Snap Judgments: Survival Saturday

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Spencer Wiersberg is now a Green Terror legend after his kick snapped a 22-game losing streak.
Photo courtesy McDaniel Athletics 

Week 4 was Survival Saturday for most of the Top 25.

Seven ranked teams survived by single digits. Others -- Wabash, Delaware Valley, and Cortland -- weren't so lucky. Utica and Wittenberg each strengthened their cases to be included in the Top 25 this week.

The Pioneers picked up their second win over a ranked opponent this season, defeating No. 23 Cortland, 24-13. Utica picked off five passes and held Cortland to 255 yards of offense. Wittenberg defeated No. 13 Wabash, 24-14, scoring the game's final 24 points. The Little Giants jumped out to a 14-0 lead, but were held to just 277 yards of offense on the day. They were held to just 106 yards over the final three quarters. Albright kept its season alive with a 20-17 win over No. 14 Delaware Valley. Malik Jackson caught a touchdown pass from Alec Vignola with 6.3 seconds left to deliver the Lions the win. Albright gained just 230 yards, but won the turnover battle, 2-0, despite fumbling four times. The Lions pounced on each of their fumbles.

Seven Top 25 teams had to earn everything on Saturday. No. 25 Central put up 588 yards of offense and needed every bit to hold off Loras, 42-34. No. 22 Hobart needed a blocked extra point return and late touchdown to get past Union, 27-23. Brandon Shed hauled in three touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 2:16 to play. No. 20 Franklin's only HCAC loss over the past seven seasons was to Bluffton in 2013. The Beavers gained 604 yards of offense and scored 38 points, but Franklin prevailed with a 44-38 win to remain in the HCAC driver's seat. No. 18 Thomas More held Sam Benger to 55 rushing yards in the Saints' first meeting with Carnegie Mellon's star running back. The Saints turned the ball over three times and missed two kicks (an extra point and a short field goal), but intercepted Alex Cline four times and got the ground game back on track with 238 rushing yards in a 20-16 win.

St. John Fisher had its hands full with Brockport running back Dan Andrews, who rushed for 131 yards and four touchdowns. Matt Naton passed for 386 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions, to lead the No. 16 Cardinals to victory. Naton also rushed for two scores, including the game-winner with 17 seconds left to give St. John Fisher a 42-38 win. No. 11 Johns Hopkins needed to shut down Muhlenberg's offense after giving up 24 points in the first half. The Blue Jays responded, shutting the Mules out in the second half and coming back for a 30-24 win. Johns Hopkins had three interceptions and a fumble recovery, all in the second half. For the second straight week, Wheaton did just enough to remain undefeated. After a five-point win over Carthage last week, the Thunder rallied for a 10-6 win over Elmhurst. Wheaton trailed 6-0 and needed a late interception return to set up the go-ahead score. Wheaton totaled just 244 yards in the defensive struggle, but held the Bluejays to 185 yards of offense.

So, what did we learn this week? The line between the Top 25 and everyone else is a lot more blurry than some may think. Were these games examples of teams getting up for the biggest game on their schedule, trying to knock off a ranked foe? Or are there just that many quality teams in D-III this year. I'm inclined to think the latter holds true. It was refreshing to see a week without too many blowouts. This week also reinforced that there is a solid dividing line between the top four teams in the country and everyone else. Maybe this will serve as a wake up call for those teams who want to crack into that upper echelon of Stagg Bowl contenders.

Outside of the Top 25, St. Lawrence and Northwestern both remained undefeated, but each team was scored upon for the first time this season. The Saints allowed 14 in a six-point win over RPI, while the Eagles allowed 20 in an 18-point victory over Martin Luther.

UW-Eau Claire defeated Wisconsin Lutheran, ending a 14-game losing streak. It was not the most impressive streakbuster of the day, however.

Green Terror snap skid

McDaniel won for the first time since September 5, 2014, the 2014 season opener. Mike Dailey served as an assistant during the lean years that included just five wins over the past five seasons. The Green Terror endured winless campaigns in both 2012 and 2015. So, when Spencer Wiersberg lined up for a career-long 43-yard attempt with 4.8 seconds to play in a tie game against Ursinus, there was a lot riding on his leg. Wiersberg delivered, capping a wild ending and leading the Green Terror to a much-needed victory. The win, which snapped a 22-game losing streak, was cathartic in many ways.

"It's been a long stretch. I was proud of our guys no matter what. To endure, to show some resolve. I really feel good for our school and our community. Today really gave me a great idea of how the people at McDaniel are interconnected and how proud they are of the school."

Dailey heard from parents and alumni, but also from professors, presidents, and campus police. He was blown away by the reaction from all corners of campus.

"It really made me feel good," said Dailey. "To have people that really went out of their way to say thank you and congratulations meant a great deal."

It took a late interception off of a deflected pass, a long fourth down conversion, and Wiersberg's third and longest field goal of the night, all in the final minute. The Green Terror made big plays in big moments, something rare for the program in recent years.

"In a tough, long losing streak there's been so many times where we were right in the midst of a late ballgame where we had an opportunity to make some plays to get a win and we didn't do it.," said Dailey. "Today was a day that we made those plays. I think it's a great confidence builder for us."

On tap:

Here's what to watch for on D3football.com this week.

Later today-- new Top 25 poll released

Monday--Around the Nation podcast featuring Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan. Also, Play of the Week. Submit nominations today if you haven't already.

Tuesday/Wednesday--Around the Region columns

Thursday--Around the Nation column. This week, we re-rank the conferences. I await your scorn.

Friday--Quick Hits (the new, improved version of Triple Take featuring our panel's predictions and insight into the weekend's games).

Saturday--Game day. You know what Saturdays are for.

We've got great content coming at you all week, every week. Follow along and get to know D-III football beyond just your favorite team.

If you have ideas for an upcoming column or just want to talk some D-III football, get at me at @adamturer on Twitter or adam.turer@d3sports.com.

Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his second season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

2014-2015 columnist: Ryan Tipps.
2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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