September 17, 2008

Brutal openers all part of ONU's plan

More news about: Ohio Northern

Coach Dean Paul and his Ohio Northern staff really aren't gluttons for punishment. They didn't accidentally get sucked into playing at No. 1 Mount Union to start their OAC slate a week after starting the season at then-No. 15 North Central.

They did it on purpose.

"We knew when we scheduled that game North Central had a pretty good team," Paul said. "We knew we had Mount Union next. We knew they were both going to be on the road. But we felt like to get to where we want to ascend to, we have to push ourselves."

And so it is that the Polar Bears come off a 20-3 loss to the Cardinals -- a game Ohio Northern led at the half and was a seven-point game in the fourth quarter -- staring at the very real prospect of starting a promising season 0-2.

Perhaps surprisingly, Paul spoke mostly of positives taken away from the North Central game and opportunities this Saturday provides.

"We played well enough last week to win against most teams," said Paul, whose defense didn't give up a touchdown in the first 55 minutes but wasn't helped by five turnovers. "We lost four fumbles against a top 10 or top 15 team, and if you do that, you're making life really hard on yourself. 

"Coming from this, we know we can't wait until Week 5 or Week 6 to get where we want to be."

That makes this week of practice one where Paul's staff has to say very little in the way of motivation or inspiration.

"They're excited about taking on a challenge," Paul said of his players. "One reason why they came to Ohio Northern was the opportunity to play in big games like this."

When Paul talks to his team about a trip to Alliance being something to look forward to and not fear, he has a trump card very few coaches have. Mount Union's last regular season loss and only OAC defeat since 1994 came when Paul's Polar Bears won 21-14 in Alliance on Oct. 22, 2005. 

Though he points out that few of his current players were enrolled then, much less key factors in that game, Paul acknowledges there is a purpose in paying attention to the past.


Ohio Northern will need more than 56 yards from R.J. Meadows if it hopes to beat Mount Union.
Photo by David Rich for D3sports.com

"I think if nothing else it's a history lesson," he said, one that shows his current players what an inspired, determined team in capable of.

The win in Alliance came during Paul's second season in Ada, a place he never would have ended up if not for the mistakes of the previous coaching staff. Tom Kaczkowski was placed on administrative leave at the start of the 2003 season and was later determined by the NCAA to have been present at impermissible offseason practices. (Stacy Hairston, a current assistant, coached the '03 season.) Paul was hired away from Thomas More in 2004, and it wasn't until 2005 that the NCAA's punishment for the violations was handed down.

Two years of probation and a postseason ban for 2005 stunned the team during the week leading up to the John Carroll game. Paul recalled breaking the news to the team as "one of the hardest things I've had to do." On Oct. 1, the Blue Streaks pounded the Polar Bears, 50-25.

A team gone emotionally flat picked itself up against tremendous odds and dealt the Purple Raiders that defeat three weeks later.

Paul, a 1990 Mount Union graduate and two-time all-OAC running back under Mount Union coach Larry Kehres, used words like "showed resolve" and "galvanized" to describe that team.

His current team, led by 15 starters from last year's 7-3 season, needs to draw out a similar effort.

There are reasons for optimism. Linebacker Jake Myers had 10 tackles last week and defensive back Cullen Rassmussen had eight. The defense, led by end Josh Horn and nose guard Jake Fallis, had five tackles for losses and four pass break-ups. 

R.J. Meadows, a senior running back who ran for three first-half touchdowns in the 2005 Mount Union win, is still the player the offense revolves around, along with quarterback Kyle Simmons. ONU, which beat North Central's CCIW rival Millikin 42-0 in its only non-conference game of 2007, only averaged 21 points per game the rest of the way.

Its formula for beating Mount Union would likely be to turn it into the type of physical game the Polar Bears excel in. Mount Union, which will have had two weeks of practice since its season-opening 33-3 win against St. John Fisher, still don't have many key players with significant game experience beyond star quarterback Greg Micheli and running back Nate Kmic.

Kehres thought his offensive line began to come together some after the first game, and he said the extra week of practice allowed his staff to teach some things they hadn't worked on yet.
If Ohio Northern, which with a loss would likely be forced to run the table to preserve its playoff hopes, pulls off another victory in Alliance, the Purple Raiders staff would be working on another unfamiliar concept next week: how to turn around and play the following week.

Here are a few other unexpected starts:

GOOD
 Worcester Polytech, which lost its last six in 2007, played nearly that many overtimes to win at Mass-Dartmouth in Week 1 then followed with a 31-10 defeat of crosstown Worcester State.

 Lebanon Valley, at 2-0, is already one of two unbeaten teams remaining in the MAC. (1-0 Widener, the defending champion, is the other). Wins against Gettysburg and at Ursinus have the Flying Dutchmen halfway to last seaon's win total.

 Norwich has matched its win total from '07 (and '06) already by opening up with a pair of road wins, against Mount Ida and St. Lawrence.

 Simpson is 2-0 under new coach Jim Glogowski, beating Grand View and Northwestern (Minn.).

NOT-SO-GOOD 
 Mississippi College is first among teams an AQ must rescue, since it did not rebound well from its 42-6 Backyard Brawl defeat against Millsaps. Quarterback Adam Shaffer threw seven interceptions in a loss to NAIA Cumberlands (Ky.), including three returned for TDs. The Choctaws are surrendering 45.5 points per game, but the ASC schedule provides a path for an 0-2 team to make the playoffs.

 Randolph-Macon, a 39-31 triple-overtime loser to Johns Hopkins, has the same opportunity when the ODAC schedule begins, but this week has a get-right game at SUNY-Maritime. The Yellow Jackets have already matched their loss total from '07, which looks more like a fluke if they don't turn it around. R-MC has nine giveaways on the season, including seven lost fumbles and 12 total.

 Coe's losses to Augustana of the CCIW and Gustavus Adolphus of the MIAC aren't alarming for a middling IIAC team, but you can bet the Kohawks don't envision themselves as middling. They haven't started a season with consecutive losses since 1990, and even then they won the next eight and the MWC championship. Coe outgained the Gusties 450-289 but lost 27-19.

First and Ten

Around the Nation spreads the field, then dinks and dunks its way through a list of thoughts that popped up concerning Weeks 2 and 3:

1. Looking at final scores alone can be deceiving. Wabash, ranked No. 9 last week, only beat Denison, ranked No. 171 in Kickoff '08, by 14 points. But it was a 41-13 game in the fourth quarter and every bit the blowout poll watchers would expect. Likewise, Ohio Northern probably didn't get taken to school as badly as the 20-3 score against North Central might indicate. It was a one-score game early in the fourth quarter even though ONU finished with four lost fumbles and an interception in the driving rain.

2. Gallaudet must be sick that a team broke a long losing skid (see Streak watch, below) against it for the second week in a row, but worse for the Bison is that they had opportunities to win both games. Against St. Vincent, it led 20-3 in the first half. Against Hiram last week its biggest leads were 7-2 and 9-8, but the Bison drove to the 6 before settling for a field goal that sent the game to overtime.

3. Wesley's 25-22 loss to Delaware Valley (see Around the East) reminds me of last season's 27-26 loss against Montclair State. The Wolverines were humbled by the Red-Hawks and outscored their next three opponents 123-7 on the way to eight consecutive wins. That's how many regular season games Wesley has left, with this week's Widener meeting and a Week 9 meeting with Salisbury chief among the challenges remaining.

4. The early rivalry watch goes from Merchant Marine's 34-7 win against Coast Guard for the Secretaries' Cup last week to Coe's 118th meeting with rival Cornell this Saturday. The rivals haven't met this early in the season since 1974, and both come in 0-2 overall but looking for a 1-0 start in IIAC play.

5. Kalamazoo provided 2000 alum Jamie Zorbo his first win as head coach by scoring the game's final 17 points to defeat Rockford. Jon Rea's 20-yard field goal with 2 seconds left was the clincher.

6. Salve Regina, which hasn't won more than two games in a season since 2001, got off to a 1-0 start with a 46-14 victory at SUNY-Maritime. Seahawks quarterback Jeff St. Onge was 19 of 25 for 332 yards (topping his career-best of 216) and had a hand in five touchdowns in the win.

7. Westminster (Pa.) and their 6-2 win against Allegheny was representative of the weekend's rough weather situation from the south, across the Midwest to the Northeast. But Carthage and Hope had little trouble scoring, as the Redmen led 42-26 at the half and 52-39 at the start of the fourth quarter in a 70-46 win. Evan Jones was one of a handful of Division III quarterbacks to toss six TD passes this weekend.

8. We often write about the longest road trips. North Central barely has to pack bags for its three-mile, six-minute trip to Benedictine this week.

9. Aside from the NESCAC, which gets underway this week, brand-new St. Scholastica is one of only two Division III teams yet to play a game. The Saints of Duluth, Minn. make their program debut Saturday at Wisconsin Lutheran. They'll play an eight-game schedule, including four in the UMAC.

10. The Empire 8's front-loaded schedule features matchups of its three playoff teams in each of the next three weeks. No. 19 Ithaca hosts Hartwick on Saturday, followed by No. 11 St. John Fisher hosting the Bombers. The Hawks then travel to SJF on Oct. 4.

Poll positions

Insight on the ballot of a D3football.com top 25 voter, and the teams who are on the fringe:

For the second week in a row, my ballot has 24 of the same teams as the consensus ranking. I sneaked Delaware Valley in at No. 25 after the Wesley win, while I still haven't come up with a reason to rank this year'sSt. John Fisher team, which will get a chance to prove itself soon enough, with Ithaca, Hartwick and Salisbury at home in consecutive weeks beginning Sept. 27. I feel weird having them so far from where the pack has them at No. 11, but it's early yet, no reason to sweat.

I also have 12th-ranked North Central, which was top 10 in my mind before Ohio Northern, a lot higher than the poll does, and Millsaps belongs higher than No. 22. But I also don't have St. John's or Central, despite their histories, quite as high as No. 4 or No. 9. Some varying opinion on the strength of top teams is probably to be expected at this point in the season.

 My fringe: 26. Christopher Newport, 27. St. John Fisher, 28. Hobart, 29. Montclair State, 30. Hampden-Sydney, 31. Albright, 32. Curry, 33. Augsburg, 34. Willamette, 35. Carthage. Also on the radar: UW-La Crosse, Wartburg, Illinois Wesleyan, Whitworth.

Discuss the top 25 on D3boards.com.

Five games to watch

No. 25 Ohio Northern at No. 1 Mount Union would normally make the list, but since it's discussed above, Around the Nation can stretch itself and pick another worthy game

Concordia-Moorhead at No. 4 St. John's: If there were doubts about the depth of the MIAC this season, consider this: The Cobbers are one of two teams in the nine-school conference to have a loss so far. The other is defending champion Bethel. With St. Olaf and Augsburg off to 2-0 starts and eager to get in the chase, this game could provide some contender clarity if the Johnnies improve to 3-0. If the Cobbers pull off a stunner, we should dig in for a long and confusing year in the MIAC.

Christopher Newport at No. 8 Salisbury: The Captains have yet to make their debut, since their Week 1 opener against Wesley was canceled. The Sea Gulls are 2-0 and coming off a convincing win against Geneva, so Christopher Newport must get over the rust quickly. Playing two fewer games than your opponent is quite the uphill battle.

No. 9 Central at Wartburg: This matchup, decided by six points or less three of the past four seasons, is usually a prime factor in the IIAC race. This season it might be even more so, with the Dutch not being as experienced as usual and the Knights coming off a defeat. The rest of the conference is probably rooting for Wartburg to pierce Central's recent aura of invincibility so they can pounce on the opportunity for a wide-open race. 

No. 20 Cortland State at Rowan: As in the OAC and MIAC, the NJAC is shaping up to be a conference with several contenders once again, so we might as well identify a leader (or co-leader alongside Montclair State) early. The conference's only ranked team faces its perennial power, which looked just good enough in a Week 1 24-14 win against Bridgewater State.

Whitworth at No. 23 Redlands: The Pirates are the first team also receiving votes, so it's practically a top 25 matchup. Last season's meeting had a bearing on the playoff picture, since the Northwest Conference didn't have an automatic bid and conference champion Whitworth missed the playoffs. Redlands is fresh off a 46-9 whooping of Dubuque in its opener, while the Pirates beat the Bulldogs' SCIAC rival La Verne 22-13.

 Also keep an eye on: No. 5 Capital at Heidelberg, No. 6 Muhlenberg at Union, Widener at No. 15 Wesley, Hartwick at No. 19 Ithaca, No. 24 Hardin-Simmons at Louisiana College, Principia at Crown.

Who are those guys?

Tracking Division III's performance against teams from other classifications:

Nineteen games dotted last week's list of non-division opponents, including 16 against NAIA teams, four of whom were ranked. Division III teams were 2-2 against the ranked teams, including a 37-13 win against Jamestown (N.D.) from UW-Stout, unranked on our end. Division III won 10 games against its counterparts, while Franklin beat I-AA non-scholarship Butler and UW-La Crosse took it on the chin against North Dakota, which is transitioning from one of Division II's strongest conferences to I-AA.

It's much smaller slate this week, and that's not including Newport News Apprentice against the George Mason club team, a game that technically has zero D-III teams participating. NNA participates in the ACFC, a Division III conference and is among the 239 teams we cover, but is not playoff-eligible nor an NCAA member.

UW-Stout plays the second half of a home-and-home with Missouri University of Science and Technology, formerly Missouri-Rolla. UW-Oshkosh's opponent is ranked second in NAIA.

Hanover's game at Butler has been canceled because of a storm that left water and power outages on the Panthers' campus and caused cancellation of extracurricular activities.

This week's NAIA opponents include four of the seven independents among the 92 teams in the classification.

 vs. Division I, FCS (1-2 in Week 2, 3-4 in 2008)
Hanover at Butler, ccd.

 vs. Division II (0-0 in Week 2, 1-2 in 2008)
Missouri S&T at UW-Stout

 vs. NAIA (10-6 in Week 2, 15-8 in 2008)
UW-Oshkosh at No. 2 Ohio Dominican
Howard Payne at Bacone
MacMurray at Haskell Indian Nations
UW-La Crosse at Asuza Pacific
Southern Virginia at Washington and Lee
Southern Oregon at Willamette

NAIA ranking comes from Victory Sports Network's Sept. 14 release.

Streak Watch


Longest losing streaks: St. Vincent took themselves off the short list of teams on this list by rallying from 17 down in the first half to defeat Gallaudet 23-22 for the first win since the Bearcats revived the program in 2007. They had started with 11 losses in a row. 

MacMurray lost 30-18 against Aurora while Averett was idle to take the, um, lead.

The longest current losing streaks in Division III:
MacMurray (12 consecutive losses, last win at Blackburn, 34-6, Nov. 11, 2006; 0-2 in 2008)
Averett (11 consecutive losses, last win vs. Maryville 58-44, Nov. 11, 2006; 0-1 in 2008)

 It's going to take some hot starts before we have many long win streaks to acknowledge. In the meantime, our defending champion still leads the back after surviving at UW-Eau Claire, 16-14.

UW-Whitewater (15 consecutive wins, last loss at St. Cloud State, 26-16, Sept. 15, 2007; 2-0 in 2008)

 Curry beat Fitchburg State 41-34 to extend the longest streak if we exclude the playoffs. It also marked the 30th home win in a row for the Colonels. Central and Mount Union were idle.

The longest current regular-season winning streaks in Division III:
Curry (31 consecutive wins, including two NEFC title games, last loss at Maine Maritime, 28-21, Sept. 17, 2005; 2-0 in 2008)
Central (28 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Coe, 17-14, Sept. 17, 2005; 1-0 in 2008)
Mount Union (24 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Ohio Northern, 21-14, Oct. 22, 2005; 1-0 in 2008)

 As conference play gets underway, here are the longest marks with non-conference play excluded. Curry leads here too, and considers itself on a 32-game NEFC win streak, but separated by the conferences two divisions, the Colonels stayed put this week since Fitchburg State is a member of the NEFC Bogan.

Whitewater's UW-Eau Claire win did count in conference standings although the second matchup, at Perkins Stadium on Nov. 1, will not. Across Wisconsin, St. Norbert opened its MWC slate with a 55-7 win against Grinnell.

Longest conference winning streaks:
Curry (25 consecutive NEFC Boyd wins, not including Bogan Division or title games, last loss at Mass-Dartmouth, 18-13, Sept. 25, 2004)
St. Norbert (26 consecutive MWC wins, last loss vs. Monmouth, 28-20, Sept. 17, 2005; 1-0 in 2008)
Central (23 consecutive IIAC wins, last loss vs. Coe, 17-14, Sept. 17, 2005)
UW-Whitewater (22 consecutive WIAC wins, last loss vs. UW-La Crosse, 35-10, Nov. 13, 2004; 1-0 in 2008)
Mary Hardin-Baylor (21 consecutive ASC wins, last loss at Howard Payne, 24-20, Oct. 8, 2005)
Mount Union (21 consecutive OAC wins, last loss vs. Ohio Northern, 21-14, Oct. 22, 2005)
Washington & Jefferson (18 consecutive PAC wins, last loss vs. Thiel, 38-35 in OT, Oct. 1, 2005)
Bethel (14 consecutive MIAC wins, last loss at Carleton, 17-14, Sept. 23, 2006)
Whitworth (13 consecutive NWC wins, last loss vs. Willamette, 40-34 in OT, Nov. 5, 2005)
Franklin (11 consecutive HCAC wins, last loss vs. Mount St. Joseph, 21-14, Oct. 14, 2006)
N.C. Wesleyan (11 consecutive USAC wins, last loss vs. Averett, 24-20, Oct. 14, 2006)
Wabash (11 consecutive NCAC wins, last loss at Wittenberg, 19-17, Oct. 14, 2006; 1-0 in 2008)

 We praised Hiram and Lewis and Clark for breaking overall losing streaks in Week 1, but there's still work to do before they're wiped completely from the slate. None of the teams listed below have played a conference game yet this season, though Cornell and Sewanee do on Saturday.

The longest current conference losing streaks in Division III:
North Park (54 consecutive CCIW losses, last win vs. Elmhurst, 31-21, Oct. 7, 2000)
Hiram (21 consecutive NCAC losses, last win vs. Earlham, 7-2, Oct. 1, 2005)
Lewis and Clark (21 consecutive NWC losses, last win vs. Puget Sound, 25-23, Sept. 27, 2003)
Cornell (20 consecutive IIAC losses, last win vs. Dubuque, 25-21, Oct. 15, 2005)
Norwich (14 consecutive E8 losses, last win vs. Hartwick, 36-26, Oct. 29, 2005)
Sewanee (13 consecutive SCAC losses, last win at Rhodes, 25-22, Nov. 12, 2005)
Kalamazoo (10 consecutive MIAA losses, last win vs. Wisconsin Lutheran, 31-19, Oct. 21, 2006)

Recommended reading


This season you'll find the rest of our articles of interest from outside sources linked on the front page, down the right-hand rail under the heading �What we're reading.'

General feedback

Around the Nation is interactive, and since its inception has made reader feedback a part of the column. We keep a running board on Post Patterns (under general football) to discuss issues raised in the column, and we'll share feedback and answer questions there, as well as in the column occasionally. E-mail correspondence can be directed to keith@d3football.com.

For print, radio and Internet journalists

Keith McMillan is available by appointment to talk Division III football. For more information, e-mail Keith.

Attention SIDs

As always, Around the Nation appreciates help in covering your school or conference this season. For more information, contact Keith McMillan at Keith@D3football.com, or snail mail to D3football.com, 13055 Carolyn Forest Dr., Woodbridge, Va., 22192.

Links to online media guides are preferred over mail. In addition, please do not add my e-mail address to your regular release lists, but instead use our news release capabilities to have your information posted on D3football.com's front page and your team's page. For more information on how that works and how we can help each other, contact publisher Pat Coleman at info@d3football.com. Thank you.

Correction

An early version of this column misstated the Division II conference which Missouri Science & Techology belongs. It competes as a football independent and is an all-sports member of the Great Lakes Valley Conference ... St. Norbert's conference win this past week was its 26th in a row.

 

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for D3hoops.com. He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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