ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In each of the past two weeks, No. 5-ranked Bethel has faced another undefeated team and emerged unscathed each time. It's reward this week? Perhaps its toughest test to date, as the Royals host three-time defending MIAC champion and No. 9-ranked St. Thomas. The top-10 showdown headlines an exciting slate of Week 7 games in the conference.
The heavyweight matchup between Bethel and the Tommies was circled on the calendar from the start of the season, when UST was ranked No. 2 after a trip to the national title game a year ago, and Bethel also started in the top 10. However, the MIAC and Division III received a serious shake-up when St. Thomas suffered its first conference loss in three-plus seasons in the first week of MIAC play to rival Saint John's.
Bethel faced a similarly tough slate over the past two weeks, taking down then-undefeated Augsburg 31-28 at home on Oct. 5, and beating then-No. 18-ranked and undefeated Concordia 45-22 a week ago in Moorhead. The battle-tested Royals remain the only undefeated team in the conference, and have the opportunity to seize control of the race for the MIAC title Saturday on its home field.
Saturday's matchup will be fascinating when the Royals have the ball. Bethel enters ranked No. 1 in the MIAC in total offense (2,439 yards), points (211), points per game (42.2), yards per game (487.8), rushing yards (1,134) and the Royals are second in passing yards (1,305). However, they'll be up against the MIAC's toughest defense so far. St. Thomas leads the MIAC in points allowed (52), points allowed per game (10.4), yards allowed per game (215.4), passing yards allowed per game (154.0), rushing yards allowed per game (61.4) and sacks (14).
Leading the battle of wills will be Bethel QB Erik
Peterson, the MIAC leader in completion percentage (70.7
percent) and yards per game (260.4), as well as
RB Brandon Marquardt (116.8 yards per
game) and WR Mitch Hallstrom (86.0 yards
per game). The balanced Tommie defense is led by standout
linebacker Tremayne Williams (26
tackles, 4.5 sacks, 8.0 TFL, FF, 2 INT).
St. Thomas lost starting QB Matt
O'Connell to an injury in last week's win at
Gustavus, so the Tommies will look to Alex
Fenske to step in and lead after finishing off the
UST win a week ago. Jack
Kaiser and Brenton
Braddock lead a balanced running attack,
while Dan Ferrazzo will serve as
Fenske's top target through the air. All-everything
linebacker Seth Mathis (51 tackles, 2
TFL, 2 INT) - Bethel's all-time tackling leader - leads another
stout Bethel defense that will try to keep the struggles coming for
the St. Thomas offense.
Can Bethel win a huge game for the third straight week? Will the Tommies save their quest for a fourth-straight MIAC title with a big win Saturday? How will Fenske fill in under center in St. Thomas' biggest test to date? Can the Royals score enough on the Tommies' vaunted defense to win? Saturday - and the answers to those questions - can't come fast enough.
Elsewhere in the league, the Auggies try to bounce back from a
pair of losses to ranked teams in consecutive weeks by a total of
five points with a home game against St. Olaf, which is still
looking for its first win in conference play. Hamline hosts No. 24
Concordia in St. Paul a week after ending its 28-game MIAC losing
streak dating back to 2009 with a huge 31-28 victory over the Oles.
No. 23 Saint John's heads to Carleton to try to continue its
tremendous first season under new Head Coach Gary
Fasching. The Auggies, Johnnies and Cobbers all still have
MIAC title and NCAA playoff aspirations, so they'll likely focus on
the task at hand while occasionally peeking at the scoreboard in
In the only nonconference action of the week, Gustavus looks to bounce back from a narrow loss to the Tommies to continue its surprising season. The Gusties' two losses have been close defeats to Augsburg and St. Thomas, and Saturday Gustavus travels to Valley City State looking to get back in the win column, and help the conference improve on its near-perfect 15-1 record against nonconference foes this season.
The MIAC thanks Supreme Images Photography for contributing graphics for the MIAC Football Preview throughout the season.
Sat. Oct. 19
Valley City St.
HAMLINE EDGES BETHEL FOR MIAC PLAY-OF-THE-WEEK
Four highlights from last Saturday's MIAC action competed for
the latest MIAC Play-of-the-Week title. The four
clips received a total of 238 votes and 1,171 views on YouTube.
Each clip received at least views and, interestingly, the St.
Thomas tipped touchdown pass received the most views (387) but the
least votes (11).
In the closest vote thus far, Hamline's Tim Bona and Naji El-Araby emerged victorious over Bethel by just 10 votes. The Piper passing duo received 112 votes and 47 percent of the vote to the Royals 102 votes (42 percent). Bona hit El-Araby for an 83-yard score that gave Hamline its first lead en route to snapping its 28-game losing streak in conference play.
MIAC MEDIA FOOTBALL COVERAGE
MIAC Media was in Northfield, Minn. Saturday for Hamline's huge win over St. Olaf. Check out a photo gallery from the dramatic game. All photos can be purchased directly from the gallery.
MIAC IN THE POLLS
The MIAC continues to be one of the deepest conferences in the nation, with four teams ranked in the top 25 in both polls for the first time all season. In the D3football.com Top 25, Bethel leads the way at No. 5, with St. Thomas also in the top 10 at No. 9. Concordia checks in at No. 24 and Saint John's joins the top 25 at No. 25.
The league has the same four teams, though ranked differently, in the AFCA Division III Coaches' Poll this week. Bethel leads at No. 8 with St. Thomas at No. 12. Saint John's is ranked No. 23 and Concordia grabs the final spot in the top 25 at No. 25.
MIAC IN THE PRESS
Here's a look at the top MIAC football stories in the media over the past week.
10/16/2013 Bethel brothers bring the chemistry -
10/13/2013 Reusse: Backup QB leads St. Thomas over upset-starved Gustavus - Star Tribune
10/13/2013 Bethel beats Concordia to stay unbeaten - Rochester Post Bulletin
10/12/2013 MIAC Roundup: Hamline breaks 28-game losing streak in conference - Star Tribune
10/12/2013 Tommies win in St. Peter, but lose quarterback - Bring Me The News
10/12/2013 Fast start sparks No. 5 Bethel past No. 22 Cobbers - Fargo Forum
A pair of Hamline teammates claimed MIAC football honors for
their role in the Pipers' 31-28 win at St. Olaf, Hamline first MIAC
win since 2009. QuarterbackTim Bona accounted
for more than 300 yards of total offense and two scores to earnMIAC Football Offensive
Player-of-the-Week honors. Safety Anthony
Hill had a game-high 15 tackles, a TFL, a pass
breakup and a crucial fourth-quarter interception in the win to
receive MIAC Football Defensive
Player-of-the-Weekhonors. Saint John's
punter Griffin Toomey was named
the MIAC Football Special Teams
Player-of-the-Week for his role in the Johnnies' 30-28 win
over Augsburg. Toomey averaged more than 40 yards per punt and put
three of his five kicks inside the Auggie 20-yard line.
IN THE TRENCHES
This week's honor up front goes to both lines from the same
school, thanks to the dominating performance Carleton received from
its guys up front in an impressive 56-17 nonconference win over
Macalester Saturday. The Knights rushed for 296 yards on 58 carries
for a good 5.1 average while rolling up 474 yards of total offense
and 56 points. Carleton's offensive line only allowed one sack and
paved the way for four scores on the ground. The Knights' starters
up front were Eric Wittenburg, Ames Bryant, Jake
Reardon, Cole Rystedt and Henrik
Defensively, Carleton was just as good along the line. The Knights limited the Scots to just 81 rushing yards on 26 attempts for a 3.1 average. Carleton allowed Macalester to convert just 27 percent of its third downs while racking up two sacks, two tackles-for-a-loss and three turnovers - all fumbles. The Knights starters up front on defense were: Luke Reppe, Jon Rowe, Adan Nunez-Fausto and Andrew Campbell.
BY THE NUMBERS
28 - Consecutive losses for Hamline in the
MIAC. Before Saturday, that is. The Pipers beat St. Olaf to earn
their first conference win since 2009.
5, 9 - Bethel and St. Thomas' national
rankings, respectively. The two will collide Saturday in a game
that has huge conference title implications.
5 - Combined points in Augsburg's two
losses to Top 25-ranked teams over the last two weeks. The Auggies
lost 31-28 to No. 5 Bethel, then 30-28 to No. 23 Saint John's.
70.7 - Completion percentage for Bethel
QB Erik Peterson. The Royals' signal caller
has completed 99-of-140 pass attempts this season to lead the
conference in accuracy.
20 - Margin over the second-ranked tackler in the league for MIAC leader Michael Juberian of Augsburg. The Auggie LB has 71 tackles - 14.2 per game - with 25 solo and 46 assists this season.