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It was quite the Halloween weekend in the DII football world. There were tricks and treats aplenty as the entire landscape was rocked by upsets. Three undefeated, top-15 teams finally lost propelling a familiar face to jump back into the Power 10 rankings for the first time this season.
DII FOOTBALL HUB: News, rankings, stats for 2022
Monday, Oct. 31 will be the first regional rankings where the teams are ranked 1-10. While yesterday changed everything, the No. 1 seeds appear to be pretty clear (my prediction only).
There is a lot to carve up, so let’s get right to it.
Gannon entered this one 6-2 which had the Knights outside the first regional rankings. A win over undefeated Indiana (PA) — which was in the “First five out” the past few weeks — would not only shake up the PSAC West, but likely Super Region One.
For those that like chaos, Gannon delivered, winning 43-36.
This was a back-and-forth battle. Gannon kept jumping in front, but IUP had an answer, thanks in large part to huge days from quarterback Mak Sexton (300 passing yards, four touchdowns) and his Harlon Hill-hopeful wide receiver Duane Brown (195 yards, two touchdowns). But it was Gannon quarterback Kory Curtis who erupted to lead the way, throwing for 342 yards and four scores with two receivers having 100-yard days. This went right down to the wire. IUP, trailing 43-36 with just over two minutes remaining, blocked a field goal that would have iced the game… but recovered at the one yard line. Having to go 99 yards in two minutes, the Crimson Hawks moved the ball well until a strip sack recovered by Gannon put the game away. We’ll see how this impacts things come Monday.
The Chargers improved to 5-4 on Saturday, but in doing so, knocked Ashland from its Power 10 perch and handed the Eagles their first loss of 2022. It is more so impressive when you break down how lopsided this matchup appeared on paper. Ashland wasn’t simply 7-0; the Eagles were the top team in the G-MAC in offense and defense, while entering Saturday as one of the top-scoring defenses in all DII football.
The Chargers rose to the challenge. Running back Michael Herzog cracked the code, and while Ashland’s stingy rush defense held him to just 80 yards, Herzog was able to score twice on the ground, a rarity against this Eagles’ defense. Leading by two late in the game, it was Hillsdale’s defense that put the game away with a pick-six that put the Chargers up two scores in the fourth quarter.
What a few weeks for the Hawks. With Saturday’s stunner over undefeated Virginia Union, Chowan has now beaten the three teams ahead of it — Virginia State, Bowie State and VUU — three weeks in a row to move into first place in the Northern Division. This one was equally impressive with the way Chowan won, using its defense to secure victory.
There hasn’t been a team in the nation that has been able to slow Panthers’ running back Jada Byers. The leading rusher in college football set the Virginia Union single-season record on Saturday, rushing for 109 yards and his eighth-straight 100-yard day. Where the Hawks succeeded was keeping him out of the end zone—the first time an opponent has all season. Want more on that defense? Trailing 14-13 in the fourth quarter, Chowan blocked a punt for a score and had a late pick-six to put the Hawks ahead for good and seal the deal.
You can look at this as an “upset” because of the national rankings, but if you look at the first release of the regional rankings — one in which Lenoir-Rhyne and Wingate made the cut — you see how close this contest really was. So, yes, we’ll call it an upset, but it was really a SAC heavyweight bout and two rivals fighting to the finish.
Wingate came out and looked like it was going to run away with it, going up 17-0 with a minute left in the first half. Kudos to Lenoir-Rhyne for never going away. A 70-yard touchdown hookup from Sean White to Malik Simmons turned the momentum of the game, and the Bears went up 21-17 until late in the fourth quarter. A Shaw Crocker touchdown pass, his second of the day, gave Wingate the lead and ultimately the victory. The win should see the Bulldogs jump into the top 25.
Both Northwest Missouri State and Nebraska-Kearney were missing from the first regional rankings, a complete surprise from the way we expected things to go early in the season. With both teams having two losses, it was a must-win situation to keep playoff hopes alive, and the Bearcats prevailed 28-24.
It took Northwest football to come away victorious. Trailing 24-14 entering the fourth quarter, the Bearcats’ defense hunkered down and finally kept the Lopers of the board while the running game took over, scoring the final 14 points of the game. Will the victory be enough to boost the Bearcats into this week’s regional rankings in Super Region Three where the top four teams are all in the Power 10? It’s tough to say, but with a season-ending matchup against Emporia State looming, at least the Bearcats know they will have a say in their destiny.
Not every win has to light up the scoreboard, but the Greyhounds upset of nationally ranked New Haven will certainly light up both the national and regional rankings. For Assumption, it was its second win over a nationally ranked team, defeating then-ranked Kutztown 3-0 on opening day. You’ll notice by the scores what gets the Greyhounds victories.
That was the case Saturday, as solid defense from both teams kept the two in check. Everything on paper gives the edge to the Chargers. New Haven outgained Assumption 286-277 in total yards, but neither broke the 300 barrier. New Haven also dominated in time of possession 35:46 to 24:14. So, where did the Greyhounds excel? New Haven didn’t score when it was in the red zone, the first time all season a team held the Chargers off the scoreboard inside the 20. The victory moves Assumption to the top of the NE10.
This was Davenport’s biggest test of the season, and the Panthers gritted out an impressive 29-28 victory over a very strong Saginaw Valley State team. This was a nationally ranked slugfest that saw five lead changes in a thrilling second half.
The Cardinals came out of the first half leading 14-13 despite missing quarterback Andrew Brito. Backup Jarius Grissom showed his speed on two touchdown runs in the first half to pace SVSU. It was Davenport’s offense, in particular the offensive line, that won the day. The Panthers ran a school record 87 plays and that big O-line didn’t allow a single sack and a mere one tackle for a loss. While the Cardinals defense didn’t make it easy for Jason Whittaker, forcing two interceptions, the Davenport quarterback had the time he needed to make the big plays, throwing for 307 yards and three touchdowns. If you had Davenport as one of eight remaining undefeated DII football teams with two weeks remaining in the season on your bingo cards… congrats, you win.
The Limestone Saints were 0-9 last season. Now, while Limestone doesn’t look to have a spot in the postseason on its 2022 resume, it is with no question one of the best stories of the season and perhaps the biggest turnaround in recent history.
The Saints improved to 6-3 on Saturday in an upset of nationally ranked Newberry, 42-37. It was a battle of two of the best running backs in the land and both delivered. The Saints’ Tre Stewart reeled off 161 yards and a touchdown, while the Wolves’ Harlon Hill Trophy candidate Mario Anderson went for 171 yards and three scores. In what became a back-and-forth battle from start to finish, it was an 18-yard touchdown pass from Dustin Noller to Jelani Baker with 50 seconds remaining that made program history for the Saints, recording the most wins in a season with still a few games to go.
Texas A&M-Kingsville was having a storybook season. Undefeated through seven games, the Javelinas ran into the buzzsaw that is Angelo State and then had to contend with its second 2021 playoff team in a row this past Saturday. The results were the same, as Central Washington upset the nationally ranked Javelinas 23-19.
The Javs actually had the lead late into this game, ahead 19-14 with about seven minutes to go. A Central Washington field goal got the Wildcats within two and a JJ Lemming touchdown with just 29 seconds remaining put the upset away. The Wildcats look to play stunner once again this coming weekend as they head to Angelo State in a huge matchup.
If there was any question about whether Minnesota State was back, the Mavericks answered it this weekend. The Mavs took down nationally ranked Sioux Falls and may have a host seed in the next regional rankings. With back-to-back wins over nationally ranked teams and a defeat of then-ranked Bemidji State on opening day, the Mavs have arguably the best playoff resume in the NSIC. The Winona State matchup in two weeks will be huge.
But that’s in two weeks. Saturday was a balanced attack, as quarterback Hayden Ekern passed for two scores and rushed for two more while running back Shen Butler Lawson Jr. ran for 103-yards and a score. This defense allows some yards, but to beat the Mavericks, it is starting to look like it will take a shootout with how well the offense is performing.
No. 1 Grand Valley State | Previous: 1: The question isn’t if anyone can beat the Lakers; it is can anyone even slow them down and come close? GVSU had another monster victory this week, defeating Michigan Tech 42-7. They have a top-5 scoring defense in DII and are a steamroller on offense. A matchup with Wayne State (MI) awaits.
No. 2 Angelo State | Previous: 2: The Rams had no problems this week, defeating Simon Fraser 24-0. It was the Rams’ defense second shutout of the season, and it has now allowed single-digit scoring in four of its last five games. Central Washington comes to town next week in a game that can put away the Lone Star Conference title.
No. 3 Shepherd | Previous: 3: There just aren’t too many teams in the PSAC that can hang with the Rams’ offense. Tyson Bagent had another huge day, throwing for 310 yards and five scores, each one to a different receiver. Ronnie Brown continued his breakout at running back with another huge game, making this team tougher than last year with options all over the field. East Stroudsburg is up next.
No. 4 Ferris State | Previous: 4: Tony Annese has done it again. Quarterback Carson Gulker joined an elite club this past weekend. With his five-touchdown performance, EVERY quarterback that has started a game in the Annese era has accounted for a five-touchdown game. When you consider this team has been hit hard by injury at the quarterback position the past three seasons and they run a two-quarterback (sometimes three) system, it is a remarkable feat. We got a doozy next Saturday as Ferris State hosts undefeated Davenport.
No. 5 Ouachita Baptist | Previous: 5: Kudos to East Central for giving the Tigers a ball game (which I think speaks volumes to how far East Central has come this season). Ouachita Baptist put up its second-lowest scoring output of the season, but still walked away victorious and are now 9-0. Despite the impressive effort from East Central, there was still no answer for TJ Cole who scored another three touchdowns this week. Southeastern Oklahoma State is up next.
No. 6 Pittsburg State| Previous: 6: The Gorillas dominated their way to 9-0, defeating Central Oklahoma 38-7. In fact, they nearly posted a shutout until a Bronchos touchdown with just over a minute remaining. This team is very much like Grand Valley State and Ferris State — if you’re looking for elite, superstar stats and numbers, you won’t find it. The Gorillas are deep and balanced and come at you every which way you can imagine. Washburn is up next.
No. 7 Delta State | Previous: 7: How about a little love for Mississippi College which has played the best of the best in the Gulf South competitively this season? That said, Patrick Shegog and his Statesmen survived a shootout, using a 14-0 fourth quarter to win 52-38. Shegog totaled 249 yards and three touchdowns while Kory Gainwell added 107 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Four Statesmen in total ran for at least 82 yards. Next up is a tough West Georgia team at home.
No. 8 West Florida | Previous: 8: The Argos have now won five in a row. This high-flying offense didn’t put up its normal numbers, but David Durden found the end zone on a pretty 48-yard pass once again. It’s not often we shoutout kickers here, but Griffin Cerra deserves some love with five field goals on the day. Next up is Valdosta State.
No. 9 Colorado School of Mines| Previous: 10: The Orediggers had to fight in this one, but they used a 20-0 fourth quarter to come all the way back and take down Western Colorado 30-20. The Big Three of John Matocha, Michael Zeman and Josh Johnston is seemingly unstoppable right now, each doing what they do best in the comeback. Zeman led the way with three scores, all of which came in the final 16 minutes of the game. New Mexico Highlands is next.
No. 10 Slippery Rock | Previous: First five out: This spot is as close as it gets, especially when you consider last week’s No. 9 and two “First five out” were upset this week. The Rock is rolling, scoring no less than 31 points in any game on their four-game winning streak while defeating those four teams by an average of 22.3 points per game. Quarterback Noah Grover is having a big season as The Rock looks for a spot in the PSAC championship game in a couple of weeks. A showdown with Edinboro awaits.
There was a slew of some of the best performances of the season all in one week this past Saturday. The goal of this list is to track the contenders throughout the season. Now that we are through eight weeks of the season, there were some serious cuts this week and will continue throughout the remaining weeks.
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Wayne Cavadi has covered all things Division II sports for NCAA.com since 2016. He hosts the weekly DII Nation Podcast available on Spotify and YouTube. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report, MLB.com, AJC.com, SB Nation and FoxSports.com and in publications like The Advocate and Lindy’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneCavadi_D2.
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