November 18, 2010

Dealing with devastation

More news about: DePauw
There was nothing positive for Michael Engle and DePauw to take out of Saturday's Monon Bell disaster.
Photo by Ryan Coleman, d3photography.com

Okay, so it wasn’t pretty. And disappointing? Sure. Anytime you get crushed by your archrival in a game, it’s devastating.

But making the 47-0 loss to Wabash in the Monon Bell game on Saturday hurt even more was that DePauw’s bid to become the first 10-0 team in school history. A dream season seems out the window.

47-0?

Really?

You probably wouldn’t be too crazy to assume that DePauw will be toast this Saturday when they host Trine this Saturday in Greencastle. But you could also be very wrong.

I tried to think about when an undefeated team lost by such a wide margin so late in the season. I didn’t have to think for too long. Back in 2005, Wesley got bounced by Brockport 47-0 in an ACFC game and looked like they’d get crushed heading into a matchup with undefeated Salisbury the next week. But the Wolverines shockingly topped Salisbury 63-28 and didn’t lose again reaching the semifinals against UW-Whitewater.

Heck, even the Dallas Cowboys -- much maligned Dallas Cowboys -- looked great last weekend beating the Giants after getting smoked by Green Bay the previous week.

So what effect will this devastating loss have on a DePauw Tiger program that has earned its second consecutive appearance to the NCAA D-III playoffs?

“We don’t want it to happen again,” coach Robby Long said of the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference champs. “That’s the biggest motivation. They’ve earned the right to play an 11th game. They’ve got to go out there and practice with great focus, intensity and effort.

“Any time in football, win or lose, you have to get over the game you just played. For us, it was a big emotional game. Our kids really wanted to bring the bell back home and just went out there and didn’t play very well. But we talked on Sunday and I think that they’re focused and ready for the playoffs.”

Whatever is needed to bounce back, fear of failure, refocusing, or collective amnesia, at least the Tigers will get the chance to do it at home. Despite the loss, they grabbed the third seed in their regional bracket and the school is excited to be hosting a playoff game for the first time.

“It’s awesome,” Long said. “It’s another accomplishment not only for this team, but this group of seniors. The seniors played on the first team that went to the playoffs (last year), and then were able to play the first home game here at Blackstock Stadium in the postseason. It’s another notch in their belt.”

Last season, the Tigers started slowly in their opening round loss to Thomas More. Though they rallied late, they but still fell on the short end 49-39. Ending the 2009 season with two losses helped motivate the team throughout the past offseason according to receiver Alex Koors, whom I spoke with in early October. Now, the Tigers hope to avoid last year’s season-ending disappointments and notch the school first playoff victory.

“The purpose of qualifying for the playoffs is not to go out there and play poorly and not compete,” Long said. “We want to go out and compete against a great football team in Trine.”

Long knows from personal experience that it possible to bounce back from a devastating loss. As a defensive lineman at Illinois back in 2001, the Illini bounced back from a loss to Michigan to capture the Big Ten Title and advance to the Sugar Bowl.

“As a guy who played college football and has coached it for a while, there are lots of examples.” Long said of bouncing back. “As a freshman in college I played on a team that never won a game. There were a lot of heart-breaking losses during that season, but that football team was always focused and prepared. We just weren’t talented enough, that’s not the problem with this team, we just played a poor football game and picked a poor time to do it.”

So far Long is pleased with way his team has responded early in the week.

“We got together on Sunday and watched the selection show,” Long said. They were fired up about hosting a playoff game and having an opportunity to play in the postseason.

“We went out and got some good work during practice. We’ve got to continue to do the little things that it takes to win football games.”

The Tigers will host a Trine team, that despite hailing from the same state, Long admits he didn’t know much about until he sat down and watched video.

“They are a veteran football team that has been in the postseason before,” Long said of the Thunder. “They’ve got a great quarterback leading their team, a host of really good running backs and good skill guys. There offensive line is big and physical.

“Their defense is like a lot that we’ve seen down the stretch, they don’t anything to get themselves beat. The stop the run and they’re physical. They force you into bad situations and attack you.

“The other thing they do well is special teams. That’s usually a gauge on how well a team is coached and they have a great unit. In all three phases, they are well-coached and they play hard.”

The two schools share just one common opponent in Adrian, Trine’s MIAA conference mate. The Tigers topped the Bulldogs 23-19 while the Thunder won 24-16.

Daniels sets ASC rushing record
Mary Hardin-Baylor running back Quincy Daniels set up American Southwest Conference rushing record on Saturday in the Crusaders 81-3 victory over Texas Lutheran. The senior graduate student now has 3,672 yards and passed former Cru runner Justin Bryson.

It was just another in a long list of accomplishments both on and off the field for Daniels. The grad student was named the school’s outstanding senior at graduation last spring, had earned district All-Academic honors as well as scoring more touchdowns than anyone in ASC history.

The thing that sticks out most to UMHB coach Pete Fredenburg is Daniels’ leadership and work ethic.

“There is no one that works any harder that strives to be as good as he does,” Fredenburg said. “He is always pushing himself to excel, on the field as well as off the field. In five years, he has never missed a minute of work. He’s just an incredible kid. He’s is not only the fastest, he’s also the strongest that we have in our program.

“He’s been such as inspiration and role model for all of us. In parlays into other guys who see his work ethic and it obviously rubs off. It permeates throughout the team.”

Predictably, Daniels feels humbled to set such a mark and credits others with helping him succeed.

“It’s just amazing to do something like that,” Daniels said of setting the rushing mark. “First it’s just an honor. When you are growing up you really don’t know what you are going to do.

“Honestly, growing up, I didn’t really want to play football. My brothers pushed me to do it. It’s a tribute to the coaches, the offensive line and the running backs to be able to give me the opportunity to do something like this.”

Daniels claims he inherited his speed from his father, who won told him he won the Texas State title in the 440. Despite all the accomplishments in his career, Daniels has had to deal with adversity too. His missed the 2008 season with a knee injury.

“It’s funny but I was only upset set about that knee injury for about 10 or 15 minutes,” Daniels said. “After that I really just wanted to focus on why God had done that.

“Sometimes, I feel that God does things to you so he can put you in a position that he wants to put you in or allow you to focus him.  Being an athlete, the season is so rigorous that we just lose sight of certain things.

“It wasn’t, honestly, mentally that bad to come back. I feel like mentally that where you mostly have to recuperate from it. Physically, if you work really hard, really anybody can comeback from that injury.”

Daniels came back from that to lead the Crusaders into the second round in 2009. But the decision to return and use his final year of eligibility was not a hard one. His loyalty to the program and his teammates was one reason and other was the opportunity to lead.

“They’ve given me so much in so many ways,” Daniels said of his teammates and school. “I wanted to make sure I left school on a really high, positive note.”

But even if Daniels and his teammates don’t reach their goal of making it to Salem for the Stagg Bowl as the program did in 2004, you get the feeling that he is living in the moment. He learned from the knee injury and his faith.

“Every game could be your last,” he said. “I know that from personal experience. I don’t want to say that I’m not a sentimental person. But I feel like wherever we end that I’ll be at peace with it because I’ve given the program and university everything that I had to offer.”

The Crusaders will face a familiar opponent in Christopher Newport. The team’s split a home-and-home series back in 2006 and 2007. The Captains won 15-10 in Newport News the first year, while the Cru returned the favor 51-19 in Belton the next year. They have never met in the playoffs however, The Captains have won five straight after starting the season 1-4.

“These guys are very well coached,” Fredenburg said. “They are not going to beat themselves. They do a nice job of executing their offense and defense. We know we’ll have our hands full. They are playing quite well right now.”

However, UMHB would appear to be a heavy favorite entering the game. The offense is rolling up points after setting school game record for points each of the last two weeks. Meanwhile, the defense which suffered some growing pains earlier in the year has started to round into form.

“I think it is going better,” Fredenburg said. “Our defense is gaining confidence. They’re just a little more physical.

Keeling retires
Hardin-Simmons coach Jimmie Keeling retired after 21 seasons on the north side of Abilene. The Cowboys loss in his final game to Louisiana College appears to have cost the program an at large bid to the playoffs.

Keeling took the job and restarted the program from scratch in 1990, going 3-6 with a team of all freshmen, then 5-5 in 1991. Since then, Hardin-Simmons has gone 164-42, with six trips to the Division III playoffs. In his career, he led the Cowboys to the playoffs – either NAIA or NCAA Division III – 11 times in his 21 seasons as the HSU coach. His teams won TIAA titles in 1993, 1994 and 1995 and American Southwest Conference titles in 1996, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2004. Good Luck, coach.

Thank you!
Just wanted to take a little time in my last column of the year thank you for reading and to thank the players, coaches and sport information directors who have given time out of their busy schedules to help create it. Almost every coach and player takes time to thank me for the work that I do covering Division III football. But the pleasure is really mine. I get to talk to impressive young men and impressive leaders who know what college football is all about on this level every week. Have a great playoff and offseason and again thanks.

Contact Info
Feel free to send me your comments at jason.bowen@d3sports.com. You can also find me on Facebook and twitter @d3jason. Hope you have a great weekend.

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