December 20, 2008

Around the Nation's look back at 2008

 

We didn’t have any 15-lateral miracle endings or 59-year-old linebackers this time around.

If 2007 was a 62-second season-turning shocker, 2008 was more like a stretch play. A lot less fancy, but still capturing the essence of everything that makes college football superb.

Of course, 2008 did contain some watershed moments. Mount Union's Nate Kmic had the best rushing season in Division III history to cap off the best rushing career of any back in college football history. Teammate Greg Micheli put up a 36-to-2 TD-to-INT ratio and completed 75 percent of his passes, concluding a career in which he became college football’s all-time most efficient passer.

Guilford’s Josh Vogelbach wrapped up his four years with 13,591 passing yards, a new Division III mark, while Hartwick’s Jason Boltus set a record with 14,231 career yards of total offense.

Those who think playoff systems ruin all the regular-season fun need look no further than Week 11 in Division III, where rivalry-game stunners and out-of-nowhere upsets had postseason hopes fluctuating like the Dow Jones average.

And then after the 32 teams narrowed themselves down to four, we legitimately could say we didn’t know which team would be the last standing. And, for the fourth consecutive season – unprecedented on any level – Mount Union and UW-Whitewater faced off for the national championship.

Beginning with SUNY-Maritime’s 24-14 win over Massachusetts Maritime on Thurs. Sept. 4, and spanning 108 days and 1,240 games through the end-of-game fireworks at the Stagg Bowl in Salem, let’s look back at 2008. This column is the first of two installments.

Stagg Bowl Day: Great games, plays, statistics, players and coaches
Early January: Great teams, best of the Stagg Bowl, our awards, revisiting preseason predictions, photos of the year and miscellaneous memorables

The memorable games

Remember the great regular-season finishes
Nobody did drama in 2008 like UW-Stevens Point, which went 9-2, including 6-2 in games decided by six points or fewer. The pinnacle of the Pointers’ living-on-the-edge season came on two-point conversion attempts at the end of the game on consecutive weeks. After hitting Jared Jenkins five times on an 11-play, 84-yard drive to get UW-SP within one at defending national champion UW-Whitewater, Jared Beckwith hit the 6-4 receiver one more time for a two-point conversion and stunning 17-16 upset.

That’s enough to make most teams’ season. But the two-point conversion gods smiled again on the Pointers the following week at home against UW-Oshkosh. Kody Morgan broke up a Titans pass in the end zone in overtime after UW-Stevens Point scored with 34 seconds left in regulation.

Remember the great regular-season games
In exactly 1,200 games (1,240 minus 31 playoff games, eight ECAC bowls and Northwestern, Minn.’s NCCAA Victory Bowl win), great clashes abound. Around the Nation wouldn’t want to pick one or even ten games and classify them as the best. But these two are memorable for the way they went down (as well as on and on):

Salisbury rallied from a two-touchdown deficit with 13:32 left at then-No. 17 St. John Fisher to tie their non-conference game with 33 seconds left on a 1-yard Shelby Fisher TD run.

The Sea Gulls converted three do-or-die fourth downs in the first two overtimes, and St. John Fisher scored the TD that tied it at 52 in one play. In the third overtime, both teams missed field goal attempts of at least 33 yards. Salisbury won it in the fourth by scoring but missing it’s two-point conversion attempt, then stopping the Cardinals with a Jarrell Chandler sack of Tim Bailey on fourth-and-2 from the 7.

The Sea Gulls won, 58-52.

With four overtime periods, stats are bound to look a bit bloated, and not just the 110 points and 1,101 combined yards. St. John Fisher had the ball for 45:22 and Salisbury rushed for 529 yards.

In Week 3, St. Thomas and St. Olaf proved playing a bunch of overtimes doesn’t preclude teams from playing a bunch of defense. The Tommies led the Oles 14-7 at the half and finished regulation tied at 14. Four overtimes later, it was tied at 17. In the fifth, they traded quick TDs but missed their conversion attempts, then the Oles held once more and won on a 16-yard Coty Watkins run.

Perhaps most amazing is that in the 12 combined possessions in overtime, there wasn’t a single turnover. St. Olaf gave the ball up on downs in the first OT, and had a field goal made, one blocked and one missed. St. Thomas was 1 for 5 on overtime field goal attempts, also getting one blocked.

OK, so maybe eight field goal tries between 19 and 47 yards with two makes, two blocked and four wide left isn’t a sign of great football. But we can’t imagine any game that ended dramatically in regulation could hold a candle to the number of ups and downs the Oles and Tommies dished out.

St. Thomas ran 95 plays for 394 yards against the Oles. Average plays per game hovers around 70 per team.

Remember the excitement of the playoff push
As the final week of the regular season approached, ATN published a list of 10 teams in line for six Pool C (at-large) bids. Most of them lost in Week 11, and coupled with upsets in rivalry games and across the board, the final week of the season broke down like this:

Rivalry upsets:
Ithaca (8-1 going in) over Cortland State (9-0)
DePauw (7-5) over Wabash (9-0)
Randolph-Macon (6-4) over Hampden-Sydney (8-2)
Moravian (8-1) over Muhlenberg (9-0)

Head-to-head showdowns for conference titles & bids:
St. John’s defeated Carleton
CNU defeated Ferrum
Aurora defeated Lakeland
In Pool B: LaGrange defeated Huntingdon

Squandered a solid chance at a Pool C bid:
Montclair State (in a loss to Kean)
Redlands (Cal Lutheran)
RPI (USMMA)
Hampden-Sydney (R-MC)
Northwestern (Minn.) lost its Pool B chance against St. Thomas

Controlled Pool A destiny and lost:
St. John Fisher
Catholic
Albright

With a win and help, earned a Pool A bid:
Ithaca
Randolph-Macon
Lycoming

Squandered a chance at an undefeated season, top seed or first-round home game:
Cortland State
Wabash

Had no almost chance at the start of the day, made playoffs:
Wheaton

Remember the great playoff games
Nick Yordi hit Justin Vetter with a 23-yard strike with 7 seconds left to give Wartburg the most thrilling victory of the tournament, 30-28, in the second round at Monmouth. The Knights trailed 28-14 at the half, and the Scots passed on a short field goal try in the second half that might have helped.

Curry QB Ryan Van De Giesen hit freshman Norman Landry with a 12-yard toss to help the Colonels win a first-round playoff game for the second year in a row, knocking off Ithaca, 26-21.

Wheaton was seeded seventh and played four road games but won the first three, winning the "North Central" bracket, named after a team it lost to during the CCIW regular season.

Franklin beat Otterbein 62-45 in a game that was 0-0 after the first quarter and 14-all at the half.

Remember the playoff parity
Beyond the same two teams playing in the Stagg Bowl for the fourth consecutive season, the parity below them in Division III was evident. Three No. 1 seeds (North Central, Millsaps and Willamette) fell in the second round, and lower seeds went 15-16 in the postseason, fueled by the runs of No. 5 seed UW-Whitewater, No. 7 Wheaton and No. 7 Wartburg.

Remember why we love rivalry games
There were upsets in the Monon Bell game, the Cortaca Jug game, the Moravian-Muhlenberg game and The Game (between Hampden-Sydney and Randolph-Macon).

Cortland State, Wabash and Muhlenberg were each undefeated before lining up against their rivals, and Hampden-Sydney had a chance to beat R-MC at home and take the ODAC title and automatic bid. Instead, the Yellow Jackets rallied to steal the playoff bid in a four-way tiebreaker, Ithaca rallied into the postseason, while DePauw and Moravian finished two-loss seasons on a high note.

Here’s where those four games ranked among the most-attended games of the season, with another key rivalry thrown in for comparison:

2. DePauw at Wabash: 11,423
4. Ithaca at Cortland State: 10,300
10. Willams at Amherst: 7,326
15. Randolph-Macon at Hampden-Sydney: 7,114
234. Muhlenberg at Moravian: 2,764

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

1. FDU-Florham 19, Delaware Valley 14 (Week 7 Oct. 18)
2. Greensboro 14, at Emory & Henry 12 (Sept. 12)
3. McDaniel 20, Dickinson 13 (Sept. 27)
4. UW-River Falls 36, UW-Stevens Point (Oct. 4)
5. Merchant Marine 23, RPI 21 (Nov. 15)
6. Mount Ida 24, Plymouth State 7 (Sept. 13)
7. Concordia, Ill. 35, Lakeland 32 (Oct. 18)
8. Worcester State 32, Maine Maritime 31 (Oct. 11)
9. Kenyon 39, at Chicago 36 (Sept. 13)
10. Union 38, at Hobart 35 (Oct. 11)

Remember the great half-games
There perhaps has never been a coach born who doesn’t frequently remind his team that football is a 60-minute game. However, contrary to the popular coachspeak, good things can happen in smaller blocks of time:

A 60-yard TD run and a 56-yard TD helped Brockport State’s Garet Lynch rush for an NCAA-record 370 yards in the first half of an ECAC bowl game with Hartwick. Perhaps even more preposterous, the Golden Eagles trailed 48-35 at the half even after Lynch’s effort, because of some not-too-bad halves by Hawks QB Jason Boltus and RB Tosh DeMulder.

We talk about this game and the feats accomplished quite often elsewhere, but perhaps the most impressive part of Franklin’s 62-45 first-round win against Otterbein is that it was a 0-0 game at the end of the first quarter and 14-all at the half.

The Grizzlies scored 48 points in the second half, including 27 in the third quarter, and outscored North Central 21-7 in the second half the following week in another playoff win.

Wins at Mount Union are rare. Actually, since the start of the automatic qualifier/D3football.com era in 1999, we can name them:

Rowan, 24-17 in OT, national semifinals 1999
Mary Hardin-Baylor, 38-35, national semifinals, 2004
Ohio Northern, 21-14, regular season, 2005

That makes the Purple Raiders a lot and three at home in that span. So in essence, it actually is an accomplishment for Hobart to have trailed just 14-0 at the half against the Purple Raiders in Alliance and Cortland State just 20-14.

Neither New York team won, but we didn’t know that they wouldn’t when the third quarter began, and given Mount Union’s record of dominance, especially at home, that is memorable.

Along these same lines, check out the split pointed out on Post Patterns by hscoach, from Nate Kmic’s line in his playoff-high 310-yard rushing game against Wheaton:

First quarter: 7 carries for 8 yards
Rest of the game: 22 carries for 302 yards

Remember the great comebacks
Sometimes teams can’t muster a good 60 minutes, or even a solid half of football. But if the other team isn’t playing well either, a late surge might be all you need. So you do have to play all 60 minutes after all! (those wise, wise coaches)

According to our own Frank Rossi, it was one of the year’s best comebacks:

Susquehanna, once down 28-7 with over nine minutes left in the third quarter to the Merchant Marine Academy, rallies for 23 points in the fourth quarter.

At one point, the score was 35-34 USMMA with 22 seconds left, when Susquehanna missed an extra point. Anticipating an onside kick, USMMA stationed nobody deep, but the Crusaders kicked there and recovered the ball.

Susquehanna took over on the 10, moved to the 2-yard line on pass interference, ran for no gain and spiked it with a second left, leading to a 19-yard game-winning field goal.

Wabash scored 10 points in the final 4:22 to top NCAC rival Wittenberg 13-10 in a Week 7 game that played a big role in deciding the conference’s automatic qualifier.

Also in Week 7, St. John’s recovered a second-down goal-line fumble to hang on to beat rival St. Thomas, 12-9.

Before the Tommies fumbled the handoff on second down and Kyle Schroeder recovered for the Johnnies with 19.3 seconds left, St. Thomas’ Ben Wartburg appeared to cross the goal line on a first-down rush. The play, had it been ruled a touchdown, would have given St. Thomas a 15-12 lead. The disputed finish added another chapter to a storied rivalry that has often gone St. John’s way. Here’s how it unfolded as Pat Coleman followed along on site.

Loras RB Alex McGrew scored as time ran out to give the Duhawks a 23-31 win against Coe.

The memorable plays and performances

Remember the most impactful play
UW-Whitewater entered the playoffs as a No. 5 seed who lost a game and did not win the WIAC’s automatic bid. They looked like a tough out, but Wartburg sat poised to tie the third-round playoff game early in the fourth quarter, potentially eliminating the defending champion Warhawks.

Linebacker Kyle Supianoski blocked Spencer Herzberg’s 33-yard field-goal attempt

"We had a middle block on, and I just told the guys to hit them in the upper shoulder and the opportunity just presented itself, and I dove for it," Supianoski told the Janesville (Wis.) Gazette.

"We have the ball first-and-10 at the 11, and we don’t get any points out of it," Wartburg coach Rick Willis said in the same article. "If we could find a way to score there and take the lead, then the momentum gets greater. Or if we kicked the field goal, we still have momentum, but no question that was a huge play in the game."

It was a huge play in the season, actually, as Whitewater scored twice to seal a 34-17 victory. They won at Mary Hardin-Baylor the following week, 39-13, and made their fourth consecutive Stagg Bowl.

Remember the other strange happenings
Football produces "I’ve never seen that before" moments at a greater clip than we can keep track of, but here are a couple oddities you might have missed:

In Week 1, Johns Hopkins’ Chris Baldwin proved old habits die hard. The senior, who spent 2007 as a running back, scored three touchdowns as a defensive back for the Blue Jays, returning interceptions 28 and 45 yards for scores and bringing back a fumble 32 yards for a touchdown in a 34-3 win against St. Lawrence.

Also in Week 1, Scott Haneberg kept Menlo in the game against UW-Stout, blocking two field goals, including one with 20 seconds left in the fourth quarter. UW-Stout won 13-10 in overtime.

Says Around the mid-Atlantic columnist Ryan Tipps: "I still think it's cool when a player can each run, catch and throw for a touchdown in a game, like Franklin & Marshall’s Jarrell Diggs did in Week 6."

Capital turned the ball over nine times and was still in striking distance late in the fourth quarter of a 13-3 loss to John Carroll. The Crusaders stayed in the game by limiting the Blue Streaks to 103 total yards, including three in the second half.

Following the Week 4 (Sept. 27) games, Post Patterns reader cwru70 pointed out an occurrence of a punter downing his own kick:
In the third quarter against Wooster, "Dension punter Caleb McFerren hit what looked like a decent punt only to see it land with backspin worthy of a Tiger Woods wedge and come bouncing back towards the line of scrimmage. McFerren stopped it before it made it all the way back, but it ended up an 11-yard punt."

Cortland State SID Fran Elia pointed this out after the Week 4 (Sept. 27) game against Kean:

"Cortland K/TE Jeffrey Lang recorded a touchdown, a field goal, a two-point conversion and three PATs. He is the first player at Cortland since at least 1964 to register each of those four stats in the same game (in fact, no Cortland player has even had a TD, FG, conversion and PAT kick in the same season, let alone one game).

As noted on Post Patterns by pa_wesleyfan and Conrad in Week 11, Gallaudet’s Joshua Doudt (wearing No. 54) played guard, tailback, defensive line and took snaps under center as a quarterback in a Week 11 (Nov. 15) game against Wesley.

Remember the great individual regular-season rushing performances
There’s a world of talent in Division III, but sometimes by this point in December, Purple Raiders and Warhawks are all we’re talking about. It’s a privilege those teams have earned of course, and Mount Union’s Nate Kmic tops this season’s rushing list in every way possible.

Except for one. Kmic’s 7.61 yards per carry (pre-Stagg Bowl) is second to Bridgewater State’s Bruce Burley, whose 1,288 yards came on just 160 carries, an 8.05 average. Burley had three of the 90 200-yard rushing performances in Division III this season, including an 11-carry, 202-yard effort against Framingham State in Week 5 (Oct. 4) and an 18-carry, 292-yard effort in Week 9 (Nov. 1) vs. Worcester State. His average yards per carry in those games were 18.36 and 16.22.

From Division III’s 239 offenses came 49 backs who averaged 100 rushing yards per game or more and 46 who have gone over 1,000 yards. Even ridiculously talented backs like North Central’s Gagliardi-Trophy nominated Dominic Sulo (1,020 yards; 97.27 per game) and Wheaton’s Rocky Gingg (1,290 yards, 99.23 per game) haven’t done both. So quite a few significant rushing accomplishments go unmentioned in a column like this.

But it also drives home how good the seasons had by the guys at the top of the list were. MIT’s Deron Brown (1,816 yards in 10 games) and Christopher Newport’s Tunde Ogun (1,794 in 10) are next behind Kmic’s 193-yard per game average. After Kmic’s 42 rushing TDs come Brockport’s Garet Lynch with 26 and Maine Maritime’s Jim Bower with 25.

Staring at numbers like that can make you think a guy like Johns Hopkins’ Andrew Kase (1,635 at 5.02 per carry, and 17 TDs) had just an OK season if you’re not careful.

Remember the great individual playoff rushing performances
Division III backs went over 200 yards in a single game 90 times in 2008, but only reached the 300-yard plateau three times. Garet Lynch rushed for 370 yards in the first half alone against Hartwick in an ECAC game, and then helped rally his team from a 62-42 deficit and finish with 429 rushing yards and a win. (We’ll touch more on that game on below, under Most Bang for the Buck.)

Lynch wasn’t the only one whose ground game got a lot stronger when the ground got a lot colder. The 200-yard rushing performances in the postseason:

Garet Lynch, Brockport State vs. Hartwick, 40 carries, 429 yards, 7 TDs
Nate Kmic, Mount Union vs. Wheaton, 29 carries, 310 yards, 3 TDs
Nate Kmic, Mount Union vs. Randolph-Macon, 20 carries, 290 yards, 4 TDs
Antwan Anderson, UW-Whitewater vs. Willamette, 34 carries, 265 yards, 3 TDs
Nate Kmic, Mount Union vs. Hobart, 37 carries, 235 yards, 4 TDs
Nate Kmic, Mount Union vs. Cortland State, 45 carries, 227 yards, 4 TDs
Curt Jones, Wash. & Jeff. vs. Millsaps, 31 carries, 208 yards, 4 TDs

You might notice a little something about Nate Kmic’s playoff performance as a whole there, so let’s just do the math for posterity’s sake: That’s 1,062 yards and 15 TDs in the playoffs alone, with the Stagg Bowl still to be played.

Jones made a huge difference when Washington & Jefferson, a No. 5 seed in their bracket, won at top-seeded Millsaps, 35-20. Both teams were led by senior QBs among the best and most experienced decision-makers in Division III (the Majors’ Juan Joseph and the Presidents’ Bobby Swallow were among the 10 Gagliardi Trophy finalists), but Jones’ running and W&Js defense in the second half helped sort out which of the similarly-crafted teams got to move on.

Remember the great individual regular-season passing performances
Of the 10 Gagliardi Trophy finalists, nine were quarterbacks. They all had impeccable credentials. One guy who wasn’t on the list, sophomore Alex Tanney, threw an eye-popping 50 touchdown passes and just eight interceptions. Among the 20 QBs who passed for 275 yards per game or more, only Swallow and Joseph (six INTs each) threw fewer picks. And while Hampden-Sydney’s Corey Sedlar passed for 360 yards per game, second to another Gagliardi Trophy finalist, Jason Boltus of Hartwick, his 23-to-24 TD-to-INT ratio surely held him back. Same goes for Josh Vogelbach of Guilford’s 20-to-23 and Brandon Luczak of Kalamazoo’s 20-to-20.

Sometimes quarterbacks are more effective with their feet than their arms. In the case of Denison QB Mike Barnes, his 175 yards passing in Week 1 (Sept. 6) against Kalamazoo was helpful, but his 17 carries, 270 yards and 3 TDs made the difference in a 49-27 win. Barnes averaged 15.88 yards per carry in that game and 2.81 yards per carry the rest of the season.

Remember the great individual playoff passing performances
Otterbein’s Jack Rafferty and Franklin's Chad Rupp led an epic playoff duel in Week 1, especially when they came out to start the second half tied at 14. The first nine possessions of the third quarter, none lasting longer than 3:11, ended with six touchdowns, a field goal, a punt and a fumble. In a six-minute span, between the 7:32 and 1:33 marks, each team took the lead twice, with Franklin going ahead for good at 34-31.

Rafferty threw a TD pass with 12:49 left to draw the Cardinals to 48-38 before the Grizzlies pulled away in a 62-45 win. Rafferty finished 20 of 42 for 336 yards, five TD passes and a 10-yard rushing score. Rupp was 41 of 62 for 527 yards, seven TDs and a rushing score.

Remember the great team defensive performances
Let no one say that LaGrange and Huntingdon’s move into the SLIAC was a fair fit. A good fit, perhaps, but when the Panthers held Blackburn to minus-3 yards in a 61-0 Week 4 (Sept. 27) win, and the Hawks did them one better by holding Principia to minus-5 in a 76-0 Week 9 (Nov. 1) win, it didn’t seem "fair."

Among long-term rivals, St. Norbert holding Lake Forest to 12 yards in Week 4 was notable. McMurry was limited to 27 yards that same week by Mary Hardin-Baylor, then was kept to 26 by Texas Lutheran in Week 8 (Oct. 25).

Remember the great individual defensive performances
Maine Maritime sophomore linebacker Wade Mondoux was credited with 26 tackles, including 19 solo, in a Week 9 clash with Coast Guard. Teammate Travis Fergola had had a 22-tackle game against MIT earlier in the year. Grinnell linebacker Brett Maloney had four games of 20 tackles or more.

Do these numbers mean SIDs are applying tackle statistics differently from press box to press box, or are they an indication of defenses who can’t get off the field? Maine Maritime had the nation’s 153rd total defense at 362 yards allowed per game, while Grinnell was 194th at 390.

In an accomplishment near and dear to my heart, Sewanee’s Chalankis Brown (against Colorado College in Week 3) and Aurora’s Tony Muscoraca (against Wisconsin Lutheran in Week 9) each had four-interception games. Neither player took one back for a touchdown in their big game, and they finished with seven and six on the season, respectively.

Aurora teammate Matt Meyer led the nation with 10 interceptions in 11 games on the season, and Johns Hopkins’ Chris Baldwin returned two INTs for scores against St. Lawrence.

Knox’s Tighe Burke had 13.5 sacks in 10 games to lead the nation, edging Brock Arndt of Redlands, Taylor Summers of Linfield and Jacob Calderon of Cal Lutheran, who each had 12 in nine games. Burke’s feat was more impressive because he got to the quarterback at least once in all but two games, and had five two-sack games.

Remember the gaudiest individual statistics
Boltus and Vogelbach completed their careers among the NCAA’s all-time leading passers (this CBS Sports list of the all-time top passers could use an update, but it still shows us that Hawaii’s Timmy Chang, BYU’s Ty Detmer, Alcorn State’s Steve McNair and N.C. State’s Philip Rivers are the gold standard when it comes to career passing numbers. (Texas Tech’s BJ Symons belongs there too). However, Boltus joined Kmic on the all-time milestone brigade by becoming Division III’s leader in total offense in his final game, while Vogelbach, in his final contest, became Division III’s all-time leading passer. A total offense number greater than the total passing is impressive for a QB who throws as much as these guys, since sacks impact their rushing numbers.

Division III’s top passing careers:
Josh Vogelbach, Guilford 2005-08, 13,591 yards passing, 13,890 of total offense
Jason Boltus, Hartwick 2005-08, 13,276 passing, 14,231 total
Justin Peery, Westminster (Mo.) 1996-99, 13,262 passing
Kirk Baumgartner, UW-Stevens Point, 1986-89, 13,028 passing

We spent so much time this season talking about Nate Kmic’s career numbers, it’s rarely been acknowledged that he turned in the most prolific single season in Division III history. Danny Woodhead of Division II Chadron State had a 2,756-yard season, and Kmic passed that with an 88-yard day in the Stagg Bowl.

Here are the 2,000-yard rushing seasons in Division III history with playoffs included (unlike official NCAA records before 2002):

Nate Kmic, Mount Union, 2,790 in 15 games in 2008
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
R.J. Bowers, Grove City: 2,098 in 10 games in 1999

Sources: NCAA record book, cfbdatawarehouse.com’s 2,000-yard rusher list and D3football.com research

Remember the peculiar statistics
As pointed out on Post Patterns by usee, in Week 2, four quarterbacks threw six touchdown passes, including two from the CCIW against MIAA teams:
Carthage’s Evan Jones did it in a 70-46 victory at Hope
Illinois Wesleyan’s Kraig Ladd in a 48-34 win against Alma
Illinois College’s Mitch Niekamp in a 62-27 win against Knox
Wabash’s Matt Hudson in a 41-27 victory at Denison

Least bang for the buck
Whether these games are the last tributes to great defense in an age of wide-open offenses, or just reflections of awful weather (or awful offense) on a given day, a few contests each year are the ones where fans probably spent more dollars than they saw points scored.

In Week 2, our front page declared: "Westminster (Pa.) pitched its way past Allegheny 6-2 in a rainy game that was scoreless through 53 minutes."

For the second consecutive year, the lowest-scoring game involved a single field goal, and two one-touchdown/PAT games were tied for second.

The top three:
1. UW-Stevens Point 3, UW-Platteville 0, Sept. 29
T2. Luther 7, Cornell 0, Nov. 8
T2. UW-Platteville 7, UW-River Falls 0, Nov. 3

Remember the most bang for the buck
Brockport State’s 70-68 win against Hartwick might not have received the attention it deserved, since it took place in the ECAC Northwest Bowl on the first weekend of the playoffs. In case you missed it, Garet Lynch rushed for a record-setting 429 yards and seven touchdowns as the Golden Eagles rallied from a 62-42 mid-third quarter deficit.

Lynch did most of his damage in the first half, as mentioned above. Brockport rushed for 541 of its 632 yards, while Hartwick found balance in its 700 (344 rushing, 356 passing).

With Franklin leading 48-38 with 9:41 left in the fourth quarter of a playoff game at Otterbein, the Grizzlies had more than 500 yards of passing and minus-1 yard rushing. Then on the first play of the drive, Jon-Erik Bennett broke free for a 63-yard run, and two plays later, QB Chad Rupp ran it in from 12 yards out for his eighth TD of the day.

Logan Deffner caught five of Rupp’s seven TD passes against the Cardinals, and Tony Gregory caught the other two. Deffner had four TD catches in the regular season and Gregory had five, but they both hauled in at least one in each of three playoff games to finish the year with 11 and nine, respectively.

It’s got to be unnerving when you can pass for 328 yards and four TDs and lead your team to 46 points and still lose, as Hope and QB Jake Manning did in Week 2 against Carthage. The Red Men led 56-39 after three quarters and added two more scores after Hope closed the gap to 10. Final: Carthage 70, Hope 46

Dickinson and Juniata combined for more than 1,200 yards in their meeting this year. Dickinson won 53-41.

Remember the mathmetician’s view
According to the 1,173 Division III games included in the Massey Ratings, home teams won 54.3 percent of the time and the team with the better winning percentage or larger cumulative margin going in won about 70 percent.

The average score was about 33-16.

Remember the biggest blowouts
Also from Massey:
1. Huntingdon 76, Principia 0, Week 9 (Nov. 1)
2. Monmouth 69, Grinnell 0, Week 5 (Oct. 4)
3. Mary Hardin-Baylor 67, Howard Payne 0, Week 10 (Nov. 8)

The memorable players and coaches

We named our All-Region teams Dec. 9 and our All-American teams are announced during the Stagg Bowl pregame show.

We've already chosen our offensive and defensive players of the year and our coach of the year, in the North, South, East and West, and nationally. The Gagliardi Trophy committee has spoken, and the Liberty Mutual Coach of the Year committee is not far behind. (D3football.com staff are on both committees).

Micheli, along with Carnegie Mellon T Brian Freeman, earned one of 15 $18,000 post-graduate scholarships given by the National Football Foundation and the Draddy Trophy folks.

So who influenced 2008 beyond the major award winners?

Remember the players who didn’t take home the Gagliardi Trophy
Kmic comes to mind. Of course, he was Mount Union’s lone nominee for the AFCA all-American team, he seems a lock for D3football.com’s offensive player of the year … and yeah, we called it in last year’s ATN YIR, that Micheli and his 3.84 GPA in math/physics plus his on-field prowess, would wow the Galiardi committee.

This season, the 10 finalists for the trophy were nine quarterbacks and a running back. So while it made their numbers really easy to compare (I gravitate toward completion percentage, TD-to-INT ratio and efficiency ratings to help compensate for the differences in offensive styles), it didn’t make the decision any easier.

Gagliardi candidates by nature are the cream of the crop, the best 10 of thousands of seniors nationally in the 239 programs. Some guys, quite literally, just can’t win.

Otterbein’s Jack Rafferty sported a 4.0 GPA in religion, had an amazing playoff game (20 of 42 for 336 yards, 5 TD passes and a 10-yard rushing score) and wasn't even the best quarterback on the field that day. He was later named a Gagliardi Trophy candidate, but turned out not to be the best quarterback in his own conference, much less top player in the nation, as Mount Union’s Greg Micheli, also of the OAC, took home the award.

Nate Kmic far surpassed the 2,070 he needed to become the Division III all-time rushing leader, and he also became the NCAA’s all-time rushing leader. He’ll graduate with about every accolade in the book, sans a Gagliardi Trophy, but resting atop this list isn’t bad consolation:

Top Career Rushers, NCAA, all divisions
1. Nate Kmic, Division III Mount Union, 2005-08, 8,074 yards
2. Danny Woodhead, Division II Chadron State, 2004-07, 7,962
3. R.J. Bowers, Division III Grove City, 1997-2000, 7,363
4. Germaine Race, Division II Pittsburg State, 2003-06, 6,985
5. Brian Shay, Division II Emporia State, 1995-98, 6,958
6. Josh Ranek, Division II South Dakota State, 1997-2001, 6,794
7. Ian Smart, Division II C.W. Post, 1999-2002, 6,647
8. Justin Beaver, Division III UW-Whitewater, 2004-07, 6,584
9. Adrian Peterson, Division I-AA (FCS) Georgia Southern, 1998-2001, 6,559
10. Charles Roberts, Division I-AA (FCS) Sacramento State, 1997-2000, 6,553
11. Kavin Gailliard, Division II American International, 1996-99, 6,523
12. Ron Dayne, Division I-A (FBS) Wisconsin, 1996-99, 6,397

Both Race and Smart averaged more than 7 yards per carry in their careers, so others might be able to make an argument for greatest rusher in NCAA history, but Kmic’s yards per carry is comparable, and not shabby at all.

Remember the great coaching performances
For the second season, Liberty Mutual awards a coach of the year award, alongside the coaches association’s choice. For the Liberty Mutual, a fan vote and a College Football Hall of Fame-backed panel settled on these finalists: Case Western Reserve’s Greg Debeljak, Cortland State’s Dan O’Neill, Willamette’s Mark Speckman, St. John’s’ John Gagliardi and Mount Union’s Larry Kehres.

They all did fine jobs this season, and I usually tend to back someone like Speckman, who did a lot with a team that wasn’t expected to do much. But if Kehres replaces 17 starters, gets back to the championship game and doesn’t win an award like this, perhaps he never really had a shot.

Remember the Division III players who might represent us in pro football
After having multiple draftees in consecutive seasons (Whitworth's Michael Allan and UW-Whitewater's Derek Stanley after 2006, and Wheaton defensive end Andrew Studebaker and Mount Union wide receiver Pierre Garcon after 2007), we’re not certain what kind of draft buzz will build around Division III players this year.

Hartwick’s Jason Boltus (6-3, 218) seems to have the best shot at getting chosen. He’s 20th of 128 quarterbacks scouted and rated by NFLDraftScout.com, but he currently doesn’t feature a draftable grade/projection.

We’d expect Mount Union’s Nate Kmic to get a sniff from someone, as well as Wesley’s Larry Beavers, whose 4.28 speed has been showcased in the kick return game.

Several other players have profiles on NFLDraftScout.com. We can take this to mean that an area scout has specifically taken a look at these Division III players, probably during a game. It doesn’t mean they have a shot at the NFL necessarily, although the players who sign free-agent deals or catch on with smaller leagues will probably be listed here:

Albright FS Matt Christ
Alfred FS Brian Nitsche
Anderson DT Jeremiah Townsell
Augsburg WR Royce Winford and FS Garrett Anderson
Carleton WR Chris Gardner
Carnegie Mellon TE Derek Wisnieski and T Brian Freeman
Carroll G Corey Drake
Central G Spenser Remick
Centre OLB Adam Hay
Coe DE Jordan Wilkens and CB Tom Brietbach
Concordia-Moorhead OLB Duy Huynh, T Blake Ogletree, WR Tyrone Ruffin and CB Dario Moore
Cornell FS Tim Bax and T Steve Valenta
Cortland State DE Ben Nagle and WR Zacc Guaragno
Defiance FS Keith Snyder
Dubuque SS Orlando Walton (listed as Watson), DE Travis Strowbridge and TE Adam Burkett
East Texas Baptist CB Anquanisus Frazier
Franklin QB Chad Rupp and CB Roshawn Hill
Greensboro WR Torrey Lowe
Guilford QB Josh Vogelbach, DT Mike Six
Gustavus Adolphus WR Chad Arlt
Hampden-Sydney RB Josh Simpson
Hartwick QB Jason Boltus, WR Jack Phelan
Heidelberg WR Dawond Roddy, RB Kenny Sims
Howard Payne DE Stephan Bernard
Illinois Wesleyan WR Martin Ciesel
John Carroll OLB Ken Bevington
Kean WR Durrell Dukes, T Chris Gould
Kings ILB Tom Tulaney
Lakeland ILB John Wagner
Mary Hardin-Baylor FS Derrick Williams, OLB Eric Henri, G Josh Littlejohn, T Luke Long
Menlo T Victor Brankovich
Millikin WR Matt Kormelink
Millsaps QB Juan Joseph, CB Marcus Harris, CB Johnathan Brooks
Monmouth DE Wes Levy
Montclair State DE Jeremy Mercer, T Jason Wombough, ILB Cornell Hunt, WR A.J. Letizia
Mount St. Joseph SS Nick Yahl, CB Ricky Stautberg
Mount Union QB Greg Micheli, RB Nate Kmic, RB Terrance Morring, CB Daryl Ely
Muhlenberg C Mike Nolan
Nichols RB Robert Morris
N.C. Wesleyan RB Bryan Haywood
Oberlin FS Kris DeMont, RB R.V. Carroll
Ohio Northern TE Stephen Gill, RB R.J. Meadows
Olivet T Chris VanDalsen, CB Alex Hill
Redlands OLB Brock Arndt
Salisbury OLB Jarrell Chandler, G Jeremy McKinney
Shenandoah TE Maurice Coleman, CB Dionte Beatty
St. John’s DE Nick Gunderson
St. Lawrence C Tim LaRose
St. Norbert RB A.J. Phillips
Texas Lutheran CB Dwight Bonner
Trinity (Texas) WR Riley Curry
Trine ILB Courtney Pearson
Ursinus FS DeVohn Butler
Wabash DE Daryl Kennon, T Jeremy Morris
Washington & Jefferson QB Bobby Swallow, G Matt Houy
Wesley TE Jon Lanouette, WR Larry Beavers, ILB Sean Matthews, T Dave Erdman, CB Chet Turner, QB Jason Schatz
Wheaton CB Pete Ittersagen, ILB Steve Pagh, DE Ben Kuenzle
Whittier ILB Arlo Castello
Wilkes T Josh George
UW-La Crosse QB Griffin Moe
UW-Platteville RB Mike Genslinger
UW-River Falls C Scott Witte
UW-Whitewater ILB Jace Rindahl

Coming in Part 2: Greatest team improvements and falls from grace, best of the Stagg Bowl, our awards, revisiting preseason predictions, photos of the year and miscellaneous memorables.

Contributing: Ryan Tipps, Gordon Mann, D3football.com readers, via Post Patterns

React, share feedback and suggest items for Part 2 on The Around the Nation thread.
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Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com'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 D3hoops.com. 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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