/playoffs/2010/second-round-showdowns

Second round has big showdowns

Josh Ostrue, Colin Tobin
Josh Ostrue leads the way for Colin Tobin, who rushed for 154 yards for St. Thomas in the first-round win against Benedictine.
Photo by Scott Pierson, d3photography.com

By Brian Hunsicker
for D3sports.com

If D3football.com’s rankings are to be believed, a quarter of Saturday’s matchups shouldn’t happen until December. But rankings are no factor when the selection committee pieces together its bracket; thus, a pair of No. 1 seeds face unusually difficult tests this weekend.

St. Thomas and North Central, both top seeds in their respective corners of the Division III football bracket, face teams that, like themselves, are also ranked in the top 10 in D3football.com’s latest poll. The Tommies, ranked fourth, host eighth-ranked Linfield; the No. 5 Cardinals entertain Ohio Northern, ranked seventh.

“It’s been my experience in this profession not to be surprised by anything,” St. Thomas coach Glenn Caruso said this week. “You have two unbelievable teams meeting in the second round. And for one of those teams, their journey is going to end on Saturday.”

Of this weekend’s eight games, only one other features two teams ranked in the top 10: No. 10 Thomas More at No. 6 Mary Hardin-Baylor.

The mantra for teams at this time of year is that every opponent is tough; but for the Tommies and Cardinals, these challenges are a bit tougher than would normally be expected. Caruso raved about several aspects of the Wildcats’ team. North Central coach John Thorne had high praise for the Polar Bears’ ability to limit turnovers and, defensively, stiffen in the red zone.

Indeed, the battle of turnovers could go a long way in determining who wins the Cardinals-Polar Bears game.

“They run the ball well, and their quarterback [senior Kyle Simmons] has grown into their new offense, and he takes care of the ball,” Thorne said. And not only do Simmons and the ONU offense take care of the ball, the Polar Bears’ defense is adept at creating turnovers – their +1.73 turnover margin ranks fourth in Division III. North Central isn’t far behind, ranking 18th nationally in that same category.

Matt Wenger
Matt Wenger was one of several key North Central players who got their own bye week, sitting out the regular-season finale against North Park.
North Central (Ill.) athletics photo by Steve Woltmann

And, to Thorne’s other point, ONU was also the most effective running team in the OAC – 26th nationally – at 215.6 yards per game. If any team is up to stopping them, North Central and its 3rd-ranked run defense would be a prime candidate. In their first-round win, the Cardinals limited St. Norbert to 2.6 yards per rush, just above their season average of 1.8 yards per rush.

While the numbers and the homefield advantage seem to favor North Central, the Cardinals have had their own set of challenges this week. Players took their final exams for the fall semester Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; Thanksgiving further complicated preparations.

In some ways, the Cardinals’ preparations have gone as good as could have been expected. To make a deeper run into the postseason, Thorne and his coaches mapped out ways to ensure the Cardinals would be healthy when playoff time arrived. North Central’s increased depth allowed them greater rotation throughout the season, and Thorne was more liberal about playing time for reserves. Even during close games, it wasn’t unusual to see the team’s standout players on the sideline.

“No one had amazing stats,” Thorne said, “but we all decided to what was best for the team and not worry about individual stats.”

While ONU faces a five-or-so hour drive to Naperville, Ill., the travel arrangements will be much more complicated for Linfield. The Wildcats have the longest trip of the weekend, traveling two time zones east to the Twin Cities. Caruso identified it as one of the Tommies’ biggest advantages.

“It’s not just the familiar surroundings, it’s the homefield crowd and that your preparation can use the entire week and [the players] can sleep in their own beds,” Caruso said.

Homefield advantage aside, the Tommies will still have to cope with Linfield’s prolific offense; the matchup with St. Thomas’ defense will be one of the most anticipated aspects of the game. Linfield’s scoring offense and total offense rank 12th or better nationally; conversely, the Tommies’ total defense and scoring defense have similarly lofty ranks (sixth in scoring, 14th in total defense).

Caruso was particularly concerned about Wildcats quarterback Aaron Boehme, a senior, calling him “one of the finest quarterbacks in the country.” A dual threat, Boehme is the Wildcats’ second-leading rusher who has completed 60 percent of his passes with 24 touchdowns and eight interceptions; he’s 15th in the country in total offense.

Boehme brings an accomplished, talented squad to St. Thomas, just as Simmons will do for his Polar Bear teammates against North Central. Both are matchups that – at least according to one set of rankings – should’ve happened in a week or two. But in 2010, that’s just the way the bracket breaks.

Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 50, Massachusetts Maritime 7
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Muhlenberg 56, at Juniata 40
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at Dean 25, Becker 10
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Salisbury 27, at TCNJ 7
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MIT 38, at Catholic 21
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Merchant Marine 56, at Maine Maritime 31
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at Hobart 34, Endicott 17
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at Morrisville State 44, Nichols 22
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at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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at Albright 9, Widener 7
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Christopher Newport 16, at Montclair State 8
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at Westminster (Pa.) 41, Bethany 14
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Middlebury 41, at Bowdoin 14
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Williams 24, at Colby 7
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Amherst 36, at Hamilton 6
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Ursinus 35, at Moravian 17
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Trinity (Conn.) 51, at Bates 0
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at LaGrange 38, Brevard 28
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Geneva 33, at Thiel 24
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at Plymouth State 37, Mass-Dartmouth 7
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Kean 28, at Southern Virginia 14
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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Union 17, at Curry 14
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at Carnegie Mellon 37, Thomas More 17
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Lycoming 44, at King's 41
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at Western New England 21, Husson 14
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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at DePauw 51, Wooster 24
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at Ohio Wesleyan 37, Allegheny 21
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at Misericordia 43, Wilkes 14
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at N.C. Wesleyan 35, Maryville (Tenn.) 25
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Huntingdon 31, at Ferrum 28
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at McDaniel 27, Gettysburg 20
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at Buffalo State 33, RPI 21
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Franklin and Marshall 27, at Susquehanna 24
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at Denison 45, Oberlin 17
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at Northwestern (Minn.) 10, Westminster (Mo.) 7
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at Eureka 44, Crown 20
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at Lebanon Valley 24, FDU-Florham 14
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Ohio Northern 35, Otterbein 7
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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at Rose-Hulman 37, Defiance 14
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at Marietta 49, Muskingum 25
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Franklin 59, at Bluffton 30
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at Hanover 64, Anderson 21
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Mount St. Joseph 31, at Manchester 14
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Worcester State 34, at Westfield State 10
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Coast Guard 13, at Norwich 9
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at Fitchburg State 31, Bridgewater State 29
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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at Millsaps 17, Sewanee 13
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at Rhodes 35, Birmingham-Southern 9
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at Hendrix 36, Austin 24
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at Martin Luther 34, Greenville 20
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at Trinity (Texas) 41, Chapman 35
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at Loras 73, Buena Vista 34
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at Wartburg 30, Washington U. 20
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at Gustavus Adolphus 51, Hamline 7
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Augsburg 48, at Carleton 28
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at Bethel 64, St. Olaf 7
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at Luther 21, Dubuque 17
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at Central 52, Nebraska Wesleyan 27
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Simpson 38, at Coe 33
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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St. Norbert 66, at Grinnell 13
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at Knox 13, Ripon 6
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at MacMurray 32, Iowa Wesleyan 14
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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Southwestern 37, at Louisiana College 34
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Monmouth 26, at Macalester 0
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Springfield 42, WPI 10
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at Cornell 55, Beloit 36
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Hartwick 24, St. John Fisher 21
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at UW-La Crosse 41, Carroll 6
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at St. Scholastica 37, Minnesota-Morris 3
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at George Fox 44, UW-Eau Claire 0
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at Western Connecticut 37, Salve Regina 23
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at UW-Stevens Point 41, Adrian 28
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at Wesleyan 24, Tufts 17
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at Averett 35, Methodist 6
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at Berry 28, Centre 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Grove City 24, St. Vincent 14
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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Carthage 55, at Augustana 14
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Chicago 28, at Illinois College 7
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at Sul Ross State 35, McMurry 7
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at Wilmington 37, Capital 30
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Lake Forest 42, at Lawrence 26
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at East Texas Baptist 79, Belhaven 40
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Arizona Christian 56, at Whittier 38
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Sep. 23: All times Eastern
Final
at Delaware Valley 27, Stevenson 7
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Wesley 66, at William Paterson 0
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at Alfred 45, Rochester 7
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Johns Hopkins 41, at Dickinson 10
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Frostburg State 24, at Rowan 10
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at Heidelberg 47, John Carroll 21
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at Mount Union 55, Baldwin Wallace 7
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Wittenberg 48, at Kenyon 11
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at Wabash 25, Hiram 21
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Hardin-Simmons 63, at Howard Payne 3
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North Central (Ill.) 51, at Millikin 21
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Wheaton (Ill.) 40, at Elmhurst 15
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at St. Thomas 20, St. John's 17
@ Target Field, Minneapolis
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at Brockport 28, Utica 14
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at Case Western Reserve 56, Waynesburg 21
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at Illinois Wesleyan 18, North Park 0
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at UW-Platteville 56, Lakeland 22
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 50, Texas Lutheran 7
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