/seasons/2011/contrib/20110815m216cx

2011 Bethany Season Preview

More news about: Bethany

Although he is entering his sixth year as the head football coach at Bethany College, Tim Weaver, who led the Bison to a 5-5 record last year for its first .500 season since 2001, is getting to experience a lot of firsts as his team begins preparations for its 2011 season opener at Allegheny Sept. 3.

Bethany, who finished third in the PAC last season with a 4-3 conference mark, tied for fourth in this year's preseason poll with Grove City and behind only three-time defending champion Thomas More, Washington & Jefferson and Waynesburg. It was the highest BC has been picked to finish in Weaver's tenure, but it's not the only milestone he is enjoying after taking over a program that posted three straight 1-9 records prior to his arrival.

"There are a whole bunch of benchmarks you need to hit when you rebuild a program like we've done here," said Weaver, who is 19-31 in his five seasons. "One is to have more returning veterans than newcomers, which we have for the first time this year. That takes time to do, but it changes the whole demeanor of the program because we have so many guys who know what we're doing at the start of camp.

"In addition, we were also able to put together a special teams' two-deep with no freshmen," said Weaver. "We also have proven game experience at every spot on the field. And not just people who have played, but they have played well when they've had an opportunity, so we finally have pretty good depth nearly everywhere on the field."

Last year's finish, which came on the heels of two straight 3-7 campaigns, has built up a lot of momentum for the Bison entering 2011 and after a bit of a philosophy change prior to 2010, the success of last fall has changed the way the Bethany program is looking ahead to this year's slate of games.

"Prior to last year, we always talked about winning championships, but we changed our goals because we were not good enough to win it," said Weaver. "It takes time to rebuild the way we've been doing it here with mostly freshmen instead of transfers and while we could see a light at the end of the tunnel, we still had to change the mindset. So coming off back-to-back three-win years, we set the goal of getting to four wins as quickly as possible and building from there.

"Now that we accomplished that, we are changing the way we are approaching the season again," said Weaver. "Now we openly talk about being one of those teams in contention every week and having a chance to win every game. We talk about playing in the postseason and getting to play that 11th game. And whether it's somehow winning the league or going 9-1 and getting a bid to the NCAA playoffs, or winning seven or eight games and having a chance to play in an ECAC Bowl, we would be ecstatic either way. We don't have to win a championship to have a very good season. If we can get to six, seven, eight wins, it will be another step in this process for us."

A total of 19 starters will be back on the field this spring for Bethany, highlighted on offense by the entire backfield and 80 percent of the offensive line. In the backfield, sophomore QB Matt Grimard is back after throwing for 1,490 yards and 10 scores as a freshman, while also rushing for 882 yards and 11 TDs, both Bethany records for a quarterback, on his way to Honorable Mention All-PAC. Fighting for the back-up position are a pair of freshmen in Jarrett Mitchell and Tony Moran.

"Matt has a year of growth under his belt and he needs to throw the ball better this year, which he knows," said Weaver. "He stayed here over the summer to lift and is in better shape. Now we just need to continue his work on the fundamentals of throwing the ball."

Bethany expects to have a dynamic 1-2 punch behind Grimard. Senior captain Eric Walker continued his record-setting career last season, as he rushed for 898 yards and 12 touchdowns. In addition to earning Second Team All-PAC, he set new BC standards for career rushing TDs (33) and total touchdowns (39) and with 456 more yards, Walker (2,491) will surpass Will Anderson's Bison record of 2,946 rushing yards. As a freshman, Nico Irizarry totaled 184 yards and a score and his work in the spring has the Bison staff trying to devise ways to get both backs touches, not only to keep Walker fresher but to take advantage of Irizarry's skills.

"We feel really good about having both Eric and Nico back," said Weaver. "We spent part of the off-season talking about ways to get Nico more touches because we think he has a lot of ability. We thought we wore Eric down two years ago but he was better prepared last year. He's a horse who doesn't get hurt and is always in great shape. And while trying to get Nico more touches will help down the stretch of the season, it's more because of the work Nico has done that we want to give him more chances."

The Bison bring back a lot of wide receivers and a junior tight end in Fletcher Coffman who have seen a good deal of action. Injuries cut the season short for junior captain Johnathan Foster, who caught four passes in just two games, and junior Marcus D'Aguiar-Alexander, who made 11 grabs in five games. But this unit, which includes returners in senior Alex Evans and junior Ed Holmes, needs to step up in productivity according to Weaver.

"The last couple years, our receivers and tight ends have shown flashes of being good, but no one has developed into our go-to or #1 guy we turn to when we need a play," said Weaver. "We are going to see a lot more one-safety looks because of our running game and we have to be able to throw and catch to take advantage of those situations. We have an abundance of talent there, but haven't shown the consistency needed yet and as a group and as a coaching staff, we have to figure out a way to get more production."

Perhaps the most complete unit on the offense is the line, which led the way for Bethany to rank second in the PAC in rushing offense (202.4). Senior center and captain Cory Potter is a two-time All-PAC selection and is flanked at one guard by junior Doug Murray. Both tackles return as well, with junior Bryan Benzinger, an Honorable Mention All-PAC pick last year, on the left side and junior Nick Gore on the right end.

"We are really excited to have four starters back on the line and they are all juniors and seniors, which we've never had at that position," said Weaver. "Last year, we played well up front and were able to run the ball well, we still had trouble with bigger, physical front lines. But all of our guys made a commitment and came back significantly stronger, which will only make them better."

The Bison already proved last season their running game is enough to carry the team to wins, but for the unit to reach its full potential, the passing game will have to take major strides this season to keep defenses from loading up at the line of scrimmage.

"A lot of our game planning this year will depend on Matt's progress as a passer and the level of trust we have in the receivers to make plays," said Weaver. "We really liked some of the things we did in the running game last year in reading different people on defense, but we have to take advantage when teams gear up to stop the run. We can win 5-6-7 games running like we did, but to win championships, you have to be balanced."

On the defensive side of the ball, Bethany made drastic improvements against the run, lowering the yards per game by more than 91. The spotlight this year will be on the BC passing defense, which ranked eighth in the league a season ago. The action will start up front in the Bison's 4-3 look, where three starters return. Senior DE Kasib Taalib-Din was third in the PAC with 8.5 sacks, including one to secure the Waynesburg victory, and sophomore Prince Aguzie had 1.5 sacks, including one to force a fumble and clinch the Saint Vincent win in the finale.

Inside, Bethany brings back junior Blake DeBord, who started all 10 games and made 29 tackles, with sophomores Zach Burton and Seth Cawoski ready to man the other tackle spot.

"We are excited about our two starters back at defensive end in Kasib and Prince," said Weaver. "They are explosive, fast, athletic players who made game-clinching plays for us last year. We hope they continue to develop and it will be fun to see the competition between them to see who our sack producer will be.

"At the tackle spots, we bring back Blake, who is the anchor of our front," said Weaver. "We'd like to see him make a couple more plays this year but he is rock solid, knows his job and executes his job. Zach played a lot for us last year and gained a lot from that experience and we expect a big step forward from Seth, who played well in JV games last year and had a good off-season. Depth on the ends and inside on the line is a concern and is a place where freshmen may have a chance to contribute this year."

The linebackers feature a pair of juniors who started all 10 games in Kyle Arrington and Gage Lotozo. Arrington ranked third in the PAC with 97 tackles to bring home Honorable Mention All-PAC honors and Lotozo was sixth on the team with 51 tackles. Weaver is looking for big things from sophomore Tyrell Scott on the strong side, with depth coming from sophomores Duante Mayes, Josh Moody and Michael Wall.

"We have some familiar faces back at linebacker in Kyle, who has started all 20 games in his career, and Gage, who bounced back from an injury as a freshman to start all 10 last year," said Weaver. "Kyle overcompensated from his freshman year by coming in a little heavy last year, but he is in great shape this year and is stronger, leaner and running well. Gage played really well last year. He's a naturally instinctive guy and will play in the middle.

"Our strong side linebacker will be Tyrell, who had a fantastic JV season and is one of our better athletes," said Weaver. "He is football smart, fast and physical. Behind them we have a group of guys in Michael, Josh and Duante, who missed last year with an injury but had a really good spring, that developed while playing JV and will move into solid back-up roles."

If Bethany is to make a step up against the pass this year, the secondary will play a big part in that with three starters returning. Junior CB Jeff Joyce was second on the team with 63 tackles while sophomore younger brother Jordan Joyce was right behind him with 62 hits. Sophomore Jamaan Webb scored Honorable Mention All-PAC laurels with 49 tackles and also back is junior Tremayne Ford and sophomores Raphael McGee and Michael Howcott, who both missed last year.

"We should be way better in the secondary than we've been in my time here," said Weaver. "With both Joyces and Jamaan back after starting all of last year, they have a year of experience under their belts, which will make them more comfortable this year. Tremayne has played a lot for us and Raphael and Michael, who both missed last year but played well in '09, return as well. We believe we can make a similar jump in the passing game this year as we made last year in the running game. If we eliminate the blown coverages that happen with freshmen and first-year players in the secondary, we win two more games."

The strength of the Bethany special teams will be a lengthy list of potential game-breakers in the return game, including Jeff Joyce, who was Honorable Mention All-PAC as a returner last year, Evans, who was third in the PAC in kick return yardage (23.9), Jordan Joyce, D'Aguiar-Alexander and Holmes. Senior Matt Landowski returns as the long snapper and is one of the better players on the coverage units, while both kicking jobs are open heading into camp, although freshman Stephen Amic could have the inside track on both jobs.

"We feel great about our return game with Alex, both Joyces, Marcus and Ed back," said Weaver. "They have all hit for 40-50 yard plays in their careers, so we are deep and talented in those areas. Matt is back for another year as our long snapper and has done a great job. The kicker and punter jobs are both open coming into camp. It's still very early but Stephen looked good and hit it consistently and Matt (Grimard) has shown some ability as a punter, so it looks like we are in good shape."

Since Weaver has taken over the Bison program, there are normally tons of questions heading into camp as his staff has worked to rebuild. But with so many starters back and a good amount of experienced depth returning as well, many of the personnel questions have been answered. Weaver feels another question was answered last year, but it brings up another heading into this season.

"Our main goal is to continue to improve and build on last year," said Weaver. "The question we've had to try to answer the past couple years is can we become a good team. I think we finally answered that last year. We weren't great, but we were good. Now that we've reached that step, now the question becomes can we consistently compete to finish in the top three or four in the league and give ourselves a chance to win a championship."

The Bison begin the quest for an answer Sept. 3 at Allegheny in a 7 p.m. kickoff. Bethany's home schedule opens up Sept. 10 against King's in the PAC-MAC Challenge and the conference slate starts up Sept. 17 in a 7 p.m. kickoff against Washington & Jefferson at Bison Stadium.
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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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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Final
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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Final
at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
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Final
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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Final
at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
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Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
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Final
Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
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Final
Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
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Final
at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
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Final
Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
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Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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Final
at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
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Final
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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Final
Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
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Final
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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Final
RPI 30, at Alfred 15
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Final
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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Final
Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
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at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
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Final
Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
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at Trine 50, Hope 14
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Final
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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Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
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Final
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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Final
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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Final
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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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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Final
at Loras 44, Coe 38
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Final
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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Final
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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Final
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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Final
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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