/seasons/2018/contrib/20180801v6e7zy

2018 Football Outlook: Scots Poised to Capitalize on Upward Trajectory

There's plenty of excitement surrounding The College of Wooster football program heading into the 2018 season thanks to a plethora of major milestones spanning on-field success, academic excellence, community service initiatives undertaken by student-athletes, and aggressive recruiting strategies that have resulted in one of the biggest rosters in recent program history. Now with his stamp fully engraved on every aspect of the program, sixth-year head coach Frank Colaprete has plenty of optimism for what this year's team can achieve.

"From the guys who are in the program to the young guys coming in, you can feel the energy and excitement all throughout the recruiting process, the workouts with the returnees, and with our spring practices," said Colaprete, who is expecting 53 returning letterwinners and 36 newcomers when the team's preseason commences on August 8. "Now with the summer, the incoming first-years have been coming in during the College's ARCH programs, and the energy and excitement they speak with is pretty high right now, as it should be."

While there will be a new signal-caller taking the field for the Fighting Scots this fall, every other offensive weapon from a skill position standpoint is back in the fold from a unit that set or matched 28 school records in 2017, and finished in the top-30 nationally in scoring and total offense.

Nick Strausbaugh headlines the returnees, and he emerged as one of the premier wide receivers in Div. III in his first season on the gridiron. Strausbaugh, a D3football.com All-North Region selection, electrified Wooster's football faithful from his debut, and took the program's record book by storm with single-season benchmarks in yards (1,315) and touchdowns (17), with the latter stat matching the North Coast Athletic Conference record.

While all eyes were on Strausbaugh's home-run capabilities, the Scots' other wideouts kept the program positioned as one of the deepest in Div. III. Six student-athletes logged at least 20 receptions and 250 yards, and Wooster's ability to spread the ball around has become one of the staples of offensive coordinator Zach Dennis' system.

"We're counting on the knowledge and experience of Nick, plus Connor Allan and Russell Boston will be four-year players at wide receiver," summed up Colaprete. "Our wide receivers will be counted on to pick up the play for our new quarterback."

Wooster's ground game found its groove, especially in the latter half of 2017 when returning all-conference honoree Antonio Bailey averaged over 100 yards per game. The forecasted four-year starter provides another valuable veteran presence for whomever emerges from camp as the starting quarterback to lean on.

"Antonio's in the right mindset and has added strength and weight," shared Colaprete. "He's been able to increase his speed while doing all that. His work ethic has been great, and it's what you expect out of a guy who wants to take on more of a load."

Up front, Wooster returns three starting offensive linemen, including Mick Appel and Adam Clark, who earned starting roles in game one as 2016 rookies at right tackle and left guard respectively. Eli Lohrey ended the season as the starting right guard, and projects to move over to left tackle due to his "athleticism and physicality," per Colaprete.

"We're replacing some great seniors with guys who have playing experience, so they're not just going to be thrown in this year," said Colaprete. "We're counting on all our guys being a year bigger, better, and stronger. This is a group that's looking to reload."

Defensively, Wooster is looking to make big strides, and Colaprete feels the Scots have the personnel in place to do so in 2018.

"We were really young last year," shared Colaprete. "We're still kind of young, but we're all a year older, smarter, and better. We're going to be on the upward, improving trend, but we're excited about the defense and where we're going."

Colaprete and defensive coordinator Sam Bauman will lean heavily on the line to set the tone for the unit, a group that started to really click and generate noticeably more pressure on opposing quarterbacks down the stretch in 2017. In fact, Wooster only had one returning defensive line starter last year – Aaron Roberson – who was lost for the season after an injury in the season-opener, but the likes Robert Alvarez and D'Andre Brown led the way down the stretch and were complemented by Marcus Bowers, who moved up to the line to provide a veteran presence after spending his first two years in a Scots' uniform at linebacker.

"I've always held the belief that you're as good as your lines," said Colaprete. "Our offensive and defensive lines have to be great. We're excited about this defensive line being the cornerstone on that side of the ball. They're talented and hungry."

Senior Hunter Coia leads the way among a veteran linebacker unit, and Colaprete's excited that one of his four captains has "really found a position that suits his blend of athleticism, speed, and intelligence on the field."

Wooster's defensive backfield is loaded with plenty of athleticism and play-making ability, as four starters are back here in Danté Fair, Beau Greenwood, Cam Pollard, and Christian Santos, several of whom emerged as multi-position assets with returning duties.

"We should be able to get our hands on the football a lot," said Colaprete.

The Scots will have a tall task each week on the gridiron with the NCAC as tough as ever. Wittenberg University enters the season No. 14 in the D3football.com Top-25 Poll, while DePauw University and Wabash College are among those receiving votes.

"There's a lot of talent in this league right now," said Colaprete. "Besides the talent, it's a well-coached league with great staffs who do tremendous jobs with their student-athletes. As you can see the last few years, the league's been really tough. Numerous teams can win the conference championship."

Here is a closer look at Wooster in 2018, broken down by position.

QUARTERBACK

Wooster's quarterback competition is "wide open," per Colaprete, heading into camp, and seven student-athletes are listed at that position, including returnees Caden Croft and Grady McHugh. One thing is for certain – the Scots will have plenty of experience on that side of the ball to support whomever lines up under center come September 1.

RUNNING BACK

The Scots' depth at running back from a game experience standpoint is noticeably stronger than it was at this point last year when Bailey was the only student-athlete on the roster with significant playing time. Last season, Bailey proved he could shoulder the load as the every-down back, and the senior continued to rank as a reliable threat out of the backfield in the passing game with the second-most receptions (43) on the team.

Returnees Nick Barto-Brown and Seth Burke were both contributors in the backfield last year, and give the Scots plenty of capable options at the position.

WIDE RECEIVER

Wooster's wide receiving core was one of the deepest in Div. III once again last year, and in fact, the Scots were the only team in the NCAC with six players with at least 20 receptions.

On the outside, Strausbaugh logged 11 receptions at least 40 yards in length, while Jason Cerniglia and Cyrus Boardman combined for 36 receptions that went for 392 yards on the opposite edge. In the slot, the shifty duo of Allan and Boston combined for 675 stripes and seven touchdowns.

Other letterwinners back in the mix at wide receiver include the rising sophomore quartet of Bryce Gresham, Brooks Herrington, Jon Milliken, and Keetrone Singleton.

TIGHT END

The Scots' system still utilizes the tight end extensively, and the match-up problems Wooster's veterans at this position pose for the opposition bodes well for the Black and Gold. Jacob Lewis earned all-conference laurels in his first collegiate season on the offensive side of the ball, and the sure-handed junior turned 30 receptions into 461 yards and six scores.

Senior Conor Shimabukuro has spent extensive time in the system at the position and is the other returning letterwinner at tight end.

OFFENSIVE LINE

As mentioned earlier, Wooster returns three starters on the line from an offense that averaged 37.8 points and 456.3 yards per game a season ago, and Colaprete's confident the Scots will be reloading versus rebuilding at the other two positions.

Appel and Clark both project to be three-year starters on the line, and Colaprete anticipates having another veteran presence start alongside them at center in Trent Leggett, who spent last season as a starting defensive tackle, but as the team's top lineman, will be the starting center, per the Scots' head coach.

With Lohrey projected to move to left tackle, that leaves right guard as the spot to keep an eye on this fall, and among the returnees, there'll be plenty competition. Matt Hartzell, Tyler Poeschel, Justin Robinson, and Jake Stewart are the most seasoned of the other letterwinning offensive linemen, and all four have the skillset to play multiple positions up front. Sophomores Kalvin Adkins, Dan Alessi and Willem Mills are also back in the fold in 2018.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Led by the line, Wooster's defense averaged 3.5 sacks per game over the final four contests, with Alvarez kick-starting the stretch with a single-game program record 4.5 at Hiram College. The rising junior will continue to be complemented by returning starters Bowers and K.C. Okoronkwo on the edges, while two-year letterwinner Jacob Bueter is back in the mix on the outside. Steve Maryo enters camp at defensive end after spending last year at tight end, and now fully healthy, the staff has noticed "huge strides."

Brown earned all-conference honors while anchoring down the interior, and rapidly rising sophomore Kobe Matesic is "looking to start," per the staff, at the other tackle position. Returnees Bryce Danovskis, Nick Godsey, DeShaun Jones, and Artemus Scissum, add plenty of depth to the position.

LINEBACKER

While Wooster had game experience at linebacker last year, the Scots' position experience was somewhat limited due to Colaprete shifting the likes of Bowers and Cornelius Gyamfi up to the defensive line and Coia up to linebacker from defensive back. Now, with full seasons under their belts at the position in Jake Cohen and Coia, this could be another breakout area for the Scots' defense. Special teams standout Drake Pence and Brandon Vincenzo round out the returnees at the position.

DEFENSIVE BACK

Wooster's secondary is loaded with talent this year despite the loss of three-time all-conference honoree Patrick Johnson. Johnson anchored a youthful unit that saw three first-years start in the back end of the Scots' 4-2-5 system, and now Santos is projected to lead the way as a 1.5-year starter. Fair and Greenwood combined for over 130 tackles from their safety positions last year, while Pollard emerged as a sure-handed tackler at corner.

Mark Herron is also in the mix in the secondary, and gives Colaprete someone with the skillset to play multiple positions after starring on special teams last year. Junior Kamal Morgan is in the running for time as well after spending last season at running back, and Brett Stern is the other 2017 returning letterwinner back in the fold.

Colaprete's hopeful the Scots could see a big boost defensively with the return of Derrick Florence and Kea'Shaun Phillips to the team, the latter of whom finished second on the team in tackles as a rookie in 2016.

SPECIALISTS

Wooster's specialists are another spot to keep an eye on this fall, as the Scots graduated Trevor Bowden, one of the program's top statistical placekickers.

Henry Whyte had a chance to settle in while prepping behind Bowden, and Colaprete's "excited about what the sophomore can do."

Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Stevenson 33, Wilkes 21
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at RPI 31, Hobart 24
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at MIT 13, Coast Guard 0
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Norwich 15, at Maine Maritime 7
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at Moravian 31, Juniata 14
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at Dean 53, Gallaudet 21
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Endicott 45, at Becker 13
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Frostburg State 24, at Montclair State 17
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SUNY-Maritime 68, at Castleton 41
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at Trinity (Texas) 28, Sewanee 14
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Johns Hopkins 51, at Gettysburg 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 29, at Brevard 21
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at Misericordia 37, FDU-Florham 33
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Union 29, at St. Lawrence 7
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at Ithaca 28, Rochester 3
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at Colby 23, Hamilton 21
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at Middlebury 35, Bates 34
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Trinity (Conn.) 48, at Bowdoin 6
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Springfield 23, at Catholic 11
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Amherst 33, at Wesleyan 3
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at Plymouth State 17, Massachusetts Maritime 14
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at Husson 54, Anna Maria 14
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TCNJ 13, at Kean 8
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Carnegie Mellon 41, at Thiel 7
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Salve Regina 30, at Curry 21
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Final
King's 37, at Albright 26
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Trine 31, at Finlandia 0
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Final - OT
Susquehanna 41, at Ursinus 35
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Delaware Valley 52, at Lebanon Valley 7
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Final
at Western New England 70, University of New England 13
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Final
Franklin and Marshall 35, at Dickinson 14
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at Wittenberg 38, DePauw 23
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at Emory and Henry 52, Shenandoah 50
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Final
at Wabash 32, Oberlin 7
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at Westminster (Pa.) 27, Washington and Jefferson 20
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at Hampden-Sydney 38, Guilford 35
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Final - OT
at Randolph-Macon 44, Bridgewater 41
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Cortland 56, at Hartwick 3
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Final
at Denison 27, Ohio Wesleyan 10
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Final
Waynesburg 12, at St. Vincent 10
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Salisbury 33, at Southern Virginia 0
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at Methodist 42, Greensboro 6
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Christopher Newport 39, at William Paterson 10
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Final
Albion 49, at Adrian 42
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Thomas More 35, at St. Scholastica 0
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Final
at Westminster (Mo.) 25, Minnesota-Morris 7
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Lake Forest 24, at Grinnell 0
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at Greenville 41, Crown 14
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at Merchant Marine 25, WPI 24
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Final
at John Carroll 27, Marietta 24
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Final
at Tufts 28, Williams 21
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Final
Ohio Northern 49, at Capital 46
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Final
Baldwin Wallace 35, at Wilmington 33
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at Mount Union 54, Heidelberg 0
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Final
at Lycoming 52, Alvernia 0
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at Rose-Hulman 44, Anderson 6
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at Franklin 64, Earlham 20
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Final
Hanover 48, at Manchester 14
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Mount St. Joseph 20, at Defiance 0
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at Utica 30, Alfred 22
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Final
Maryville (Tenn.) 37, at LaGrange 17
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Framingham State 27, at Westfield State 2
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Morrisville State 35, at St. John Fisher 7
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at Muskingum 21, Otterbein 14
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Final - OT
at Berry 28, Millsaps 21
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Final
at Muhlenberg 42, McDaniel 18
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at Rowan 28, Wesley 27
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at Wooster 28, Hiram 21
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Final
Allegheny 54, at Kenyon 10
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at Nebraska Wesleyan 23, Luther 15
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Wheaton (Ill.) 20, at Augustana 3
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at Eureka 50, Benedictine 20
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Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 49, at Belhaven 0
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at Hardin-Simmons 58, Texas Lutheran 14
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Chicago 63, at Beloit 0
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at Concordia (Wis.) 45, Concordia-Chicago 34
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Aurora 25, at Rockford 7
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Final
at Bethel 41, Concordia-Moorhead 13
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Final
Lakeland 38, at Wisconsin Lutheran 12
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at St. John's 57, St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Gustavus Adolphus 42, Augsburg 0
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Final
Dubuque 38, at Buena Vista 7
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Final
North Central (Ill.) 26, at Carthage 14
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Final
at Ripon 58, Macalester 34
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at Monmouth 51, Cornell 0
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at Simpson 38, Loras 33
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at Knox 20, Illinois College 6
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UW-Stout 31, at UW-Stevens Point 27
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Millikin 14, at Elmhurst 13
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Final
at MacMurray 20, Iowa Wesleyan 13
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Final
UW-Eau Claire 40, at UW-Platteville 16
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Final
at St. Thomas 68, Carleton 0
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Final
at Mass-Dartmouth 41, Worcester State 27
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Final
at Wartburg 47, Central 20
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Final
at UW-Oshkosh 24, UW-La Crosse 13
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at UW-Whitewater 44, UW-River Falls 7
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Final
at Birmingham-Southern 47, Austin 35
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Centre 41, at Rhodes 14
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at Carroll 23, North Park 0
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at Kalamazoo 17, Alma 10
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at Pacific Lutheran 33, Willamette 20
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at Brockport 65, Buffalo State 7
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Final
at Averett 45, Huntingdon 17
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Washington and Lee 38, at Ferrum 35
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at Pacific 54, Lewis and Clark 22
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Final
Redlands 35, at La Verne 17
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Final
Whitworth 47, at Puget Sound 13
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Final
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 27, at Occidental 7
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Linfield 14, at George Fox 0
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Final
at Hope 35, Olivet 30
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Final - 4OT
at Western Connecticut 50, Bridgewater State 48
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Final
Case Western Reserve 27, at Geneva 14
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Final
at Sul Ross State 28, Howard Payne 27
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Final
East Texas Baptist 48, at Louisiana College 27
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Final
Illinois Wesleyan 27, at Washington U. 21
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Final
St. Norbert 46, at Lawrence 0
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at Pomona-Pitzer 42, Whittier 17
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Chapman 33, at Cal Lutheran 29
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Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
Frostburg State 24, at Montclair State 17
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Final
at RPI 31, Hobart 24
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Final
Trine 31, at Finlandia 0
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Final
at Wittenberg 38, DePauw 23
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Final
at Westminster (Pa.) 27, Washington and Jefferson 20
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Final
Delaware Valley 52, at Lebanon Valley 7
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Final
Johns Hopkins 51, at Gettysburg 14
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Final
at Mount Union 54, Heidelberg 0
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Final
at John Carroll 27, Marietta 24
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Final - OT
at Berry 28, Millsaps 21
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Final
at Rowan 28, Wesley 27
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Final
at Muhlenberg 42, McDaniel 18
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Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 20, at Augustana 3
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Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 49, at Belhaven 0
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Final
at St. John's 57, St. Olaf 7
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Final
at Hardin-Simmons 58, Texas Lutheran 14
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Final
North Central (Ill.) 26, at Carthage 14
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Final
at St. Thomas 68, Carleton 0
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Final
at UW-Oshkosh 24, UW-La Crosse 13
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Final
at UW-Whitewater 44, UW-River Falls 7
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Final
at Brockport 65, Buffalo State 7
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Final
Whitworth 47, at Puget Sound 13
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Final
Linfield 14, at George Fox 0
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Final
Case Western Reserve 27, at Geneva 14
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Final
Illinois Wesleyan 27, at Washington U. 21
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