MAC lives up to challenge

Sometimes, games in Week 2 can be against a non-conference opponent, sometimes it might be a game against a conference rival.

But one conference, the Middle Athletic Conference, took the rivalry game to an entirely different level this weekend.

The MAC and the Presidents Athletic Conference (PAC) took part in the MAC-PAC Challenge on Saturday, pitting each team against each other in a intra-conference showdown.

The MAC came out on top through the eight-game slate, winning six. The two teams that fell, Lebanon Valley and King’s, both lost in close matchups -- by five points combined. Fans came out in droves for the cross-Pennsylvania matchups, and the real winner were the conferences.

“We couldn’t be happier with the results,” said MAC executive director Ken Andrews. “It helps us on the field, with a possible Pool C bid, but I also think it’s a great opportunity for Division III football.”

Andrews said that he and PAC Commissioner Joe Onderko came up with the idea for the Challenge when the task of scheduling became, well, more of a challenge.

“We talked about making it easier, and we thought it made sense to do it as an East-West Pennsylvania thing,” Andrews said.

The idea at first was to use the standings each year to determine the matchups, but for the first two years, the game will be a home and home series, ensuring that both schools get a home game out of the rivalry.

For the games, each team faced their counterpart in the 2009 standings. This made for some great matchups, including a Top 25 battle between No. 10 Delaware Valley and No. 20 Washington and Jefferson, the two conference winners in 2009. DVC took it to the Presidents, only allowing 67 yards of offense in a 27-0 win.

“That was a big win. It’ll help us down the road going into the postseason,” Andrews said.

Andrews said he attended the Lycoming-Westminster game, which had a good crowd on hand.

“It was a great football atmosphere. D-III doesn’t always get a lot of publicity and this kind of event builds interest,” Andrews said.

Another Top 25 team was in action on Saturday -- Montclair State. The defending New Jersey Athletic Conference champions ran all over Westfield State 34-0. Senior running back Chris D’Andrea had a career-best 174 yards and a touchdown on just 16 carries. He also contributed in the receiving game, catching a 45-yard touchdown pass for the Red Hawks. He was awarded the NJAC offensive player of the week honors for his performance.

In the Secretaries Cup, Coast Guard held off the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in a defensive battle 10-8. MMA held Coast Guard to minus-3 yards rushing, but an 82-yard kickoff return by Pat Bennett ended up as the difference. You can read much more about this game in Keith McMillan’s Around the Nation later this week.

On the South Hill, Ithaca invited Union to town. Ithaca led the cross-league contest 28-7 in the third. The Dutchmen came back with two touchdowns late to make it 28-20, but the Bombers held them off to take the victory.

Ithaca senior Rob Zappia threw for a career-high 242 yards and ran for his first career touchdown. Receiver Thomas Vossler caught eight passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns, putting him over the century mark in receptions -- the seventh Bomber to reach that plateau. Ithaca is now 4-3 all time against Union.

Cortland State opened its season in Union --- New Jersey, that is, against NJAC foe Kean. Red Dragon sophomore Justin Autera had a career day, accounting for 227 all-purpose yards and an 85-yard kickoff return to open the game in a 24-12 win.

Western Connecticut freshman Dave Plaskon earned offensive rookie of the week honors for his performance against SUNY-Maritime in a 41-28 defeat. Plaskon caught three passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns, to go along with Tyler Derosa’s 205 yards rushing, but it wasn’t enough for the Colonials.

On pace for 45 touchdowns
St. John Fisher’s Tim Bailey threw for five touchdowns for the second game in a row, this time torching the Buffalo State defense in a 54-26 win. Bailey, who finished the game going 18-for-25 for 340 yards and the five scores, now owns the Cardinals’ record for career touchdown throws with 52.

Junior Ryan Schmidt also had a career day, catching seven passes for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the rout.

The kids are alright
Hobart opened its season on Saturday with a big 38-7 win against Centennial Conference opponent Dickinson.

Two freshmen had big opening games for the Statesmen. Steven Webb, a running back had 58 yards rushing and two touchdowns, but also returned a kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown. On defense, freshman linebacker Devin Worthington had 10 tackles, three for loss, a sack and blocked a punt that led to a score for Hobart.

If coach Mike Cragg can continue to get that kind of production out of his freshmen, it could spell a Liberty League title for his squad.

Utica sophomore quarterback Andrew Benkwitt had a career game against Castleton State on Saturday, throwing for 378 yards and four touchdowns in three quarters of play in a 59-22 rout. Freshman receiver Anthony Acevedo was Benkwitt’s favorite target, catching 10 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns. Zach Jones rushed for 132 yards on 11 carries in the second half.

Exciting finishes
WPI won 27-20 in overtime against Worcester State in the annual cross-town rivalry game on Saturday. WPI’s Cody Beckel kicked a 21-yard field goal to tie the game at 20 at the end of regulation. On the first drive of overtime, Pat McAuley hit Trevor Dunne with a 21-yard touchdown pass to give them the lead. On Worcester State’s possession, they had first-and-goal at the 4-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in, giving WPI the victory.

As part of the MAC-PAC Challenge, King’s gave Bethany all it could handle, lining up with only a few seconds to go for a field goal that would win it for the Monarchs. Unfortunately the kick missed, and the PAC got one of its two wins on the day.

Odds and ends
Widener threw one of the two shutouts on the day for the MAC in the MAC-PAC Challenge, blanking Thiel 21-0.

Springfield’s rushing offense remains in high gear, rushing for 459 yards in a 51-0 rout of Husson. Antoine King ran for 125 yards on only five carries, thanks to a 91-yard jaunt for the Pride.

Lebanon Valley kicker Brittany Ryan tied a record for most points by a female kicker in college football history (all divisions) Ryan’s two extra points gave her 87 points, tying her with West Alabama’s Tonya Butler.

Lycoming senior Josh Kleinfelter ran for 209 yards and two touchdowns, crossing the 200-yard mark for the second time in his career in a 40-10 win against Westminster.

FDU-Florham senior quarterback Matt Jeffers led the Devils in the MAC-PAC Challenge against St. Vincent. Jeffers threw for 287 yards and four touchdowns in a 28-23 win. But the highlight of the game is the outstanding catch

Albright’s Josan Holmes rushed for 225 yards and three touchdowns in a 54-27 win over Geneva in the MAC-PAC Challenge. Holmes’ total was the fourth most in program history.

I’ve gotten a couple of good ideas for stories, so please keep them coming! You guys see a lot more than I can hope to. Also, please follow me at @d3fbEAST. I post when the column goes up to the website and different things from games on Saturdays.

Jason Bowen

Jason Bowen has 10 years of Division III coaching experience at Wesley, where he was also the Sports Information Director. He currently provides color analysis on broadcasts of Wesley games on WDEL Radio 1150AM and has served as a staff and freelance writer for the Delaware State News in Dover. He has been a contributor for D3football.com since 2006. By day he teaches high school biology. He is a 1992 graduate of and three-year letter winner at linebacker for Mansfield (Pa.) University.

2006-10 columnist: Adam Samrov
2011-14 columnist: Andrew Lovell

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