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Snap judgments: The excitement is back

More news about: Adrian | Ferrum

Harvey Taylor quarterbacked Ferrum to a thrilling victory in his head coach's debut.
Photo by Atenoya Morris

Are we having fun yet?

The opening weekend of the season brought us four days of exciting contests, including more than a few surprising upsets. For some teams, this was the only non-conference game of the season; next week's games will matter even more. Several new head coaches won their opening game, instilling confidence in the players who bought into their system in the offseason.

What did you miss more in the offseason -- stunning upsets, thrilling comebacks, or rivalry games? Week 1 had plenty of all three.

Ferrum's victory over Emory and Henry had everything. A rookie head coach making his debut against his longtime former employer; a comeback that featured four successful two-point conversions; the go-ahead score in the final seconds; a win over a nearby non-conference rival, snapping a long losing streak against that opponent; a marquee win for a conference often looked at as "little brother" in early September.

The Panthers won the inaugural Crooked Road Classic and defeated E&H for the first time in their last ten tries. Ferrum only won five games over the past three seasons. Grande, who coached at E&H for 11 years, had an impressive debut at Ferrum.

"We've preached to them since I got here about just playing the next play and staying together and believing in the process," said Grande. "If you do that and not look at the scoreboard, at the end of the process, good things will happen. That's a lot of coach talk and a lot of things you've got to believe in, but when it happens, it puts confidence in the kids."

Trailing 21-7, the Panthers rallied to come back and tie, then gave up 97-yard kickoff return touchdown with one minute to play. In just four plays and 48 seconds, fifth-year senior quarterback Harvey Taylor led the Panthers to the end zone. Johnny White had three catches for 53 yards, including the game-winning score, on the final drive.

"I knew going into the season with Harvey at quarterback, he wouldn't get rattled," said Grande. "He'd handle some adversity that we're gonna face in the game and in the season."

Already 3-for-3 in two-point attempts on the day, and 0-2 on field goal attempts, the decision was easy. The Panthers went for two and the win. This game embodied everything we missed during the long offseason. Football is back, and at places like Ferrum, Week 1 showed that this season will be different from seasons of the recent past.

Grande was not the only head coach to win his debut. New leaders at Thiel, Coe, Southern Virginia, Millikin, UW-La Crosse, Rhodes, Methodist, East Texas Baptist, Wabash, Hamline, and St. Lawrence also started 1-0.

Long road trips pay off

Adrian flew from Michigan to Oregon and came away with a 30-28 win on Friday night at Pacific. The Bulldogs are very much looking forward to their Week 2 bye. Taking a much longer non-conference trip than most D-III schools take had benefits beyond football, but the main focus was on opening the season with a win.

"It was rewarding in the fact that I think we got to know each other better. The group got a little bit tighter," said Bulldogs coach Jim Deere. "We went out there knowing that we were going to play a football game. All of the other stuff, the bonding and camaraderie, came through that experience."

Southern Virginia traveled to Indiana and snapped its 11-game losing skid by defeating Earlham. The Quakers had their streak of losses extend to 24 straight.

Ferrum wasn't the only program to boldly go for two and the win this weekend. Central made the long trek to No. 19 Whitworth and entered overtime knotted at 42. After the Pirates scored first to take a seven-point lead in overtime, the Dutch responded with a touchdown. On a long road trip against a ranked opponent, the Dutch had plenty to gain from risking a loss with a two point try. Kohle Helle's run gave Central the win to cap a solid weekend for the IIAC.

More Top 25 upsets

There will be plenty of shakeup when the first in-season Top 25 poll is released tonight. Seven ranked teams stumbled out of the gate. While some were expected to start 0-1 after opening against a higher-ranked opponent (Washington and Lee, John Carroll), others were more surprising. The biggest eye-opener has to be East Texas Baptist's dismantling of No. 21 Texas Lutheran.

In head coach Scotty Walden's debut, the Tigers jumped out to a 30-0 halftime lead en route to a 44-20 win. Jourdan McNeill rushed for 138 yards and three scores and the defense picked off three passes.

Franklin delivered the most impressive comeback of the weekend, knocking off No. 11 Thomas More with some late game drama. Trailing 32-14 early in the third quarter, the Grizzlies chipped away. Thomas More had a chance to seal the win, but Franklin forced and recovered a Hjavier Pitts fumble at the one yard line. An ensuing 99-yard drive, aided by a pair of costly Thomas More penalties, gave Franklin its first and only lead of the game in a 43-39 win.

Then there were the upsets by definition only. Delaware Valley believed it was the better team when it faced Wesley in the first game of the post-Joe Callahan era. The Wolverines mustered just 14 points in the 21-14 loss. The Aggies snagged four interceptions.

Salisbury was not ranked as highly as Albright in the preseason poll, but the Gulls wasted no time proving that they should not have been the underdogs. Sean Rowland housed the opening kickoff and Salisbury cruised to a 34-18 win.

Instant impact

Hampden-Sydney first year Matt DeMasi took his first collegiate touch all the way, returning the opening kick 97 yards for a score. WPI freshman running back Sean McAllen carried 29 times for

UW-Whitewater's Drew Patterson made one of the many impressive debuts in Week 1.
Photo by Daryl Tessmann, d3photography.com 

215 yards and two scores in his debut. Drew Patterson's first game for No. 3 UW-Whitewater was explosive. He scored on three of his eight carries, averaging over 10 yards per carry.

On tap

Here's what to watch for on D3football.com this week.

Later today-- new Top 25 poll released

Monday--Around the Nation podcast featuring Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan. Also, Play of the Week. Submit nominations today if you haven't already.

Tuesday/Wednesday--Around the Region columns

Thursday--Around the Nation column.

Friday--Quick Hits (the new, improved version of Triple Take featuring our panel's predictions and insight into the weekend's games)

Saturday--You know what Saturdays are for.

We've got great content coming at you all week, every week. Follow along and get to know D-III football beyond just your favorite team.

If you have ideas for an upcoming column or just want to talk some D-III football, get at me at @adamturer on Twitter or adam.turer@d3sports.com.

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Adam Turer

Adam Turer graduated in 2006 from Washington and Lee University, where he was a two-year starter at free safety. He lives in Cincinnati and covers area high school sports in addition to his full-time job as an attorney. Adam has contributed to D3football.com since 2007 and is in his third season writing Around the Nation after spending four seasons writing Around the Mid-Atlantic.

2014-2015 columnist: Ryan Tipps.
2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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