Inside a cross-country showdown
Photo by Ryan Tipps for D3football.com
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- They were a yard away from
Christopher Newport, looking at going 0-2 against a challenging early schedule it was thrilled to play, stared at Mary Hardin-Baylor's first-and-goal from inside the 1 with 1:37 left. The Captains, on their third punter, gave up possession nursing a 15-10 lead and watched the Crusaders move 40 yards in 40 seconds to get in position to win.
But Christopher Newport reminded its fans why they should never make for the exits early, thinking 'we almost had a big one there.' The Captains stuffed fullback Adrian Turner's first and second efforts on first down, and then sniffed out a play-action pass on second down, wrapping up Crusaders quarterback Josh Welch, knocking the ball loose and setting off a wild, storm-the-field celebration at Pomoco Stadium, even though 50 seconds still remained.
And like that, Christopher Newport had what coach Matt Kelchner called "the most signficant win in (our) history, hands down."
Coming off the first non-playoff season in the Captains' five-year history and 32-8 thumping at No. 3 Rowan, Mary Hardin-Baylor threatened to not only sap the energy from the 5,584 in attendance at Family Day, but kill the program's momentum.
A determined defense instead saved it.
Linebacker Zakee Williams appeared to come off the right side to wrap Welch up around the waist, pinning his throwing arm to his side at the elbow. Trying to wriggle free, Welch seemed to attempt a forward pass in hopes of getting third-and-goal back at the 1 instead of the 6. The ball came out as a fumble, and before it hit the ground Thomas Johnson recovered. So did CNU.
"I was trying to get out of a tackle and make a play,"
Welch said. "I only had one hand on the ball. I was trying to make
a play instead of just covering up the ball. It's a mistake I
shouldn't make, but things like that happen sometimes."
After the game though, writers wondered why the power-running Cru didn't give 235-pound tailback Freddie Rollins a shot or two from inside the 1.
"I was just expecting big No. 23 getting the ball three times up the gut," Kelchner said.
"I didn't disagree with the call," said Crusaders coach Pete Fredenburg. "It's a play that works a lot for us."
The pass, designed for Rollins in the flat but covered, was called by new offensive coordinator Matt Robinson, who took over the play-calling from retired George Haffner this season. Robinson, the former receivers coach, seemed to call more pass plays than Haffner had, but the Crusaders had seam routes open in the middle of the field all day and moved the ball effectively through the air.
The play was such a blur on Christopher Newport's end that after the game, Williams swore he didn't cause the fumble. When Johnson was asked to take the credit, he replied that he only recovered the fumble. When Williams said it was a defensive back that made the strip, Nate Williams -- credited with the play in the game stats -- recalled some of the big plays he made in the fourth quarter, including the first-down tackle on Turner, but said that the fumble wasn't his. Reporters from the Virginian-Pilot and Newport News Daily Press stayed on the case long enough to confirm linebacker Harvey Harper as the one who wrapped up Welch and caused the fumble.
Photo by Ryan Tipps for D3football.com
Though the Captains controlled the action much of the day,
the sixth-ranked Cru hung around, and the speed and effectiveness
with which they drove toward the potential game-winning score made
the outcome seem like a forgone conclusion.
"I've been here for three years," said receiver George Jones, a former running back who caught a 49-yard TD pass in the second quarter. "Every big game our D has come through for us."
Often in a tight game much focus goes on one play and not the many fine details that went into setting up the turning point. What if tight end Peter Medlock hadn't been pushed out of bounds just short of the goal line on his 11-yard reception? What if the Captains hadn't had a 78-yard punt return and 91-yard halfback pass for a TD called back just before halftime?
The game seemed to turn out the way it did for a reason. The postgame reactions told the story. Mary Hardin-Baylor seemed disappointed, but short of dejected. The 1,500-mile trip was their season opener, and bigger contests back in Texas against national No. 7 and conference rival Hardin-Simmons and second-ranked Stagg Bowl runner-up UW-Whitewater loom.
For Christopher Newport, the goal-line stand was a season-saver. Though they too have big games ahead, the Captains felt the need to atone for their poor performance at Rowan. Having a second top-10 opponent on the schedule was their big chance.
"The focus this whole week was 'play with passion,'" said Rob Rodriguez, who scored the Captains' first TD on an improvised 53-yard fake punt reception and nifty juke move. "We'd been coming out playing off of other teams â€¦ We knew (last week) wasn't us."
Photo by Ryan Tipps for D3football.com
Kelchner, who used a reverse and hook-and-ladder among the
trick plays, said those plays were in for the Rowan game, but rainy
conditions didn't warrant their use. Against the Crusaders, an
opponent CNU hadn't seen before, Kelchner held up a crumpled game
"We used everything on it," he joked.
Kelchner wants his teams to play everyone, which is why No. 3 and No. 6 are on his non-conference schedule.
"People started to question me last week," he said. "These guys came here to play in big games. I'll never be the type of coach who schedules down."
Rodriguez said he was happy when he saw the Captains schedule this season.
"I said 'Mary Hardin-Baylor?' It's about time. It's just exciting."
Likewise, Fredenburg wanted his players to enjoy a different experience, and he didn't mean losing.
"I thank our university for allowing us to do this," he said. "It was a neat atmosphere for college football. I have to give credit to Matt and his university for that. I thought it was really cool."
Fredenburg, who led Mary Hardin-Baylor's first football team in 1998, had served on committees with Kelchner, who has coached Christopher Newport since it started its program in 2001.
"We got to talking about it, it was an in-region game and we were able to schedule it," Fredenburg said. "They come to Texas next year. I hope we can be as rude to them as they were to us."
Remember our preseason conference rankings? Like our Kickoff team rankings, they become less and less accurate as games get played. Which
conferences would be in line to move up or move down based on the first two weeks of games?
Pat Coleman kicked in his thoughts on who is making moves.
On the rise: Atlantic Central. There's a long way to go, with more than half the schedule being made up of non-conference games, but Salisbury's win at Washington and Jefferson and Newport News' win at North Carolina Wesleyan are an upset and a toss-up win, respectively.
On the rise, a little: Illini-Badger. There weren't too many truly toss-up non-conference games in the league early on, but the league got a couple of big ones. Concordia (Wis.) got a Week 1 game from Simpson and Benedictine avenged last year's loss at North Park. But the biggie was last week's win for Concordia at North Central. But the league also gives back some ground with two losses to Rockford.
On the rise, a little: American Southwest. Mary Hardin-Baylor's loss at Christopher Newport hurts, and hurts badly, but Texas Lutheran beat Trinity (Texas), Louisiana College is on the rise and Mississippi College didn't mess around in beating Millsaps. Hardin-Simmons can raise the No. 4 conference's profile when it hosts the No. 3 conference's heavyweight, Linfield, on Saturday.
Offsetting penalties: Iowa. The gains by Cornell's out-of-conference wins are balanced out by the Simpson losses.
Offsetting penalties: Centennial. The 3-0 Week 2 against the ODAC goes along with two Muhlenberg wins and two Ursinus wins. The Johns Hopkins home loss to Rochester hurts, however, as does the continued decline of McDaniel.
On the decline: New Jersey. The league has won the games it was expected to but William Paterson, a 2005 surprise, is 0-2 and did not look good against Wilkes; Kean lost at Merchant Marine; and New Jersey lost again to Muhlenberg. Montclair State can make up ground with upcoming games at Springfield and against Salisbury.
On the decline: Illinois & Wisconsin. This has been written about extensively in the Daily Dose, but the main culprits are Augustana losing at home to Baldwin-Wallace and North Central losing at home to Concordia (Wis.). Illinois Wesleyan and Millikin can salvage the conference's reputation this weekend at Mt. St. Joseph and Wabash.
On the decline: USA South. The league is 3-10, with one win against a first-year program and another against Southern Virginia (2-12 all-time against D-III schools). Beating Mary Hardin-Baylor does not make up for that.
Also rising: Empire 8, Heartland, Minnesota, Old Dominion, Wisconsin
Standing still: Middle Atlantic, New England, Ohio
Also falling: Michigan, North Coast, Presidents, Southern Collegiate
Jury's still out: Northwest, UAA, Southern California
A brief look back
Last week, ATN pointed you toward seven interesting games that otherwise wouldn't make national headlines. Here's how those turned out:
1. Principia at Macalester -- The Scots' 50-6 win proved that even they are a level above the Panthers. (More on this game under Streak Watch)
2. Dubuque at Wisconsin Lutheran -- Around the Nation said it was time for Dubuque to make good on its potential. How's 48-7 sound?
3. Worcester State at Worcester Polytech -- WPI's Mike Hansen took two INTs to the house in the second half of a 40-20 win.
4. Coast Guard at Merchant Marine -- The team formerly known as Kings Point made it eight of nine Secretaries' Cups.
5. Salve Regina at SUNY-Maritime -- Salve salvaged a 21-15 win, but Maritime's six-point margin in its debut was better than LaGrange (30 points) or Morrisville State (40 points).
6. Kenyon at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps -- 34-10? At least the Lords got a trip to Southern California out of the deal.
7. Carnegie Mellon at Grove City -- Tartans had 60 of the game's 87 rushes and scored all 28 of its points. Time of game: Two hours, 23 minutes. Yes, really.
Poll positions/My 26-35
There was a serious shakeup of the top 25, which is typical this early in the season, and yet it's still a bit of a surprise.
I didn't have three of this weekend's surprise losers (Augustana, Salisbury and Thiel) in the top 25 last week, and I still dropped five teams off my official ballot. I also scratched out 17-25 three or four times before getting it right.
Moving into the top 25 this weekend, in my mind: Christopher Newport (who I had 25th in the preseason), RPI (26th last week), Wheaton (28th), Central (30th) and Texas Lutheran (35th).
This week's poll ranks 23 of the 25 teams on my ballot, with Christopher Newport and yet-to-begin Trinity (Conn.) on mine in place of Union and Concordia-Moorhead. The Cobbers have a chance to show where they belong against Bethel this week, while I feel Union's loss to Springfield takes them out of the mix for the time being. I was not pleased to see the Dutchmen ranked 22nd, although I agreed that Mary Hardin-Baylor and Linfield stay in the top 25 despite losing. I was surprised to see Augustana, Washington & Jefferson, North Central and Wabash getting so many votes after their recent losses -- surely there are some teams off to better starts that voters can get behind -- but UW-Eau Claire and Huntingdon I can at least understand.
In any case, the teams I'm keeping a watchful eye on, but did not vote for this week: 26. Wartburg, 27. St. John Fisher, 28. UW-Stout, 29. UW-Eau Claire, 30. UW-Oshkosh, 31. Concordia-Moorhead, 32. Howard Payne, 33. St. Olaf, 34. Brockport State, 35. Alfred, 36. Baldwin-Wallace, 37. Concordia (Wis.), 38. Mount St. Joseph, 39-40. Monmouth/St. Norbert.
Being featured here for a losing streak is no fun, but it does guarantee some national recognition when that monkey is finally off the back. Concordia (Ill.) and Menlo did it last week, and in Week 2 Macalester and Massachusetts Maritime were among four joyous winners. The Scots snapped a 15-game losing streak with a 50-6 victory against Principia and the Buccaneers stopped a 14-game streak with a 19-0 victory at MIT. Nichols halted an 11-game slide with a 31-12 Friday night win against Framingham State. Bethany had dropped 10 in a row before a 42-7 win against Hiram in front of its home crowd.
Heidelberg exceeded its 14-points-per-game average from last season, but still fell to Oberlin 48-34.
On the winners' side, the streaks are still short. Mass-Dartmouth extended its win streak to six by ending Bridgewater State's six-game streak, 15-7. And Chicago may not be back to its Amos Alonzo Stagg days, but it joins the list of winning streaks after a 55-0 victory over the aforementioned Concordia in the Maroons' opener.
Division III's longest win streaks:
Trinity (Conn.) (30 consecutive wins, last loss at Williams, 30-13, Sept. 28, 2002; 0-0 in 2006)
Mount Union (9 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Ohio Northern, 21-14, Oct. 22, 2005; 1-0 in 2006)
St. Norbert (9 consecutive wins, last loss vs. Monmouth, 28-20, Sept. 17, 2005; 2-0 in 2006)
Cal Lutheran (8 consecutive wins, last loss at Occidental, 41-9, Sept. 24, 2005; 1-0 in 2006)
Howard Payne (7 consecutive wins, last loss at Hardin-Simmons, 45-20, Oct. 1, 2005; 1-0 in 2006)
Chicago, Guilford, Lycoming, Mass-Dartmouth, Washington U. and Williams each have six consecutive wins.
The longest active losing streaks:
Heidelberg (27 consecutive losses, last win vs. Marietta on Oct. 4, 2003; 0-2 in 2006)
Juniata (14 consecutive losses, last win at Lycoming, 14-7, Oct. 30, 2004; 0-2 in 2006)
Tri-State (11 consecutive losses, last win vs. Kalamazoo, 21-14, Nov. 13, 2004, 0-1 in 2006)
Wesleyan (10 consecutive losses, last win vs. Bowdoin, 25-21, Oct. 30, 2004; 0-0 in 2006)
> Discuss other streaks (regular season, conference, home/road) on Post Patterns' Around the Nation board.
Five games to watch
There are maybe a dozen really intriguing games this week, including several that could influence conference titles and playoff spots. The five best, excluding No. 2 UW-Whitewater's out-of-division game, acknowledged elsewhere.
No. 11 Linfield at No. 7 Hardin-Simmons: Division III just missed its first matchup of top 10 teams this season, but this is still one of the top two non-conference games of the year (the other being Whitewater at Mary Hardin-Baylor Oct. 28). The Wildcats are coming off a rare loss and embarking on a 2,000-mile road trip. It's all in the cards for the rested Cowboys, who have the head coaching and quarterback experience the Wildcats lack and looked sharp two weeks ago against UW-Stevens Point. Linfield needs to muscle up to avoid the 0-2 start, but both teams scheduled this game for the challenge.
No. 12 Delaware Valley at No. 19 Wilkes: The MAC will soon have a front-runner, and defense will probably decide this one. The Aggies began the year with 19 starters back and the Colonels 20, with both teams returning 10 defensive starters. While the G.A. Mangus-less Aggies have one blah 19-7 win over FDU-Florham under their belts, Wilkes notched two road wins by dominating William Paterson and beating MAC contender Widener last week.
No. 10 Bridgewater (Va.) at Ferrum: This may not look so appealing, as the Eagles have outscored two opponents 71-0 while the Panthers lost to Guilford 49-35 two weeks ago, but it is a matchup of defending conference champions and playoff teams from '05. The schools are 2Â½ hours apart but should still draw a feisty crowd, and if there's any pride at Ferrum, one of the more under-respected conference champions in recent memory, they'll put up a significant fight.
No. 24 Concordia-Moorhead at Bethel: The Cobbers and Royals battle to see who, along with St. Olaf, possibly, will push St. John's for the MIAC title. Concordia, 21-1 the past two regular seasons, could be ready to join Division III's elite, and it's hard to tell what their season-opening 28-7 loss to Division II Moorhead State means. Bethel, on the other hand, is 2-0 while rushing for 468 yards and allowing 18 on the ground. The Cobbers rushed for 300 yards per game last season, which means we may have an epic matchup on our hands.
Northwestern (Minn.) at Rockford: Far from Top 25-land is this game among UMAC teams we consider independent, and two of the best at that. The Eagles and Regents combined for 15 wins last season. Rockford has outscored a pair of IBFC teams 38-6 in its 2-0 start, impressively handling the late (Aug. 4) appointment of Randy Schrader as head coach and the installment of the Wing-T offense. Northwestern may end up the class of the UMAC North and Rockford the South, so this one may preview the UMAC's late-October championship game.
Upset special (2-0 after Alfred's 14-0 defeat of Thiel): Montclair State at Springfield. The Pride are riding high and receiving top 25 votes after last week's 38-30 upset of then-No. 11 Union. Springfield is seemingly back to its 2002-04 ways, when it went 26-5 and earned a No. 1 seed and bye in the '03 playoffs. The Red Hawks, however, are rested after forcing six turnovers and piling up two defensive TDs and a safety in a 21-7 win over I-AA Iona two weeks ago. Montclair will have to gain more than 77 yards to beat Springfield, but the Red Hawks appear to have enough defense to slow the powerful Pride rushing attack and spring the upset.
Surprisingly good game (0-2 after Whitworth beat Redlands 28-3): Mississippi College at No. 21 Texas Lutheran. The Choctaws were strong in a 52-28 win Sept. 2 over rival Millsaps, and make the road trip on two weeks' rest. The Bulldogs have beaten Hardin-Simmons (last season's finale) and Trinity (Texas) in their past three games, but they also proved with last season's eight close games that they were vulnerable. The Bulldogs were 3-5 in games decided by a TD or less then, including a 27-22 win against the Choctaws. Look for Texas Lutheran to pull out another close one on Saturday.
Also keep an eye on: No. 1 Mount Union at Otterbein, Azusa Pacific at No. 2 Whitewater, Washington U. at No. 25 Wheaton, Brockport State at Cortland State, Cal Lutheran at Willamette, Chicago at Elmhurst, Christopher Newport at Salisbury, Coe at Luther, Guilford at Averett, Widener at Lycoming.
Who are those guys?
Week 2 was more of the same for Division III teams who ventured outside our club of 234. Success came at the hands of NAIA teams and in a split with Division I-AA non-scholarships, but Division II continued to dominate Division III.
The marquee win for Division III was unranked UW-Eau Claire shutting out NAIA No. 17 Black Hills State 20-0. Division II Western Oregon led that classification's second consecutive 4-0 with a 28-14 victory over then-No. 7 Linfield. Frankly, we don't know what East Texas Baptist was thinking playing Ouachita Baptist, a member of Division II power conference, the Gulf South. Same goes for UW-Oshkosh going up against Minn.-Mankato, which plays in another power league, the North Central Conference. Seton Hill's 17-7 win over McDaniel made it a clean sweep.
Western Connecticut's 21-3 win over Division I-AA St. Peter's was a highlight, but so was Wittenberg's showing against Dayton, ranked third in The Sports Network's Division I-AA mid-major poll going into the game. The Flyers beat the Tigers 35-28.
Looking ahead, No. 2 UW-Whitewater against NAIA No. 9 Azusa Pacific is this week's top matchup, while even I learned something new when I saw Shorter College scheduled to play LaGrange (Those guys are in nearby Rome, Ga.). A couple of familiar uniforms resurface when UW-Stout visits Upper Iowa, a team four years removed from Division III and the IIAC, and Chowan, a member of the USA South and precursor the Dixie Conference from 2001-03, heads to Methodist.
vs. Division I-AA (1-2 in Week 2, 4-3 in 2006)
UW-Platteville at TSN No. 7 Drake
La Salle at Ursinus
vs. Division II (0-4 in Week 2, 0-8 in 2006)
Seton Hill at No. 6 Wesley
Chowan at Methodist
UW-Stout at Upper Iowa
vs. NAIA (3-2 in Week 2, 10-4 in 2006)
No. 2 UW-Whitewater against VSN/NAIAFootball.net No. 9 Azusa Pacific
Greenville at Taylor (Ind.)
Shorter at LaGrange
But don't quote me ...
Quick observations from Week 2 and predictions for Week 3:
> We've mentioned the Centennial's 3-0 week against the ODAC, a battle of similarly sized conferences that fluctuates from year-to-year. And while Centennial teams knocked off two of the ODAC's recent top three in Hampden-Sydney and Washington and Lee, it's Guilford that's really making noise in the ODAC. Behind quarterback Josh Vogelbach, the Quakers have won seven of eight and are looking like a team that could challenge Bridgewater. Then again, the Eagles are unscored upon in 2006.
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