October 13, 2013

Snap judgments: A blurry picture developing

Dion Wiegand's big day, including a momentum-changing kickoff return, helped make the PAC picture a little more cloudy.
d3photography.com file photo by Eric Kelley

Usually by Week 6, the picture of a season begins to come into focus. This particular Week 6, however, seemed to blur the view in a handful of Eastern conferences. For those of us watching from afar, it's not necessarily a bad thing.

The upset of the day came in the NJAC, where Morrisville State -- the one-time junior college power that had won 10 games in seven seasons since joining Division III in 2006 -- beating Rowan by 20. Not only was it a shocker in terms of a name program falling to one that hasn't been known for success in D-III, but it was the margin.

The Mustangs' win cast the NJAC race in a new light, and given goings on around the rest of the East, their 3-2 record looks a lot different. A 28-23 win over St. Lawrence didn't catch many eyes back in Week 3, but it remains the 5-1 Saints' only loss. A 51-34 loss to Hartwick looks a little different too, with the Hawks at 4-1 with their only loss to St. John Fisher.

Cortland State, TCNJ -- which won for the second time in three games while scoring only seven points -- and Morrisville are now out in front in what could be a crazy race.

It wouldn't be the only one.

Washington & Jefferson's upset of Thomas More threw the PAC for a loop. There are now five teams with one PAC loss, and see if you can follow this string with me: Bethany lost to Geneva but beat W&J, who beat Thomas More, who beat Geneva, 61-0, last week, and Waynesburg, 49-28 a few weeks ago.

The string in the MAC is kooky too: Lebanon Valley just upset Lycoming, which had beaten Delaware Valley and Widener, who of course, knocked off Leb Val back in Week 2. So atop the MAC there's a four-way logjam going by losses, though it's not technically a tie. Delaware Valley hosting Lebanon Valley on Nov. 2 becomes a very big game ... if neither team loses before then.

Other races are tough to figure, but at least we expected some of these: The IIAC (Coe, Wartburg or Dubuque?), the ODAC (Hampden-Sydney, Randolph-Macon or Guilford) and the NESCAC (Amherst, Trinity and Wesleyan).

The SCIAC got weird too, after Redlands beat Cal Lutheran late on Saturday, 10-7. Chapman, LaVerne and Redlands has never before been the scene at the top of the conference halfway through the season.

Here are Saturday's snap judgments:

• St. John's picked the right head coach. The Johnnies are back, and are now 5-1 with a two-point win over Augsburg (though it was really more like a 9-point win with a late TD thrown in). It was the Johnnies' fourth win by a field goal or less, but the more impressive stat, as far as Fasching's coaching is concerned? One penalty for two yards on Saturday. 

• What goes around does indeed come around. Two weeks after falling a point short in a 127-point game, Mass. Maritime won by a point in a 107-point clash. Neither game has been in Buzzards Bay though, so the home fans' most recent memory is a 40-17 loss to Fitchburg State.

• Hendrix might be the most fun first-year team ever. They're 2-3 with 204 points scored and 201 allowed. That means they average 40 scored and given up -- and Saturday's loss to Wash U. was typical then. The Bears scored with 51 seconds left to win, 45-41.

Unbeaten team we talk the least about: Millsaps, which kicked the go-ahead field goal with 12 seconds left and managed to tackle Trinity on the ensuing kick this time. It's been six years since the Miracle in Mississippi, and the teams aren't even conference rivals anymore, but there's no way I wasn't reaching back for that reference.

Unbeaten team we talk the least about, Part II: Texas Lutheran. Technically, they already clinched the SCAC title. And with a lightning-canceled game against S.W.A.G., and a 4-0 record otherwise, they're a Pool B possibility. The Bulldogs can score, and most of the rest of the teams they play are good at giving up points. Games at Sul Ross State and Missisisippi College precede what could be a big home clash against Louisiana College, then they finish up with Hardin-Simmons and Howard Payne.

Unbeaten team we talk the least about, Part III: Wheaton. At least the Thunder are ranked, though it's off name recognition, not the impressiveness of anybody they've beaten. At 5-0, the Thunder are humming, but Elmhurst, Illnois Wesleyan and North Central over the next month will give us an idea of what to expect from Wheaton.

• St. Thomas lost to St. John's and may have lost its quarterback, Matt O'Connell on Saturday. Those might be the two worst Tommies losses imaginable.

• If you, like I, am in the ignore Wesley part of the schedule -- they crushed some team named Virginia of Lynchburg on Saturday. The Rowan loss made their remaining 

• Alfred State might have lost to Rochester Saturday, but at least they got to play Rochester.

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