November 10, 2012

Presidents play their way in

Washington and Jefferson rolled past Waynesburg to clinch the PAC automatic bid. 
W&J athletics photo 

Washington and Jefferson played its way into the NCAA playoffs, while Kenyon played itself out as the final weekend of the 2012 Division III football season had a few surprises.

Alex Baroffio caught 11 passes for 139 yards and three touchdowns for the Presidents, who defeated Waynesburg 31-14 and put the Yellow Jackets deep onto the bubble. The Presidents, playing this season in memory of Tim McNerney, who was killed in October, will have an 11th game next week.

Waynesburg has just one loss, but has just a .441 strength of schedule. That's the worst among teams with legitimate at-large hopes and stands 216th among the 229 teams measured.

Who's in?

Here's the list of conferences and automatic bids:

ASC: Mary Hardin-Baylor
CCIW: North Central
Centennial: Johns Hopkins
ECFC: Mount Ida
E8: Salisbury
HCAC: Franklin
IIAC: Coe
LL: Hobart
MAC: Widener
MIAA: Adrian
MIAC: St. Thomas
MWC: St. Norbert
NATHC: Concordia-Chicago
NCAC: Wittenberg
NEFC: Framingham State
NJAC: Cortland State
NWC: Linfield
OAC: Mount Union
ODAC: Washington and Lee
PAC: Washington and Jefferson
SCIAC: Cal Lutheran
UMAC: St. Scholastica
USAC: Christopher Newport
WIAC: UW-Oshkosh 

Denison ended Kenyon's unlikely run to an automatic bid, defeating the Lords 22-13. Denison improved to 4-6 by holding Kenyon under 250 yards of total offense. Kenyon would have won the three-way tiebreaker in the North Coast Athletic Conference if it had won, as Ohio Wesleyan and Wittenberg each won. That gives Wittenberg the NCAC's automatic bid. Wittenberg rolled past Oberlin 47-20 while Ohio Wesleyan defeated Wooster 36-12.

Adrian had already clinched the MIAA title, but the Bulldogs went one better in their final game, knocking Huntingdon out of playoff contention. Adrian improved to 9-1 with a 17-16 win. Aaron Tenney came in in relief at quarterback for the Bulldogs and completed just seven of 18 passes, but one of them was an 8-yard toss to Antoine Mason for a touchdown with 6:38 left for the game-winner. Huntingdon had three possessions after that but never got beyond its own 35-yard line.

Widener did not put itself onto the bubble, defeating Delaware Valley 42-23 and wrapping up the MAC automatic bid. If a second team from the MAC goes, it would have to be Lycoming, which shut out Misericordia 38-0. Delaware Valley scored first and converted three Chris Haupt interceptions into 10 points but could not keep up with the Widener offense. Delaware Valley needed to win by 16 to get the tiebreaker for the MAC automatic bid.

All three tied CCIW teams won, with Elmhurst surviving Illinois Wesleyan 35-31. Wheaton and North Central had no trouble with North Park and Augustana, respectively. That gives North Central the conference's automatic bid and leaves Elmhurst in very good position for an at-large bid. Also in good shape is Heidelberg, which blocked a Baldwin Wallace field goal as time expired to beat the Yellow Jackets 35-34. The game gives Heidelberg a strength of schedule boost to .471, which, while low, should be enough to get the Student Princes into the postseason.

St. Norbert defeated Lake Forest and Illinois College was crushed by Carroll, giving St. Norbert the automatic bid out of the Midwest Conference. Lake Forest was already behind all of the two-loss teams in the West and wouldn't move up after a loss. Bethel defeated St. John's 27-22, Concordia-Moorhead topped Gustavus 29-10, UW-Platteville rolled over UW-Stevens Point 57-7 and Pacific Lutheran was leading at Menlo in the fourth quarter.

Bethel's win left St. John's season over at 5-5 and gave the Johnnies their first losing MIAC season since 1973. John Gagliardi, who has won 489 games as a collegiate head coach, said after the game he did not come ready to make a statement as to whether he would return as coach in 2013.

If Illinois College had won, it would have captured the MWC tiebreaker. However, the Blueboys were rolled by Carroll, 49-14. Lamont Williams had six rushing touchdowns for the Pioneers, who took advantage of six Illinois College turnovers.

Chris McNally rushed for 247 yards and two scores to lead a Mount Ida attack that piled up 342 total yards on the ground en route to a 52-28 win over Castleton State. The win gave Mount Ida the automatic bid to the playoffs from the ECFC. Christopher Newport clinched the USA South automatic bid before it even took the field against Methodist, as Ferrum lost at home to Maryville 22-17. Framingham State beat Salve Regina 28-16 to win the NEFC championship game, making Salve's next 24 hours extremely uncomfortable.

Bubble team Franklin and Marshall lost to Gettysburg 38-31, knocking the Diplomats out of contention. With that loss and Huntingdon's loss, Louisiana College will be the top at-large candidate from the South Region, as the Wildcats defeated Hardin-Simmons 45-37.

St. Thomas wrapped up its third consecutive 10-0 regular season, scoring 28 unanswered points to beat St. Olaf 35-21. UW-Oshkosh finished a perfect regular season as well, as the Titans held off UW-Stout 27-18. The game, however, dropped Oshkosh behind St. Thomas in terms of strength of schedule and should affect the teams' relative seeding.

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