|Trevor Heitland has rushed for 630 yards over the past three games. That's pretty good.
Photo courtesy Coe Athletics
If you took a Saturday afternoon nap or went to bed early, you missed another day with multiple big games that came down to the wire. The afternoon games with playoff implications went down to the wire. So did the night games.
We thought Week 6 was special. Week 7 proved that the 2016 season is here to entertain, from coast to coast and from noon kickoffs until after midnight finishes.
Some conferences now have a clear frontrunner; others have a five-way tie for first place. The IIAC gained clarity, as Coe defeated a fellow undefeated opponent for the third straight week. The Kohawks, who earned three-point wins over Wartburg and Central the past two weeks at home, went on the road and defeated No. 21 Dubuque, 23-12. Trevor Heitland rushed for over 200 yards for the third straight week, finishing with a school record 51 carries for 216 yards.
“These guys really have bought into that family-like atmosphere. When the game’s on the line and our back’s against the wall, then we come together and we play hard-fought football and we play for one another,” said first-year head coach Tyler Staker.
The tight wins over Wartburg and Central boosted the Kohawks’ confidence. That prepared them to go on the road and knock off the Spartans. Coe now has three games left, all against opponents who are currently 2-4.
Playing against higher ranked conference opponents didn’t put a chip on the Kohawks’ shoulders; last year’s disappointing 4-6 season provided that.
“The big chip on our shoulder this year was the way we performed the last two seasons,” said Staker. “We had to wear that 4-6 record every single day in the offseason. They knew they had something to prove and they had to go out and earn it each week.”
After running through this three-week gantlet, the Kohawks control their own destiny for the IIAC crown. Upsets left other teams alone atop the conference standing in the Empire 8, ODAC, and NCAC.
For the third time this year, Utica knocked off a ranked opponent. The Pioneers defeated No. 13 St. John Fisher for the first time in program history. Alfred now stands alone atop the Empire 8 standings. Washington and Lee’s 48-34 win over Guilford, coupled with Randolph-Macon’s 27-20 loss to Emory and Henry, has the Generals alone atop the ODAC standings. Denison took sole possession of the NCAC lead by defeating No. 15 Wittenberg, 24-21. Conor Dunn nailed a 33-yard field goal with 21 seconds left for the win. The Big Red are 6-0 for the first time since 1985. It was the program’s first win over the Tigers since 1989.
North Central’s statement win over Wheaton leaves the Cardinals alone atop the CCIW. North Central held a 21-point lead at halftime thanks to a Pat Cravens punt return touchdown in the closing seconds of the first half. The Thunder’s second half surge fell short in a 35-25 loss.
Stevenson pulled away from Widener to take sole possession of first place in the MAC heading into next week’s showdown against Delaware Valley.
Other conference races, however, became more crowded by Saturday’s results.
Berry’s win over No. 22 Hendrix created a four-team logjam atop the SAA. Centre and Washington U. also have just one loss in conference play.
Christopher Newport scored with 33 seconds left, but that was only enough to tie Montclair State. In an NJAC game the Captains had to have to stay alive in the heated conference race, K.J. Kearney connected with Josh Davis for the tying score. In the first overtime, each team missed a field goal opportunity. In the second extra frame, Kearney hooked up with Taylor Loudan for an 18-yard touchdown. The defense held on and the Captains stayed in the NJAC mix. There are currently five teams--Christopher Newport, Rowan, Salisbury, Frostburg State, and Wesley--at 4-1 in conference play. With four games left, it’s too soon to start looking at tiebreaker scenarios. This is going to be one heck of a finish to see who earns the NJAC’s Pool A bid.
That was just one of the many down-to-the-wire finishes on Saturday.
Hamilton and Bowdoin exchanged the lead four times in the final 6:50. Hamilton scored last, winning 26-25 on Kenny Gray’s touchdown run with 34 seconds to play. Mass. Maritime scored with 27 seconds left to defeat Westfield State, 24-21. Susquehanna came back from a 13-point fourth quarter deficit to upset Moravian, 35-34. Nick Crusco scored the game-winner with 49 seconds to play. Each defense needed to make just one stop to preserve the comeback victory. Hamilton batted down a Hail Mary attempt; Mass. Maritime forced and recovered a fumble; and Susquehanna intercepted a pass. Whitworth trailed by 17 in the fourth quarter, but rallied to score the final 21 points of the game. Duke DeGaetano carried 26 times for 172 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner with 41 seconds to play. The Pirates win sets up a showdown against Linfield next week; both teams are 3-0 in NWC play.
La Verne and Occidental were both winless and frustrated. One of these teams was going to break a long losing streak. The Leopards needed a comeback and a bold two point conversion to escape with a 57-56 win. Both teams posted over 600 yards of offense. La Verne rushed for 441 yards, led by Dallas Parent’s 298 yards and four touchdowns on 28 carries. Occidental quarterback Bryan Scott passed for 390 yards and two scores.
Hartwick didn’t leave any time on the clock for Morrisville State. The Hawks entered the fourth quarter trailing by 14, but scored the final 16 points of the game. Brian McGovern’s 28-yard field goal at the horn was the game-winner in a 43-41 victory.
McGovern wasn’t the only kicker to nail a walkoff on Saturday. Jake McDonough’s 27-yard boot at the horn gave Merchant Marine a 16-13 win over RPI.
Curry and Coast Guard had a game to remember for the offenses, and one to forget for the defenses. Each team posted over 600 yards of offense. Quarterbacks Derek Victory and Alex Corvese each passed for over 500 yards. Victory tossed six touchdowns; Corvese bested him with seven. Coast Guard jumped out to a 21-0 lead and held off Curry’s late rally for a 56-54 win.
The upstart program at Southwestern notched a huge win over Trinity (Texas). The Pirates won their third game of the season, equaling the win total of the program’s first three seasons combined. Southwestern is in first place in the four-team SCAC, tied with Texas Lutheran at 2-0 in the conference, but with the best overall record at 3-3.
Concordia-Moorhead bounced back after last week’s emotional rollercoaster loss to St. Thomas. The Cobbers intercepted four passes to key a 34-14 win over Hamline. There could have been an emotional or mental letdown, but the Cobbers quickly put the loss behind them. They remained positive and focused during the week and carried that over into Saturday’s performance.
“We’ve got a pretty resilient bunch, a really good senior group, and I thought we had a really good practice week,” said Cobbers coach Terry Horan. “We needed to make sure we were ready to go. We didn’t want to let St. Thomas beat us twice. We didn’t have a lot of time to be licking wounds.”
Offenses came alive on the West Coast, as Pacific and Cal Lutheran lit up the scoreboard and kept the other half blank in convincing wins. The Boxers put up 55 in a shutout win over Lewis & Clark. Pacific had five scoring plays of over 65 yards each. The Kingsmen shutout previously unbeaten Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, 34-0. Cal Lutheran forced four turnovers and returned two fumble recoveries for touchdowns. Pomona-Pitzer and Redlands are now tied atop the SCIAC.
Springfield’s offense unloaded on Rochester. Four different backs rushed for over 100 yards, led by Jordan Wilcox, who carried 12 times for 174 yards and four touchdowns. Springfield rushed for 624 yards in a 70-47 win. Daniel Bronson passed for five touchdowns in the loss.
Muskingum rallied from a 13-0 deficit for a 14-13 win over Baldwin-Wallace. The comeback was keyed by a successful fake punt. The Muskies had not defeated the Yellow Jackets since 2005 and had not won at Baldwin-Wallace since 1989.
Week 8 kicks off in five days. We can sleep in January.
Here's what to watch for on D3football.com this week.
Later today-- new Top 25 poll released
Monday--Around the Nation podcast featuring Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan. Also, Play of the Week. Submit nominations today if you haven't already.
Tuesday/Wednesday--Around the Region columns
Thursday--Around the Nation column.
Friday--Quick Hits (the new, improved version of Triple Take featuring our panel's predictions and insight into the weekend's games).
Saturday--Game day. You know what Saturdays are for.
We've got great content coming at you all week, every week. Follow along and get to know D-III football beyond just your favorite team.
If you have ideas for an upcoming column or just want to talk some D-III football, get at me at @adamturer on Twitter or firstname.lastname@example.org.