December 25, 2007

In short or long, 2007 was a blast

Perhaps we should have foreseen the exciting finish to 2007, since it was a highlight reel full of surprises from the very start. Long before UW-Whitewater pulled the upset in Salem, during its third consecutive Stagg Bowl matchup against Mount Union, this season was intriguing. From the very first night in August, when Mississippi College rallied from a 26-6 fourth-quarter deficit to beat rival Millsaps, 2007 was a blast. Punctuated by upsets, offensive explosions and even a play for the ages, leading the highlights and leaving SportsCenter anchors dumbfounded, it never got boring.

Each year stands out in its own way. This season I found myself in Oregon, witnessing a Division III fan from Virginia tailgating with Linfield fans before they played a team from Texas. And I later found myself in Texas, talking on game morning with McMurry coach Donny Gray and message board Hall of Famer Ralph Turner about the small window of opportunity to change young men's lives through football and education. During the national championship in Virginia, a transfer quarterback from California led a team from Wisconsin past the dynasty from Ohio.

Never has it been more apparent what a wide net Division III football casts.

Covering 238 schools, more than 1,100 games, nearly 6,000 starters and perhaps 18,000 rostered players, there are many more accomplishments and superlatives than Around the Nation could ever hope to mention, even in three installments. Our Year in Review is made up of some things staff and our readers noticed on the 16-week journey from kickoff (and Kickoff) in August through the Stagg Bowl. As we've done previously, this giant undertaking is broken into three installments.

Today: Great games, plays and statistics
Early January: Great players, coaches and teams
Mid-January: Our awards, In Retrospect (revisiting preseason predictions), The Year in Photos and Miscellaneous

Please remember to check back for Parts 2 and 3, as Around the Nation continues to look back at a truly enthralling season of Division III football. As our Christmas gift to you, here's Part 1:

The memorable games

Remember the great regular-season finishes
You don't get much further from UW-Whitewater vs. Mount Union than the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference, but the UMAC's Dome Day provided two of the season's best finishes.

In the middle game of the five in Minneapolis' Metrodome that Friday, Crown, trailing Blackburn 34-27, dinked and dunked its way to a touchdown with 42 seconds left.

Bypassing the point after, the Storm ran a reverse option pass and got the two-point conversion to go up 35-34. 

Blackburn returned a squib kick to midfield. After a short completion, the Beavers ran a halfback pass. Not to be fooled, Crown defenders gravitated toward the receiver streaking down the field. But Blackburn sneaked a second receiver down the backside of the play, and the running back stopped, gathered himself and chucked a spiral that led to a TD with 9 seconds left. Blackburn also went for two and got it.

A day before the now-famous Trinity/Millsaps ending, Crown tried the 20-yard completion and running laterals strategy with 4 seconds left. They managed two legal laterals before tossing a forward pass.


As Northwestern celebrates, a player helps up Rockford's Branford Standley, dejected at the defeat.
Photo by Keith McMillan,

In the night's capper, the UMAC Championship Game, Rockford was attempting to avenge a Sept. 15 23-16 loss to Northwestern (Minn.) in which it threw an interception with 1:55 left that was returned for the game-winning TD. 

The Regents got in position to end the game on a 37-yard field goal, a very makeable kick indoors. Northwestern blocked the field goal attempt. Rockford scored first in overtime, but then had the PAT blocked. Northwestern converted a fourth down in OT, scored and made its PAT to win the game and the conference title.

 In Week 11, Otterbein rallied from down 10 at the half to lead John Carroll 20-13 before the Blue Streaks tied the game with 16.3 seconds left. JCU recovered an onside kick and had a chance to steal it in regulation, but missed a 47-yard field goal attempt. Each team missed a 35-yard field goal attempt in the first overtime, then scored a touchdown in the second. Otterbein's Jack Rafferty scored on a 25-yard run on the first play of the third overtime, but the Cardinals missed the conversion. John Carroll's Mark Petruziello passed to Peter Spachner for a 7-yard score on fourth-and-2, and Chuck Sroka hauled in the conversion for the 35-33 final margin in triple overtime.

Remember the great games during the playoff push
Weeks 9 through 11 were filled with tight games, many going into overtime. Perhaps no finish turned a season like Olivet's in Week 10. Struggling at 4-4, and behind 25-13 late in the fourth quarter, the Comets – known in recent years as primarily a Wing-T team and still a run-first offense – completed a 40-yard TD pass with 2:59 left. They got the ball back on a defensive stop and short punt with 2:14 left and scored on a 17-yard TD pass with 35 seconds left to force a logjam at the top of the MIAA. Week 11's results, including a 51-0 Olivet win over Kalamazoo, got the Comets into the playoffs for the first time, for a game against West No. 1 seed Central.

 The line between in the playoffs and out is a thin one, as evidenced by a play Capital, an at-large playoff selection, made against Baldwin-Wallace in Week 11. John McGraw reeled in a tipped 28-yard TD pass from Mickey Mental with 20 seconds left to cap an 86-yard drive for the Yellow Jackets. Baldwin-Wallace went for the win, but Capital prevented the pass to hold on to a 17-16 win, as well as a playoff bid that might have gone to Whitworth or Millsaps.

Remember the great playoff games
The 2007 first round was one of the more memorable, with all 16 games going on simultaneously for about two hours, concluding with five games decided in the final minute:
 Chris Hull reeled in a 28-yard touchdown pass from Mitch Schaeuble with 46 seconds left to give UW-Eau Claire a 24-20 win against St. Norbert. Schaeuble was a third-string quarterback who began the season primarily as a punter.
 Ahead 14-7 with just more than 7 minutes to go, RPI passed up a short field goal attempt to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the 7-yard line. TCNJ stuffed Nick Costa for a 3-yard loss, then embarked on a 12-play, 90-yard drive to tie the game with 3:14 left. The Lions recovered a fumble on the kickoff and had a chance to win, but Matt D'Alessio missed a 47-yard field goal attempt with 2:14 left. TCNJ again stopped RPI, got the ball back with 1:39 left and D'Alessio kicked a 27-yard game-winner with 12.8 seconds left.
 After Widener went ahead 20-15 with 1:27 left, Case Western Reserve went 73 yards in 14 plays, capped by a 7-yard pass from Dan Whalen to Jeff Mayer with 2 seconds left. 
 North Central's Aaron Fanthorpe tossed a 19-yard TD pass to former high school teammate Steve Hlavac to give the Cardinals a 44-42 win against playoff first-timer and HCAC champion Franklin on the final play of the game. It was Hlavac's fourth TD catch of the game, and his 11 catches for 127 yards helped overcome Adam Mellencamp's four-catch, 226-yard, two-TD effort for Franklin.
 After South No. 8 seed North Carolina Wesleyan missed a chance to win in regulation, as a 29-yard Brian Vaughn field goal attempt sailed wide left, quarterback Cedric Townsend scored on a 3-yard run in overtime and Vaughn tacked on what turned out to be the game-winning point after. Washington & Jefferson, then 10-0 and top-seeded, scored on its overtime possession and tried an over-the-shoulder flip from the holder Justin Schmotzer to kicker Chuck Grabner. The two-point conversion would have won the game, but Jezreel Davis wasn't fooled and his tackle preserved the Battling Bishops' 35-34 win, marking the first playoff win in the 4-year-old program's history and the first No. 8 to win in three seasons of the 32-team bracket.

Remember the great Stagg Bowl moments
It seemed the first two UW-Whitewater/Mount Union Stagg Bowls had been full of Pierre Garcon and Nate Kmic moments. Even Whitewater's Derek Stanley had some memorable catches. But the Stagg Bowl XXXV spotlight belonged to Justin Beaver. He'd been called the heart of his team by his coach, and had picked up the Gagliardi Trophy earlier in the week, but he put his stamp on the game with three defining runs:
 When it appeared the Warhawks might be content to head into halftime ahead 7-0, Beaver broke off a 45-yard run punctuated by a blow he delivered on Mount Union cornerback Daryl Ely as he went out of bounds at the end of the run. Jeff Schebler kicked a 32-yard field goal with 2 seconds left in the half, points that proved to be key later on.
 With Mount Union back in the game at 17-14 early in the fourth, Beaver carried on six of seven plays during 50-yard scoring drive, including five times in a row. His 13-yard TD run capped the drive, and Whitewater led 24-14.

Justin Beaver's stiff-arm on Daryl Ely punctuated the fourth-quarter run that set up his team's final touchdown.
Photo by Ryan Coleman,

 The Purple Raiders crept to 24-21 with 3:34 left, looking like they might have a chance to pull it out despite trailing most of the way. On second-and-5 from his own 30, Beaver broke a 66-yard run down the Mount Union sideline to set his team up with first-and-goal from the 4-yard line, the clinching Danny Jones 1-yard plunge to come with 1:33 left.

Beaver finished with 249 yards on 31 carries, good for an 8-yard average, and one touchdown. He took home a Stagg Bowl Most Outstanding Player Trophy to go with his Gagliardi Trophy, and along with his offensive line – seniors Brady Ramseier, Cal Schmidt, Dan Anstett and Brent Allen, and junior Michael Sherman – put up one of the best offensive performances in Stagg Bowl history. 

Whitewater coach Lance Leipold revealed in the postgame news conference that Beaver had played the past several weeks, as well as the championship game, with a fractured rib.

Remember the great rivalry games
Amherst-Williams is Division III's oldest rivalry, and perhaps its best. It got its due this season when ESPN hosted its Nov. 10 episode of College GameDay from Williamstown, Mass. But with the teams, often at the top of the NESCAC, coming in with five losses between them, the 122nd meeting of the Lord Jeffs and Ephs didn't measure up to the year two of the division's other top rivalries had.

Wabash came into its 114th meeting with DePauw with a playoff bid in hand. The Tigers were already out of the mix, but still had the Monon Bell to play for. And play they did, as Jeremiah Marks hauled in an 8-yard TD pass from Spud Dick to cap a dramatic drive that sucked up much of the fourth quarter. Alex Koors' two-point conversion catch tied the game at 21 with 3:37 left, but Wabash responded with what looked like the game-winning drive. But DePauw's Jevon Pruitt intercepted the Little Giants' Matt Hudson at his own 4-yard line with 1:23 left, and the Tigers drove 67 yards to set up a 47-yard field goal attempt with 2.4 seconds left. Jordan Havercamp, a sophomore transfer from Denison, had never made a field goal in a game for DePauw, but he drilled the game-winner as time expired to give the Tigers the win, the Bell and a story they can share for years to come.

Competitiveness is old hat for Wabash and DePauw, whose series is 53-52-9 and whose last three games have been decided by three points. But no game needed the boost this season like The Game, between Randolph-Macon and Hampden-Sydney. After the teams played for the Old Dominion Athletic Conference title in 1993, won by R-MC on the 100th anniversary of the first game, and H-SC won the 100th game in 1994, the Yellow Jackets won six in a row, followed by a string of six Tigers victories. In 2007, the 113th installment of The Game was played with the ODAC title and accompanying playoff bid on the line, helping restore the importance of the rivalry among alumni. With the help of an onside kick, Hampden-Sydney scored two touchdowns before Randolph-Macon got the ball and went on to win.

Remember the great upsets
There were a handful of upsets that made little sense at the time and even less at the end of the year, with the benefit of hindsight. We never could explain Hartwick's 48-21 loss to Western New England, which finished 3-7 in one of Division III's weakest conferences, while the 8-2 Hawks won the Empire 8, one of the strongest. Buena Vista beat Bethel in Week 1, but the Royals didn't lose again until visiting Mount Union in the semifinals, dispatching St. John's and Central along the way. 

Augsburg's non-conference win at Wartburg midseason was a stunner, and along with Redlands' early upset at Whitworth caused both to miss the playoffs as at-large 8-2s. Randolph-Macon's loss to Frostburg State dealt it the same fate, but at least coming from 2-8 last season, the Yellow Jackets didn't harbor the expectations that Wartburg and Whitworth did.

According to the Massey Ratings, here are this season's 10 least likely results:

1. Western New England 48, Hartwick 21, Sept. 1 (Week 1)
2. Howard Payne 48, Hardin-Simmons 47, Oct. 20 (Week 8)
3. Frostburg State 20, Randolph-Macon 13, Sept. 15 (Week 3)
4. Bluffton 22, Defiance 21, Nov. 10 (Week 11)
5. FDU-Florham 14, William Paterson 13, Sept. 22 (Week 4)
6. Buena Vista 21, Bethel 16, Sept. 1 (Week 1)
7. UW-River Falls 27, UW-Eau Claire 20, Oct. 13 (Week 7)
8. Defiance 16, Otterbein 14, Sept. 8 (Week 2)
9. Hartwick 31, St. John Fisher 28, Sept. 29 (Week 5)
10. Kean 37, TCNJ 27, Nov. 10 (Week 11)

Remember the big games that didn't seem big at the time
Before Week 1 even hit its full stride, Muhlenberg went to The College of New Jersey on a Friday night and shut the Lions out, 15-0. The win was the first of 11 for the Mules, while TCNJ rebounded from the loss to win eight straight. Both turned out to be not just playoff teams, but first-round winners as well. Way back on Aug. 31, who knew? The Mules and Lions had combined for nine wins in 2006.

 When Frostburg beat Randolph-Macon 20-13 on Sept. 15, it improved to 1-1 while the Yellow Jackets dropped to 2-1. Seemed par for the course for a couple of middling mid-Atlantic programs. When the Bobcats blocked a Yellow Jacket punt midway through the fourth quarter that led to the game-winning 4-play, 5-yard drive, it would have been hard to believe that that touchdown kept R-MC from being an at-large playoff selection while Frostburg's only other win would come against NAIA Union (Ky.) 

Remember the games that seemed big at the time, then turned out not to be
Then-No. 7 UW-La Crosse's 47-21 victory at then-No. 11 Hardin-Simmons in Week 1 seemed to be a key notch in the belt in case the Eagles weren't able to knock UW-Whitewater from their perch. The non-conference victory would have helped their case for an at-large bid. When the Warhawks did in fact rally from down 28-10 in the second half to beat La Crosse 35-28, the Eagles were still in good shape. But they went on to drop three more games by three points or fewer, finishing 5-4, while Hardin-Simmons averaged 41.6 points per game but allowed 42 and ended up 6-4.

 Other nominees: Preseason No. 23 Christopher Newport 23, Preseason No. 10 Rowan 17, Week 1; Then-No. 15 Linfield 52, then-No. 19 Hardin-Simmons 42, Week 3; Preseason No. 9 Springfield vs. anyone, Preseason No. 15 Wilkes vs. anyone

Remember the two-point conversion madness
There wasn't as much on the line as when Baldwin-Wallace tried it against Capital, or when W&J tried one against N.C. Wesleyan, but Susquehanna went for two and the win after scoring on the last play of the game in Week 10 (Nov. 3). Against WPI, the newest members of the Liberty League got their only conference win of the season when Derek Pope, who had hit Nick Macia for the 2-yard TD pass as time ran out, did it again for the game-winning conversion.

Remember the great comebacks
Down 20-3 at the half and 26-6 in the fourth quarter, Mississippi College stunned rival Millsaps with 21 fourth-quarter points in the annual "Backyard Brawl." Marcus Terry went 51 yards with a fake punt from the Choctaws' own 5-yard line during the rally, which – depending on who you believe – was affected greatly by the Majors' liberal substitutions. It was the first of two dramatic defeats for Millsaps – the other being "The Miracle in Mississippi" against Trinity – that put a damper on an otherwise special 8-2 season.

Remember the great back stories
Montclair State's 27-26 win at Wesley was compelling for many reasons: It was a fairly significant upset at the time, and it was all offense in the first half – the Red Hawks led 27-24 after Jeff Bliss returned the second-half kickoff 89 yards for a touchdown. The only scoring afterward was an intentional safety with 1 second left. The Wolverines outgained the Red Hakws 451-237, but had five turnovers. But the lasting memory from this game is that it kicked off three hours late.

The officials, so the story goes, were not assigned until that morning when Wesley realized it hadn't arranged for any. They were held up in NASCAR traffic headed for a 3 p.m. Busch Series race at Dover Downs, which like Wesley, is in Delaware's capital city. Then thunderstorms hit, with lightning that might have delayed the start anyway. The game didn't end until 7:13 p.m., surely prompting a handful of "where the heck have you been?" glares from waiting family members at home.

The memorable plays and performances

Remember the most impactful play
There isn't a whole lot we can say about Trinity's 15-lateral, 62-second "Miracle" game-winning play that hasn't been said already. Watch it here if you haven't seen it already, or recently. 

The play not only decided that day's game, but more or less returned the Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference title and accompanying playoff bid to the Tigers a year after the Majors broke a 13-year run of dominance.

The play's legend keeps growing, however. It led ESPN's SportsCenter that night, with anchors going ga-ga over the play. It spawned a New York Times feature about the call, and was nominated for the Pontiac Game-changing Play and SportsCenter's 100 Greatest Highlights. Trinity coach Steve Mohr was spoofed in a video spot, and hopes the play will win an ESPY, an ESPN best-of award.

Remember the other strange happenings
Football seasons tend to produce "I've never seen that before" moments at an even greater clip than even we can keep track of, but here are a couple oddities you might have missed:

 In Week 10, Widener called timeout twice on Albright field goal attempts at the end of the first half. The Pride's T.D. Davis blocked both attempts. In Week 7, Rowan cornerback Chris Pollard blocked successive punts against Buffalo State.

Remember the great individual regular-season rushing performances
Mary Hardin-Baylor's Quincy Daniels rushed for 199 yards and just eight carries against Mississippi College in Week 8, for an average of nearly 25 yards per carry. And he might not have been the most impressive back on his own team that day, let alone the field. Jarvis Thrasher rushed for 324 yards – three short of the top total in a game this season -- on just 12 carries, an even-better average of 27 per. The 523 yards Thrasher and Daniels (and their starting offensive line that day, Luke Long, Jordan Hataway, Tyler Hykel, Josh Littlejohn and Caleb Woodall) combined to set an NCAA all-divisions single-game record for a backfield tandem. Shocker there.

 UW-Oshkosh running back Andy Moriarty put in a whopping 50-carry day against UW-Stevens Point, then 6-1, in Week 9 (Oct. 27). His 288 yards turned out to be only his second-highest total of the season, as he came back the following week with a 314-yard, three-TD game at UW-Platteville. The Titans won their final three to finish 7-3.

 Waynesburg's Robert Heller, one of two freshmen -- along with Bethel's Logan Flannery -- among the nation's top 65 rushers, took Division III by storm with a 2,176-yard season. His 26 touchdowns also place him third in scoring nationally. The Yellow Jackets started 7-0 and finished 8-3.

Heller and Moriarty were the only backs to average more rushing yards per game this year than Beaver, honored as the nation's top player.

Remember the great individual playoff rushing performances
Nothing tops Beaver's Stagg Bowl performance, as detailed above. But Aaron Jackson extended Wesley's season with three runs against Muhlenberg. 

With the Wolverines trailing 7-0 and struggling late in the first half, Jackson stepped in for starter Mike Pennewell and broke off a zigzagging 44-yard run on his first carry, setting up a tying score before the half. He went 41 yards for a score on his first touch of the second half. On his next carry, catching the Mules in a blitz, Jackson took a pitch around right end and dashed 89 yards for another score, helping Wesley open up a 21-7 lead less than two minutes into the second half. Jackson's speed helped the Wolverines go from completely stifled by the Mules to in control, on their way to a 38-21 second-round victory. He finished with 214 rushing yards on 14 carries, and still didn't start the next week.

 Chris Owen's 117-yard, four-touchdown day for Mary Hardin-Baylor in the second round against N.C. Wesleyan was also impressive, because he's the Cru's third-stringer. Thrasher rushed for 95 yards on nine first-quarter carries in the slop against the Battling Bishops, and Daniels finished with 168 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Remember the great individual regular-season passing performances
Guilford's Josh Vogelbach had an eight-touchdown day against NAIA Southern Virginia, a 592-yard outing against Hampden-Sydney and a 48-completion game against Greensboro – and that was just September.

With four sophomores and a junior among his top five targets, Vogelbach still threw more passes than anyone (518) and finished with 3,618 yards, second to Gagliardi finalist Jason Boltus of Hartwick, who was 14 yards short of 4,000 and averaged 400 yards of total offense in 11 games.

 Bobby Swallow's 46-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio made the Washington & Jefferson quarterback one of the most accurate as well as one of the most prolific in Division III's recent history.

 Franklin's Chad Rupp actually finished just ahead of him to lead the nation in pass efficiency, but Mount Union's Greg Micheli amazed by keeping up a 73% completion rate through 15 games.

Remember the great individual playoff passing performances
Boltus passed for 450 yards and three scores, but Curry's Ryan Van De Giesen led his team to a 42-21 victory, the first in school history. The gutty performance included two rushing TDs by the Colonels' leader, helping build a 28-0 halftime advantage. Van De Giesen added three passing TDs.

Most emphatic statements
UW-Whitewater was responsible for two of the season's strongest achievements. Nothing tops defeating mighty Mount Union to win the Stagg Bowl. But knocking off then-No. 2 UMHB 41-14 in Week 9 helped the then-No. 3 Warhawks remind fans that they were as good as the previous years, if not better. The defense generated five turnovers and withstood the Crusaders' attempt at getting back into the game. A week after Thrasher and Daniels combined for 523 rushing yards, the Warhawks held the pair to 118.

 They finished No. 3, but Mary Hardin-Baylor had one of the all-time great seasons, and showed it by thumping everyone it played, aside from UW-Whitewater and Wesley. Take away the three games against teams that finished top 5 in the final poll, and the Cru averaged a 60-14 victory.

Remember the gaudiest individual statistics

Justin Beaver's 249-yard performance in the Stagg Bowl helped him add to his list of accomplishments (national champion, Gagliardi Trophy winner, Stagg Bowl M.O.P.). He finished his career as the all-time single-season rushing leader in Division III history, with 2,455 yards.

Here are the all-time great rushing seasons, by total yards and with playoffs included (unlike official NCAA records before 2002):

Justin Beaver, UW-Whitewater, 2,455 in 15 games in 2007
Ricky Gales, Simpson, 2,424 in 11 games in 1989
Justin Beaver, UW-Whitewater: 2,420 in 14 games in 2005
Dante Brown, Marietta: 2,385 in 10 games in 1996
Nate Kmic, Mount Union: 2,365 in 15 games in 2006
Chuck Moore, Mount Union: 2,349 in 14 games in 2001
Dan Pugh, Mount Union: 2,300 in 14 games in 2002
R.J. Bowers, Grove City: 2,283 in 10 games in 1998
Carey Bender, Coe: 2,243 in 10 games in 1994
Tony Sutton, Wooster: 2,240 in 12 games in 2004
Mark Robinson, St. John Fisher, 2,194 in 12 games in 2004
Robert Heller, Waynesburg, 2,176 in 11 games in 2007

 The top two tackling performances of the season came in CCIW action against Augustana. Point the finger at the Vikings' run-heavy scheme, not their official scorer, since one game took place at home and one on the road.

Franko Shenault, a senior cornerback for Carthage, racked up a season-best 28 tackles in Week 8. Two weeks prior, Elmhurst's Kyle Maple, also a senior free safety, racked up 26 stops against the Vikings, including 17 solo.

 When Salisbury's Jarell Chandler, a defensive end in the Sea Gulls' 3-5-3 scheme, was around, Frostburg State could not hold on to the ball. Chandler forced three fumbles in the Week 11 Regents' Cup matchup, among nine the teams combined for.

 Have you heard the expression "that guy's been in the backfield all day?" Millikin's Ryan Bailey lived it in Week 7 (Oct. 13) against Illinois Wesleyan, racking up seven tackles for losses, including one sack. Dubuque's Rohan Malcom had five sacks against Buena Vista in Week 10, including one in each quarter and two in the second.

 St. Olaf rolled up 85 points in its 88th meeting with crosstown rival Carleton, helping the Northfield, Minn.-based Oles bring home The Goat Trophy for the 11th consecutive year.

St. Olaf scored the game's final 63 points, including 28 each in the third and fourth quarters.

 Willamette rushed for 11 touchdowns in a 77-17 win against Lewis and Clark in Week 10. Nineteen players carried the ball for the Bearcats, racking up 599 yards on the ground. Skylar Swinford led the way with 108 yards and a TD, while Marcus Woo also rushed for a score, though he finished with minus-4 rushing yards.

Remember the statistical anomalies
Mount Union put together a defensive stretch for the ages, notching six consecutive shuouts to finish the regular season. If not for a second-quarter Heidelberg field goal in Week 5, the Purple Raiders would have notched eight consecutive shutouts between a 58-14 win against Otterbein in Week 2 and their 42-18 win against Ithaca in the first round of the playoffs.

The Purple Raiders allowed 24 points in the regular season and only 49 more in four playoff wins on the way to the Stagg Bowl. 

 Mount Union started the season with a 52-point first quarter, and went on to outscore its opponents 284-13 in the first frame, and that includes the 7-0 deficit to UW-Whitewater in the Stagg Bowl.

Mount Union didn't allow a first-quarter point until its playoff opener against Ithaca. TCNJ didn't allow a point in the first quarter through its first nine games.

Kickin' it
Females found roles this season on three Division III special teams units. Framingham State's Ashley Baker, a soccer player, kicked eight extra points and a field goal for the Rams. 

Earlham junior Hillary Carter, who also played soccer, teamed with Alexander Cogbill to fill a void that arose when Max Crumley-Effinger chose to study abroad. Carter made two PATs, while Cogbill went 20 of 22 and made four of five field goals.

Lebanon Valley's Brittany Ryan has also made good on eight of nine point-after attempts, sharing the kicker's job with Dan DiBona (1 of 3 FGs, 9 of 12 PATs)

Least bang for the buck
Most teams who played Mount Union didn't get much accomplished, but there were times, even when weather wasn't involved, where fans practically spent more, in dollars, to attend than they saw points being scored.

The top three:
1. Coast Guard 3, Massachusetts Maritime 0, Sept. 29
T2. Concordia (Wis.) 7, Benedictine 0, Nov. 3
T2. Westfield State 7, Worcester State 0, Nov. 3

Remember 2007 as the season of 'bang for the buck'
Right off the bat, in Week 1, Mount Union scored 52 points in its first quarter. Kenyon and Grinnell combined for 105 points.

We should have known then what kind of season it was going to be.

Midway through the season, a years-old, all-divisions North Park/North Central combined scoring record fell (The Vikings beat the Cardinals 104-32 in 1968). Boise State and Nevada threatened the record (69-67 in three OTs Oct. 14) before Weber State and Portland State (73-68 in regulation Oct. 27) broke it. But it wasn't long before Division III reclaimed the crown. 

Salisbury put up 79 in Week 8. St. Olaf followed with 85 in week 10.

Then in Week 11, things got absurd. Six teams combined to put up the three highest combined totals of the year. Suddenly previous ‘most bang' honorees like Earlham and Manchester's 69-62 affair in 2005, Olivet and Franklin's 63-62 game in 2004 and the Coe/Cornell 66-63 shootout in 2003 were distant memories.

It took Hartwick four overtimes to knock off Utica, 72-70, in Week 11. That established an all-time scoring record. (Navy also beat North Texas 74-62 in regulation on the same day to establish a Division I record.)

The scoring didn't stop there though, as Whittier and Occidental almost eclipse the record in regulation later that night, with the SCIAC playoff bids hanging in the balance. The Poets led the Tigers 67-42 before Oxy scored three times in the last 3:10 to narrow the gap to 67-61.

Hardin-Simmons' 71-56 win against McMurry (127 points) turns out to be only the third-highest scoring game of the day, second-best in regulation.

High scores have been going on forever, but they seemed like less of an anomaly this year.

Moving the kickoff from the 35 to the 30 provided teams with better field position, and reshaping/rescinding earlier timekeeping changes gave offenses more time to work with.

On the message boards, however, fans felt refined skills of quarterbacks and receivers and the proliferation of complicated offenses, coupled with declining defensive fundamentals were to blame.

In any case, fans who love high-scoring games were treated throughout 2007

Next installment: Streaks broken and extended, greatest team improvements and falls from grace, players and coach achievements beyond the big award winners.

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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is's Senior Editor and begins as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011; has worked on all but one of the preseason Kickoff publications; has done game-day writing and photography and the pregame broadcast at the championship Stagg Bowl in Salem for almost a decade; and has taken photos at the Final Four for He's also on the selection staff for the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year award.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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October 19, 2014
Snap judgments: Finding clarity
We found out some things about how the NJAC race will play out, as well as the ODAC and HCAC. And...
October 16, 2014
Distance no deterrent to Mighty Mikey, Merchant Marine
The Mariners' football team 'adopted' a young cancer patient a few years ago, and although young...
October 12, 2014
Snap judgments: Putting the -ack in ODAC
You can tell when someone doesn't know Division III, because they pronounce the ODAC as O-D-A-C. But...
October 9, 2014
Re-ranking the conferences for 2014
Keith McMillan ranked conferences for years for This is Ryan Tipps' first crack at...
October 5, 2014
Snap judgments: Where's the dropoff in Division III?
Saturday's loss by St. John Fisher and losses earlier this season by Bethel and North Central serve...
October 2, 2014
It’s the size of the fight in the dog
This past week, Maranatha Baptist had to cancel a game because it didn't have enough players. And...
September 28, 2014
Snap judgments: Signature wins come in upsets
St. John's and UW-Stevens Point took center stage for their upset victories, but Christopher Newport...
September 25, 2014
The phrase that stays
From DePauw Never Quits to Wabash Always Fights to Every Man a Lute, some Division III schools...
September 21, 2014
Snap judgments: Taking a new look at the poll positioning
The perception seems to be that at about Week 3, most Top 25 voters do major teardowns and rebuildin...
September 17, 2014
Startups come back for seconds
The three teams that started up Division III football programs last season are now in the midst of...
September 14, 2014
Snap judgments: These underdogs brought some bite
There were some near-upsets on Saturday, but in the end, almost all of the higher-ranked teams came...
September 11, 2014
Monarch linebacker forced to follow his heart
Forced from the middle of the action to a supporting role on the sidelines, Methodist linebacker...
September 7, 2014
Snap judgments: Right/wrong foot
There are two ways to start the season -- with a win, or a loss. Now, not every win necessarily puts...
September 2, 2014
Division III football: A gentleman's game
Hampden-Sydney and Wabash, two all-male schools, are squaring off in football this weekend for the...
March 3, 2014
Analyzing the NJAC and E8's big moves
Wesley and its Capital Athletic Conference brethren join forces with five New Jersey schools to form...
November 24, 2013
Look who stole the show in Round 1
Many of those who shined in the first round of the 32-team playoffs weren't the nationally elite...
November 21, 2013
Playoff picks, surprises, disappointments
ATN assembles a team for an annual look at who might surprise and disappoint us in the 32-team...
November 16, 2013
On this day, they were all big games
Keith McMillan has instant reactions both inside and outside the playoff picture on the final day of...
November 13, 2013
A pre-regional rankings primer
Keith McMillan introduces the committee and their roles, analyzes Pools B and C and takes reader...
November 10, 2013
Snap judgments: Seen from the other side
Millsaps may well have a story for the ages out of Saturday's win vs. Centre, as will Cornell and...
November 7, 2013
Poll positions: What to make of regional rankings
If you haven't seen regional rankings before, or your team hasn't been a contender in recent years,...
November 3, 2013
Snap judgments: The aftermath
With so many games featuring two ranked teams, we should see a lot of movement in Sunday's Top 25...
October 24, 2013
Poll positions: Doing some number crunching
The Top 25 doesn't exist to steal anybody's joy. It is merely a prism through which to view...
October 20, 2013
Snap judgments: Cycling up
Maryville and TCNJ are atop their respective conferences, the John Carroll defense isn't the only...
October 13, 2013
Snap judgments: A blurry picture developing
Not literally -- we get great pictures from our associated photographers and SIDs, but that won't...
October 8, 2013
Poll positions: Streaking up the rankings
Keith McMillan looks at why one computer ranking is making the case for a blue team No. 1, and not a...
October 6, 2013
Snap judgments: Bounceback seasons
Olivet, St. Lawrence, North Park, Husson, Western Connecticut ... the list of improved teams this...
October 3, 2013
Re-ranking the conferences
With September's games, and the vast majority of non-conference play in the books, Around the Nation...
September 29, 2013
Snap judgments: Look away from the Top 25 scores
At first glance -- like say, the scores page, with the top 25 scores the initial finals that catch...
September 26, 2013
History lesson: Engineering rivalries
Week 4 is perhaps the most odd Saturday on the schedule. There aren't many great rivalries, but...
September 24, 2013
Poll positions: How the voters reacted
A kick going wide left produced a wide variety of reactions, but when Wesley got taken down a peg,...
September 22, 2013
Snap judgments: Week 3
The Tommie-Johnnie rivalry is back, UMHB's defensive line is pretty darn good, the MIAA has a better...
September 19, 2013
History lesson: Wesley vs. Mary Hardin-Baylor
Now that longtime rivals Wabash and DePauw are both in the North Coast, and Mount Union and...
September 18, 2013
Poll positions: There's some movement coming
The top of the poll didn't change much last week but Saturday's games could have a significant...
September 17, 2013
Off the beaten path
Just because a team isn't in the Top 25 running or mentioned in the podcast or doesn't have a Play...
September 11, 2013
Poll positions: Why teams shuffle
In Around the Nation, Keith McMillan discusses a nonstandard way of assembling the ballot after Week...
September 8, 2013
Snap judgments
Keith McMillan's Around the Nation column returns. You'll see ATN several times a week, including on...

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