/notables/2013/04/mount-union-collins-and-the-2013-pro-hopefuls

Collins leads class of D-III pro hopefuls

Jasper Collins hopes to follow in the Mount Union-to-NFL footsteps of wide receivers Pierre Garcon and Cecil Shorts III, who is working out alongside Collins to help him prepare.
Photo by Dan Poel, d3photography.com

By Adam Turer
D3sports.com

 Since 1991, sixteen players have been drafted from Division III into the NFL. During this time, there has not been a stretch of three straight years with a Division III draftee. A host of talented players, led by Mount Union wide receiver Jasper Collins, hope to change that this year.

Albion cornerback Chris Greenwood was selected in the fifth round of the 2012 draft by the Detroit Lions. Mount Union wideout Cecil Shorts was picked in the fourth round by the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2011. Shorts's selection ended a two-year draft drought for D-III players. Collins is projected as a sixth- or seventh-round pick this year and is consistently rated the highest draft prospect among his Division III peers.

"The entire process has been very humbling," said Collins. "It is a blessing to be able to represent Division III and a tremendous program like Mount Union."

As more draft "gurus" populate the internet and more postseason all-star games sprout each year, the number of opportunities for exposure has increased for small-school prospects. Collins benefited from playing in the East-West Shrine Game, where he was the only D-III player on the roster. The success of recent D-III alums like Shorts, Pierre Garcon, Fred Jackson and Jerrell Freeman has also helped draw scouts' attention.

"I think [their success] has shown that the talent level has improved a little bit in D-III," said Josh Buchanan, who has covered the draft for the past ten years. "There are players who instead of going to a lower-level D-II or FCS, they go play for a winner like Mount Union or Mary-Hardin Baylor knowing they will get a shot, if they want it."

Those who have made it have done their part to continue the trickling pipeline from Division III to the NFL. Collins has been working out with Shorts in preparation for the draft.

"He's been with me every step of the way," said Collins. "He's like a big brother."

Mary Hardin-Baylor linebacker Javicz Jones has received inspiration and motivation from Cru alum Freeman, who had a breakout season for the Indianapolis Colts after years of NFL tryouts and a stint in the CFL. Jones is projected by many to follow a similar path. He worked out for the Houston Texans and will likely receive some NFL tryouts, but most see him as a CFL starter.

"Jerrell gave me some insight and tips into what he went through," said Jones. "He seized an opportunity, but it took some time. For a lot of us, it's a matter of timing."

Buchanan, who ranks small school prospects at www.buyscouting.com, has Collins, Cal Lutheran wide receiver Eric Rogers and UW-Platteville safety Ryan McWethy rated as his top three players from Division III.

Javicz Jones hopes to follow in the footsteps of Jerrell Freeman, but even then, it took Freeman years to make it to the NFL.
UMHB athletics file photo

"All three of them possess something that I could see a team taking a shot on in the seventh round," said Buchanan.

The draft preparation process is different for a small-school athlete. While some players draw NFL interest earlier in their college careers, most have surfaced on scouts' radars within the past year. They are eager to jump at any opportunity to show off their skills, whether it's by playing in a postseason all-star game or working out at a larger school's pro day.

"It's harder to get a chance if you don't have NFL measurables," said Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers coach James Urban. "It helps a small-school player anytime they get an opportunity to show what they can do, especially against different levels of competition."

Rogers has the measurables that NFL scouts look for in a wide receiver. He moved from defensive back to wide receiver prior to his senior year of high school and was not recruited by many programs. Scouts first noticed him after his junior season at Cal Lu and head coach Ben McEnroe started challenging Rogers to work hard enough to get to the next level.

"I didn't really plan on giving this a shot until last year," said Rogers. "Coach Mac kept motivating me to put in the work."

Urban knows where these players are coming from. Before he embarked on a coaching career, Urban was a captain and wide receiver for Washington and Lee. He is one of many NFL coaches with D-III playing experience. In addition to Urban, the Bengals staff boasts coaches who played for Cortland State, Trinity (Texas), and Ursinus. They know that football instincts translate across levels of competition.

"We take pride in our schools," said Urban. "It's all football to me."

The players vying for a spot on an NFL roster feel the same way.

"Football is football," said Collins. "At the wide receiver position, no matter your size you can still run and catch and make plays."

Other notable D-III players who have worked out for NFL teams include Coe defensive lineman Frank Weymiller, UW-Oshkosh quarterback Nate Wara, Albion running back Clinton Orr and RPI quarterback Mike Hermann. Most of these players know they will not hear their name called from a podium in New York City, but hope that they are given an opportunity to earn a roster spot, either as a college free agent signee or training camp invitee. Some use their small school beginnings as a chip on their shoulder.

"I want to prove that it doesn't matter what division you're in," said Jones. "If you can play football and work hard, you can make something happen."

The players have also stayed true to their Division III roots. Jones continues to take classes and will graduate in May. Collins is one semester away from graduation and will finish next Spring, following in the footsteps of Shorts, who went back to Mount Union for classes after his rookie NFL season. Rogers is currently taking 18 units while working out for NFL teams and will graduate with his class.

Eric Rogers is maintaining his full course load while getting ready for his shot in the NFL.
Photo by Joe Bergman, d3photography.com

"I wouldn't have it any other way," said Rogers of his heavy workload. "I feel like I'll be able to represent the D-III level and show people that you can go to a small school and still excel and ultimately get the chance."

One, maybe two, will be drafted; a few more will sign as free agents; a few more will get invited to tryouts. Saturday will be a long day and night with players and their agents waiting for just one phone call. That call means an opportunity. Sometimes it takes a few opportunities to secure a roster spot, but players like Freeman have shown that it can be done. It all starts with that first phone call, then hard work and perseverance take over.

"I knew it wasn't going to be easy, but there are guys who keep coming back year after year, knocking on the door," said Jones. "Now it's just a waiting game to see which team takes a chance on you."

The prospects each plan on spending Saturday with family. Hopefully, they will have a plane to catch on Sunday.

"I continue to work hard and pray every day," said Collins. "What's meant to be, will be."

Rank Pos First Name Last Name School Rd. Proj.
1 WR Jasper Collins Mount Union 7th
2 WR Eric Rogers Cal Lutheran PFA
3 S/LB Ryan McWethy UW-Platteville PFA
4 G Ryan Moores Middlebury PFA/FA
5 QB Mike Hermann RPI FA
6 WR Scott Pillar Albright FA
7 WR Dameron Fooks Whittier FA
8 LB Charles Dieuseul Mount Union Tryout
9 RS Chris Denton Mount Union Tryout
10 RB Clinton Orr Albion
Tryout
11 K Allen Cain Texas Lutheran
Tryout
12 WR Julius Moore Mount Union Tryout
13 T Jeremy Vujnovich Louisiana College Tryout
14 SS Nick Driskill Mount Union Tryout
15 RS John Borsellino Benedictine
Tryout
16 C Curtis James St. Thomas Tryout
17 RB Shawn Morris Birmingham-Southern
Tryout
18 P Jordan Gay Centre
Tryout
19 WR Dee Brizzolara Chicago Tryout
20 WR D'Mario Parker Louisiana College Tryout
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Framingham State 29, Westfield State 14
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Final
Moravian 20, at Juniata 17
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Final
at Salve Regina 41, Endicott 14
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Final
at Thomas More 63, St. Vincent 13
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Final
at Union 28, Hobart 23
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Final
at Hamilton 27, Colby 24
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Final
at Christopher Newport 27, William Paterson 19
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Final
at Ithaca 35, St. John Fisher 10
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Final
at Allegheny 44, Kenyon 35
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Final
SUNY-Maritime 21, at Mount Ida 13
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Middlebury 43, at Bates 14
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Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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Final
at Amherst 21, Wesleyan 17
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Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 63, Bowdoin 14
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Final
Husson 48, at Gallaudet 21
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Final
Wabash 35, at Oberlin 21
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Final
at Utica 34, Buffalo State 12
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Final
Ohio Northern 7, at Muskingum 6
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Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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Final
at Stevenson 26, Albright 23
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Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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at Albion 31, Alma 28
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Final
at Guilford 45, Shenandoah 20
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Final
Plymouth State 40, at Massachusetts Maritime 14
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Final
Wooster 58, at Hiram 25
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Final
Washington and Lee 36, at Hampden-Sydney 6
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at Anna Maria 36, Alfred State 34
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Final
Bridgewater 31, at Emory and Henry 23
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at FDU-Florham 49, Wilkes 31
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Final
Lebanon Valley 17, at Misericordia 0
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Final
at St. Lawrence 36, Rochester 14
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Final
RPI 30, at Alfred 15
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Final
at Curry 46, Nichols 16
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Final
at Salisbury 42, Southern Virginia 0
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Final
Ferrum 27, at Brevard 24
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Final
Randolph-Macon 63, at Apprentice 14
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Final
at Susquehanna 21, Ursinus 14
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Final
Cortland 34, at Morrisville State 20
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Final
at Trine 50, Hope 14
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Final
Trinity (Texas) 27, at Sewanee 21
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Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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Final
at Franklin and Marshall 56, Dickinson 0
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Tufts 21, at Williams 13
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Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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Final
MIT 30, at Coast Guard 21
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Final
at Norwich 24, Maine Maritime 22
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Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Final
Franklin 29, at Rose-Hulman 22
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Final
John Carroll 48, at Capital 21
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at Manchester 28, Bluffton 21
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Final
Mount St. Joseph 71, at Anderson 27
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Final
UW-Whitewater 20, at UW-River Falls 7
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Final
Kean 26, at TCNJ 3
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at LaGrange 59, Greensboro 10
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Final
at Worcester State 45, Mass-Dartmouth 40
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Final
Muhlenberg 40, at McDaniel 13
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Final
Western New England 45, at Becker 0
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Final
at Maryville (Tenn.) 35, Methodist 14
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Final
Adrian 36, at Kalamazoo 22
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Final
Denison 31, at Ohio Wesleyan 20
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
at Benedictine 43, Olivet 37
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Final
Birmingham-Southern 31, at Austin 24
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at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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Final
at UW-Stout 23, UW-Stevens Point 17
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Final
Eureka 37, at MacMurray 20
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Final
Nebraska Wesleyan 14, at Buena Vista 13
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Final
Lakeland 48, at Wisconsin Lutheran 0
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Final
at Aurora 28, Rockford 21
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Final
at Concordia-Chicago 37, Concordia (Wis.) 17
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Final
at St. Olaf 29, Carleton 26
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Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
Westminster (Mo.) 24, at Greenville 14
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Final
at Loras 44, Coe 38
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Final
Monmouth 61, at Cornell 10
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Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 56, at North Park 0
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Final
Northwestern (Minn.) 30, at Martin Luther 14
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Lake Forest 70, Grinnell 6
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Final
at Millikin 56, Carroll 35
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Final
at Macalester 47, Ripon 31
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Final
at St. Norbert 38, Lawrence 6
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Final
St. Scholastica 49, at Crown 21
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Final
at Iowa Wesleyan 24, Minnesota-Morris 17
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Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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Final
at WPI 41, Merchant Marine 7
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Final
at Centre 42, Rhodes 35
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Final
Hanover 49, at Earlham 14
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Final
at Chicago 55, Beloit 12
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final - OT
at Dubuque 28, Simpson 27
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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Final
at East Texas Baptist 68, Louisiana College 35
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Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
Western Connecticut 27, at Bridgewater State 20
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Final
Chapman 38, at La Verne 21
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Final
Pacific 17, at Lewis and Clark 7
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Final
Pacific Lutheran 27, at Willamette 14
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Final
at Whitworth 38, Puget Sound 23
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Final
Redlands 42, at Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 25
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Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Final
Sul Ross State 52, at Howard Payne 15
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at Castleton 17, Dean 14
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N.C. Wesleyan 21, at Averett 15
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at Otterbein 37, Baldwin Wallace 29
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Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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Carnegie Mellon 42, at Thiel 10
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at Illinois College 23, Knox 13
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at Cal Lutheran 60, Whittier 34
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Cancelled
Occidental at Pomona-Pitzer
Oct. 20: All times Eastern
Final
at Johns Hopkins 52, Gettysburg 0
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Oct. 21: All times Eastern
Final
at Wesley 34, Rowan 3
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Final
at Frostburg State 62, Montclair State 3
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Final
Wittenberg 52, at DePauw 6
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Final
at Springfield 68, Catholic 20
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Final
Wartburg 41, at Luther 16
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Final
Mount Union 66, at Wilmington 7
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Final
at Marietta 44, Heidelberg 21
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Final - OT
at Washington and Jefferson 34, Westminster (Pa.) 33
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Final
Hardin-Simmons 33, at Texas Lutheran 30
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Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Belhaven 7
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Final
St. Thomas 84, at Hamline 0
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Final
at St. John's 41, Gustavus Adolphus 17
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Final
at Illinois Wesleyan 13, Carthage 10
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Final
at Concordia-Moorhead 42, Augsburg 20
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Final
Berry 37, at Millsaps 22
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Final
UW-Platteville 34, at UW-Eau Claire 14
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Final
UW-Oshkosh 42, at UW-La Crosse 28
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Final
at North Central (Ill.) 54, Augustana 2
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Final
at Brockport 45, Hartwick 0
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Final
at Linfield 12, George Fox 6
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Final
Case Western Reserve 45, at Geneva 7
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