October 25, 2007
Central's nervous system can't be rattled
From far away, the things taking place in and around
Pella, Iowa, seem to border on the absurd.
It’s not quite Mount Union’s 55-game win streak,
but Central (8-0) has streaked to No. 6 in the nation with a
remarkable run of success in tight games. Coach Jeff McMartin, a
Central alum under whom the Dutch are 33-5, has presided over 15
victories by eight points or less, including six in overtime. Five
of their six IIAC wins this season have been one-score games,
punctuated by Saturday’s 37-34 triple-overtime thriller
The Dutch have won the past 14 times they’ve been
outgained, including six times this season. They’ve battled
injuries this season, including those limiting two-time IIAC player
of the year Vance Schuring, their star running back, to 353 total
yards and a touchdown. And yet they keep right on
It’s luck, message board posters write.
“I think luck is involved in any game,” says
Dubuque coach Vince Brautigam, still affected early in the week by
his team’s inability to finish the Dutch. “You create
your own luck by the things you do during the week in
In other words, Central’s success is beyond simply
luck. It’s a knack, supported by their entire way of
“They’re an extension of their head coach,”
Brautigam said. “They’re calm, and never believe
they’re out of a game, and they don’t make a lot of
McMartin, trying not to get swept away believing in his
team’s “knack,” admits that limiting mistakes is
by design. The calm, though, he traces back to a moment late in his
first season coaching his alma mater, a 6-4 year in which they lost
as many one-score games (three) as they won.
A week after a particularly galling 14-10 defeat against
Wartburg, in which the Dutch failed four times inside the 6-yard
line late in the game, the team geared up for a game against Buena
Vista. Quarterback and captain Mark Isaacson addressed the
“Tomorrow we’re going to cut it loose and have
fun,” McMartin recalls Isaacson saying.
“You mean we haven’t been doing that
already?” McMartin says he thought to himself.
Central quarterback Tim
Connell holds the program's significant career passing
From then on, McMartin and his staff made sure to stress
how much fun the games are, perhaps, though unintentionally, laying
the foundation for a team that seems to shrug off the pressure in
Consider: In the following three seasons, 2005 through the
first eight games of this season, Central is 27-3, including two
postseason losses, and 21-1 in IIAC play. They are 12-2 in games
decided by eight or less and are 5-0 in overtime.
“I actually thought about it during the Dubuque
game,” McMartin said of the have-fun mantra. “In the
third quarter, we were down, and we weren’t playing our best
football. And yet anyone who would’ve been on our sideline
could tell we were having fun. It jumped out at me. I just took
note of it: ‘Wow, our guys are having a great time.’
Of course, it’s not as though McMartin rolls a football
onto the field each week and tells his players to go have a blast.
There’s substance to the Central philosophy.
“We aren’t running plays no one’s ever seen
before, or an offense that’s never been stopped,”
McMartin says. “We’re committed to special teams. We
try to keep a low turnover ratio. Giving your best effort is a big
thing with us. Those are some of the things we can
In fact, worrying about their performance against their best
selves is at the heart of the mind-set.
“We never talk about statistics,” says McMartin,
who thinks many of them can be misleading. “Not in meetings,
or before games or after practice. We don’t concern ourselves
That might be wise, given his team has been outgained
3,151-2,715 this season, or about 394-340 each game. They’ve
offset that with a 22-15 turnover-giveaway tally this season, and
they’ve scored six touchdowns on defense and special
The season-opening 35-10 win over St. Thomas might be the
best example of Central’s prowess despite the statistics. The
Tommies outgained the Dutch 378-175, but linebacker Greg Altamaier
took a fumble back 52 yards for a touchdown, defensive back Brett
Doud returned an interception 82 yards for a score and safety Aaron
Rassmussen fell on a blocked punt in the end zone.
Vance Schuring is back on
the field after injuries cost him carries.
But there’s more to The Central Way.
“We actually don’t talk a lot about
winning,” McMartin said. “We talk about giving our best
Like Brautigam noted, that starts long before game
“We really focus on the process of getting
ready,” McMartin says. “We want to have the best Monday
we can possibly have. Then we go on to Tuesday.”
McMartin knows comparing his team to what others across the
nation, especially in the top 10, is a quick way to end up
“We just focus on having a good practice,” he
says. “Of course we have long-term goals, like having a
winning season. Those are things we talk about in March and
The byproduct of such singular focus shows up on
“They will take advantage of your mistakes,” says
Brautigam, who said he’s “had better Mondays,”
partly because his team fumbled away a chance to win after
recovering a Central fumble in Saturday’s second
McMartin doesn’t have to look at the scores to know his
team makes mistakes too.
“We can still get a lot better,” he says.
“We have a long way to go. We’re so not
There are a couple other reasons the Dutch have been
successful, McMartin acknowledges.
When they’ve battled injuries, it hasn’t just
been the fill-ins who’ve stepped in and maintained the level
of play. The players who have stayed healthy have raised their
Central also prides itself on giving a team effort. But
beyond the cliché, what McMartin means is that good
opponents try to take away an aspect of what they do well, so the
Dutch try not to box themselves in by spending too much (or too
little) time on any one part of the game.
Each coach has a special teams responsibility, under
coordinator Kevin Sanger. The Dutch also devote time to special
teams in every practice. In a league as tight as the IIAC, the
extra time makes a difference. With 3 minutes to go against Luther
this year, Guy Dierikx returned a punt 45 yards for a touchdown
that put the game away.
McMartin also says his coaching staff doesn’t waste a
lot of time analyzing numbers.
“The teams you play, at this point in the season, what
you see on film and what you see on the field is who they
Who the Dutch are is simply a team that finds a way to get it
done, and has fun doing it.
“We’re not always perfect, and we don’t
always execute everything the way we’re supposed to,”
“I don’t think we do anything that’s
different from anyone else. We have good kids who play
Scheduling this weekend’s St. John’s trip for the
Johnnies’ game against rival St. Thomas seemed like a good
idea at the time. But with the Tommies coming in at 2-5, and with
the number of monster clashes across the country Saturday,
it’s more like ‘What were we
Games to Watch
Week 9’s contests of national significance:
My insights are back in place of Gordon Mann, who is
knee-deep in entering basketball schedules for D3hoops.com, bless
his heart. Since there are so many games of major significance this
week, let’s get right to it.
Week 9’s five top 25 clashes
No. 1 Mount Union at No. 12
Capital: I normally wouldn’t give many
opponents much of a shot against a Purple Raiders squad leading the
nation in total offense (592.9 yards per game) and total defense
(146.1), but here’s a reason to believe this game might be
interesting: The Crusaders are second nationally in total defense
(157.9). Although they are banged up on offense, with those kind of
defenses, they might not need much, just a few strokes of good
fortune (i.e. a defensive TD). Plus, Capital’s played Mount
Union four times the past two seasons. If anyone’s got the
book on the Purple Raiders, it’s Jim Collins. And still very
few would be surprised at a blowout.
No. 2 Mary Hardin-Baylor at No. 3
UW-Whitewater This is a clash we’ve been
waiting for since last year’s 7-3 thriller in Belton, Texas.
Although a non-conference game, it has major playoff implications.
Then again, the two could end up playing each other again in the
national semifinals no matter what they do here. In any case, the
visiting Crusaders rush for 380 yards per game, tops nationally.
Whitewater is 19th against the run, allowing 79 yards per game. The
Warhawks counter with the nation’s second-leading rusher in
Justin Beaver (178.3 yards per game), who didn’t play against
the Cru last season because of a broken collarbone. The Warhawks
haven’t been nearly as dominating as the Cru (they’ve
hit 41 points once, while UMHB hasn’t been held below 47),
but they seem to have settled since a comeback victory against
UW-La Crosse and gained confidence in their first-year head coach,
offensive coordinator and quarterback.
No. 9 Salisbury at No. 10
Wesley Rare that a top-10 face-off isn’t
the Game of the Week, but it’s also rare to have so much
riding on this Atlantic Central Football Conference rivalry. Only
Mary Hardin-Baylor rushes for more than Salisbury’s 356.8
yards per game, while Wesley is more balanced statistically
(rushing for 239 of their 467 average yards per game) and has speed
to burn on the flanks. Both teams have played relatively
challenging schedules, but have skated for the past two weeks. The
Sea Gulls probably lock up a Pool B bid with a win and push the
Wolverines to the playoff bubble, while a Wesley win could have an
effect on the playoff fortunes of Pool B teams clear across the
No. 19 Trinity (Texas) at No. 24
Millsaps The Majors should probably be 7-0, but
they’ve made up for their Week 1 stumble against rival
Mississippi College by thrashing their next six opponents by an
average score of 40-9. Their largest margin of victory came in a
42-0 win against Rhodes, who beat Trinity 27-13 three weeks ago. A
Tigers loss could mean there’ll be only one playoff team from
Texas, in which case we assume Millsaps would draw UMHB in the
traditional first-round “eliminate a team from the
South” game. Tigers QB Blake Barmore didn’t play when
the two teams met last season. Millsaps, playing just its third
home game of the year, can clinch the SCAC title with a
No. 25 Cortland State at No. 18 College
of New Jersey The surprise leaders of the NJAC
(Cortland because it thought it would be down after two successful
years, TCNJ because they hadn’t had a winning record since
2004) haven’t been flashy so much as they’ve been tough
and efficient. A 42-21 win against Western Connecticut last week
marked the first time an opponent had scored more than 15 points on
TCNJ, but it was only the second time they’d gone over 21
themselves. Cortland has dominated Montclair State and Kean, but
beat Western Connecticut by 1 and Buffalo State by 3. The Lions are
seventh nationally in total defense, while the Red Dragons are
28th. Cortland can clinch a share of the NJAC title, but TCNJ has
Kean and Buffalo State left.
Five more with major conference title and playoff
No. 8 Washington & Jefferson at Waynesburg: The
Yellow Jackets have to be in the midst of the quietest 7-0 start
ever, but national rushing leader Robert Heller () and national
tackles for loss leader Mike Czerwein (3.3 a game) should make some
noise. The Presidents have the nation’s second-ranked total
offense (), while the Yellow Jackets boast the No. 4 total
No. 11 Alfred at Hobart: The Saxons, in the
drivers’ seat for not just a playoff spot but the
East’s No. 1 seed, begin their run through their traditional
season-ending gauntlet with a non-conference at Hobart. Trips to
Ithaca and St. John Fisher follow. The Statesmen might seem down at
5-2, but the losses were toss-ups and they’ve been rolling
since Week 5.
Dickinson at No. 20 Muhlenberg: The Mules, who have
defeated TCNJ, are beginning to get their due. They gave up 34 of
their 37 points against two of their opponents. Dickinson (6-1) has
had five of its games decided by a TD or less.
North Carolina Wesleyan at Christopher Newport: Swept
under the rug because both of these teams lost early, albeit to
stout competition, a playoff spot (USAC automatic bid) is likely on
the line here. CNU has won four in a row since a 1-2 start, while
N.C. Wesleyan has topped five consecutive opponents after an 0-2
Amherst at Tufts; Middlebury at Trinity (Conn.): The
NESCAC’s four 4-1 teams meet head-on in separate games. With
Trinity and Williams up next, the Lord Jeffs would seem to need a
win more than the Jumbos, but Tufts is coming off a 32-13 defeat at
Williams. The surprising Panthers, meanwhile, visit the perennially
in-the-mix Bantams with Tufts still on the schedule Nov.
Also keep an eye on: No. 5 Wheaton at
Elmhurst, Cal Lutheran at No. 14 Occidental, No. 17 Ohio Northern
at Baldwin-Wallace, UW-Oshkosh at No. 22 UW-Stevens Point,
Bridgewater (Va.) at Washington & Lee, Randolph-Macon at
Guilford, Washington U. at Carnegie Mellon, Whitworth at
Rivalries: No. 4 St. John’s at
St. Thomas, Cornell at No. 6 Central.
Check Friday morning’s Daily Dose for Triple
Take: Pat, Keith and a guest’s primer on Week 9
Who are those guys?
Taking a look at those unfamiliar names on schedules, and
following Division III teams in interdivisional play:
The schools on the schedule for Week 9 are a pair that have
frequently surfaced on Division III schedules.
For Waldorf, a 55-0 loser to UW-Stevens Point in September
and 58-7 loser to Luther last week, this week’s game at Buena
Vista marks its third of four against Division III opponents this
season. The Warriors also travel to Minn.-Morris in Week
Likewise, Southern Virginia has already played three Division
III opponents (Guilford, Ferrum and Frostburg State) and takes on
Newport News Apprentice Saturday.
No ranked opponents at any level are in action in this
week’s interdivision games.
vs. Division I, FCS (No games in Weeks 7-8, 4-7 in
vs. Division II (No games in Week 7, 0-1 in Week 8, 3-11 in
vs. NAIA (2-1 in Week 7, 2-1 in Week 8, 19-7 in
Waldorf at Buena Vista
Newport News at Southern Virginia
For a running list of the season’s interdivisional
scores and accompanying discussion, visit our Post Patterns
threads D3 vs.
D-IAA, D2 and D3 vs.
Pool B/C watch
With three regular-season weeks remaining before the
playoffs, it’s high time Around the Nation began looking at
how the 10 playoff spots not determined by automatic bids are going
to shake out.
Before going any further, if the pool system doesn’t
make any sense to you, or you need a refresher course,read our Playoff
Primer. You might also try frequently asked
questions section regarding the playoffs for quick
answers to your playoff questions.
D3football.com staff will also be available to tackle your
specific playoff questions on our Pool
B and Pool
Cmessage boards. Fans offer some very strong insight
there as well.
As it stands, there are six likely candidates for the three
Pool B bids, and they each play one of the others in three games
that will have a great effect on how the bids are
Salisbury (8-0) at Wesley (7-1) in Week 9 (this week,
Washington U. (6-1) at Case Western Reserve (7-0) in Week
Linfield (4-2) at Whitworth (5-2) in Week 10
Salisbury and Case Western Reserve could virtually lock up
playoff spots with wins, provided they win their other games as
well. The other four teams are each operating with one Division III
in-region loss already and would be virtually eliminated with
The easiest scenario is that the three teams that win these
three games are in. But that’s not necessarily the case,
especially if Wesley and Wash. U. win out. We could be left with as
many as five of the above teams with one Division III, in-region
loss, which would open up the possibility of a Pool B candidate (or
two) qualifying in Pool C.
Speaking of Pool C, Gordon Mann was kind enough to share the
following thoughts with us:
With the usual Pool C suspects picking up two losses or
dropping out of the race entirely, I was starting to wonder how
many quality teams are in line for Pool C bids. So I quickly
tallied up the teams who have one loss but are not leading their
conference. That is, these are one-loss teams who could win out and
not get the AQ:
St. John Fisher (7-1, 7-1 in region)
Games left: vs. Utica, vs. Alfred
They are only on the list because I don't know who wins a
three-way tie-breaker should Hartwick, Alfred and SJF finish
Waynesburg/Washington & Jefferson loser
Games left (W&J): at Waynesburg, at Thomas More, vs.
Games left (Waynesburg): W&J, at Geneva, vs. Westminster
Both teams are undefeated so one will be on this list next
Bridgewater (Va.) (6-1, 6-1 in region)
Games left: at Washington & Lee, vs. Randolph-Macon, vs.
Bridgewater (Va.) would win out and not win the title only if
Hampden-Sydney also wins out (at Catholic, Huntingdon, at
UW-Stevens Point (6-1, 3-1 in region)
Games left: at UW-Oshkosh, vs. UW-Eau Claire, at UW-La
Redlands (5-1, 4-1 in region)
Games left: vs. La Verne, vs. Whittier, at Cal
Mt. St. Joseph (6-1, 6-1 in region)
Games left: vs. Defiance, at Bluffton, vs. Thomas
Plymouth State (6-1, 6-1 in region)
Games left: vs. MIT, at Salve Regina
And that's it. That's the list. Some could come off the list
if things break right (SJF, Bridgewater). UW-Stevens Point has a
really tough road. And Plymouth State probably isn’t a viable
Pool C candidate. So there’s still a chance for teams with
two losses -- the Ohio Northerns, Capitals (eventually) and St.
Olafs of the world -- to get in the playoffs with two big
1) The undefeated teams who are leading races need to win
them so they don’t drop to Pool C. Two-loss teams should
start cheering for these guys -- Alfred, Central, Mary-Hardin
Baylor, Mount Union, Muhlenberg, Occidental, RPI, St. John’s,
UW-Whitewater, Wabash, Wheaton.
2) Pool B has some solid candidates who could steal a Pool C.
So at-large hopefuls should root for Salisbury to hand Wesley its
second loss, Case Western Reserve to hand Wash. U. its second loss
and Whitworth or Linfield to run the table (they play each other).
That would leave just three Pool B teams with one loss or
There is plenty left to be determined in the coming
weeks, so the chatter will be going on non-stop, especially with
committee’s first regional rankings released
this week. In between columns, stay tuned on the message board and
The Daily Dose.
Now including the NESCAC, we’re down to 16 unbeaten
teams among 238, while 17 teams were still without a victory. Some,
like 0-8 LaGrange, Merchant Marine or Beloit, are running out of
time to get one. Two of the unbeatens meet this week when
Washington & Jefferson meets Waynesburg.
Other things around the Web that might be of
Our third Around the Nation podcast is available on The Daily
Dose. We update with a new one each Monday.
Liberty Mutual coach of the year
Liberty Mutual has extended its coach of the year award to
Division III this season, and fan voting accounts for 20% of the
current leaders are Millsaps’ Mike DuBose, St.
John’s John Gagliardi, Geneva’s Geno DeMarco,
RPI’s Joe King and Maryville’s Tony Ierulli, a group
that represents not necessarily which coaches are doing the most
amazing job this year, but probably whose fans have caught wind of
Around the Nation is largely interactive, and since its
inception has made reader feedback a part of the column. We keep a
running board on Post Patterns (under general football) to discuss
issues raised in the column, and we'll share feedback and answer
questions there, as well as in the column occasionally. Send all
correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org, or use our feedback form.
Call for video
Around the Nation is always looking for video of anything
Division III football-related. That means we'd like to get our
hands on documentaries, local cable broadcasts and re-airs, links
to archived broadcasts and coaches' tapes.
This is especially important to us around playoff time.
Please let us know if you have access to footage, by e-mailing
For journalists and broadcasters
Keith McMillan is available on Thursdays and Fridays or by
appointment to talk Division III football. For more information,
Around the Nation is looking for conference media guides this
season, but will follow individual schools online or by request.
Please use your individual login and D3football.com’s
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