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Snap judgments: These underdogs brought some bite

Chapman quarterback Michael Lahey was sacked six times Saturday night vs. Linfield.
Photo by Dan Harris,

It was clear this weekend that the underdogs wanted to show that they were as much bite as they were bark against the Top 25. In at least seven matchups, the scores weren’t separated by much in the third or fourth quarters.

Only one Top 25 team was upended by a lower-ranked opponent (then-No. 7 Bethel by No. 15 Wartburg), though Linfield, UW-Platteville, Johns Hopkins, Illinois Wesleyan and Hampden-Sydney got some pretty big scares. But it was two of D-III elites, UW-Whitewater and North Central, that really showed football is an all-out four-quarter game. Their outings against Franklin and St. Norbert, respectively, were close at halftime, only to see the underdogs get shut out in the second half and the big dogs skate to super-sized victories.

The three newest members of Division III were exciting to watch on Saturday.

• Southwestern, which restarted its program last fall, took the ball away from Sul Ross’ offense seven times, three of those thanks to the interceptions and fumble recovery of cornerback Nik Kelly. It was the program’s first win since 1950. I can’t help but consider comparisons to teams like LaGrange and Huntingdon, both now in the USA South, that had a rocky season or two as recent startups but soon enjoyed the feeling of eight- or nine-win seasons soon thereafter.

• Berry nearly earned its first (varsity) win since beginning play in 2013, pushing LaGrange into overtime but then failing on a two-point conversion, ending the game at 28-27. Berry’s quarterback, Dale Jackson, had 272 yards but was out-gunned by LaGrange’s Graham Craig, who had 374 yards. Each passed for four touchdowns and two interceptions. Most impressive is how the Vikings harnessed its defensive pressure, surely helping to keep the game within reach. Berry had 12 tackles for loss, including sacking Craig six times.

• Hendrix, the most successful of the new teams to date, broke open its game with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, including a pick-six. The Warriors won three games last year and already have two victories this season. I’m not sure that they’ll make the leap to an eight-win season quite yet, but five or six certainly isn’t unreasonable to foresee.

Even in losses, MIAA teams have been largely overperforming this season. They’ve held their own against ranked teams and power-conference teams that they may not have been expected to stack up against so well. And, most notably, they’re winning the kinds of games they should be winning if they want to gain some recognition. Albion, in particular, has been “rewarded” for its tough scheduling with an 0-2 record, but to lose by 11 to a good WIAC team and by seven to a ranked team is nothing to feel disappointed about. It will pay off in the long run.

Some odds and ends:

• Hampden-Sydney did...

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is'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 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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