In West, it was Squeaker Saturday

If Saturday was coined “Showdown Saturday” across the nation by Pat Coleman and the D3football.com crew, it was “Squeaker Saturday” in the West Region as three top teams won by a total of 11 points.

St. John’s, Occidental and Linfield all put their undefeated conference records on the line Saturday and while only the Linfield/Willamette tilt looked to be a good one on paper, they all came down to the wire.

Linfield and Willamette battled it out at Willamette as Linfield looked to end a two-game losing streak to the Bearcats and show that they are the team to beat in the NWC. Both teams entered the game ranked in the Top 25 and the winner was sure to have the inside track on the conference crown and automatic bid to the playoffs. After three quarters, Linfield held a narrow 16-13 lead thanks to quarterback Aaron Boehme’s arm (50 yard touchdown pass to Chris Slezak) and legs (1-yard touchdown plunge) in the opening half. The fourth quarter was an offensive barrage including four touchdowns that kept the game within three points. On the Bearcats last drive, they scored a touchdown with 21 seconds remaining. Their ensuing on-side kick went out of bounds and Linfield was able to run the clock out. This game was expected to be a battle by two storied arch rivals and it lived up to the billing. St. John’s and Occidental looked like they would cruise in their matchups but that wasn’t exactly the case.

St. John’s welcomed St. Olaf to Collegeville on Saturday still riding high from a storybook finish the previous week against St. Thomas. St. Olaf entered the game at 3-3 and 1-3 in conference play having lost their last two by an average of six points. On paper this looked to be a blowout -- St. Olaf made sure it was anything but that. The Johnnies turned a first-possession fumble by the Oles into six points with 10:29 to go in the first quarter and that was the last time a player would cross the goal line. The teams traded monster field goals after that with Oles’ Josiah Powell connecting from 47 yards out and Johnnies’ Russell Gliadon connecting on a school record 52 yarder. The rest of game included three fumbles, an interception and 15 punts as both teams pitched second half shutouts and the Johnnies escaped at home with a 10-3 victory. Still undefeated, the Johnnies are poised to represent the MIAC in the playoffs.

Occidental welcomed a winless La Verne team to Patterson Field on Saturday in what looked to have all the ingredients of a blowout. La Verne was averaging just over 12 points per game in their 0-6 season and Occidental is the perennial power of the SCIAC. Much like the Johnnie/Ole game, this one would also be decided in the first half. Both teams scored two touchdowns in the first half but it was the block of Wesley Dean’s kick by Occidental which preserved the one point victory. The game featured 18 punts, four interceptions and a fumble but the Tigers were able to escape and remain undefeated in the conference. Next week’s matchup between Occidental and Cal Lutheran will decide the SCIAC representative in the playoffs -- the Tigers will have to play better than they did against La Verne.

Three games, all squeaked out by the favored team, with two being much closer than anyone would have anticipated -- just another week in the West Region.

Nice Foote


Lewis & Clark picked up their first win since Sept. 6, 2008 on Saturday and it was their kicker Andrew Foote who really shined. Foote booted five field goals (27, 27, 32, 25 and 42) and connected on all six of his PATs. The victory was only the program’s third win since Oct. 11, 2003.

Warhawk record book gets shaken up


UW-Whitewater wide receiver Aaron Rusch, who had seven receptions for 127 yards against UW-River Falls on Saturday, broke the career reception mark formerly held by Jim Leszczynski (2002-05). Rusch has 163 catches, Leszczynski had 162. Rusch also moved in to third place on the school's career receiving yardage list, with 2,291 to pass Joe Gerlach (1979-82, 2,250). With his three touchdowns in the game, UW-Whitewater's Levell Coppage upped his career total to 37, tied for second in the UW-Whitewater record book. He is tied with Chad Wurth (2000-03). Justin Beaver (2004-07) is in the top spot with 44.

Monumental comeback


With just over 13 minutes to play in the second quarter, Redlands found themselves down 17-3 to Claremont-Mudd-Scripps on the road. CMS had returned a blocked punt and an interception for touchdowns to pounce on an early lead. Redlands kept their composure and ripped off 43 straight points to turn a 14 point deficit into a 26 point lead. The six straight scores included five touchdown passes from Dan Selway. The Bulldogs eventually won 53-27.

Rookie rushing attack


Wartburg used two freshmen running backs on Saturday to end a two game skid and they turned in seasoned veteran performances. Kyle Winfrey carried the ball 25 times for 149 yards and three touchdowns. Freshman Reese Thompaon backed up Winfrey with 17 rushes for 54 yards and a touchdown. This rushing tandem’s performance pushed Wartburg past Dubuque for the 18th time in 19 matchups.

Halftime adjustments


The Concordia-Moorhead defense held Hamline to only 53 total yards of offense in the second half and a mere two rushing yards in the final two quarters. The Pipers had nine first downs in the first half and were limited to only four in the second half. Hamline was only able to get the ball inside the Cobber 45-yard line once in the final 30 minutes of play. This turned a 27-21 lead into a 41-21 victory.

Did you know:


• Cal Lutheran running back Brian Stuart carried the ball 20 times for 165 yards and four touchdowns in a 49-13 victory over Chapman.
• The Whittier Poets were 0-5 in the red zone including two missed field goals and three turnovers in their 15-7 loss to Pomona-Pitzer.
• Menlo beat Whitworth 14-10 in Spokane for the first time ever.
• Coe led 41-0 and outgained Simpson 431-53 in total offense in the first half on Saturday during a 48-14 victory.
• UW-Whitewater has not given up a first quarter score this season.

Game to watch

No. 2 UW-Whitewater at UW-Stevens Point, Stevens Point, Wis., 1 p.m.:

UW-Whitewater has lost one WIAC game in the last five seasons and it came last year at home against UW-Stevens Point, 17-16. The Pointers, who are just outside the Top 25 would love to repeat that feat at home and catapult themselves into a lofty ranking in the Top 25. To do so, they will need to focus on stopping Warhawk running back Levell Coppage who has shredded opposing defenses this season for an average of 126 yards per game and 16 touchdowns. The Pointers, who have two non-conference losses on the season will counter Coppage with wide receiver Jared Jenkins who is averaging over 128 yards per game and 10 touchdowns. Don’t expect a shootout, however, as both teams defenses rank in the top three in the conference. This game should be scary good on Halloween.

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Josh Smith photo

Josh Smith has covered Division III sports for more than five years. He writes for multiple publications, including D3football.com beginning in 2012. He has won multiple awards for reporting and photography and lives in southern Wisconsin near UW-Whitewater, where he graduated with a degree in print journalism.

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