D-III's a small world after all

By Adam Johnson

After a busy start to the fall, I finally had a chance to take in an MIAC football game on Saturday. I wanted to see St. Thomas in action as they seem to be the most surprising team in the conference -- if not the country. They had Concordia-Moorhead at home which is essentially in my back yard.

With St. John’s playing just down the street against Hamline, some Johnnies were also projected to be in the area. With the Tommie and Johnnies locking up in Collegeville in a week, the day seemed ripe for one of them to overlook their current opponent.

An old Johnnie friend of mine texted me on Friday night asking if I wanted to grab breakfast and we agreed on one of my favorite spots next to my alma mater, Macalester -- the St. Clair Broiler.

As I got ready to meet my friend, I decided to pull out a Linfield T-shirt to wear as my last of several layers. It was projected to be in the 30’s but I wanted to wear some D3 gear. The Linfield shirt was compliments of some friends and faithful readers out in McMinnville. It reads “Linfield Athletics” across the front in big letters. I knew it would irk my Johnnie friend a bit because he claims my allegiance is with the Wildcats and not his beloved Johnnies.

He arrived after me at the Broiler and tried to ignore the shirt but caved in, “You wore that just to irk me didn’t you -- I wasn’t going to acknowledge it.”

We dove into conversation, mostly focused on D3 football and a bit on my future bride, whom he was eager to meet.

As I cut into my omelet I hear a voice from the register about 12 feet away.

“Are you from Linfield,” the man asked?

“Nope,” I replied. “I just have some friends out there.”

“I love it out there,” the guy said. “We did that game with the field goal in the mud, who was that against, St. John’s?”

“Nope, that was Central,” I reminded him.

It immediately clicked that this guy was an MIAC official -- then I saw a few more members of his crew paying at the counter. In fact, I remembered him officiating a few of my games back in the day.

We chatted a bit about Linfield, I told him I was a Macalester alum and introduced my Johnnie friend.

“How about this,” the guy says and breaks into a dead pan impersonation of John Gagliardi. Most of the words are not fit for print but let’s just say it was what he was used to hearing from John after a bad call -- or at least one that John thought was bad.

My friend and I were rolling as this guy carried on for a good 30 seconds. 

He said he was on his way over to St. Thomas for the Tommie Homecoming game. We were too as I wanted to see them in person and my Johnnie friend was supremely confidant in his teams’ ability to handle the Hamline Pipers and he wanted to spend some time scouting.

We did stop over at Gabe’s Roadhouse Grill where some Johnnie faithful were carousing before the game. I shared the story with them and they had a good laugh over it.

We got to the game and there was the crew from the Broiler, digesting breakfast as they ran out onto the field. Turned out the Gagliardi impersonator was head referee, Mike Karnas. We watched the game from the sideline but I never got close enough to hear him talk to the players or coaches. I can only hope he was as fun and jovial with them as he was with us.

It was a great day. From catching up with friends to impersonations of living legends to quality football action it was a fantastic reminder of why I love D3 football so much.

And just so the St. John’s monks aren’t offended -- imitation is the highest form of flattery.

Eau Claire levell(ed) by Coppage

UW-Whitewater tailback Levell Coppage leveled the UW-Eau Claire defense rushing for a school record 382 yards to lead the second-ranked Warhawks to a 38-14 win over UW-Eau Claire.

Coppage rushed the ball 41 times, averaging 9.3 yards per carry while breaking the previous mark of 286 by Justin Beaver, accomplished against UW-La Crosse in 2006. The yardage total is second highest all-time in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, behind only a 391-yard game by Andrew Mocadlo of UW-La Crosse vs. UW-Stout in 2003.

Purple reign

St. Thomas used a stingy defense on Saturday to defeat the Concordia-Moorhead Cobbers 31-17. They blocked a punt, recorded eight sacks, and had three interceptions and a fumble recovery in winning their seventh game in a row dating back to last November. Defensively, UST's Brady Ervin, Matt Griswold and Mulrooney had the interceptions; Cyrus Allen had three sacks; Zach Sturm had 10 tackles; Joe Pyka had a forced fumble.

You can’t do that

In a rare penalty called on Saturday, UW-Plateville was called for illegal jumping. This is essentially using your teammate as a trampoline so you can elevate higher to block a kick. The Pioneers tried it to block a UW-La Crosse field goal which the Eagles missed. The penalty provided a first down, new life and an eventual 3-yard touchdown from Lee Lauters. The Pioneers won 26-13.

Go deep!

Gustavus and Pacific Lutheran took to the air on Saturday in their 67-point shootout and piled up some eye-popping numbers in the process. The two teams combined for 725 yards through the air including all ten touchdowns that were scored. The NCAA Division III record for most touchdowns passes in a game by both teams is 12 set by St. Thomas (6) and Bethel (6), on Nov. 13, 1993. Gustavus Adolphus quarterback Jordan Becker threw five touchdowns which is the second highest total in school history behind Bob Southworth’s six touchdowns thrown against Hamline on Oct. 31, 1998.

It was also a big day for wide receivers as Pacific Lutheran's Chad Ford set a school record with 13 catches for 292 yards and four touchdowns, while Gustavus receiver Elliott Herdina hauled in 11 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns including the game-winner with 12 seconds remaining in the game.

Did you know

  • UW-Whitewater kicker Jeff Schebler is one point away from tying the NCAA Division III kick scoring record of 383 held by Mike Zimmerman of Mount Union (2003-2005).
  • For the second time this season, five different Johnnies rushed for a touchdown as St. John’s defeated Hamline 41-7.
  • Linfield raised its record to 5-0, extending the program’s string of consecutive winning seasons to 54.
  • Combined with last week’s 55-0 shutout of Cornell, Central has put up back-to-back 50-point games for the first time since 1997. The victory also assures Central of its 48th winning season since 1960.
  • The Pioneers won their Homecoming game for the first time since 2003 but have defeated UW-La Crosse the last three times they have met in UWP Homecomings. Platteville won 27-24 in 1999 and again 36-29 in 2001.
  • Macalester recorded six interceptions tying a school record set in 2006 vs. Principia.
  • Martin Luther beat Northwestern 9-7 on Saturday marking the first loss for the Eagles against a UMAC opponent since Sept. 30, 2006.

What to watch

St. Thomas at St. John’s, Collegeville, Minn., 1 p.m.: Finally, finally, finally there is some genuine anticipation for the Johnnie-Tommie clash this year. Both teams enter at 5-0 and rolling on all cylinders. The Tommies have developed a “cold blooded connection” (thank you Paul Allen) between sophomore quarterback Greg Morse and sophomore wide receiver Fritz Waldvogel who is averaging nearly 104 yards per game. The Johnnies have spent a majority of the season on the ground having won two games with five different people scoring rushing touchdowns. Last year’s matchup in St. Paul came down to a controversial last second call when the refs ruled the Tommie running back hadn’t crossed the plane of the end zone. A fumble on the next play won the game for St. John’s. This year, the hype around the game is more exciting than finding out what the student bodies came up with for derogatory T-shirts.

Don’t miss this game but if you do, tune into the D3football.com webcast with Pat Coleman on play by play and myself on color.

Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

2011-12 columns: Jason Galleske
2010: Tim Walsh
2003-09: Adam Johnson
1999-2000: Don Stoner 

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