Warhawk weekend turns quickly
WHITEWATER, Wis. – Saturday could not have been going much
better for Justin Beaver and No. 2 UW-Whitewater.
The junior running back, a Gagliardi Trophy finalist last season, had a 51-yard touchdown run during his 147-yard third quarter against then-No. 6 UW-La Crosse. By the time he took the field for his final drive of the day with 11:43 left, the Warhawks led 38-10 and the Whitewater media guides in the press box had all been flipped to page 33, where John Damato’s single-game record of 278 yards was revealed to be in Beaver’s reach.
Beaver carried five times in a row for 40 yards, giving him 273 on the day. Fullback Travis Reuland carried for 2 yards and Beaver appeared to set the record with a 6-yard run that was nullified by a holding call. Top wide receiver Derek Stanley had limped off during the drive, and fiery offensive lineman Max Sakellaris followed a few plays later.
Beaver carried one more time for 10 yards, and headed for the trainer as the PA announcer told the crowd that his 286-yard day was a school record.
If life had ever seemed better to Whitewater fans, I’m not sure when it would have been. Last year’s Stagg Bowl runners-up were wrapping up an awesome display of power and precision that seemed to make them a favorite for a return trip to Salem. For all anyone knew at that time, Beaver’s shoulder needed basic attention after 39 carries and another four totes nullified by holds.
Most of the stadium-record 9,570 in attendance Saturday left the stadium with broad smiles and high hopes. The Wisconsin Badgers had even pummeled Minnesota 48-12 in Division I-A Big Ten action. What more could southeastern Wisconsin need to raise a beer to on a Saturday night?
By now, anyone that pays attention to the national scene knows Beaver broke his collarbone on the same play he set the Whitewater single-game record, his last run of the day.
Photo by Larry Radloff for D3football.com
That’s really where the story starts, not ends.
So many questions linger. Why was Beaver in the game up 28 in the fourth quarter? Had Whitewater’s living legend of a coach, Bob Berezowitz, thought to take Beaver out? Was he trying to run up the score or kill the clock, and therefore any opportunity for La Crosse to mount a comeback?
Can a collarbone really heal in four weeks, the initial estimate of missed time?
Is Whitewater still a Stagg Bowl contender without Justin Beaver?
In news that should disappoint fans from Collegeville to Dover and points in between (like Columbus, Alliance and Glassboro), the Warhawks are most definitely still a Stagg Bowl contender. They’ll have to prove it on the road in consecutive weeks at UW-Platteville (4-2) and Mary Hardin-Baylor (5-1), before finishing the season at home against UW-Stout (3-3) and at UW-River Falls (2-4).
Beaver, with maybe 15 minutes to process the dramatic turn in his fortunes, quickly dismissed any notion that the Warhawks would stumble without him.
“I have no doubt that they’re going to make a playoff run,” he said after Saturday’s game. “Like coach said, we’re not one-dimensional. If anything, it’s going to make us stronger.”
That’s possible. Beaver said he looked forward to helping tutor his backups. Berezowitz said the Warhawks would use a running-back-by-committee.
“We’ve got a couple of guys who can run the ball in (Derek) Underwood and (Ryan) Gorecki, who (were waiting for their opportunity when Justin isn’t in there.”
The pair – both freshmen – combined for nine carries, 45 yards and a TD after Beaver left the game. They will be asked to do a lot more in the season’s final four games.
Photo by Larry Radloff for D3football.com
Whitewater, however, is already doing a lot right. Beyond
averaging 38.2 points per game and allowing 7.8 in their 6-0 start,
they’ve turned the ball over just seven times and have been
penalized 37, which breaks down to a reasonable six per game.
Overlooked in the hoopla surrounding Beaver is the play of an increasingly stingy defense and the fact that Whitewater returned from the Stagg Bowl nearly intact.
Beaver keeps a low center of gravity, makes decisive cuts in the Whitewater zone-blocking scheme and finishes runs. But a running back is only as good as his offensive line, at least until he hits the hole/gets into the open field. On one hand, it’s safe to assume Beaver’s backups can run effectively behind a line that wore down UW-La Crosse, which came into the game allowing 109 rush yards per. On the other hand, the line did have a rough Saturday aside from Beaver’s success. Of Whitewater’s six penalties on the day, five were drawn by an offensive line that normally would be celebrating a 342-yard rushing day. The line was flagged seven times in all, six for holding, but two of the penalties were declined.
Before his X-ray, Beaver was told he would be out four weeks, although that seems to be a very optimistic estimate. The best running back in another division also broke his collarbone Saturday, and Oklahoma’s Adrian Peterson is expected to be out for the season, or at least until a January bowl game. Union wide receiver Steve Angiletta not played since breaking his collarbone in a preseason scrimmage.
All breaks are not the same, of course. Whitewater wouldn’t have a first-round playoff game until five weeks from this past Saturday. If they finish undefeated, they’d certainly get a home playoff game in the first round against a low seed from the West Region. They might even be able to pull that off in spite of a loss at Mary Hardin-Baylor, although St. John’s, Whitworth, Central, Occidental, St. Norbert and Concordia (Wis.) could each finish undefeated and be placed in the so-called West Bracket.
It could get interesting, however, if losing Beaver contributes to a Warhawk loss in the WIAC. Platteville can keep alive a three-way tie scenario with a win Saturday, and any WIAC loss plus a loss at Mary Hardin-Baylor could send Whitewater on the road in the first round.
Logically speaking though, it could be six or seven weeks before Whitewater really needs Beaver back to eke out yards against an opponent with a decent chance of winning (i.e. St. John’s, or perhaps the Whitworth/Linfield winner).
The future should still be bright for the Warhawks. But how did they explain putting their star running back in harm’s way instead of being mindful of that future?
“That is true,” Berezowitz said after the game, when asked directly if Beaver had broken his collarbone as was rumored. “I can’t go back and re-do it. Should we have taken him out a series earlier? That’s all hindsight. We were going to take him out after that series.”
“I was hoping to God they didn’t take me out,” Beaver said. “Our mentality going into every game is you don’t ever stop. You only get so many chances to play each team, and you only get so many chances to play the game.”
The way Beaver said it, you can’t help but back it. But some are justifiably wondering if Berezowitz wasn’t just trying to stick it to La Crosse, a team that has given him some good whoopins in yearly meetings since Berezowitz became coach in 1985. “I’ll remember this one, I guarantee you,” said the coach, who is retiring at the end of the season.
His official explanation was that he’d coached enough games to know not to let up too early. He respected La Crosse’s offense, which did hit some big pass plays in the game and missed narrowly on a few others where feet landed out-of-bounds. But was a 28-point comeback in 11:43 really possible? Berezowitz said he did think about removing Beaver, but decided to give him one more series. He never mentioned it being a clock-killer, though it certainly makes sense that La Crosse couldn’t mount a comeback without the ball, and using Beaver was the best chance at keeping it away from them.
In hindsight, Berezowitz should have done the unpopular thing and taken Beaver out just before he set the record. Seeing Stanley and Sakellaris limp off should have triggered the thought. And Berezowitz claimed he didn’t know there was any record being set, which is believable given how many other things head coaches worry about during the course of a game.
“I had no idea there was even a record around,” Berezowitz said. “His health is more important to us.”
For his part, Beaver seemed neither distraught nor ticked off about the injury, implying it could have happened in any quarter of any other game.
“It’s part of the game of football,” he said.
“It was just an outside zone play. I broke it to the outside, got tackled on the sideline and just landed on my shoulder, the same thing that happens on every outside zone play,” Beaver added.
To the outsider, Beaver’s loss makes for an interesting subplot, perhaps even provides a glimmer of hope. Quarterback Justin Jacobs, tight end Pete Schmitt, Stanley and the Whitewater defense will likely close the door on those hopes. But the Warhawks have hopes of their own.
“Bottom line,” Berezowitz said, “you don’t replace this guy.”
“Our season is not over by any means,” Berezowitz added. “We’ve got four tough games left. And this was not a playoff win, even though everybody is treating it like one.”
“I’m hoping we get there for this guy,” he said, his hand resting briefly on Beaver’s good shoulder.
With one week down and three to go on Around the Nation’s Run to the Playoffs, here’s a quick look at what’s coming up this week and a few off-the-beaten path notes from last week’s trip.
The goal in Iowa and the IIAC this week is to see three of the top teams in the conference in one day. Without any night kickoffs or staggered starts, the only way to do this was to do two in one day. Wartburg travels to Coe and 12 miles away, Central is at Cornell. In Iowa, you could pull off a similar feat if Loras and Dubuque hosted the same day, but when these plans were put together, it looked like seeing the Knights, Kohawks and Dutch on the same trip was a no-brainer.
Cornell, of course, should feel thoroughly disrespected that I’m traveling to their field more or less to see their opponent. Which means they’ll probably pull off the upset, not out of the realm of possibility in the topsy-turvy IIAC, and I’ll miss the dramatics as I leave to catch Wartburg-Coe.
Photo by Larry Radloff for D3football.com
Last week’s trip went more smoothly than some of the
flights last year, details of which longtime readers might remember
me complaining about. With a 6 a.m. Eastern Time out of Dulles and
a 7 a.m. Central arrival at O’Hare, I didn’t go to
sleep the night before so I could get leave for the airport
problem-free at 3:30 a.m. I went carry-on only (and even got to
keep my liquid toiletries the security in Chicago would later throw
in the garbage) and was on the road to Whitewater before 8 a.m.
With so much time to spare and an indirect route to travel, since I was meeting D3football.com photographers in Janesville, Wis. for a pregame breakfast and personal power nap, I thought I could wing a little side excursion. Along I-90 are two Division III cities, Rockford and Beloit.
Rockford appeared to be half run-down, half classic-but-vibrant city on the river. Despite signs for all kinds of downtown sites, I saw no mention anywhere along the off-highway route of Rockford College. I must have been pretty far from it.
Beloit is right at the Wisconsin line. In fact, South Beloit is still in Illinois. Unlike Rockford, Beloit greets you with a water tower, ‘Welcome to Beloit’ sign and clearly marked street signs pointing to the college.
Although I did find the Beloit field on the way back, long after their 30-20 loss to Illinois College, I came nowhere near it before breakfast. The Midwest Conference’s Buccaneers have a nice grass field set back behind a residential area and a bit away from campus buildings. It’s hard to find without directions, especially because of all the road construction taking place on the city’s residential streets.
For those unfamiliar with the area’s geography, Whitewater is southeast of Madison, between Milwaukee and Chicago. The Division III presence in that area, especially northern Illinois, is great. One could see a pair of IBFC, WIAC, MWC and CCIW games on the same day fairly easily with 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. starts.
As for Whitewater itself, I’ve been told that Perkins Stadium’s 13,500 seating capacity is exaggerated, and after Saturday, I definitely agree. La Crosse packed the visitors side, miniscule compared to the home stands, which may be the only ones in Division III ranging from 10-yard line to 10-yard line or thereabouts. Whitewater fans filled all but a section closest to the far end zone, and the attendance was still only 9,570. I’d guess the stadium holds 11,000 max, unless we’re counting sitting on the grass in the bowl-like visitors side as seating.
Much has been made on the message boards of the fans’ – particularly the student section – chanting “bulls--t” and things of that nature. I will say this though. I wore La Crosse colors and stood on the home sideline and got not so much as a funny glance from Warhawks fans.
Poll positions/My 26-35
Mike Warwick of Ithaca Sports Information checked in with some poll-watching that led us to this:
With Ohio Northern holding on to its Top 25 spot despite consecutive losses to Mount Union and Capital, it remained among the schools with the longest consecutive-weeks streaks in the D3football.com poll.
Three schools have been ranked in all Top 25s since the poll began before the 2003 season.
Here are the longest running streaks:
Mary Hardin-Baylor 48
Mount Union 48
Delaware Valley 29
Ohio Northern 25
The AFCA poll typically likes unbeaten teams a little more than the D3football.com poll, and neither tendency is necessarily right or wrong. Excluding Rowan, whose loss is to I-AA scholarship Robert Morris, No. 10 Mary Hardin-Baylor is the only team in the AFCA’s top 13 with a loss. D3football.com has Hardin-Simmons and UW-La Crosse in its top 10, along with Rowan and UMHB.
The AFCA poll has been friendlier to Cortland State all season, and the Red Dragons, 13th-ranked by D3football.com, are up to No. 6 in the AFCA poll. NJAC foe Rowan, meanwhile, is seventh in both polls and fellow New York state team St. John Fisher is 9th in the AFCA and 14th by D3football.com.
Mt. St. Joseph, which moved into the D3football.com poll at No. 25, matching its highest ranking ever, is 16th by the AFCA. Bridgewater (Va.) fell to 19th (AFCA) and 21st after its upset loss at Guilford.
The AFCA top 25 ranks Trinity (Texas), Concordia (Wis.), &&Wheaton&& and St. Norbert, all of whom are receiving votes in the D3football.com poll, which ranks Linfield, Ohio Northern, Delaware Valley and Coe instead.
The Empire 8 is the only league to have three teams ranked in both polls (SJF, Springfield and Ithaca) while the OAC placed three (Mount Union, Capital and ONU) in the D3football.com top 25.
Weeks 5 and 6 featured three of my personal 25 losing, but in Week 7, five fell. Three remained ranked, and I put UW-Platteville in at No. 22 in place of UW-Oshkosh and Baldwin-Wallace at No. 25 instead of Augustana, since the Yellow Jackets beat the CCIW leaders 17-7 earlier in the year. Following the Vikings were Mount St. Joseph, St. Olaf, Ithaca, Trinity (Texas), Union, Coe, Bethel, UW-Oshkosh, Concordia (Wis.), St. Norbert, Wheaton and Washington and Jefferson. I didn’t give nearly as much thought to my overflow rankings as I did to my top 25, so feel free to disagree. I’m not ready to add Washington and Lee, but I should start considering it.
Hobart remained the top team in the New York Division III Football poll, administered by the 17 football-playing schools in New York, while Springfield held down the top spot in the New England Division III football poll.
This, my friends, is a good lead. From Joel Badzinski of the La Crosse Tribune:
“The UW-La Crosse football team had a lot in common with UW-Whitewater running back Justin Beaver after Saturday’s game.
Both were left hurting and wondering if they’d recover in time for the playoffs.”
Beaver’s rushing total was 286, not the 294 reported by those in Whitewater who misread the stat sheet.
The D3football.com/Around the Nation Reading Club assignments for this week:
The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser tried to find out why the SCAC took Colorado College instead of Huntingdon.
The Birmingham News says the Hawks might be looking at Birmingham-Southern, which will join the division next year, as their new rival.
This is what I love about Division III football – and journalism for that matter. Lakeland safety Aaron Barrie hurt himself and a friend while driving drunk, spent time in jail, broke his foot and switched positions. And worked his way back onto the field. Without hailing him as a hero, we can appreciate his perseverance in Dave Lubach’s Sheboygan (Wis.) Press feature.
If you’re not Whitewatered out by now, check out this Capital Times feature on passing up scholarships to play Division III.
ESPN.com’s Gregg Easterbrook is still mentioning Division III only when it helps him be a hater. This week’s ‘ha-ha, look-at-your-misfortune’ is directed at Whitewater for leaving Beaver in the game. Easterbrook frequently grandstands about running up the score, and this week he only appropriated Adam Wollbach of Allentown, Pa.’s e-mail. They might actually have a point this time, although Wollbach reported Whitewater’s 9,570 as a Division III attendance record. St. John’s and Bethel drew 13,107 to the 2003 game in which John Gagliardi passed Eddie Robinson for the all-time collegiate coaching wins record, and it’s likely some of the big Division III rivalry games have passed that total.
As far as Easterbrook’s column, I could ignore it and not steer any more of you towards it, but I’m not petty like that. It makes more sense to put what is said about Division III teams out there for you all to decide whether you care or not. If you fire off e-mails every time some more hate/misinformation is spread, that wouldn’t bother me. If you respond with a resounding ‘meh,’ that’d be fine too.
Marcus Woo, featured in the San Jose Mercury News, we know how you feel.
Writes Dennis Knight:
“While college recruiters are drawn to numbers like Woo’s, his 5-foot-7, 165-pound stature hurts his chances of landing a scholarship at a Division I school. Instead he is considering Division III colleges such as Willamette (Oregon), Chapman College (Orange) and Menlo College.
Woo said he won’t be disappointed if he has to opt for a smaller program.
“If that’s where it leads me, that’s where I’ll go,” Woo said. “I have a love for the sport and want to keep on playing any way I can.”
The Gagliardi Trophy Selection Committee has begun to solicit nominations this week, just as the lead candidate has gone down with injury. The race may be broken wide open at this point, and there’s no way for me to tell you at this point whose grades and community service – big factors in the award’s criteria – are strong. But the ballots are due in early December, giving Beaver enough time to possibly get back into the race with a good playoff game or two.
The committee does plan this season to announce four regional finalists. In the past three, without geographical distinction, have been announced, with the winner receiving his trophy in Salem on the Thursday before the Stagg Bowl.
The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame’s Draddy Trophy, an all-divisions award with on-field, academic and community criteria similar to the Gagliardi, announced its 148 semifinalists this week, with 33 Division III players among them. The Draddy Trophy, which also includes a post-graduate $25,000 scholarship, has been awarded since 1990 and has gone to a Division I-A player (some famous like Peyton Manning and Chad Pennington) each year except 2002, when Washington U.’s Brandon Roberts took it home.
The 33 Division III semifinalists include Rowan QB Mike Orihel, St. John’s LB Jamie Steffensmeier and Wittenberg RB Tristan Murray. The full list will be posted on the Around the Nation thread on Post Patterns.
For its game Saturday against SUNY-Maritime, a shop at Newport News Apprentice, a member of the ACFC, crafted the Mariners’ Trophy. The hope is that the game will become a rivalry between two like-minded schools and the trophy will become a traveling symbol. For more details, including the history of both institutions, visit www.gobuilders.com.
This week in college football history
Provided by the The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, this week’s press release contained two noteworthy moments with Division III ties:
October 23, 1930: Eureka downs Illinois Wesleyan 12-0 behind the blocking of a right guard named Ronald Reagan, later President of the United States and a 1971 NFF Gold Medal recipient.
October 29, 1921: Centre upsets Harvard 6-0, handing the Crimson its first defeat since 1916. Centre’s Bo McMillin, a 1951 College Football Hall of Fame inductee, scored on a 32-yard run in what many still consider as one of the 20th century’s greatest sports upsets.
Heidelberg’s streak and/or lack of progress, even in the brutal OAC, is going to cost Brian Cochran his job as head coach. AD Jerry McDonald announced this week that Cochran’s contract would not be renewed at the end of the season. Most of the teams on our double-digit losing streak list have been able to shake that distinction this season. The ones that have not been able to remain below. The Student Princes have four shots this season to win for their outgoing coach, against Wilmington (2-4), at Marietta (3-3), Ohio Northern (4-2) and atMuskingum (1-5).
After some additional research, the losing side expanded quite a bit, and right now we’re trying to only track double-digit streaks. Two are guaranteed to end this season, as Denison goes to Hiram on Saturday and Tri-State plays at Wisconsin Lutheran Nov. 4
Cal Lutheran dropped off the winners side after 11 wins in a row.
Division III’s longest win streaks
Mount Union (14 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Ohio Northern, 21-14, Oct. 22, 2005; 6-0 in 2006)
St. Norbert (14 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Monmouth, 28-20, Sept. 17, 2005; 7-0 in 2006)
Williams (10 consecutive wins, last loss at Trinity (Conn.) 34-6, Oct. 1, 2005; 4-0 in 2006)
The longest active losing streaks
Heidelberg (32 consecutive losses, last win vs. Marietta, 21-13, on Oct. 4, 2003; 0-6 in 2006)
Tri-State (16 consecutive losses, last win vs. Kalamazoo, 21-14, Nov. 13, 2004; 0-6 in 2006)
Becker (14 consecutive losses, no wins in program history; 0-6 in 2006)
Lewis and Clark (14 consecutive losses, last win vs. Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 27-11, Oct. 9, 2004; 0-5 in 2006)
Eureka (13 consecutive losses, last win vs. Concordia (Ill.), 32-13, Sept. 24, 2005; 0-6 in 2006)
Hiram (12 consecutive losses, last win vs. Earlham, 7-2, Oct. 1, 2005; 0-6 in 2006)
Framingham State (12 consecutive losses, last win vs. Massachusetts Maritime, 27-20, Oct. 1, 2005; 0-6 in 2006)
Wisconsin Lutheran (12 consecutive losses, last win vs. Tri-State, 37-14, Oct. 1, 2005; 0-6 in 2006)
Augsburg (10 consecutive losses, last win vs. Hamline, 19-13, Oct. 15, 2005; 0-6 in 2006)
The number of remaining teams without a loss among Division III’s 234 is small enough to finally list the group by name. Of the 19 remaining unbeatens, five (Curry, Concordia, Wis., St. John’s, St. John Fisher, St. Norbert) are 7-0, 11 (Capital, Carnegie Mellon, Central, Cortland State, Mount Union, Mount St. Joseph, Springfield, UW-Whitewater, Wesley, Whitworth and Wilkes) are 6-0, two (Hobart and Occidental) are 5-0 and one (Williams) is 4-0.
At least one will drop off the list when St. John Fisher and Springfield meet Saturday, and another will go when Capital and Mount Union meet next week. Mount St. Joseph (vs. Franklin) and UW-Whitewater (vs. UW-La Crosse) stayed on the list by handing an unbeaten team its first loss last Saturday. Rowan (4-1) is unbeaten against Division III teams.
Eighteen teams are without a win in 2006, including two (LaGrange and Principia) with seven losses. Thirteen teams (Augsburg, Becker, Denison, Eureka, FDU-Florham, Framingham State, Frostburg State, Heidelberg, Hiram, Lewis and Clark, Tri-State, William Paterson and Wisconsin Lutheran).
Five games to watch
This week doesn’t quite have the top 25 appeal that last week had or next week will bring, but a lot of conference races will get some clarity on Saturday. In addition to games with heavy title implications in the Empire 8, IBFC, IIAC and CCIW, both the NCAC and MIAA will have four of their top five teams meet head-to-head. Allegheny (4-2) goes to Wooster (5-1) while Wabash (4-2) visits Oberlin (4-2) in the North Coast, while Wittenberg goes to Ohio Wesleyan hoping to pick up a game on the losers of the other games. In the MIAA, leader Olivet goes to Tri-State while four 3-3 teams try stay in the race. Albion, the furthest behind with two conference losses, plays at Alma and Adrian is on the road at Hope.
The big five:
No. 17 Springfield at No. 14 St. John Fisher
Saturday’s Pride-Cardinals clash will create a front-runner in the Empire 8, but with Alfred and Ithaca also in the mix (each has just one conference loss), don’t expect it to solve anything. Both teams are getting it done on the ground, with Springfield the No. 1 rushing offense in the nation (371 yards per game) and the No. 13 total offense (425), while Fisher is No. 8 on the ground (268) and No. 9 overall (437). According to the numbers, St. John Fisher has the edge on defense, but no team they’ve built those numbers against does what Springfield’s triple-option attack does.
No. 1 Mount Union at Baldwin-Wallace
This could be another Purple Raider blowout and big game dud. But the Yellow Jackets, 5-1 and third in the OAC, didn’t even let Mount Union walk over them during a 4-6 season last year, losing 17-3 in Alliance. Baldwin-Wallace has given up more than 24 points to the Purple Raiders just once since 2000, and that was in a 28-21 loss in 2002. But despite the Yellow Jackets having the number of the Mount Union offense, relatively speaking, the Purple Raiders defense traditionally shines in this matchup, and will probably have to again. Mount Union allows just 160 yards per game, giving it the nation’s No. 3 defense to go with the No. 1 offense (557). The Yellow Jackets (No. 46 on D, No. 92 on offense) are respectable on both fronts, but could struggle to establish Brandon Hedges in the run game and may have to get creative to generate two or three TDs it will need to have a shot. It’s also Baldwin-Wallace’s third home game in four weeks.
No. 2 UW-Whitewater at UW-Platteville
We’ve covered above what Whitewater plans to do without Justin Beaver. The Pioneers’ three WIAC games have been decided by a touchdown or less, and to keep this one in that range, they’d have to rattle the Whitewater offense early while getting running back Mike Genslinger going against a defense allowing just 36 rushing yards per game, fifth in the nation. The Warhawks rank in the top 10 in rushing defense, turnover margin, scoring offense and scoring defense, and rank in the top 31 in six other major categories. In other words, Platteville will be the first to find out that Whitewater is much more than Justin Beaver
Wartburg at No. 24 Coe
The winner of this game stays one loss behind Central in the IIAC race, unless the Dutch stumble at Cornell. This one would seem to be all about the Kohawks offense vs. the Knights defense, but neither team has been shabby on the other side of the ball. The teams rank 1-2 in the IIAC in total defense, with Wartburg’s 213 yards allowed per game good for 17th in the nation. Each is more than plus-one per game in the turnover department, so something will have to give. Around the Nation will be in the house, at least for the second half, as part of the Run to the Playoffs tour.
Concordia (Wis.) at Lakeland
This has ugliness written all over it, as the Falcons lead the conference in every category but turnover margin (they’re third) and pass offense. And the latter is because they bring the nation’s No. 2 rush offense (300 yards per game) to Sheboygan. Concordia is also 7-0 with a non-conference win over a CCIW playoff team from last season, while the Muskies were swept in their non-conference games and are 4-3. But 4-0 in the IBFC is all that matters when it comes to the automatic NCAA bid, and both bring that mark in. Lakeland, at home after a 17-14 road win last season, might be able to summon the pride of a defending conference champion and pull off the win.
There are some tempting tussles this week, like Carthage catching Augustana thinking it has the CCIW wrapped up after beating Wheaton, Widener toppling King’s or Concordia-Moorhead refusing to roll over while hosting St. Thomas. But I’m going to take 3-3 Millsaps, which hosts 5-1 DePauw in an SCAC game. Although the Majors have won three in a row, they may have been more impressive in consecutive heartbreaking losses to Louisiana College and Huntingdon. The Tigers aren’t exactly ripe for the picking coming off a 27-6 win at Rhodes. Both of these teams have undergone significant changes since last season’s 51-14 game, so I’m just playing a hunch by thinking the on-a-roll Majors, playing their sixth home game this season, come out on the good end of a dramatic finish for once.
So far this year: 3-1/3 to 2-2/3, after I never narrowed it down beyond my final three last weekend, posted on the blog. I hit on Guilford beating Bridgewater in a shootout, but missed on St. Olaf/Concordia-Moorhead andCase Western Reserve/Carnegie Mellon. I can’t take credit for a full correct pick there.)
Surprisingly good game
I’ve got Mount St. Joseph, a week after clearing its first tough HCAC hurdle and Franklin and a week prior to the last one against Defiance, losing focus early against 1-5 Manchester. The Spartans will make it interesting early into the second half before the Lions snap out of it, get serious and win going away.
So far this year: Still 3-2 after I failed to make a Week 7 pick.
Also keep an eye on: Brockport State (2-4) at No. 5 Wesley (6-0), No. 8 Hardin-Simmons (4-1) at Howard Payne (3-3), Methodist (3-3) at No. 19 Christopher Newport (5-1), Adrian (3-3) at Hope (3-3), Albion (3-3) at Alma (3-3), Allegheny (4-2) at Wooster (5-1), Carthage (5-1) at Augustana (4-2), King’s (5-1) at Widener (4-2),New Jersey (3-3) at Western Connecticut (4-2), St. Olaf (6-1) at Bethel (5-1), St. Norbert (7-0) at Ripon (5-2), St. Thomas (4-2) at Concordia-Moorhead (2-4), Wabash (4-2) at Oberlin (4-2), Williams (4-0) at Tufts (3-1).
Who are those guys?
With conference play in full swing, games against Non-Division III teams are rare. Still, the occasional unfamiliar name pops up on the schedule.
After no out-of-division games in Week 6, Linfield’s 37-29 win over Southern Oregon and Catholic’s 27-14 loss to La Salle were the only scores in Week 7. This week’s slate is similarly thin, with Salisbury going on the road for the rare Thursday night game:
vs. Division I-AA (0-1 in Week 7, 6-6 in 2006)
Salisbury at St. Peter’s
vs. Division II (No games in Week 7, 4-8 in 2006)
Brevard at LaGrange
vs. NAIA (1-0 in Week 7, 19-7 in 2006)
Frostburg State at Union (Ky.)
But don’t quote me
Quick observations from where we stand in Week 7:
With the conference leader having two overall losses and everyone else (several are still in contention) having at least three, the MIAA looks to have sewn up a first-round road game for its champion. And getting a good matchup is often the best way to get your conference a playoff victory and the respect that comes with it.
I’d imagine St. John’s has the MIAC in hand, given that the two toughest teams the Johnnies have left already have a conference loss (Bethel to Carleton, and St. Thomas to Bethel). The MIAC provides a strange score string: Concordia-Moorhead had St. John’s on the ropes before a late TD led to a Johnnies 14-12 victory. The Cobbers lost at Bethel 17-7, which lost at Carleton 14-7. Hamline beat the Knights 16-11 on Saturday, three weeks after losing at home to Gustavus Adolphus 20-8. The Gusties, 2-4, host Augsburg next Saturday, where a loss would nearly complete the first-to-worst upset string.
Having beaten Platteville already, UW-La Crosse needs to win out and root for Whitewater, and perhaps some upsets in the IIAC or NWC. Coming in second to a 10-0 team would probably outweigh the outsiders’ view of a 45-10 loss, although the Eagles are not 35 points worse than the Warhawks. They might even have their way with most teams in the West bracket this season. They were inches away from making at least one big pass play while the Whitewater game was in doubt, and had they been able to sustain some offense, perhaps the defense would not have been worn down so thoroughly by the Warhawks.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps ended the dream for Cal Lutheran before it got a chance to play Occidental for the SCIAC’s playoff bid.
Sul Ross State takes care of Texas Lutheran 31-10 and McMurry beats Howard Payne 25-21. With Austinout of the ASC and with the Lobos and formerly-known-as-Indians being competitive, East Texas Baptist, the 2003 league champion, is the only team that won’t be a factor down the stretch. Half the league has two losses or fewer, although Louisiana College’s 3-2 mark is deceptive because it was well on its way to defeat before lightning wiped out the Hardin-Simmons game.
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