November 23, 2010

For winning defenses, challenge looms

By Adam Turer
for D3sports.com

Salisbury, an option team, fumbled seven times, two of them forced by Delaware Valley.
Photo by Jeffrey Levy, d3photography.com

Three of the nation’s top defenses survived round one by shutting down three of the nation’s most powerful offenses. Their reward? Try to do it again this week against an even more prolific offense.

Thomas More, Delaware Valley, and Montclair State won their first-round matchups by holding their respective opponents a collective 72.62 points below their per game scoring average.

The Saints shut down Washington and Lee’s fourth-ranked rushing attack and No. 23 scoring offense, holding the Generals 23 points and 127 yards below their season averages. Despite giving up 323 total yards, the Saints were able to make big plays and get off the field when they needed to most.

“Our defense made key plays when we had to, especially on third downs,” said Thomas More head coach and defensive coordinator Jim Hilvert.

Against a top-25 offense, a bend-not-break philosophy can be an effective defensive strategy. Delaware Valley shut down the nation’s second-ranked rushing team by forcing five Salisbury turnovers.

“We knew they were prone to turning the ball over, so we stressed the importance of gang tackling,” said head coach Jim Clements. “The turnovers were the key to our success.”

Hampden-Sydney entered the postseason averaging 35 points per game. Montclair State traveled to Farmville, Va., and held the Tigers to their lowest output since last season’s first-round playoff loss to Johns Hopkins. The Red Hawks knew they would give up yards, but focused on limiting big plays.

“Our approach was to not give up big chunks of yardage, not let them turn an 8-yard gain into a 40-yard gain,” said Montclair coach Rick Giancola.

While the Generals, Sea Gulls, and Tigers all entered the postseason expecting to put up big numbers, their first round opponents had something else in common. The Saints, Aggies, and Red Hawks each rank in the top 15 in scoring defense, holding opponents to less than 12 points per game. After shutting down high-powered offenses in round one, the winners face similar, but more imposing challenges in round two. Each team will once again need to rely on a huge effort from its defense to slow an opponent capable of lighting up the scoreboard.

“We always preach defense and kicking game,” said Giancola, whose team travels to Wesley on Saturday. “If they can give us a short field, it takes the pressure off of our offense.”

The Wolverines enter with the ninth-ranked offense, averaging 42.89 points per game. If the Red Hawks defense can go on the road for a second straight week and hold their host well below their scoring average, Montclair State will be in position to pull off a second straight upset.

“It usually comes down to who can put their will on the other side,” said Giancola. “You want to give yourself a chance to win late.”

John French
Defensive lineman John French and Thomas More kept the Washington and Lee offense in check.
Thomas More athletics photo

Thomas More faces another top-ten ground attack at Mary Hardin-Baylor. The Crusaders boast the third-ranked scoring offense in the country. The Saints hope to slow the Crusaders the way they were able to stifle the Generals. After defending their home field, the Saints now get to play the role of road underdog.

“We’re very excited to play a top-five team. We have nothing to lose,” said Hilvert. “We face another high-powered offense and we have to be able to stop the run.”

Playing keep-away proved an effective strategy in round one. A fresh and rested defense usually has the advantage over a frustrated offense. The Saints’ defense helped its offense to its best performance of the year. Thomas More rushed for more than 400 yards against the Generals, the first time they had done so in Hilvert’s tenure. The Saints ground game also kept the Generals offense on the sideline for long stretches. For the Aggies, it was their offense that helped their defense make quick work of Salisbury. Delaware Valley’s offense possessed the ball for 31 minutes, keeping the defense fresh and keeping Salisbury’s potent offense stewing on the sideline.

“You need offense, defense, and special teams working hand in hand to succeed in the postseason,” said Clements. “Sometimes your defense’s best friend is your offense.”

The Aggies hope that their offense wins the time of possession battle again this weekend and limits the opposing offense’s possessions. Delaware Valley travels to Alliance to take on a Mount Union team averaging over 40 points per game.

If Delaware Valley, Thomas More, or Montclair State wins on Saturday, it will be an upset. It will also most likely be the result of another tremendous defensive effort put forth against an offensive juggernaut. In the postseason, every possession, down, yard, and point become even more crucial.

“If you have a really good defense, it keeps you in the game,” said Hilvert. “Even if you fall behind, it’s usually not by much.”

comments powered by Disqus
Sep. 19: All times Eastern
Final
Framingham State 29, at Fitchburg State 26
Box Score Recap
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
Final
RPI 41, at Castleton State 13
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
at Massachusetts Maritime 26, Maine Maritime 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Rochester 30, Gallaudet 2
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Husson 34, Alfred State 28
Box Score Photos
Final
at Randolph-Macon 34, Sewanee 20
Box Score
Final
at Johns Hopkins 33, Moravian 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Utica 20, Frostburg State 12
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Alfred 29, at Buffalo State 21
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Catholic 31, Newport News Apprentice 24
Box Score
Final
at Nichols 10, Becker 3
Box Score
Final
Wesleyan 22, at Middlebury 14
Box Score
Final
Bridgewater State 51, at Worcester State 27
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Tufts 24, Hamilton 17
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Amherst 14, Bates 6
Box Score Photos
Final
at Trinity (Conn.) 32, Colby 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at William Paterson 36, Salve Regina 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Stevenson 20, Lebanon Valley 14
Box Score
Final
Allegheny 24, at Hiram 21
Box Score Recap
Final
at Merchant Marine 34, SUNY-Maritime 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Vincent 23, Case Western Reserve 20
Box Score
Final
Thomas More 66, at Thiel 27
Box Score Recap
Final
Ursinus 31, at Franklin and Marshall 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Endicott 41, at Kean 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 56, Coast Guard 0
Box Score
Final
Maryville (Tenn.) 40, at Averett 17
Box Score
Final
at Widener 41, Albright 23
Final
Hobart 43, at Curry 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Greensboro 37, LaGrange 35
Box Score
Final
at Dickinson 29, Susquehanna 28
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wesley 37, Rowan 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Lawrence 31, Morrisville State 14
Box Score
Final
at Misericordia 35, FDU-Florham 0
Final
at Gettysburg 31, Juniata 17
Box Score Recap
Final
at Montclair State 27, Lincoln (Pa.) 14
Box Score Recap
Final
Wabash 31, at Denison 12
Box Score Photos
Final - OT
Bethany 21, at Westminster (Pa.) 14
Final
at Springfield 47, Mount Ida 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 42, Hartwick 7
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Norwich 10, WPI 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Iowa Wesleyan 13, at Minnesota-Morris 7
Box Score
Final - OT
at Methodist 41, Huntingdon 34
Box Score
Final
Ohio Northern 37, at Baldwin Wallace 35
Box Score
Final
at Capital 34, Wilmington 21
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Franklin 62, at Anderson 14
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Jefferson 48, Carnegie Mellon 30
Box Score Recap
Final
at John Carroll 43, Heidelberg 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Lycoming 28, King's 13
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
at Waynesburg 44, Geneva 38
Final
Mount Union 62, at Muskingum 6
Box Score
Final
Mount St. Joseph 24, at Defiance 21
Box Score
Final
at Manchester 55, Earlham 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Williams 36, Bowdoin 0
Box Score Photos Photos
Final
Muhlenberg 59, at McDaniel 10
Box Score
Final
UW-Whitewater 48, at TCNJ 0
Box Score
Final
at Otterbein 20, Marietta 0
Box Score
Final
Hope 25, at Lakeland 22
Box Score Recap
Final
Olivet 49, at Aurora 20
Box Score Recap
Final
Albion 57, at Concordia (Wis.) 20
Box Score
Final
at Washington U. 24, North Park 19
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wisconsin Lutheran 32, Kalamazoo 20
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 17, UW-Eau Claire 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 23, at St. John's 14
Box Score Photos
Final
at Bethel 40, St. Olaf 0
Box Score
Final
Augsburg 42, at Carleton 14
Box Score
Final
at Gustavus Adolphus 48, Hamline 19
Box Score Photos
Final
Stetson 37, at Birmingham-Southern 19
Box Score
Final
Trinity (Texas) 14, at Sul Ross State 6
Box Score
Final
at Austin 21, Occidental 12
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Howard Payne 38, Southwestern Assemblies 25
Final
at Central 65, Maranatha Baptist 12
Box Score Recap
Final
at Luther 49, Grinnell 21
Box Score
Final
UW-Stevens Point 37, at Coe 21
Box Score
Final
at Greenville 30, Eureka 27
Box Score
Final
Westminster (Mo.) 27, at MacMurray 21
Box Score
Final
Texas Lutheran 38, at Louisiana College 32
Box Score Recap
Final
at Simpson 13, Illinois Wesleyan 3
Box Score
Final
Trine 27, at Rockford 7
Box Score Recap
Final - 2OT
Rose-Hulman 48, at Hanover 42
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Western Connecticut 45, Plymouth State 7
Box Score
Final
Hardin-Simmons 37, at Wayland Baptist 23
Box Score
Final
at Whittier 23, Lewis and Clark 10
Box Score
Final
Willamette 42, at Cal Lutheran 24
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Alma 24, at Concordia-Chicago 21
Box Score
Final
Carroll 28, at Lake Forest 7
Box Score
Final
Whitworth 50, at La Verne 48
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Westfield State 14, at Mass-Dartmouth 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at St. Scholastica 48, Crown 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 34, DePauw 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
St. John Fisher 36, at Brockport State 20
Box Score Recap
Final
Guilford 35, at Southern Virginia 27
@ Salem Stadium
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Wooster 63, at Oberlin 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at Shenandoah 45, Ferrum 20
Box Score Photos
Final
Centre 28, at Washington and Lee 23
Box Score
Final
at Ohio Wesleyan 35, Kenyon 25
Box Score
Final
at Delaware Valley 54, Wilkes 35
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-River Falls 43, at South Dakota Mines 28
Box Score
Final
at Augustana 34, Loras 17
Final
at Dubuque 16, Pacific 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 28, UW-Platteville 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Chicago 29, at Elmhurst 17
Box Score Recap
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 41, at UW-La Crosse 22
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at South Dakota State 41, UW-Oshkosh 3
Box Score
Final
Adrian 23, at Benedictine 6
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Wartburg 45, UW-Stout 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 34, Martin Luther 27
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at East Texas Baptist 58, Southwestern 34
Box Score Recap
Final
Rhodes 42, at Pomona-Pitzer 21
Box Score Recap
Final
Linfield 36, at Redlands 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Sep. 20: All times Eastern
Final
St. John Fisher 36, at Brockport State 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wittenberg 34, DePauw 17
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Wartburg 45, UW-Stout 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at South Dakota State 41, UW-Oshkosh 3
Box Score
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 28, UW-Platteville 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Mary Hardin-Baylor 41, at UW-La Crosse 22
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Linfield 36, at Redlands 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
UW-Whitewater 48, at TCNJ 0
Box Score
Final
Mount Union 62, at Muskingum 6
Box Score
Final
at John Carroll 43, Heidelberg 16
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Lycoming 28, King's 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Wesley 37, Rowan 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 56, Coast Guard 0
Box Score
Final
Wabash 31, at Denison 12
Box Score Photos
Final
Thomas More 66, at Thiel 27
Box Score Recap
Final
at Ithaca 42, Hartwick 7
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Hobart 43, at Curry 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Johns Hopkins 33, Moravian 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bethel 40, St. Olaf 0
Box Score
Final
at Wheaton (Ill.) 17, UW-Eau Claire 0
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Simpson 13, Illinois Wesleyan 3
Box Score

What We're Reading