September 6, 2007
In openers, hope springs, or falls, eternal
Great expectations. In Week 1, everyone has
Anyone who’s any kind of player, who’s bought
into what his coach is preaching, went out last Saturday believing
deep down his team could and should win. Players don’t think
like the rest of us. They’re more singularly
And half of them went home last weekend thoroughly
disappointed, dreams of an undefeated season dashed.
In the outside world, expectations run the gamut. But they
can still be heaped upon a player or team in unrealistic
Some shy away. Some welcome the challenge.
North Carolina Wesleyan did just that last Saturday. Not that
they went looking for trouble initially -- coach Jack Ginn said
Newport News Apprentice dropped his Battling Bishops from the
schedule in February and Wesley, a semifinalist which began the
season ranked sixth, was one of the few teams still looking to fill
“There weren’t too many teams still looking for a
game in February,” Ginn said. “So you end up with
Wesley and it’s ‘let’s go up there and see what
we’ve got.’ ”
What Ginn has, of course, is a fourth-year program that
returned 18 starters from an ’06 team that lost four games by
a total of 10 points. That got them picked to win the USA South
championship in a coaches’ poll.
Ginn also brought to Dover a team that could match the
Wolverines stride for stride.
Cedric Townsend exemplified
N.C. Wesleyan's team speed at quarterback, though he didn't run
Photo by Pat Coleman,
“We knew one of us was getting ready to play a team
faster than us, but we didn’t know which one,” Ginn
said. “I don’t think that happens too often to either
Both teams flashed that blazing speed -- N.C.
Wesleyan’s Orlando Webb hauled in 47- and 76-yard TD passes.
Wesley’s Michael Clarke scored on a 59-yard TD pass before
the half with the Wolverines trailing 17-7 and Larry Beavers gave
them the lead by returning the second-half kickoff 82 yards for a
Wesley asserted itself with 11- and 10-play drives in the
second half to go ahead 34-24 before N.C. Wesleyan closed the gap
by returning a fumble 8 yards for a score with 1:30
The Battling Bishops, who took control of the game and opened
that 10-point second quarter lead, felt they hadn’t lived up
to expectations. But it wasn’t anyone else they felt they let
down. They fell short of their own expectations.
“We wanted to come here and play our way, and we made
them play our way,” Ginn said, noting his team snapped the
ball 59 times in the first half. “Until that second-half
kickoff, we were in pretty good shape.”
“We didn’t keep our poise,” he
Ginn gave Wesley its credit, but repeated that he felt his
team’s games were about how his team played. When they play
their best game, he said, the rest takes care of itself. And on
that note, he wasn’t considering hanging close to the
Wolverines any kind of moral victory.
“We can play like we did at Maryville last year and
beat ourselves (in a 50-48, four-overtime loss) or we can play like
we did against Christopher Newport (in a 46-34 win against the
eventual conference champions),” Ginn said.
“We’ve had the educational loss here already. I think
we’re past that.”
And yet his team has to get past that sinking feeling losing
But as Ginn told them postgame, at the end of the season,
losing to Wesley could mean virtually nothing if the Battling
Bishops go on to win the USAC as predicted. The automatic playoff
bid might set the two teams up for a rematch.
Then he told his players anyone who didn’t believe
could “get (his) ass out of here,” not long after said,
“That’s a hell of a Saturday afternoon. That’s
“We came here to find out how good we were,” Ginn
said. “We’re pretty good.”
Wesley quarterback Jason Schatz also came into Week 1 with
high hopes, basically carrying the expectations built by two
semifinal appearances on his transition from receiver for standout
Chris Warrick back to quarterback.
It did not go so well, as Schatz was 12-of-28 for 179 yards.
He threw one interception and took one sack, but did toss three TD
Schatz said the offense still had work to do and admitted he
was “tentative” to begin but thought he settled
“I think he had a case of nerves,” Wesley coach
Mike Drass said. “I told him this morning, just relax and go
out there and have some fun. That’s why you play ball. Stop
thinking about Chris (Warrick), stop thinking about all the other
stuff. Is it a
Cover 2, Cover 3, is it man, and let’s play some
Drass pointed to the 59-yard strike to Clarke as evidence of
“That was a laser, too. That’s what he can
From afar, Wesley looks like it’s sitting pretty,
enjoying life at the almost-top. But in reality, their success has
created expectations. Drass has said the bar has been raised in
Dover, and the only step forward they can take is the Stagg
Which is why the coach did not chalk up all of the
Wolverines’ nine penalties, four turnovers and 31 points
allowed as mere early-season sloppiness.
“They’re not first game mistakes, they’re
extremely horrible, atrocious mistakes a team should never make.
And we will correct them,” Drass said. “When we come
out here next Saturday we will not make those mistakes.
You’ve got my word on that.”
Expectations manifest themselves in different
At Kean, safety Ryan Staton and quarterback A.J. Roque said
the Cougars entered last season thinking they could do some damage.
They eventually did, but not in their opener, a 29-19 loss to U.S.
Merchant Marine Academy.
If they felt they were overconfident after a 4-6 season in
2005, just imagine the possibilities after going 7-4 in
“That was the coaching staff’s biggest
concern,” Kean coach Dan Garrett said. “When I got on
your site (last Friday) and saw ‘The expectations are
raised,’ I said, ‘oh boy, they’re reading our
mind, because they know.’ That was the biggest worry --
there’s expectations now, and how our team was going to
respond to that with the guys who have been here four or five
They won 48-7, piling up most of their 327 rushing yards
“It was a different mind-set that second half,”
Garrett said. “That first half, we’re
established yet, so there’s doubts in their mind. We
came in at halftime and said we have to come out a little better in
the second half than the first half. They started believing.
It’s all a mind-set.”
In Division III, where one loss hurts and two might kill your
playoff hopes, having that mind-set from the very first week is
“We don’t have the powerhouse tradition,”
Garrett said. “We don’t have that Rowanesque feeling or
Montclair State -- when you show up, people fear you.
have that. We don’t have that. So when we let down,
that’s the season. People are going to knock us off.
It’s important every week, especially in our
In Week 1, expectations were to a degree met (Cal Lutheran
transfer Danny Jones leading No. 2 UW-Whitewater to a 41-7 win in
its opener, No. 1 Mount Union rolling 75-7) or unmet (Rochester
losing 33-10 to Carnegie Mellon, No. 11 Hardin-Simmons losing 47-21
to No. 7 UW-La Crosse and then-No. 15 Wilkes being upset 17-16 by
Expectations have their place, but ultimately, what’s
done in response to them -- wins and losses are far more absolute
-- is what endures.
If you’ve played or watched football for years, you
might begin to think there are a finite number of things that can
happen. Then there are these three finishes from this weekend,
which you can feel free to file under ‘Stuff I’ve Never
Opening its brand-new Lewis C. Everett stadium,
Hampden-Sydney was in position to christen the new/refurbished
place with a crowd-pleasing dramatic win against Johns Hopkins. The
Tigers led 16-10 for most of the third quarter but gave up a
touchdown to the Blue Jays with 1:34 to play. A good kickoff return
helped get Hampden-Sydney in position for a field goal and dramatic
finish. But senior Patrick Kay snuffed the 47-yard attempt, to
preserve Johns Hopkins’ 1-point victory.
That might be a painful way to lose, but not completely
unprecedented. These next two likely are:
UW-Stevens Point, was tied 7-7 in Lake Wales, Fla., with NAIA
Webber International when Travis Tubbs unleashed an 84-yard punt
that pinned the Pointers at their own 2-yard line. A penalty wiped
that kick out, however. Dustin Robinson burst through and blocked
Tubbs’ next punt, and Lincoln Berg recovered with 38 seconds
left in the game to give Stevens Point a 13-7 victory.
A Northwestern coach talks
to kicker Cody Crum as the sprinkler system delays the Eagles'
extra point. You can see the game situation on the
Photo by Ryan Coleman,
Any other week, that’s the crazy finish of the day.
But Northwestern (Minn.) came through with one of the more
preposterous endings I’ve ever heard of. And since our Ryan
Coleman was on site shooting for D3sports.com, I was getting
as-it-happened updates and still hardly believing it.
Trailing Cornell at home, the Eagles scored what appeared to
be the tying touchdown with 51 seconds left. There was just a
little matter of the point after.
After an injured Northwestern player was tended to in the
back of the end zone, the home field’s sprinkler system came
on, and wasn’t turned off for nearly 15 minutes.
When play resumed, the Rams’ Chris Gustafson shot
through the middle of the line and blocked the PAT.
Eagles lineman Clint Wolcyn
stays loose during the long delay.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,
“It was kind of surreal,” Cornell coach Matt
Dillon told the Mount Vernon-Lisbon
Sun after his team’s 31-30 victory.
“For one, (the delay) iced their kicker. And two, I think it
gave our guys a chance to rest and recover a little bit because we
were reeling at that time.”
The moral of the story, kids? Pay attention during special
teams periods at practice. It could be the difference between
winning and losing.
Fantastic First and Ten
Snap reactions to Week 1 results:
1. Mount Union had a 52-point first quarter and 72-0 halftime
lead! Seriously, is it running up the score when your running back
carries seven times for 151 yards and four TDs, all in the first
quarter? When your starting quarterback is 9-for-9, and you play
four quarterbacks in the first half? The Purple Raiders scored
three TDs on defense and special teams in the record-breaking
quarter, including a 100-yard interception return TD. As usual, the
Purple Raiders are on another level.
2. Sorry, Rochester, about the whole preseason hype
3. Didn’t you used to be the Middle Atlantic, power
conference? Although the schedule was fairly impressive, MAC teams
went 0-6 in Week 1. Yikes. Gettysburg walloped Lebanon Valley 49-25
and NJAC also-ran William Paterson upset defending champion Wilkes
4. How about that new kickoff rule? Beavers’ runback
for Wesley against N.C. Wesleyan was a mere 82 yards, which means
he fielded a kickoff from the 30 at the 18. Division III kickers
are not going to like this rule (although we saw Merchant
Marine’s Geoff Troy boot one to the 2 on Friday), but the
fans will benefit with more kicks in play. Kicks landing around the
12-15 were the norm at the games we watched.
5. I’m still trying to figure out what happened to
Millsaps. Allowing 21 points in the fourth quarter in a 27-26 loss
to rival Mississippi College single-handedly ruins the
‘rotate 74 players’ in Week 1 strategy.
6. Reports of certain transfers not bothering Coe’s
defense appear to be accurate, as the Kohawks beat Illinois
Wesleyan 24-6. Central, Wartburg and Dubuque all posted impressive
Week 1 wins as well, while Buena Vista logged one of the
week’s major upsets. Could be a bunch of horses in the IIAC
7. The WIAC is back. So maybe it never really left, but it
was starting to look like it might be Whitewater and not much else
this year. La Crosse went into Texas and logged a huge win at
Hardin-Simmons. Eau Claire beat Division II Northern Sun member
Southwest Minnesota State 42-13, bringing back memories of last
year’s La Crosse win over Division I-AA/FCS South Dakota
State in Week 1 of last year. Stevens Point’s win was
documented above, Oshkosh walloped Ripon, River Falls beat Hope by
30 and Stout got off on the good foot against Menlo. Platteville
8. As an established program moving from NAIA, Pat Coleman
and I figured in our preseason 1-238 ranking that Geneva might not
have that difficult a transition to Division III. In Week 1, the
Golden Tornadoes (yes, that’s their real name) beat Thiel
9. Did anyone notice Guilford scoring 70 too? Mount
Union’s efforts seemed to gain most of the pub, with Kenyon
hanging a 70-35 win on Grinnell catching some attention. The
Quakers played at NAIA Southern Virginia and didn’t get their
result (70-26) in until late, so in case you missed it, quarterback
Josh Vogelbach tossed eight TD passes, among other
10. Sul Ross State (a 33-31 winner against Texas Lutheran) is
still rising, while Lycoming (a 31-6 loser to Ithaca) is still
With nearly 240 schools, a Division III top 25 is roughly
equivalent to a Division I-A top 12. And since we aren’t
planning to roll out the D3football.com Top 50 anytime soon,
that’s about as good a comparison as we can give to
demonstrate how elite our top 25 is.
The 26-35 is to give an idea of which teams just missed my
ballot, to create a watch list of sorts. It’s not always just
the next 10 teams on the ballot though. Sometimes, insight on how
the entire poll shakes out is necessary.
Preseason votes are never easy because it’s all
speculation, based on how a team finished the year before, who it
brings back and its schedule, among other things. And it
isn’t hard to see positive outcomes for more than 25
Week 1 is even weirder, because only a portion of the teams
get underway, like 15 of the top 25. So even as the first wave of
results provides some clarity, it also leaves a voter to make
decisions like how far to move teams who played other top 25s and
lost (Hardin-Simmons and Rowan) in relation to teams who
haven’t played at all. Do you give them credit for scheduling
well? Can you really bump a team very far up or down for doing
I had already been second-guessing some of my votes, like
keeping UW-La Crosse top 10 after major losses, or taking
Baldwin-Wallace and Capital instead of Ohio
What to do with the suddenly mighty NJAC, with maybe five
teams worthy of top 25 consideration and a while yet before they
start sorting it out amongst each other.
I flipped Whitewater and St. John Fisher over Wesley, despite
the Wolverines playing better competition. They made me nervous,
despite flashes of brilliance.
I took Bethel, Wilkes and Millsaps, all Week 1 losers, out of
my top 25 completely. I did the same for Capital, which showed just
how far it is from balanced, with three offensive starters and
seven on defense back from a top-five team. The Crusaders, without
injured All-American receiver Derick Alexander, beat Wittenberg
While all four may well end up top 25 teams -- recovery from
a less-than-impressive Week 1 is always possible -- there’s
just too many teams out there that look good so far to keep them
The teams who just missed my ballot: Kean, Cortland State and
Montclair State, Augustana, Mount St. Joseph, N.C. Wesleyan.
Salisbury impressed in Week 1, as did the entire WIAC. I’ll
be watching Widener and Dubuque, a pair of teams who play strong
enough competition to make a leap, but not anytime soon.
Alma mater moments
Mark Simon, a longtime member of the D3sports.com family and
alumnus of The College of New Jersey noticed his Lions had been
shut out in a 13-0 Week 1 loss to Muhlenberg. He fired this to me
in an e-mail: “I'd be willing to bet that any D3 who got shut
out by another D3 in its season opener last year didn't have a
winning record ... would be interesting to compile a
Then the researcher in him -- it’s what he does at
ESPN, for Baseball Tonight -- got
the best of him:
Last year, of the 17 D-III teams that got shut out in Week 1
(some teams opened in Week 2), Ripon, Kings and Monmouth finished
with winning records.
Four D-III teams got shut out at home in Week 1:
Willamette went 2-7
Wisconsin Lutheran went 0-10
McDaniel went 4-6
Martin Luther went 2-8
That’s a combined record of 8-31. So it don't bode well
Rumor has it if you score 75 in Week 1, you tend to do pretty
Games to Watch
Compiling Around the Nation has grown into such an arduous
(yet enjoyable) task that it’s become almost necessary to
take all the help I can get. Pat Coleman, Ryan Coleman and Mark
Simon have already lent their help to the second ATN of the year,
so why not call in one more assist?
Since Gordon Mann and I were both previewing national games
of the week last season, he on the Daily Dose and me here in Around
the Nation, we decided to … well, I’ll just let Gordon
Here at D3football.com, we believe in
In previous seasons we’ve used Around the Nation and
the Daily Dose to highlight the upcoming weekend’s action.
But why use two when one will do? So instead we’ll highlight
a few games each week to help you focus on the ones that matter
other than those involving your favorite team.
Wish you were here: If money and time
were no object, at least two games would be worth the trip to see
in person. In Texas, No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor hosts No. 12
Christopher Newport in an intriguing rematch of last year’s barnburner. Both
teams are major players in the South region. Both have extremely
challenging non-conference schedules. Both could put a very large
feather in their cap come Selection Sunday with a win on
The other marquee match-up also involves Top 25 teams as No.
18 Augustana travels to No. 23 Baldwin-Wallace. Last year the
Vikings’ defense held Baldwin-Wallace to 151 yards. It was
also the only game in which Augustana gained more yards in the air
than its opponent. But they still lost to the Yellow Jackets 17-7.
On Baldwin-Wallace’s end, it’s strange but not
unrealistic to talk about the season opener as a
“must-win” for the Yellow Jackets’ playoff hopes.
Such is life for teams in Mount Union’s
Don’t sleep on this one: Only one
team is ranked but the west coast battle between No. 16 Whitworth
and Redlands will give an early indication of which team will
contend for their conference title. Defending NWC champion
Whitworth was picked second in the NWC preseason poll behind No. 13
Linfield. Redlands is trying to climb back atop the SCIAC now that
Occidental begins life without quarterback Andy Collins. And while
many SCIAC games kickoff long after its dark on the east coast,
this one starts at 3 pm EST. So there really is no excuse for
sleeping on this one.
Zzzz: Some games that look good on
paper end up being as colorful as cardboard. Two years ago No. 7
Wesley versus Delaware Valley would’ve been a good
non-conference battle between playoff contenders. This year it
could get ugly early considering the Wolverines’ speed and
Del Val’s offensive struggles. In a different vein, Geneva
could challenge No. 17 Washington & Jefferson when they meet in
Washington, but they won’t challenge them in the standings.
The Golden Tornadoes are a provisional member of Division III and
are not eligible for the PAC title.
Most likely Top 25 team to be
upset: Setting aside games in which Top 25
teams are playing each other, this week’s pick for the upset
special is Franklin over No. 23 Wabash. Yes, the Little Giants
"always fight" but the Grizzlies are the ones who should be in a
cantankerous mood. Franklin missed the playoffs despite a 9-1
finish and a 45-38 overtime win over Hoosier State rival
-- Gordon Mann
Other games to keep an eye on: No. 9 Springfield at Union,
No. 15 North Central at Concordia (Wis.)
Who are those guys?
Taking a look at those unfamiliar names on schedules, and
following Division III teams in interdivisional play:
vs. Division I, FCS (formerly I-AA, 1-3 in Week
Butler at Hanover
vs. Division II (3-3 in Week 1)
No. 13 Linfield at Western Oregon
Greensboro at UNC-Pembroke
UW-Stout at Missouri-Rolla
East Texas Baptist at Ouachita Baptist
vs. NAIA (5-1 in Week 1)
Concordia-Moorhead at Dickinson State
Ferrum at Southern Virginia
St. Ambrose at UW-Platteville
Sul Ross State at Southwest Assemblies of God
UW-Eau Claire at Black Hills State
Valley City State at St. Olaf
We blogged the heck out of Saturday’s Wesley-North
Carolina Wesleyan game on the Daily Dose, so for more insight on
that game in particular, check out the blog.
We recorded our first ATN podcast this week and
there will be more where that came from, one every week. Check for
that on Monday mornings on a regular basis as not only a wrapup of
the week that was, but opinion from Pat Coleman and I a couple of
days before you get the regular column.
It looks like Division III might have a good year in terms of
numbers in the NFL, with eight
players on Week 1 53-man rosters and three more on practice
squads. While long-timers Ethan Brooks (Williams tackle)
and Bill Schroeder (UW-La Crosse receiver) have faded out of the
league in the past few years, Menlo receiver Nate Jackson (Broncos)
and UW-Stout cornerback Tony Beckham (Lions) have established
themselves as experienced young players.
But Fred Jackson, a 2002 D3football.com All-American running
back as a senior at Coe, is a newcomer to the league after working
his way up through indoor ball and NFL Europa. When he made the
Buffalo Bills’ roster, he was the subject of a feature on the team’s Web
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 email@example.com, or use our feedback form.
Question & Answer
Around the Nation would be glad to take three of your
questions each week to answer here in the column, while tackling
the rest on the Post Patterns thread.
Topic of the week
Turf vs. Grass on Post Patterns, General Football: We know
there are advantages from an institutional standpoint on switching
from grass to turf, but what do those of you have played on both
surfaces think? Are there grass purists out there, or places you
think will never switch?
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.
Anyone with access to footage, please send an e-mail to
firstname.lastname@example.org. Arrangements can be made to keep
coaches’ footage private or to pay fans for shipping and
For print, radio and Internet
Keith McMillan is available on Thursdays and Fridays or by
appointment to talk Division III football. For more information,
As always, Around the Nation requests media guides and any
other aids in helping us cover your school or conference this
season. For more information, contact Keith McMillan at
email@example.com, or snail mail to D3football.com, 13055
Carolyn Forest Dr., Woodbridge, Va., 22192.
Links to online media guides are now preferred over mail. In
addition, please do not add my e-mail address to your regular
release lists, but instead use our news release capabilities to
have your information posted on D3football.com’s front page
and your team's page. For more information on how that works and
how we can help each other, contact publisher Pat Coleman at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.