October 6, 2013

Snap judgments: Bounceback seasons

Olivet carried its early-season momentum through Week 5.
Alma athletics photo

Clearly the stories of Week 5 were No. 2 Linfield's full-on smothering of No. 11 Pacific Lutheran telling us that perhaps the Wildcats are better defensively than offensively, and all the longtime also-rans getting their days in the sun.

North Park snapping its 89-game losing streak in CCIW games was a result for the ages -- as in Vikings freshmen were 5 when their future college football team beat Elmhurst, 31-21, on Oct. 7, 2000.

Olivet, which had two wins in the previous five seasons, made a mistake those kind of teams would make when it missed a PAT in the final minute to keep Alma in the game. The Comets scored with 47 seconds left to take a 13-10 lead, and the PAT miss allowed the hard-luck Scots to kick a 47-yard field goal to tie. But then Olivet won in overtime and improved to 5-0.

Which would be super unique and neat except St. Lawrence, 0-10 last year, beat Rochester to get to 4-1 (and since their loss is a five-point blemish against Morrisville State, they have to be kicking themselves for not being 5-0).

And that would be super cool and unique except Western Connecticut, in its first MASCAC season after consecutive 0-10 years in the NJAC, beat up Bridgewater State, a playoff team last year, with a 28-point first quarter on the way to a 49-26 win.

So yeah, three 0-10 teams are now ballin'. And that doesn't include Husson (three wins in three seasons) winning big against Castleton State or Misericordia (15 straight losses, lost in double OT), Maine Maritime (17 straight losses; led at half of a 53-28 loss) or Tufts (26 straight, intercepted at 1 late in the game) nearly winning as well.

Fortunes do change. Even for the unfortunate among us.

Anyway, before all that happened, I wrote this, perhaps at the time thinking this would be one of the stories of the day:

• It seems like Wesley does this every year: Plays some insane schedule, partly because independents have to, partly because national powers who don't have an automatic bid to play for have to. Then they lose a September game, and play the rest of the way with their backs against the wall, and win them all.

Saturday, Huntingdon led the Wolverines by 11 in the second half for the second season in a row. And Wesley, perhaps knowing what it takes to grind out all four quarters against a good team since it plays approximately five ranked teams a year, put together a 21-point fourth.

I'm not saying it was completely predictable, but I do feel like I've seen this movie before.

The Wolverines only have one more D-III opponent this month (at Rowan, Oct. 19) and the only other one this season (Nov. 16, vs. Alfred State) is against a new-to-D-III team it should beat handily.

When we talked to Huntingdon for kickoff, we got the impression the Hawks thought this wasn't going to be one of their better teams. Based on the performance against Wesley, they might have been sandbagging. The USAC race should be pretty interesting, although Christopher Newport and Huntingdon not playing each other matters less in the wake of Methodist's upset of the Captains..

One of my favorite moments from the Wesley rally: The 39-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown catch from Steve Kodoussou was nice, but I was more impressed with Joe Callahan standing in and delivering a touch pass of that length with a free-rushing blitzing linebacker bearing down on him. Callahan took a hit as he threw, but catching one under the chin doesn't feel as bad when there's a touchdown on the other end, and a Saturday night of celebrating victory not far behind.

Other quick reactions to this weekend's action (and inaction):

• The top three teams in the country have each played at least one top 15 team. No. 1 Mount Union used a fourth-quarter touchdown drive to beat now-No. 14 Franklin, 30-27, in Week 1. No. 2 Linfield's game at home against No. 11 PLU was 7-0 heading into the fourth quarter on Saturday. No. 3 Mary Hardin-Baylor's Week 3 game against now-No. 10 Wesley was 35-0 heading into the fourth. Seems like a useful thing for top 25 voters -- split 15 Mount Union, six Linfield, four UMHB last week -- to know.

• UMHB also beat Trinity, 49-7, this week with RB Elijah Hudson and DT Silvio Diaz -- two of its best players -- out with injuries.

• Hard not to feel bad for Merchant Marine and RPI, whose game was the lone D-III casualty of the government shutdown. I mean, sure, Coast Guard's SID is furloughed too, but the Bears played. Nobody wins by robbing student-athletes of one of their precious few chances to compete. USMMA's coaches were willing to volunteer to get the game played. And even if in some way Merchant Marine's players signed up for whatever the government decides by choosing the academy, RPI's players got pulled into it by association. And as nice as it would be if the two teams could make the game up in November, that only works if there's one game for Merchant Marine to make up. At the rate the shutdown is going, it could be a while before the Mariners play again. They could play Nov. 2 and maybe Nov. 23, a week after their Week 11 game at St. Lawrence, but barring something unprecedented, that's about the limit.

• Haters gonna hate, and ODAC gonna ODAC. Just when we figure the conference most known for its parity is going to be a six-team race, Shenandoah up and beats 3-0 Bridgewater. That's the first conference win for the Hornets as an ODAC member. If that weren't enough, the defending champs, W&L, pass for 16 whole yards in front of their own fans in losing to Guilford. (Granted, the Generals only threw seven times, rushed for 237 yards). R-MC and H-SC won somewhat convincingly, but the ODAC might be on its way to having half the league finish 4-3 and the other half 3-4.

• The IIAC does parity well too, and while Dubuque's win over Central was a semi-surprise, it's former Dubuque coach Vince Brautigam at former IIAC member Cornell whose team is most surprising. The Rams moved to 3-1 Saturday with a 58-24 win against Beloit. In the IIAC, maybe Wartburg is the main challenger for Coe, following a 34-24 win against Simpson. The two meet Nov. 2 in Waverly.

• Mount Union is no different under Vince Kehres than it was under Larry Kehres in at least one way: You never see them take a conference opponent lightly, or have an off day against a team it should beat. If the Purple Raiders lose, the other team earns it. Against Ohio Northern, it was over early, as Mount Union scored 44 in the first half and let the backup QB get some work in the second half.

• Since FCS non-scholarship Butler ran for 213 yards against Wittenberg, the Tigers have allowed 74 rushing yards in wins against DePauw, Oberlin and Hiram. That's an average of 24.6666667 -- however many decimal places your calculator allows -- against D-III teams.

• Hope QB Michael Atwell was 4 of 25 for 34 yards, but he got his team within three of Adrian late before the Bulldogs ran out the final 3:16. Shawn Jackson rushed for 251 yards to keep Hope in it, but Adrian's defense gets this mention for being so hard to pass against.

• Speaking of defense, we know John Carroll is legit, with its transfer-from-Pitt QB and All-American-quarterback-turned-head-coach leading the way. But it's not the offense that's impressive; the 54-0 win over Capital was the Blue Streaks' third shutout. A third-quarter touchdown at the end of a 14-play Baldwin-Wallace drive mark the only points they've given up all year.

• Thomas More also posted its third shutout of the season on Saturday, and one of those involved keeping Capital off the board (in a 20-0 Week 1 win) as well. The 28 points the Saints have allowed this year all came last week against Waynesburg.

• Linfield pitched its second straight shutout, and has only given up one score all year when the margin is less than 20 points: A first quarter touchdown by Cal Lutheran, which the Wildcats answered with 45 points in a row.

• Maryville outrushed Averett by 399 yards. Don't see that every week.

• Plymouth State mustered just 105 yards against Westfield State. They've lost three straight, and haven't scored a touchdown while the game was close since Week 2.

• Perspective is everything. Either the wheels are coming off at Castleton State this season, following the Dick's Sporting Goods revelations and a 34-3 loss to Husson. Or the Eagles -- who have won two straight after losing 27 of 30 coming into this season -- are getting it together under Gabby Price like Tom Haley predicted they would in Kickoff '13.

• While we're shouting out Kickoff, should note that Jason Bailey, our CCIW expert, forecasted North Park winning a conference game. He picked identical 2-8, 1-6 marks for the Vikings and Carthage, the team they beat.

• Juniata's 65-10 loss to Johns Hopkins suggests that even though longtime doormats can make strides, there's a lot of strides between "no longer the doormat" and "conference elite."

• IMG Academy's Stagg Bowl bid and interest are welcomed. But Manatee County Commissioner John Chappie couldn't have been more wrong when he told bradenton.com, "I followed the Stagg Bowl over the years, and they seem to have problems with locations."

Chappie, you haven't followed very closely. After bouncing from Kings Island, Ohio to Phenix City, Ala. to Bradenton, Fla. from 1983 to 1992, 20 consecutive Stagg Bowls have been played in Salem, Va., which is home of this year's championship as well.

• Six most stunning results of the day: Methodist over Christopher Newport, Hartwick over Ithaca, Bethany over Washington & Jefferson, Union over Springfield, Kalamazoo over Trine and Shenandoah over Bridgewater. Hat tips for milder upsets go to Guilford over W&L, Otterbein over Baldwin-Wallace, Sewanee over Birmingham Southern.

• Best almosts: UW-Stout falling short in its rally against No. 8 UW-Oshkosh and Frostburg State nearly pulling the upset at No. 19 St. John Fisher.

Ryan Tipps

Ryan is D3football.com's Senior Editor and began as National Columnist in fall 2014. He was the Around the Mid-Atlantic Columnist from 2007 to 2011, has worked on the preseason Kickoff publication since 2006 and has covered the Stagg Bowl in Salem for more than a decade. Ryan, a Wabash graduate, worked in newspapers as a writer and editor for 15 years before his current full-time job as editor of a magazine in Virginia.

2001-2013 columnist: Keith McMillan.

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