Things get complicated vying for Pool B

Even though Texas Lutheran won its conference title early in the season, there has still been a long road ahead of them, especially if they hoped to punch their ticket to the playoffs.
Texas Lutheran athletics photo

In young conferences, winning a title is nice -- it just may not be enough.

Without an automatic qualifying bid into the postseason, extending the season can get complicated.

Texas Lutheran coach Danny Padron says he’s felt like his Bulldogs have been in a playoff situation since week five of the season -- just trying to make it past their regular schedule.

Moving somewhat abruptly to the SCAC, Texas Lutheran played out its schedule as planned under the ASC. The result was a brand new conference title all sewed up mid-season.

But a championship in a conference lacking an automatic qualifier into the postseason could well be nothing more than the hardware if the title-holder drops a game or two along the way.

“We’ve been in the playoffs since, I guess since about the fifth week,” he said. “Since we won our conference, I feel like we’ve been in the playoffs, because winning every game is pretty critical for us to get in the playoffs.”

Texas Lutheran (7-0, 3-0) will play only nine official games this season. An earlier game had to be abandoned following a lengthy lightening delay.

Should the Bulldogs win their final scheduled games against Howard Payne and Hardin-Simmons, a 10th is almost assured. But a late season loss could well leave them out.

“The automatic qualifiers qualify you, of course, and the rest of us have really got to do a great job as far as winning and looking like we deserve to be in the playoffs,” Padron said. “So we feel like in every NCAA situation, like a bowl system, you’ve got to play each week and you can’t afford to lose. So that’s kind of how we approach it.”

In the SAA, Millsaps has also been rolling along undefeated. Like the Bulldogs, the winner of the SAA does not receive an automatic berth.

But unlike Texas Lutheran, the Majors are just now playing out the thick of their conference schedule and, while they‘re quite literally the team to beat for a championship, an outright title is not sewn up.

Parity seems to be the rule. Rhodes suffered a one-point loss to Birmingham-Southern this past weekend. So again Centre and Rhodes find themselves with identical 6-2, 3-1 records -- although the Lynx was a clear winner head to head.

The difference in a game, especially within a conference where teams seem to play close throughout the season, can be as slim as an injury, a turnover, an unlucky bounce. So if the difference in a postseason bid is a one or a zero in the loss column, a season of work can come down to that same bad bounce or foolish turnover -- leaving little room for teams that improve over a season of work or recover from spates of injuries.

Birmingham-Southern (5-3, 3-2) again may be a good example. The Panthers shared the 2012 conference title with Millsaps.

But, having graduated its largest senior class since the program started in 2007, the football team this year has dealt with both a youthful tendency toward getting in its own way and a rash of injuries. On ACL injuries alone, coach Eddie Garfinkle said his Panthers have lost five players.

“We’ve been really kind of up and down and inconsistent,” he said. “And we’ve improved the last couple of weeks, but I think … they’ve got several games under their belts, more experience and they understand what it takes to win football games. We’ve been one of those teams this year that kind of finds ways to beat ourselves. Some games we’ve overcome, some games we haven’t.”

For his part, Garfinkle says he’d like to see Millsaps assured of a spot in the postseason.
“I’d like to see one of our teams go out and advance. I really would,” he said. “It would be nice for someone from our league to go on and get in the playoffs this year.”

But with a visit from Centre and a road trip to Rhodes to finish the regular season and conference play, a perfect record out of the conference is hardly guaranteed.

And at this point in the season, all the pressure is on perfect.

Southern Athletic Association

-- Birmingham-Southern held off Rhodes, 35-34, at home Saturday.

Rhodes recovered from a 14-0 first quarter deficit to lead 28-21 at halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, Birmingham-Southern drove 97 yards on 18 plays that ground more than eight minutes off the clock before Issac Nichols scored on a 14-yard run with 11:20 remaining in regulation.

Tyson Beacham launched an 81-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Johnson with 4:53 to play for the go-ahead score.

Rhodes answered with a 65-yard drive that ended in a 4-yard scoring pass from Blake Box to Casey Joseph with 1:13 to play. The Lynx elected to try for two and Box’s pass was stopped by Ty Keenum.

Birmingham-Southern took over at the Rhodes 40-yard line as the Patrick Knight kickoff bounced out of bounds, but the Lynx defense held the Panthers to a one-yard gain on three-and-out.

Rhodes got the ball back with 0:46 to work. Box managed to drive 64 yards for a field goal attempt from the Birmingham-Southern 28-yard line with five seconds on the clock. Michael Aucoin’s game-winner was blocked by Paden Gaines as the Panthers held on.
Box passed for 326 yards, completing 32 of 43 with two touchdowns and no interceptions. Eleven different receivers grabbed at least one pass. Mike Edel led them all with seven catches for 71 yards.

The Panthers (5-3, 3-2) have conference losses to Sewanee and Millsaps. The out of conference loss is to No. 20 Wesley.

Rhodes (6-2, 3-1) had lost only to Washington University in an out of conference game in the second week of the season. The Lynx wraps up the regular season with a game at first-year program Hendrix before hosting currently undefeated Millsaps.

--Mike Barthelemy rushed for five touchdowns in the first half of play Saturday as Millsaps won over Berry, 38-3.

Barthelemy finished with 27 carries for 120 yards. He currently leads the conference in touchdowns, with 19, and in average rushing yards per game (147.8).

Majors quarterback Zak Thrasher completed 13 of 17 passes with one interception for 205 yards. Trevor King caught six passes for 97 yards. Zach Bell had another sack on Saturday, improving his conference lead and season total to 10.

Berry’s Sandon Mims passed for 129 yards, but was picked off twice. Bryce Bailey led the defense with 11 tackles; Anthony Batey was in on 10 for the Vikings (0-8, 0-5).
The first season of Berry football ends this weekend with a visit from Sewanee.

The undefeated Majors (8-0. 4-0) moved into the Top 25 rankings in Week 9 at No. 23.
Millsaps finishes conference play and the regular season by entertaining Centre this weekend and visiting Rhodes next week. The final two opponents each have one loss in the conference.

-- Harry Meisner rushed for five touchdowns as Centre (6-2, 3-1) held off visiting Hendrix, 49-20, on Saturday.

Meisner had 25 carries for 254 yards. His 15 touchdowns this season and average105.9 yards are second in the conference standings to Millsaps’ Barthelemy.

Quarterback Heath Haden was 10 of 16 for 117 yards with an interception thrown. Haden also rushed seven times for 85 yards. Freshman Amoh Kumengisa had two rushing touchdowns on 16 carries covering 76 yards.

Centre sacked Warriors quarterback Tanner Frye four times Saturday for a total of 24 yards.

Frye was good on 25 of his 39 attempts, throwing for 273 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Frye also rushed for two touchdowns.

Freshman Taylor Tibbits caught six passes for 97 yards and a score. Redshirt freshman Reid Cone had 13 solo tackles and was involved in 16 for the Warriors (3-5, 1-3).
Hendrix wraps up its first season on the road, traveling to Rhodes this weekend and Sewanee on Nov. 16.

The Colonels regular season ends in conference dates against Millsaps and a final trip to Birmingham-Southern.

Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference

-- Texas Lutheran University (7-0, 3-0) downed Louisiana College, 37-27, for a late non-conference win.

The game was tied at 7-7 after one quarter of play, but the Bulldogs scored 14 points before the break and never trailed.

Texas Lutheran quarterback Brent Peavy left with an injury in the first half, having run for a touchdown and thrown for another. Peavy was 15 of 19 for 94 yards with an interception.  Trenton White filled in and was 16 of 25 for 138 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Senior Dominique Hardaway rushed for 108 yards on 16 carries. Cameron Peavy had 106 yards receiving and two touchdowns on 10 catches.

Adam McGuire was involved in nine tackles for the Bulldogs, including a sack for an eight yard loss. McGuire also forced a fumble and broke up a pass.

Louisiana (5-3, 3-1) got 296 yards through the air from Easton Melancon, who was 18 of 46 with a pair of scoring passes. Melancon was also picked off three times. Shedrick Davis caught seven passes for 120 yards.

The Wildcats had four players with double digits tackles. Dominic Graham was involved in 17 tackles.     

Without an automatic qualifying bid for the winner of the SCAC, winning out may be the Bulldogs’ best hope for a spot in the playoffs. This weekend Texas Lutheran (7-0, 3-0) travels to Hardin-Simmons, where the Bulldogs have never won.

The regular season ends at home against Howard Payne.

-- Austin College is on a three-game winning streak.

The Kangaroos (4-5, 1-1) defeated Southwestern, 25-6, on the road Saturday.

Austin College has already exceeded its win total from a combined 2011-2012. The Kangaroos have a bye week before hosting Trinity (Texas) to end the season. Austin has not had a winning season since going 7-3 in 2000, although the Kangaroos were 5-5 in 2008.

Quarterback Noah Jesko completed 13 of 22 passes for 116 yards. Bryce Murphy rushed for 145 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 20 touches.

Nathan Packard was in on 10 tackles for the Roos, two for loss.

Bryan Hicks threw for 216 yards, completing 22 of 39 with an interception for Southwestern (0-8, 0-2). Matt Gillen caught 10 passes for 145 yards. Three Pirates had double-digit tackles. Zack Martin had a hand in 11 tackles; A.J. McCort and Alex Lee were each involved in 10. Lee had two tackles for loss, including a sack.

Southwestern finishes its first season of football with a pair of road games. The Pirates travel to Trinity (Texas) before wrapping up at independent Southern Virginia (6-2).

American Southwest Conference

-- Sul Ross State rallied from a 22-point deficit in the second quarter to earn its first win of the season, 42-38, against conference rival Hardin-Simmons.

Junior quarterback Jeremy Boatright passed for 288 yards, completing 22 of 48 attempts with five touchdowns and three interceptions.

Sul Ross took its first lead of the game with 3:12 to play as Boatright connected with Del Wilson for a 59 yard strike.

Wilson caught eight passes for 124 yards. Cordrick Mobley caught 12 passes for 164 yards and two touchdowns for Sul Ross (1-7,1-3).

Keyon Lee had 16 carries for 85 yards to lead the Lobos on the ground.

Five different defenders picked off passes for Sul Ross on Saturday. Shane Alexander led the defense in tackles, getting a hand in 12 -- one for loss -- as well as an interception. Chris Dorsey had 10 tackles, 2.5 for loss, and an interception.

Dorsey sealed the win with a sack on fourth-and-10 at the Lobos’ 18-yard line to give Sul Ross possession with 1:11 remaining in regulation.

Two Hardin-Simmons (3-5, 2-3) passers threw for over 100 yards. Josh Christian was 10 of 21 for 121 yards with a score and two interceptions. Weston Garner was eight of 15 for 110 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Bryce Johnson caught three passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns.

Tevin Mitchell rushed 32 times for 232 yards and two touchdowns for the Cowboys.

With the loss, Hardin-Simmons’ 21-year streak of winning seasons comes to an end.
The Lobos (1-7, 13) travel to Howard Payne this weekend before hosting East Texas Baptist in the season finale.

-- Mississippi College continued its balancing act with a .500 overall record and a perfect conference record.

The Choctaws (4-4, 4-0) defeated host East Texas Baptist, 41-28, Saturday.
Mississippi’s Jonathon Redd completed 20 of 35 passes for 280 yards and four touchdowns. Redd also rushed for two touchdowns.

Jaime Harris had 199 receiving yards and a touchdown for the Choctaws on eight catches.

Jake Weddle was in on 15 tackles and returned an interception 21 yards. Reginald Bennett was involved in 13 tackles and reeled in an interception.

Tigers quarterback Josh Warbington passed for 254 yards, completing 22 of 41 attempts with a touchdown, but was intercepted three times. Tyler Bates caught eight passes for 119 yards and a touchdown. Senior Jamaine Sherman had six catches for 95 yards.
Toi Glover carried 19 times for 115 yards and a touchdown to lead the ground game. Drew Benge was in on 16 tackles for the Tigers (2-6, 0-4).

The two teams were flagged 21 times for a combined 274 yards in penalties.

-- Undefeated Mary Hardin-Baylor put up its second highest point total in school history and its largest margin of victory, scoring 80 points in a shutout over Howard Payne.
Howard Payne is now 3-5, its highest win total since a four-win season in 2009. The Yellow Jackets were at the .500 mark in 2006 and have not had a winning season since going 7-3 in 2005.

That was the same year that Mary-Hardin Baylor last finished a season with fewer than 10 wins. The No. 3 Crusaders are on a 42-game regular season winning streak.

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Brian Lester

Brian Lester is a reporter in Florida. He has 14 years of experience at newspapers in Virginia, North Carolina and Ohio, spending 10 at The Courier in Findlay, Ohio. Lester also writes an Around the Region column for D3hoops.com and wrote Around the Great Lakes for D3football.com from 2012-14. He is a graduate of Eastern Illinois.

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