/playoffs/1999/dynasty-of-disappointment

Dynasty of disappointment?

More news about: Rowan
KC Keeler
Coach K.C. Keeler's season  ended with a loss in Salem five times in the '90s.
Photo by Pat Coleman, D3football.com

By Keith McMillan
D3football.com

SALEM, Va. – Consistent and disappointing might be the two best adjectives to sum up an incredible decade for the team formerly known as Glassboro State.

With a 24-17 overtime win against Mount Union on Dec. 11, the Rowan Profs accomplished what few teams in Division III history had by earning a fifth trip to the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. With a 42-13 loss to Pacific Lutheran one week later, the Profs accomplished what no team has: a fifth Stagg Bowl loss.

Just a few touchdowns from earning the "team of the decade" distinction; instead Rowan is scarred by a "Buffalo Bills of Division III" moniker.

Like the Bills, it has become easy to associate the Profs with losing the big game. But, for a second, stop and recognize what they've accomplished.

The Profs have become a model of consistency throughout the 1990s. Along with their rivals from Alliance, Ohio, they've become the standard by which Division III football is judged.

Consider that the Profs have made the playoffs in all but two seasons in the 1990s (1990 and 1994). When they've been, they've won, capturing the East Region championship a mind-boggling seven times. That's consistency.

But the consistency that makes the Profs a tremendous football team bred disappointment in the wake of Saturday's loss. It's difficult to reach the game's apex five times, only to fall from grace on each occasion. So disappointing, that despite numerous accomplishments, it was tough for head coach K.C. Keeler to say after the game that the entire 1999 season was not a disappointment.

"Yes and no," Keeler said Saturday in the tone of a man taking full responsibility for his team's shortcomings. "We're smart enough to recognize the great accomplishments, a trip to the Stagg Bowl, East Region championship, Lambert Cup, ECAC team of the year, beating Mount Union at their place. All are great accomplishments for a great team, but you know, obviously, we're kind of funny. We put it right out there. We want to be national champions. If you don't do that, then obviously there's going to be some disappointment."

In their five trips to Salem, the Profs have been consistently disappointed. No matter how well their season went or how impressive their runs through the playoffs have been, the Profs have been consistently outplayed in the final game by so-called teams on a mission.

Their closest contest was the first one, a 34-24 loss to the Purple Raiders. The other final scores have not been pretty: 36-7 against UW-La Crosse in 1995, 56-24 against Mount Union in 1996 and 44-24 against the Purple Raiders in 1997.

Saturday was more of the same. The Profs, who had rushed for 462 yards against perennial playoff team Buffalo State in October, totaled minus-63 on the ground against Pacific Lutheran. The Profs defense that dominated all season, causing as many as eight turnovers in a playoff game, was unable to force a single turnover against the Lutes and was shredded for 42 points.

Final scores in Stagg Bowls have not indicated their competitiveness. They led Mount Union 24-21 at the half in 1996 and 24-16 late in the third period in 1998. Rowan and PLU traded touchdowns early on Saturday before the Lutes ran off 28 unanswered points.

Similarly, the Rowan program is not defined simply by what they've done in Stagg Bowls. But entering Saturday's season finale, Keeler and his troops knew the pressure that expectations placed squarely upon their shoulders.

"Yeah, I think I recognized that," said Keeler. "I think we were really loose this week, looser than we've ever been before. I told the kids I'm not going to say a word about the national championship until the national championship game is over. I told them that Saturday (after beating Mt. Union). I told them I'm not going to talk championship game anymore. I said if we're prepared properly, we're excited to play, just go out and play the game. Don't worry about that it's for the national championship. Just go out and play."

In the wake of Saturday's disaster, Keeler had little explanation.

"I thought we were loose. A couple (of) plays can change your whole she-bang, and boy the fumble early, and them getting another seven (by) making a couple of plays ... that really put us in a hole."

In the span of a few good plays on PLU's part, did the Profs go from team to remember to team to forget?

"We did not go from a great team and great coaches and beating Mount Union to a bad team today," said Keeler postgame. "You have to give credit to what Pacific Lutheran did today."

But the loss still stung.

"I don't know if there's a whole lot of good we can take from this," Keeler added. "Usually there's always something. But, a couple guys I grabbed on the sideline during the end of this thing and I said, "you know, no one in this world is hurting more than me, but it's how you handle your adversities … And I think possibly some of the young guys learned a little bit about that from how I was handling it. The whole thing is I have to be the rock, I have to be the guy, the go-to guy in situations like this."

Keeler said one of the guys he grabbed was true freshman quarterback Mike Warker.

"I grabbed him and said, 'Hey Michael, who in this world is hurting more than me? Nobody. But all I can do is keep on coaching and all you can do is keep on playing.' And so I think some of the young guys learned about trying to take some of those adversities head on."

Keeler and his players also recognize that there is victory in the journey itself, and that there are no guarantees that they'll be back.

"I have been on the field here three times, and all the losses hurt," said all-American linebacker John Gavlick. "But I refuse to hang my head. I have had a great time at Rowan."

"It would have been nice to win one," said running back Justin Wright later.

Keeler, who returns several talented underclassmen, knows it is not a given that the Profs will get back to Division III's title game.

"What we've done is amazing, five times in the 1990s. You can't take it for granted, you really can't. Especially with the senior class graduating, it's going to be a long road to get back."

Keeler also acknowledged that losing this time may have been the most difficult.

"It's tough in that way, because in many ways this was our best shot with this great group of seniors," he noted Saturday evening. "And now where do you go from here? But you know, unless I decide to change jobs, what I do for a living, then we'll just find a way get back here and do this."

Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
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Final
Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
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at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
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Final
at Thomas More 63, St. Vincent 13
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at Union 28, Hobart 23
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at Hamilton 27, Colby 24
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at Christopher Newport 27, William Paterson 19
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at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
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at Allegheny 44, Kenyon 35
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SUNY-Maritime 21, at Mount Ida 13
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Middlebury 43, at Bates 14
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Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
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at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
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Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
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Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
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at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
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Final
Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
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at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
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Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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at Albion 31, Alma 28
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at Guilford 45, Shenandoah 20
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Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
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Wooster 58, at Hiram 25
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Washington and Lee 36, at Hampden-Sydney 6
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at Anna Maria 36, Alfred State 34
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Bridgewater 31, at Emory and Henry 23
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at FDU-Florham 49, Wilkes 31
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Lebanon Valley 17, at Misericordia 0
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at St. Lawrence 36, Rochester 14
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RPI 30, at Alfred 15
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at Curry 46, Nichols 16
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at Salisbury 42, Southern Virginia 0
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Ferrum 27, at Brevard 24
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Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
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at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
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Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
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at Trine 50, Hope 14
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Trinity (Texas) 27, at Sewanee 21
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Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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at Franklin and Marshall 56, Dickinson 0
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Tufts 21, at Williams 13
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Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
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at Norwich 24, Maine Maritime 22
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at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Final
Franklin 29, at Rose-Hulman 22
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John Carroll 48, at Capital 21
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at Manchester 28, Bluffton 21
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Final
Mount St. Joseph 71, at Anderson 27
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UW-Whitewater 20, at UW-River Falls 7
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Kean 26, at TCNJ 3
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at LaGrange 59, Greensboro 10
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at Worcester State 45, Mass-Dartmouth 40
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Muhlenberg 40, at McDaniel 13
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Final
Western New England 45, at Becker 0
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Final
at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
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Final
Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
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Final
Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
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Final
Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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Final
at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
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Final
Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
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at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Final
Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
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Final
Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
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Final
at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
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Final
at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
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Final
at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
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Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
Westminster (Mo.) 24, at Greenville 14
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at Loras 44, Coe 38
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Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
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Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
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Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Lake Forest 70, Grinnell 6
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Final
at Millikin 56, Carroll 35
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Final
at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
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at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
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Final
St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
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Final
at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
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UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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Final
at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
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Final
at Centre 42, Rhodes 35
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Final
Hanover 49, at Earlham 14
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Final
at Chicago 55, Beloit 12
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final - OT
at Dubuque 28, Simpson 27
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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Final
at East Texas Baptist 68, Louisiana College 35
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Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
Western Connecticut 27, at Bridgewater State 20
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Final
Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
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Final
Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
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Final
Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
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at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
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Final
Redlands 42, at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 25
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at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Sul Ross State 52, at Howard Payne 15
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at Castleton 17, Dean 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 21, at Averett 15
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at Otterbein 37, Baldwin Wallace 29
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Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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Carnegie Mellon 42, at Thiel 10
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at Illinois College 23, Knox 13
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at Cal Lutheran 60, Whittier 34
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Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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