/playoffs/2010/so-we-meet-again

Wesley, UMHB meet again

More news about: Mary Hardin-Baylor | Wesley

By Jason Bowen
D3sports.com

Askia Jahad had 12 carries for 140 yards in the first-round win against Muhlenberg.
Wesley athletics photo

DOVER, Del. -- Wesley coach Mike Drass can’t quite remember whether it was after the 2006 or 2007 season, but after exchanging emails with Mary Hardin-Baylor coach Pete Fredenburg, he jokingly finished the message with “see you next fall.”

The veteran coaches shared a chuckle about the comment before the game, when they did indeed meet again the next season in the playoffs.

In fact, the programs, met four years in a row from 2005 to 2008, and have combined to win the last six “South” Region championships. With the series is currently tied 2-2, Wesley winning in 2005 (46-36) and 2006 (34-19), while UMHB prevailed in 2007 (27-10) and 2008 (46-14), Saturday’s game at Miller Stadium in Dover, Del., represents a rubber match of sorts. Well, at least until next year.

“We have an awful lot of respect for Wesley,” Fredenburg said. “It so happens that we always seem to meet in the final stages of this tournament.

“We just excited to be playing and excited for the matchup. They’re an awesome football team and we know we’ve really got our hands full but I think it’s just going to be an incredible game. This is why you do all this, it to get in games like this.”

Drass shares that respect for Fredenburg’s program and sees the same competitive fire in the Crusaders that he sees in his own.

“Whenever two teams get to this point in the playoffs for a fifth time,” he said. “There’s a lot of familiarity because we’ve played each other so much. It’s a fun thing, in a sense, that it’s two teams that want to advance and aspire to be the best team in the country. You can see that in how they play and hopefully you can see that in how we play.”

The programs did not meet in last year’s playoffs as UMHB was moved to the “West” bracket, falling in the second round to semifinal bound Linfield. Wesley in the Crusaders’ absence cruised to the “South” championship before falling to Mount Union in the semifinals.

And for two of each team’s defensive leaders, something about not meeting again just didn’t feel right.

“Even though we didn’t see each last year,” said UMHB defensive tackle David Danforth. “I think that we both wished that we could. It’s always two great teams battling it out.”

Wesley safety Aaron Benson agreed, still smarting from the Wolverines 46-14 loss in the second round in 2008.

“We just want to work hard and make sure we don’t lose to them again,” Benson said. “I was excited to get a chance to play them again (this year.) The two losses we have on this field are to Montclair State and Mary Hardin-Baylor. We get a chance to get revenge for both (in two weeks.)

“As a player, I learn more when I lose than when I win. Your weaknesses are exploited. You get the opportunity polish up the details and really get after it.”

The two teams have breezed through the first two rounds out-scoring opponents by a combined score of 225-35.

LiDarral Bailey
LiDarral Bailey provides UMHB with more of a dual threat at quarterback than it has had in past meetings with Wesley.
Mary Hardin-Baylor athletics photo

So on paper, you may expect this Saturday’s regional final between Mary Hardin-Baylor and Wesley to be high-scoring shootout. The Crusaders pound the ball with the run, pulling defenders into the box, before flinging it down the field to pair of 6-foot-6 receivers. The Wolverines feature a balanced approach that involves elements a zone-blocked run game with play-action and elements of the spread.

And though their offensive philosophies differ, their numbers look an awful lot alike. The two units rank seventh and eighth respectively in the country in total offense each averaging 488 yards per contest. The Crusaders lead Division III in scoring (48.9 pts/game) on the strength of their last four games. During that stretch UMHB has posted 285 points and not scored less than 59 in game. The Wesley offense is not far behind ranking eighth in scoring (43.9)

But while the offenses get most of the publicity, it is the defenses, both traditionally among the toughest in D-III, which may just hold the key to this football game. And though they have taken different paths this season, both are playing their best right now.

 For the Crusaders, who played the toughest part of the schedule early in the season, the defense struggled by program standards. The Cru gave up an average of almost 30 points and nearly 400 yards a game over the first five games.

The unit consistently stopped the run, but youth and inexperience were factors in the secondary and linebacking units.

“Ultimately, we felt these guys were going to be pretty good, but they’ve hadn’t played,” Fredenburg said. “It was just a matter of guys getting game experience and growing into the positions. We obviously have some talented kids that haven’t experienced all they need to experience.”

Still they found a way to win the tough games, forcing four turnovers against Hardin-Simmons and intercepting a Louisiana College pass in the end zone while leading by just four points late in the game. Against East Texas Baptist a few weeks later, they struggled early, but held the Tigers scoreless in overtime to key a 34-28 victory.

Over the past five weeks, however, things have begun to jell for the unit. They have allowed just 32 points and an average of 261 yards over the last five games.

According to Danforth, the key was hard work and teaching by the coaching staff.

“Our defense made a phenomenal change and an amazing turnaround,” the senior said. “All the credit goes to our coaching staff and the guys on the team that helped us improve and turn our season around.

“Mainly it was focusing on the little things that we needed to improve on. We have a great coaching staff here, you don’t want to let them or your teammates down. We were out there every day working hard to improve on the little things and week by week everything improved.”

“I think that all have consistently improved,” Fredenburg said of his defense. “They’re just playing with a little more confidence.”

For Wesley, experience hasn’t been a problem. The Wolverines returned eight starters on defense from last year’s highly-ranked unit. They also added safety Sean Scanlon, a transfer from the University of Delaware, whose brother, Steve, played for the Wolverines and is now a graduate assistant coach.

“We knew coming in at the beginning of camp, that we would have a team that would be built around our defense and built around a lot of team speed,” Drass said.

The veteran unit has rarely disappointed this season; they currently rank first in the nation in total defense allowing just 189 yards a game. They are third in run (56.8 yards/game) and pass efficiency (85.5 rating), while ranking fifth in scoring (11.6).

Still the Wolverines know that the face their biggest challenge to date in Mary Hardin-Baylor.

“We are a team that wants to attack the line of scrimmage,” said Drass, who also handles the defensive play calling for Wesley. “When you face a team like Mary Hardin-Baylor you are looking at a team with equal team speed.

“What separates Mary Hardin-Baylor from other teams that we face or have faced over the years is their offensive line. Their offensive line is constantly moving their feet. Their offensive line is blocking for well over four seconds a play. They are the best that we see on an annual basis. From a defensive standpoint, that’s the challenge we see: What are we going to do to combat what they are doing on the offensive line.”

“The further you get into the playoffs, the competition gets better, the talent gets better,” said Benson, an second team D3football.com All-America selection last year at safety. “But it’s not about the talent it’s about the little details, the little things you have to do in practice day in and day out that make the difference in the end.”

The defense takes care of those details, will win this football game and bragging rights in the South Region.

Well, at least until “next fall.”

Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
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Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
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at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
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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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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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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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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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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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Western New England 45, at Becker 0
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at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
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Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
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Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
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Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
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Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
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at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
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Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
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at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
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at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
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at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
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at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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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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Final
at Loras 44, Coe 38
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Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
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Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
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Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
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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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at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
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at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
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St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
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at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
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UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
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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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Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
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Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
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Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
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at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
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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. 27: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Frostburg State at Southern Virginia
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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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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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Oct. 27: All times Eastern
7:00 PM
Frostburg State at Southern Virginia
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