September 8, 2013

Snap judgments

Kenyon beat Allegheny at home last year en route to a 6-4 season, and doubled down with a dominant win at Allegheny to open 2013.
Kenyon athletics file photo

This season, instead of waiting for Thursdays for Around the Nation, we'll break up the features and the discussion and opinion, starting with Sunday's feature, snap judgments.

Everybody's interesting in Week 1. Defending national champion Mount Union needed a fourth-quarter game-winning drive to avoid losing a season opener for the first time since 1997 1987 and a home game for the first time since 2005. Wesley got a 510-yard passing outing from a quarterback making his first start. Mary Hardin-Baylor went out to California and soundly beat Redlands, and it barely caused a ripple.

That's because it's not just the top five that's intriguing at this point in the season. Everyone is full of hope, uncertainty and/or eager optimism. Kenyon beating Allegheny 37-7 is just as eye-opening as some of the top teams' accomplishments, if only because it shows that the Lords' dalliance with an NCAC title last season might not have been a fluke.

Along the same lines, 2012 surprises Waynesburg and Ohio Wesleyan were up to more of the same, the Yellow Jackets using a 23-yard Carter Hill-to-Bernie Thompson touchdown pass for 22 seconds left to beat Muskingum 21-17 and the Battling Bishops beating Bluffton, 37-20.

There were great games way off the radar, like Nichols beating Westfield State in overtime when the Owls missed a point after on the last play of the game. Guilford and Greensboro were never separated by more than a touchdown in the Quakers' 31-28 win in The Gate City Soup Bowl.

Anyway, here are some things I think we learned in Week 1:

● The more things change, the more they stay the same for Hardin-Simmons, who can still schedule and score with the best of them, but can't stop a soul defensively. The Cowboys finished last season ranked second in the nation in total offense and 236th in total defense.

● Kevin Burke, despite having zero of the players who started with him on offense in the Stagg Bowl back, looks as good as ever for Mount Union. I wouldn't read too much into the fact that the Purple Raiders were pushed to the brink. It means something -- like that we don't yet know if Mount Union will be one of the elite teams as is standard, or just pretty good -- but Burke calmly directed the game winning drive. The big play was a 31-yard scramble in which Burke eluded a sack and darted up the middle and then to the sideline. Two plays later, he threw a touch pass to Sherman Wilkinson to the 1-yard line.

● Hendrix was a winner in its first D-III game, while Southwestern and Berry, playing tougher competition, were not. I don't know that it means Hendrix is the furthest along of the three, or just that Westminster (Mo.) was more beatable than Texas Lutheran and Maryville, respectively.

● The return leg of a long road trip is usually about as enjoyable as the result. Lose, and there's no laughing on the bus or plane. But MIT, which flew back to Boston after winning at Pomona-Pitzer, and Pacific, which beat Adrian in Michigan, I'm betting had two of the week's best trips. Meanwhile, Lewis & Clark, which got blown out at Utica, had a long trip home from New York to Oregon.

● Michael Bates and Cecil Brimmage will be names D-III national followers get to know well, if they don't already. The Illinois College quarterback and running back led an assault on Hanover in Week 1, with five total TDs from Bates, a junior who has starred since his freshman year, and Brimmage with 146 rushing yards and two scores on just 12 carries.

● Defense can get overlooked in the focus on silly offensive numbers. St. John Fisher might be silly good on defense. The Cardinals didn't just shut Otterbein, an 8-2 OAC team, out. They did it after a long road trip to Ohio, and they did it in stifling fashion against a team that won eight games last year, allowing just 14 rushing yards and 145 total yards.

● Likewise, Wesley's defense (eight sacks, 0 points allowed in second half) might have its performance overlooked while Steven Kodossou was hauling in 17 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns. But the comeback against Widener, which led 21-7 after 21 minutes, is not possible without the D getting it together.

● Same goes for the defenses of UW-Oshkosh, Christopher Newport and Delaware Valley, who did their parts while the offenses rallied to wins over Central, Salisbury and Rowan in the second half.

● Add UW-Whitewater's defense in here, not so much for the rally, but for the fact that for everything their offense isn't compared to the dominant Warhawks teams, they still smother offenses. Wash. U. had 195 205 total yards in a 17-7 loss.

● It's going to be one of those ridiculous numbers years for Springfield and its triple option. The Pride rushed for 469 yards and had five players run for TDs against Western New England, but still needed Matt Berni's 70-yard interception return for a touchdown to seal the win.

● Misericordia, which lost to Gettysburg last year in the program's first game, 70-0, led at halftime this time around. The 29-26 lead became a 62-40 loss, so while Gettysburg deserves the shine for winning, Misericordia gets a hat tip for progress. The Cougars had 31 first downs, rushed for 587 yards and got a five-TD day from quarterback Jeff Puckett. That's a team we're now keeping an eye on for more signs of growth.

● For all the talk about first-time coaches, Vince Kehres pulled a savvy move for Mount Union, giving six carries to Mason Minnich on the Purple Raiders' game-winning drive after the running back fumbled twice in the second half, helping keep Franklin in the game.

● The 25 teams I voted for in the preseason ballot went 12-5 with eight DNPs. All the losses were pretty respectable -- Wittenberg to I-AA Butler, Franklin and Widener to top-5 teams, Rowan to Delaware Valley and Salisbury to Christopher Newport. Teams I voted for this week that I didn't in the preseason: Willamette, Delaware Valley and St. John Fisher. And almost CNU.

Join Keith McMillan and Pat Coleman on the Around the Nation podcast on Monday mornings.

comments powered by Disqus

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.

Previous Columns

September 17, 2014
Startups come back for seconds
The three teams that started up Division III football programs last season are now in the midst of...
September 14, 2014
Snap judgments: These underdogs brought some bite
There were some near-upsets on Saturday, but in the end, almost all of the higher-ranked teams came...
September 11, 2014
Monarch linebacker forced to follow his heart
Forced from the middle of the action to a supporting role on the sidelines, Methodist linebacker...
September 7, 2014
Snap judgments: Right/wrong foot
There are two ways to start the season -- with a win, or a loss. Now, not every win necessarily puts...
September 2, 2014
Division III football: A gentleman's game
Hampden-Sydney and Wabash, two all-male schools, are squaring off in football this weekend for the...
March 3, 2014
Analyzing the NJAC and E8's big moves
Wesley and its Capital Athletic Conference brethren join forces with five New Jersey schools to form...
November 24, 2013
Look who stole the show in Round 1
Many of those who shined in the first round of the 32-team playoffs weren't the nationally elite...
November 21, 2013
Playoff picks, surprises, disappointments
ATN assembles a team for an annual look at who might surprise and disappoint us in the 32-team...
November 16, 2013
On this day, they were all big games
Keith McMillan has instant reactions both inside and outside the playoff picture on the final day of...
November 13, 2013
A pre-regional rankings primer
Keith McMillan introduces the committee and their roles, analyzes Pools B and C and takes reader...
November 10, 2013
Snap judgments: Seen from the other side
Millsaps may well have a story for the ages out of Saturday's win vs. Centre, as will Cornell and...
November 7, 2013
Poll positions: What to make of regional rankings
If you haven't seen regional rankings before, or your team hasn't been a contender in recent years,...
November 3, 2013
Snap judgments: The aftermath
With so many games featuring two ranked teams, we should see a lot of movement in Sunday's Top 25...
October 24, 2013
Poll positions: Doing some number crunching
The Top 25 doesn't exist to steal anybody's joy. It is merely a prism through which to view...
October 20, 2013
Snap judgments: Cycling up
Maryville and TCNJ are atop their respective conferences, the John Carroll defense isn't the only...
October 13, 2013
Snap judgments: A blurry picture developing
Not literally -- we get great pictures from our associated photographers and SIDs, but that won't...
October 8, 2013
Poll positions: Streaking up the rankings
Keith McMillan looks at why one computer ranking is making the case for a blue team No. 1, and not a...
October 6, 2013
Snap judgments: Bounceback seasons
Olivet, St. Lawrence, North Park, Husson, Western Connecticut ... the list of improved teams this...
October 3, 2013
Re-ranking the conferences
With September's games, and the vast majority of non-conference play in the books, Around the Nation...
September 29, 2013
Snap judgments: Look away from the Top 25 scores
At first glance -- like say, the scores page, with the top 25 scores the initial finals that catch...
September 26, 2013
History lesson: Engineering rivalries
Week 4 is perhaps the most odd Saturday on the schedule. There aren't many great rivalries, but...
September 24, 2013
Poll positions: How the voters reacted
A kick going wide left produced a wide variety of reactions, but when Wesley got taken down a peg,...
September 22, 2013
Snap judgments: Week 3
The Tommie-Johnnie rivalry is back, UMHB's defensive line is pretty darn good, the MIAA has a better...
September 19, 2013
History lesson: Wesley vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor
Now that longtime rivals Wabash and DePauw are both in the North Coast, and Mount Union and...
September 18, 2013
Poll positions: There's some movement coming
The top of the poll didn't change much last week but Saturday's games could have a significant...
September 17, 2013
Off the beaten path
Just because a team isn't in the Top 25 running or mentioned in the podcast or doesn't have a Play...
September 11, 2013
Poll positions: Why teams shuffle
In Around the Nation, Keith McMillan discusses a nonstandard way of assembling the ballot after Week...
September 8, 2013
Snap judgments
Keith McMillan's Around the Nation column returns. You'll see ATN several times a week, including on...

Other Columnists