November 20, 2012

Doing the little things right

More news about: Franklin
Zack Corpe knows first-hand what a special teams breakdown looks like, on both sides of the ball.
Sabbyshots.com for d3photography.com

By Clyde Hughes
D3sports.com

In a big game against a talented football team, it’s the small things that matter. That’s been No. 16 Franklin’s takeaway while playing the best Division III teams in the nation the past two years.

One missed tackle can turn a 5-yard gain into a 45-yard touchdown romp. Failing to grab an interception can keep a scoring drive alive for your opponents. Simply stepping a yard or two outside of your lane assignment can turn a short punt return into a game-changing 60-yard special team score.

Add that handful of miscues together, and a close game can turn into a blowout quickly. When Franklin travels down to Belton, Tex. to battle No. 2-ranked Mary Hardin Baylor on Saturday, the Grizzlies want to keep the little things from turning against them.

“There are definite points and times in the game where we can definitely play with these teams,” Franklin coach Mike Leonard said. Leonard has coached Franklin since 2003, transforming the Grizzlies from an also-ran program in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference into a consistent champion, winning the HCAC title five of the past six seasons.

In 2008, Franklin advanced to the national quarterfinals. “We’ve come a long way in 10 years. Our confidence level is so much better now,” he said.

To its credit, Franklin has been preparing for a game like this. The Grizzlies scheduled No. 1-ranked defending champion UW-Whitewater to start last year's regular season, losing 45-0. Franklin, though, got a second crack at the Warhawks in the second round of the playoffs, trailing 28-14 at halftime before falling, 41-14.

Franklin opened this season at home against No. 1 Mount Union this season, losing 45-7. The Grizzlies then fell to Butler, 42-13. Butler, a non-scholarship Division I school, went 8-3 and captured a share of the Pioneer Football Conference title this season.

“Against Mount Union, there were about 15 plays out of 120 that if we could have back might have changed the result,” Leonard said. “I know you can’t think of it that simply because Mount Union had a big hand in making those 15 plays. What we’ve been trying to do is to chip away at those 15 plays. It’s a long process of learning how to tackle better, learning how to execute better and improving all the small things. It feels like we’re so close, yet so far away.”

Zack Corpe, Franklin’s junior cornerback and the HCAC’s defensive player of the year, said Mount Union’s two punt returns for touchdowns sticks in his craw the most.

“We just didn’t tackle him and it happened two times,” said Corpe, who had seven interceptions this season. “Mary Hardin Baylor has a quarterback and running back that are studs and are hard to bring down. But if we do make those tackles this time, it’s going to be a close ballgame.”

Since the losses to Mount Union and Butler, Franklin averaged 49.6 points per contest in HCAC games. The Grizzlies defense recorded three shutouts while limiting opponents to 17.8 points per game. Franklin continued its scoring binge with a 42-10 road victory over Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association champion Adrian in the first round of the playoffs last Saturday.

Quarterback Jonny West is completing 66.7 percent of his passes (230 of 346), averaging 262.9 yards per game while throwing 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Franklin is averaging 463.1 yards of total offense.

Kyle Linville caught three touchdown passes from Jonny West on Saturday.
Sabbyshots.com for d3photography.com

“Our passing game was clicking pretty darn good on Saturday,” Leonard said. “We didn’t become one-dimensional. Our defense was stopping a pretty good running team. That was the key to the game. When Adrian went back to pass, we had enough pressure even with a four-man rush. Maybe we are better than people think. Maybe we are better than we think.”

Leonard conceded, though, that Mary Hardin-Baylor will give Franklin a whole new level to aspire to. The Crusaders are one of Division III’s standard bearers of excellence. Mary Hardin Baylor has averaged 11 victories a season over the past nine years. It advanced to the Stagg Bowl in 2004, beating Mount Union in the semifinals before losing to Linfield, 28-21.

Crusader quarterback LiDarral Bailey is completing 71.2 percent of his passes (158 of 222) for an average of 199 yards per game and has thrown 23 touchdowns and three interceptions this season. He is also one of the team’s leading rushers, averaging 73.5 yards per game. Running back Darius Wilson is averaging 91.4 yards per contest.

Mary Hardin Baylor, like Franklin in the HCAC, administered regular beatdowns to American Southwest Conference opponents this season, averaging a whopping 57 points per contest in its final five games. That includes a 59-20 win over No. 23 Louisiana College in the first round of the playoffs on Saturday.

“This is a great team we’re playing on Saturday,” Leonard said. “Watching them on film, they are spectacular. For us, it’s going to take an all-out effort from the players. A lot of things have to go well for any underdog to win against a team like this, but it all starts with attitude. We need to have a high confidence level, our schemes have to be very sound and solid and we’ve got to finish plays. We’re going to be pursuing a lot because they have great speed. They spread the field horizontally and vertically, so we have to chase all over the field. It’s a simple deal that’s very hard to accomplish.”

Corpe echoed Leonard’s sentiment about confidence. He said they have seen great teams before so Mary Hardin-Baylor’s level of play shouldn’t be a shock to them, but they have to believe they can win the game, first and foremost.

“Our coaches scheduled teams like Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater to make us better and to see how national powers like Mary Hardin-Baylor really play,” Corpe said. “We hadn’t seen Mary Hardin-Baylor play at all, but we have seen Mount Union. We know we’ll have to play tough and never quit against a great team like them.”

As one of 16 D-III teams still playing football, Leonard said his team has a lot to be pleased about this season. He said, though, putting a Mount Union and a UW-Whitewater on the schedule was meant to do something more than give the Grizzlies a warm fuzzy feeling about their season.

“I don’t know how many teams at any level can say that in one season they played the No. 1 team in the nation, No. 2 team nation and a Division I Pioneer League conference champion and another conference champion in Adrian,” Leonard said. “This has been a heck of a season for us. We hope all of that background and training against these tough teams will help us this Saturday.”

comments powered by Disqus
Oct. 17: All times Eastern
Final
Johns Hopkins 42, at Dickinson 7
Box Score Recap
Oct. 18: All times Eastern
Final
MIT 52, at Nichols 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Colby 47, Hamilton 14
Box Score Recap Recap
Final - OT
Western Connecticut 20, at Fitchburg State 14
Box Score
Final
at Maine Maritime 13, Coast Guard 7
Box Score
Final
at Salve Regina 49, Curry 6
Box Score Photos
Final
Westfield State 32, at Massachusetts Maritime 16
Box Score Recap
Final
at Juniata 38, Ursinus 10
Box Score
Final
Trinity (Conn.) 17, at Bowdoin 10
Box Score
Final
at Husson 12, Gallaudet 6
Box Score Recap
Final
at Middlebury 35, Bates 6
Box Score
Final
at Mount Ida 26, Castleton State 21
Box Score Recap
Final
Kean 30, at William Paterson 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Cortland State 35, Southern Virginia 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Franklin and Marshall 31, McDaniel 7
Box Score
Final
Ohio Wesleyan 23, at DePauw 16
Box Score
Final
Susquehanna 24, at Moravian 21
Box Score Photos
Final
Washington and Jefferson 34, at Bethany 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Shenandoah 24, at Catholic 14
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Concordia (Wis.) 49, at Trine 46
Box Score
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 49, Emory and Henry 27
Box Score
Final
at Washington and Lee 28, Randolph-Macon 25
Box Score
Final
at Carnegie Mellon 21, Grove City 10
Box Score Photos
Final
at Guilford 35, Bridgewater (Va.) 28
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at Widener 59, Wilkes 12
Box Score
Final
Methodist 73, at LaGrange 28
Box Score
Final
Maryville (Tenn.) 39, at Greensboro 14
Box Score Photos
Final
Brockport State 45, at Alfred 42
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
Huntingdon 35, at Ferrum 16
Box Score
Final - 2OT
at Frostburg State 38, Ithaca 37
Box Score Recap
Final
Waynesburg 26, at Westminster (Pa.) 21
Final
at Muhlenberg 47, Gettysburg 6
Box Score Recap
Final
Wabash 52, at Kenyon 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at Salisbury 59, Hartwick 49
Box Score Photos
Final
at Bridgewater State 24, Plymouth State 0
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Utica 7
Box Score Recap
Final
King's 45, at FDU-Florham 17
Final
at Rochester 34, RPI 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Berry 46, Hendrix 24
Box Score Recap
Cancelled
Maranatha Baptist at Washington U.
Final
at Northwestern (Minn.) 35, Greenville 28
Box Score Recap
Final - OT
Amherst 33, at Wesleyan 30
Box Score
Final
at Tufts 27, Williams 20
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at Case Western Reserve 33, Geneva 19
Box Score Photos
Final
Franklin 38, at Mount St. Joseph 28
Box Score
Final
at Thomas More 49, St. Vincent 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Baldwin Wallace 56, at Wilmington 17
Box Score Photos
Final
at Mount Union 58, Heidelberg 17
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
Rose-Hulman 28, at Defiance 12
Box Score
Final
at John Carroll 80, Marietta 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Anderson 37, Hanover 35
Box Score
Final
Bluffton 24, at Earlham 22
Box Score Recap
Final
Otterbein 32, at Muskingum 20
Box Score
Final
at Springfield 48, Merchant Marine 21
Box Score
Final
Ohio Northern 38, at Capital 31
Box Score
Final - OT
at Hope 42, Olivet 35
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
at Kalamazoo 45, Alma 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Rowan 31, Morrisville State 0
Box Score Recap
Final
Oberlin 37, at Allegheny 9
Box Score Recap
Final
Lakeland 34, at Rockford 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bethel 52, Chicago 21
Box Score Photos
Final
Wisconsin Lutheran 59, at Concordia-Chicago 15
Box Score
Final
Centre 31, at Sewanee 3
Box Score
Final
St. John's 29, at Gustavus Adolphus 19
Box Score Photos
Final
St. Olaf 17, at Carleton 13
Box Score
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 41, at Augsburg 21
Box Score
Final
Monmouth 31, at Lake Forest 7
Box Score
Final
Birmingham-Southern 16, at Millsaps 14
Box Score
Final
Coe 35, at Simpson 21
Box Score
Final
at Buena Vista 48, Luther 41
Box Score
Final
Macalester 28, at Beloit 21
Box Score
Final
at St. Norbert 13, Ripon 10
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Louisiana College 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Augustana 7, at Illinois Wesleyan 2
Box Score Recap
Final
at Central 41, Loras 14
Box Score Recap
Final
MacMurray 58, at Eureka 27
Box Score
Final
at UW-La Crosse 21, UW-Stout 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Illinois College 35, at Grinnell 10
Box Score
Final
at Iowa Wesleyan 37, Westminster (Mo.) 21
Box Score
Final
Benedictine 26, at Aurora 0
Box Score Recap
Final
St. Thomas 62, at Hamline 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Norwich 37, at Becker 20
Box Score Recap
Final
at Worcester State 50, Mass-Dartmouth 43
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hardin-Simmons 19, Sul Ross State 12
Box Score Photos
Final
at Wartburg 42, Dubuque 9
Box Score
Final
at UW-Oshkosh 37, UW-River Falls 7
Box Score
Final
Delaware Valley 35, at Stevenson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
SUNY-Maritime 40, at Anna Maria 12
Box Score Recap
Final
Wittenberg 42, at Wooster 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Wesley 70, at Menlo 2
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
St. Scholastica 49, at Martin Luther 14
Box Score
Final
Austin 27, at Southwestern Assemblies 20
Photos
Final
UW-Whitewater 52, at UW-Eau Claire 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 53, Carthage 23
Box Score Recap
Final
at UW-Platteville 31, UW-Stevens Point 13
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Elmhurst 28, North Park 0
Final
at Cornell 49, Knox 29
Box Score
Final
at Montclair State 28, TCNJ 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Western New England 36, at Union 14
Box Score Recap
Final
at Carroll 76, Lawrence 7
Box Score
Final
at Pacific 31, Pacific Lutheran 28
Box Score Recap
Final
at Cal Lutheran 41, Pomona-Pitzer 17
Box Score Photos
Final
at Willamette 45, Lewis and Clark 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Puget Sound 33, at George Fox 14
Box Score
Final
at Linfield 65, Whitworth 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Adrian 47, Albion 26
Box Score Recap Recap Photos
Final
Christopher Newport 38, at Averett 7
Box Score
Final
at Alfred State 10, Erie CC 3
Box Score Photos
Final
at Crown 30, Minnesota-Morris 27
Box Score
Final
at Trinity (Texas) 22, Southwestern 19
Box Score
Final
Howard Payne 54, at East Texas Baptist 53
Box Score
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 28, at Millikin 3
Box Score
Final
at Whittier 36, La Verne 17
Box Score Photos
Final
at Redlands 31, Claremont-Mudd-Scripps 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at Chapman 59, Occidental 21
Box Score
Oct. 18: All times Eastern
Final
Wheaton (Ill.) 28, at Millikin 3
Box Score
Final
Wesley 70, at Menlo 2
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
Wittenberg 42, at Wooster 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Delaware Valley 35, at Stevenson 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Mount Union 58, Heidelberg 17
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Thomas More 49, St. Vincent 7
Box Score Recap
Final
at John Carroll 80, Marietta 0
Box Score Recap
Final
at Hampden-Sydney 49, Emory and Henry 27
Box Score
Final
Wabash 52, at Kenyon 10
Box Score Recap
Final
St. John Fisher 42, at Utica 7
Box Score Recap
Final
Washington and Jefferson 34, at Bethany 3
Box Score Recap Recap
Final
at North Central (Ill.) 53, Carthage 23
Box Score Recap
Final
UW-Whitewater 52, at UW-Eau Claire 3
Box Score Recap Photos
Final
at UW-Platteville 31, UW-Stevens Point 13
Box Score Recap Photos Photos
Final
at Wartburg 42, Dubuque 9
Box Score
Final
St. Thomas 62, at Hamline 24
Box Score Recap
Final
at Bethel 52, Chicago 21
Box Score Photos
Final
at Mary Hardin-Baylor 45, Louisiana College 24
Box Score Recap
Final
Concordia-Moorhead 41, at Augsburg 21
Box Score
Final
St. John's 29, at Gustavus Adolphus 19
Box Score Photos
Final
at Linfield 65, Whitworth 13
Box Score Recap
Final
at Pacific 31, Pacific Lutheran 28
Box Score Recap
Oct. 17: All times Eastern
Final
Johns Hopkins 42, at Dickinson 7
Box Score Recap

What We're Reading