The Spreadsheet: (Excel2003, 374kb)

Saturday’s D-III Game of the Week:
An odd struggle ensued in Rochester on Saturday as #11 Saint John Fisher outlasted #20 Thomas More 13-7 in overtime.  Each school managed a first-half touchdown before embarking on a scoreless second half which had two completely different narratives.  For the game, Thomas More was limited to 130 yards of offense, including being completely stuffed in overtime; the Cardinals, on the other hand, racked up 403 yards of offense but committed four turnovers which contributed to their inability to score.  Cody Miller finally cracked the end zone in overtime on a 2-yard pitchout to give the Cardinals the victory.  Saint John Fisher gained a couple of spots in the poll, but it was all attrition due to teams above them losing; Thomas More fell three spots to #23.

A Surprising Number of Upsets:

Last year, #4 North Central opened their season on the road at unranked Redlands, and suffered a startling 35-29 loss which could have derailed their entire year and launched Redlands into the D-III consciousness.  This year, the Cardinals hosted Wisconsin-La Crosse to open the campaign… and coughed up six turnovers.  Two of those resulted directly in defensive touchdowns, and that was enough to help the Eagles, 3-7 last year, to forge a 21-17 upset win.  The Cardinals fall to #13; La Crosse didn’t get into the top 25, but tied for the 26th spot.  North Central outplayed La Crosse badly, outside of the turnovers, so they’re still obviously in the mix and a clear threat to win the CCIW.

In Glassboro, New Jersey, former perennial D-III power Rowan may have announced their return to relevance with a comprehensive 27-13 win over formerly ninth-ranked Delaware Valley.  The Aggies have still never beaten Rowan, falling to 0-6 all-time (including two playoff defeats).  Matt Dortch rumbled for 158 yards to help lead the Profs to the win.  Rowan moves into the poll at #20 (the only unranked upset winner to crack the rankings), while Delaware Valley slipped to 22nd.

Rowan’s entry into the top 25 was at the expense of their conference-mates Kean, who started the day ranked #14 and ended up falling from the poll after losing 29-26 to unranked Albright.  Kean led 26-7 just over a minute into the second half, and still led by that score with only three seconds to go in the third quarter.  That was when Ty Hughes plunged in from the one yard line for Albright; over the next 12 minutes the Lions would score twice more; first on a 27-yard pass from Adam Galczynski to Daniel McNair, and then on another one-yard run by Hughes.  They added a two-point conversion to take a three-point lead with 3:10 to go, and Kean couldn’t come back; the Cougars never got past their own 35 yard line after Hughes’ first score.

Zip Up the Body Bags:
Misericordia University got their existence as a football program underway Saturday, hosting Gettysburg in their first official varsity contest ever.  They’ll spend the week changing bandages and adjusting splints after being shellacked 70-0 before the home crowd.  Gettysburg, who took an 8-0 lead at the opening gun when Freddy Caruso ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and a bad snap on the PAT forced a 2-point conversion, piled up 546 yards of rushing (a school record); the 70 points was their greatest scoring outburst since 1928, and their nine touchdowns tied a school mark.

MacMurray College did not have the excuse of playing their first game ever, however.  Their 73-0 loss to Wartburg was just a plain and simple ass-whoopin’.  MacMurray was held to five yards of total offense, and Wartburg managed to score 73 points despite “only” gaining 527 themselves due to having excellent field position the entire contest.  Virtually every player on Wartburg’s roster saw significant playing time; they had no 100-yard rusher, and starting quarterback Logan Schrader exited the game with only 158 yards passing, going 15-18.

Bombs Away:
Eureka quarterback Sam Durley, as you are now undoubtedly aware since this got more coverage than any event in D-III other than a random Whitewater-Mount Union Bowl in years, set an NCAA all-division record with 736 passing yards Saturday as Eureka squeaked past Knox 62-55.  I don’t mean to degrade Durley’s historic performance in any way as I point out the following three facts, but the national press focused entirely on his yardage and not at all on the context:

1) Three minutes into the fourth quarter, Eureka was losing 55-45.  This wasn’t just a big day passing, although to that point Durley had already racked up 500 yards in the air.  Over the final twelve minutes of the game, Durley threw for 236 yards and led his team to seventeen unanswered points to win the game, which is more impressive than the overall yardage total.

2) It wasn’t all Durley.  Jordan Kindred caught 13 balls for 235 yards, and Jake Bane had 7 catches for 207 and three scores.  Interestingly, Kindred managed those 235 yards without even finding the end zone even once.  While we’re at it, Matt Dawson caught three balls for 36, 29, and 26 yards (91 in all if you don’t like to add), two of which were touchdowns.  Jordan Jefferson (who also handles the punting duties for the Red Devils) gathered three balls for 85 yards – a 34 yarder and a couple in the 2oish range.  In short, Durley was benefiting from a LOT of yards after the catch, and that’s because…

3) Knox is really bad.  As in, usually the worst team in the Midwest Conference, which is one of the worst conferences in D-III (two playoff teams in 2011 notwithstanding).  The yards-after-catch situation points out the glaringly obvious: Knox has a terribad secondary, and if Alex Tanney were still at Monmouth I’d wonder if he was geared up to break this record all over again in the season finale against his main rivals.

Again, no disrespect to Durley, who put on an amazing show and amassed over a third of those yards when it truly mattered most — in pressure time, trying to lead his team back from a 10-point deficit.  My problem isn’t with Sam’s performance; it’s with the lack of depth in the coverage OF his performance.

Wholly Unfamiliar Territory Redux:
The ECFC, which we discussed Saturday morning, had already matched their non-conference win total for the first three weeks of 2011 by closing time on opening night.  Saturday, they doubled up as Castleton State drilled Plymouth State and Norwich slipped by Western New England 26-24.  Gallaudet, 15-0 losers at Otterbein, and Husson, who were pummeled 55-14 by Hartwick, weren’t able to pad the resume any further, but a 4-3 non-conference start for a conference which was 2-16 out of conference the first three weeks of last year is something that needs to be applauded — especially since they accomplished this while New York Maritime, the team responsible for both of those wins last year, sat at home enjoying a weekend off.  The ECFC has made some serious strides as a league.  They’re still not a good league, in the overall picture; it’s nigh impossible to even envision being able to say that about a football league in the northeast at any level.  But if they’ve turned a corner and stepped beyond the realm of being laughingstocks, that’s just a good thing no matter how you slice it.

The Best D-III Conference Is…
The usual suspects here are the CCIW, WIAC, and Empire 8.  The CCIW suffered North Central’s upset loss to Wisconsin-La Crosse (which props up the WIAC’s candidacy, obviously), as well as a loss by Augustana to Dubuque and North Park’s wholly unsurprising loss to Hope.  The Empire 8 opened 7-0, which included our game of the week top-25 win.  As for the WIAC, they only went 4-3, and at least one loss could be deemed inexcusable, though two others perhaps were expected.  The MIAC also went 7-0, though their competition wasn’t particularly strenuous.  The newly-formed Southern Athletic Conference sported a perfect 4-0 mark Saturday, but there were no real challenges at all.  The Centennial had a surprisingly good first weekend, going 7-3 with all three losses being completely justifiable.

Taking all that into account, it looks like the Empire 8 gets to claim the mantle of “SEC of D-III” for the time being.  The fact that they’re now sporting two top-10 teams doesn’t hurt matters one little bit.

On the other end of the spectrum, the usually-reliable ASC only went 2-5 on opening weekend, but to be fair pretty much the entire conference sacked up and said “COME AT ME BRO” when scheduling.  Two of the losses were to ranked opponents, one was to a D-II school, one was the annual Mississippi College-Millsaps rivalry game, and the fifth was to always-dangerous Willamette.  The Midwest Conference stumbled to a 2-7 mark in non-conference games, and the NJAC was only 3-6 despite Rowan’s upset of #9 Delaware Valley.  The Northern AC was only 2-6, the UMAC 3-6, and the USA South 2-6; none of these situations were a surprise to anyone, but the President’s AC’s 3-6 mark does come as a shock.  But nobody put forth a 2011-ECFC lack-of-effort on this year’s opening weekend, so the dubious honor of “worst conference in D-III” seems to still be an open question for 2012.

The New Top 25:
#1 Wisconsin-Whitewater 34, at Washington (MO) 0 (FRI)
– The Death Machine rolls on, winning 46th in a row; off this week.
#2 Mount Union 45, at #16 Franklin 7
– Having lost three times to Whitewater in the last two years by similar scores, Franklin tries another tack, but it’s the same result. Mount Union idle next week; Franklin, who only slipped three spots despite the pummeling because of who the pummeler was, visits FCS (but non-scholarship) Butler.
#3 Wesley (DE) 34, at East Texas Baptist 14
– The Wolverines travel to Texas and handle a scrappy bunch; they’ll visit rival #6 Salisbury in next week’s game of the week.
#4 Mary Hardin-Baylor idle
– The Crusaders are gearing up for a visit from formerly #14 and now unranked Kean, who are now desperate.
at #5 Linfield 30, Menlo [NAIA] 9
– Good win over a good D2-level NAIA program.  Next: Hardin-Simmons comes to call.
#6 Salisbury 40, at Christopher Newport 16
– An easy handling of a playoff dark horse by the Gulls, who will host #3 Wesley this week.
#7 Saint Thomas (MN) 27, at Wisconsin-Eau Claire 24
– The Tommies struggle a bit, but get past a tough opponent on the road and move up a spot. They’ll host UW-River Falls Saturday.
#8 Wabash idle
– The Little Giants move up two spots for doing nothing, and have a relatively easy opener at Hanover on Saturday.
at #9 Saint John Fisher 13, #23 Thomas More 7 (OT)
– SJF visits Washington & Jefferson Saturday; Thomas More takes the week off to recover.
at #10 Wheaton (IL) 48, Benedictine (IL) 7
– The Thunder rolled, as expected, and got a fortitous five-spot boost in the poll as four teams above them lost and a fifth was idle.  Saturday they’ll visit Albion, who drilled Defiance.
#11 Cal Lutheran idle
– The Kingsmen travel to Washington for their annual tilt with Pac Lutheran this week.
at #12 Trinity (TX) 56, Howard Payne 7
– No surprise here as the Tigers mauled the Yellowjackets, and benefitted from upsets to move up four spots.  They’ll visit Texas Lutheran this week.
Wisconsin-La Crosse 21, at #13 North Central (IL) 17
- Second straight stunning season starting stumble. NCC hosts Redlands Saturday; they must win, they may not. La Crosse travels to D-II Northern Michigan.
#14 Redlands idle
– They upset North Central’s last year at home; this week is the return trip and a chance to drop NCC to 0-2.
#15 Bethel (MN) idle
– The Royals will visit Wartburg on Saturday, and will not be giving up 73 points.
#17 Baldwin-Wallace idle
– They’ll have an easy time hosting Bluffton this week while rest of OAC takes the weekend off.
at #18 Hobart 31, Dickinson 0
– It sometimes takes a few weeks to judge Dickinson’s Centennial Conference (and, obviously, their impact on opponents), but this looks like a good win for Hobart. They’ll host Geneva Saturday and hope to contain the offense.
at #19 Illinois Wesleyan 49, Aurora 13
– Cruise control for the Titans. Should be the same this week when they host Alma.
at #20 Rowan 27, #22 Delaware Valley 13
– The MAC’s kingpin of recent years goes down; this is Rowan’s return to the top 25, but is it also a return to their former prominence? DelVal, who fell from #9, hosts Lycoming and both frequent playoff teams already have a loss; Rowan visits D-II Merrimack.
#21 Wisconsin-Platteville 56, at Buena Vista 13
– A nice day in the park for UWP, wholly expected. They’ll host Dubuque this week, and it won’t be as easy.
at #24 Birmingham-Southern 41, LaGrange 14
– It’s only BSC’s third year of football, and the revenues from their years as a D-I basketball team seem to have helped.  They rolled, and will now visit Huntingdon for a big showdown.
at #25 Widener 63, Western Connecticut State 17
– An easy win was expected; a blowout of this nature wasn’t.  Widener visits King’s (PA) on Saturday.
Albright 29, at XX Kean 26
– A loss Kean couldn’t afford with their visit to #4 UMHB this week. Last year’s playoff quarterfinalist may be dead in the water before they even get to conference play, and tumbled from #14 to nothing.  Albright hosts Stevenson Saturday.

And, to close, we’ll present some other scores of interest, categorized appropriately.

Juniata 16, at Thiel 13
Ursinus 24, at College of New Jersey 20
Carthage 20, at Adrian 17
at Norwich 26, Western New England 24
at Frostburg State 56, Geneva 53
Kalamazoo 29, at Rose-Hulman 28
Salve Regina 17, at Union (NY) 14
Carleton 20, at Grinnell 14 (OT)
Allegheny 17, at Wooster 14 (Note: Both teams in NCAC, but not a conference game)
at North Carolina Wesleyan 16, Ohio Northern 13 (OT)
Greensboro 14, at Guilford 13
at Carnegie Mellon 23, Grove City 20

Lesser Blowouts:
Albion 55, at Defiance 0
Macalester 53, Crown 6

Defense Is An Optional Package:
Western New Mexico [D-II] 54, at Sul Ross State 44
Willamette 58, Hardin-Simmons 34
at Frostburg State 56, Geneva 53
Emory & Henry 45, at Ferrum 36
at Huntingdon 49, Maryville (TN) 33

No Offense, But… No Offense:
Wilkes 9, at Morrisville State 7
at William Paterson 9, King’s (PA) 3