Sept. 11, 2009

By Amy Farnum

After winning the program’s first-ever Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title last season, No. 7 UW-Stevens Point looks to build on past success as the Pointers travel to No. 25 Central (Iowa) on Sept. 12 in this week’s only matchup between ranked opponents.

The Pointers lost just one starter from last year’s offense, and return all five linemen as well as quarterback Jared Beckwith (2,461 yards, 16 TD), while senior safety Bryan Blum (64.5 tackles, 6 INT) and six other starters are back to lead a defense that was ranked 11th in 2008. 

Central topped Lakeland College, 40-17, in its season-opener, propelling the Dutch into the Division III national rankings.  Junior Jarred Lackey was selected to the Team of the Week after showing his versatility in his first action at running back last weekend.  Lackey had shared playing time at quarterback last year, and had practiced at linebacker and S-back, but was moved to running back less than two weeks before last weekend’s opener.

The native of Somerton, Ariz., came off the bench in the second quarter and rushed for 143 yards on seven carries, including a 61-yard TD run on his first collegiate carry.   It was the most yards gained by a Central running back since 2006.

The first meeting between the two programs will also be the Pointers first of three consecutive road trips.  UWSP travels to Division II opponent Missouri S&T on Sept. 19 and goes to Azusa Pacific on Sept. 26 before opening at home against UW-Eau Claire on Oct. 3.

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND: No. 8 Ithaca College began the 2009 season with a resounding 45-0 defeat of St. Lawrence, but the competition may be a bit stiffer when the Bombers travel to Union College on Sept. 12. 

The Bombers’ defense allowed just two first downs and 79 total yards in their season-opener, but this week they will face a program that has enjoyed 17 straight winning seasons under head coach John Audino.  Junior running back Chris Coney (1,283 yards, 18 TD) will be a threat to the Bombers’ stingy defense.  He was ranked 12th in nation in rushing last year, while leading the Liberty League in scoring, and looks to benefit from the blocking of preseason All-American offensive lineman Colin Berry.

Union leads the series 2-0 with the Dutchmen winning the last meeting, 55-41, in the first round of the 2005 NCAA playoffs.  Audino and Ithaca head coach Mike Welch were both members of the coaching staff at Albany in 1976.

BIG NAMES, BIG GAME?  Two traditional Division III football powers take the field as fourth-ranked Hardin-Simmons University visits Linfield on Sept. 12 in one of the most-anticipated matchups of the week.
A regular participant in the NCAA playoffs in the first half of this decade – a run which includes the 2004 NCAA title – Linfield looks to claim its first Northwest Conference crown since 2005.  It will be a difficult slate as the Wildcats open the season against HSU, and then go on the road for four contests.  The Wildcats are receiving votes in the Top 25.

Hardin-Simmons began its slate with a 48-31 win against Whitworth, also of the Northwest Conference, as senior quarterback Justin Feaster threw for four touchdowns and ran for two more to earn American Southwest Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.  HSU has advanced to the NCAA playoffs five times since 2000, including last season.

Linfield has posted 53 consecutive winning seasons since 1956 and hopes home field advantage will once again reign in the series as the home team has won all three games (HSU leads 2-1).  Feaster rallied the Cowboys to an 80-yard, last-minute drive in last year’s contest to win 29-22 in Abilene, Texas. 

QUICK KICKS:  After an impressive 28-19 season-opening upset of then-No. 4 North Central, Ohio Northern jumped into the Top 25 at No. 9.  The Polar Bears will enjoy a bye week, but No. 1 Mount Union looms as they host the Purple Raiders on Sept. 19 … For the second straight season,
No. 16 Wabash College and HomeTown Television are partnering to produce a live Internet broadcast and tape-delayed television viewing of Little Giant home football games. Wabash opens against Denison Sept. 12.