some eyes and to beat a more superior opponent I guess you could say. We went up and we got it done. But then there were still naysayers until we faced Mercyhurst and got that one done. I think we are starting to turn some heads and starting to get some people to believe. Definitely the Gannon game was a big eye opener along the way.”


Offense has played a key role in Clarion’s success so far this season.

The Golden Eagles rank third in the PSAC in scoring at 41.7 points per game, fifth in total offense averaging 463.3 yards per game and second in passing offense with 339.3 yards per contest.

“I think we are being more successful attacking downfield,” Weibel said. “Our main concern on offense is completions. We get completions, move the sticks and control the clock. When we get our opportunity to go vertical down the field, we do. But it’s about moving the the chains, getting first downs and spreading the ball around so a defense doesn’t know who to cover or where the attack is coming from. We are going to be aggressive.”


Junior quarterback Connor Simmons gets a lot of credit for the offensive success. The second-year man out of New Palestine, Ind., a transfer before last season from Erie Community College, has quickly emerged as the top signal caller in the PSAC West. He is completing a PSAC-best 66.8 percent (127 of 190) of his passes for 2,002 yards, the second-highest total on the PSAC and the top total in the PSAC West by nearly 300 yards. But the numbers that really jump out on the page about Simmons is the touchdown to interception ratio. He has tossed 21 touchdowns and has been picked of just TWO times. That is a big reason his quarterback efficiency rating is a mind-blowing 189.7.Simmons

Simmons has a legitimate shot at school records held by his head coach including Weibel’s 2,880 yards passing in 1996 and his 32 touchdown passes the same season.

“Connor is really smart, he is really football smart,” Weibel said. “He understands what we are trying to do offensively, and he understands what defensives are trying to do against us. He worked his butt off in the offseason. He came into (camp) and he was ready. He was ready to take control and lead this ship. And he is definitely doing that. I couldn’t be happier for him. The big question that comes up is that he’s on track to beat my records. Well, I’m glad he is. I want him to. I’m happy for him, and I hope he does. And I hope I am the coach here that he does it under. That’s my whole goal.”


Simmons has some incredible weapons to throw the ball too as well including Matt Lehman and Elk County Catholic graduate Kevin Genevro, who last played football his senior year at ECC in 2005 before playing college basketball at Penn State-DuBois.

Lehman has 40 catches for 570 yards and 12 touchdowns and ranks second in the PSAC in receiving yards and TDs and fourth in catches.

Genevro, meanwhile, has 21 grabs for 464 yards and five scores.

“It’s very important to what we do offensively,” Weibel said. “There are so many weapons on that field at one time, I’m not sure who you are suppose to focus on as a defense. That was my goal. The more weapons you put out there, how are you going to be able to cover them all.”


The Golden Eagles have also been strong on the defensive side of the football and rank fourth in the PSAC in scoring defense (20.2 ppg allowed) while ranking second in yards allowed (311).

Forcing turnovers and getting off the field on third down are two of the real keys to the defense in 2015.

Clarion has forced 18 turnovers including 12 fumbles, while also being the best in the PSAC in getting off the field on third down allowing just 28 percent of third downs against to be converted.

“If you create turnovers, frustrate the offense and get the ball back to us and make scores happen and can do it on a weekly basis, you should never lose,” Weibel said. “We do turnover drills, we do takeaway drills with the defense every day of the week, every day at camp. Since day one they’ve been doing it. We’ve really been focusing on stripping the football and getting turnovers. That’s something that has definitely helped us up to the point.”


Clarion will try to go to 7-0, the last time that happened was in 1983, at 3 p.m. Saturday when it hosts Seton Hill. The Golden Eagles then close out the season with a tough four-game stretch that includes being at California (Pa.) Oct. 23, home to IUP Oct. 31, at Slippery Rock Nov. 7 and at Kutztown Nov. 14.

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