September 17, 2013

Off the beaten path

More news about: RPI | Texas Lutheran
RPI doesn't rely much on its passing anymore, under new coach Ralph Isernia, but quarterback Jessie Maynard, above, rushed for 125 yards in Week 1 and got the ball to Andrew Armato for triple-digit yards in Week 2.
RPI athletics photo by Mick Neal

We assemble the front page, rank the top 25 teams and Pat and I do the podcast each weekend, and still there are teams whose performance slip through the cracks. Not every team that impressed over the weekend is in the running to be ranked, or has a dramatic overtime win or play of the week candidate. ATN attempts to tip the cap to those teams each week in Off the Beaten Path.

A big deal has been made, including by us in Kickoff '13, about RPI being on its fifth head coach since Joe King retired. But they've started the season with wins over Norwich and Alfred, each expected to be an upper-tier team in its conference, and there was a particularly impressive standout in the win over the Saxons.

Kicker Andrew Frank hit five field goals, including the game-tying kick, the game-winning kick and a second-quarter boot from 50 yards out, which is pretty significant for D-III. The game-tying field goal came at the end of an 18-play drive, after Alfred had rallied from an 18-7 halftime deficit to go up 21-18 while the Engineers' offense had gone cold in the second half. And they all took place on the road.

With Castleton State, WPI, Merchant Marine, St. Lawrence and Rochester ahead, the Engineers are a team that might not remain off our beaten path for long.

Texas Lutheran is another team we should recognize. For the past few years, the Bulldogs have been on the national scene for conference changes, a coaching switch and NFL-caliber kickers, but not often for their play. (High-scoring shootouts with Sul Ross State notwithstanding.)

The Bulldogs improved to 2-0 by beating Trinity in San Antonio for the first time since 1976, with quarterback Brent Peavy passing for 317 yards, rushing for 85, throwing four touchdown passes and having no turnovers. (Video highlights here)

TLU is another team, with Southwestern Assemblies, East Texas Baptist, Austin, Sul Ross State and Missisippi College its next five opponents, that could find itself unexpectedly in the playoff hunt. With TLU being a Pool B team because it's now a member of the four-team SCAC, instead of a middling ASC team with Mary Hardin-Baylor on its schedule later in the year, the playoffs might not be unrealistic.

Other hat tips for being 2-0 unexpectedly: Olivet (one win in 2011 and 2012 combined), Juniata (lost six in a row at one point last season), MIT (starts this season with three road games, including a trip to California), Pacific (four wins in three seasons since program was revived), Stevenson (2-8 in both seasons of existence), Grove City (only 10 points allowed), Hartwick (lost seven straight, all against Empire 8 teams, to close last season) and Eureka.

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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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