What do you get when two perennial Division II powers annually clash in a professional football stadium?
More specially, the yearly meeting between Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association rivals Pittsburg State and Northwest Missouri State in the Fall Classic at Arrowhead. The 46th meeting of the series will be held at 5 p.m. ET Saturday.
|2002||29-7, NW Missouri State|
|2003||20-19, NW Missouri State|
|2004||21-17, Pittsburg State|
|2005||56-35, Pittsburg State|
|2006||41-14, NW Missouri State|
|2007||37-34, NW Missouri State|
|2008||35-10, NW Missouri State|
|2009||30-10, NW Missouri State|
|2010||22-16, NW Missouri State|
|2011||38-35, Pittsburg State|
The series is about as even as it gets — Pitt State leads 23-22 since the first meeting in 1932 — and in the past couple decades the result has directly affected the MIAA title race in most years.
In 2002, the game was moved to Arrowhead Stadium, where the Kansas City Chiefs play. Former Northwest athletics director Bob Boerigter, who is now the MIAA commissioner, had the idea for the neutral-site contest, and former Pitt State head coach/AD Chuck Broyles continued the trend, also holding the Gorillas’ home game with the Bearcats at Arrowhead in 2003.
Beginning in 2004, the two schools have collaborated to hold the game at Arrowhead, and it has been a very popular event with the fans.
The game has averaged 20,093 fans in the 10 games played at Arrowhead, pretty impressive considering the combined population of Pittsburg, Kan., and Maryville, Mo., is 32,292 (Pittsburg — 20,276; Maryville — 12,016 according to the July 2011 census).
“It’s a partnership that has been good for both universities and communities and fan bases,” Northwest head coach Adam Dorrel said. “We have a ton of alumni in Kansas City and so does Pitt State. We split the profit and it is an awesome deal for both universities.”
“For Division II student-athletes to be able to play in a professional stadium, it is a really neat thing,” Pitt State head coach Timothy Beck said. “It doesn’t get old. Both teams have great fan bases in our conference. It’s been a fun event for everybody — the players, the fans, the bands.”
Year after year, the series produces a highly-competitive game as exhibited by this season’s match-up between the No. 1 Gorillas (5-0) and No. 7 Bearcats (5-1). This year’s meeting will be the 11th time both teams are ranked in the top 10. Northwest holds a 7-3 advantage with both teams ranked in the top 10. The teams also have met six times with one school holding the No. 1 ranking in the AFCA Top 25, and the Gorillas hold a 4-2 advantage when there is a top team playing in the game.
The two teams have combined to win or share the MIAA title in 21 of the past 23 years dating to 1989, and the pair has combined to win five DII national championships. Northwest won the 1998, 1999 and 2009 titles, while Pitt State claimed the trophy in 1991 and 2011.
“It’s always a very physical game and a very emotional game,” Dorrel said. “It’s usually a very close game. There have been a lot of big plays for both sides over the years. Our All-Americans and guys who have gone to play in the NFL always seem to shine in this game.”
The 2012 edition of the series is already living up to the hype before the coin flip, but the defending national champion Gorillas refuse to feel the extra pressure.
“We’re just looking at it as another game even though it will have huge implications on what will happen at the end of the season,” Beck said.
The Bearcats will be looking to avenge last year’s two losses to the Gorillas on Saturday. In the 2011 Fall Classic, Pitt State rallied from a 22-point deficit to escape with a 38-35 victory against then-No. 1 Northwest. The two teams met again in the NCAA Quarterfinals, and the Gorillas handled Northwest 41-16.
Both teams enter the contest ranked in the top 10 of the Division II statistics, offensively and defensively. The Bearcats lead the MIAA and rank seventh in the nation in scoring offense averaging 45.83 points per game. Northwest’s defense is also stingy, giving up just 11.67 points per game, which ranks fourth in the nation. The Gorillas are not far behind giving up 17.20 points per game, 19th best in DII, and scoring 43.20 points per game, which ranks ninth.
“It’s always a physical game … it’s always a fast game,” Beck said. “They’re always extremely fast on defense, and I feel like we’re a fast defense. They haven’t turned the ball over much, and we turned it over three times in our last game. We cannot turn the football over. The offensive and defensive lines will set the tone of the game … that’s where it all starts.”
• The Big Sky Conference slate features an FCS top-10 showdown as No. 6 Eastern Washington (4-1) visits No. 2 Montana State (6-0) on Saturday. Montana State’s start is the Bobcats’ best since opening the 1978 season with a 7-0 mark, while Eastern Washington is looking to begin Big Sky play 4-0 for the first time in school history. Both squads enter the game with 3-0 league records.
Eastern leads the FCS as the Eagles are 18 of 18 in the red zone this season, scoring 11 touchdowns and seven field goals. Both programs boast potent offenses, averaging more than 400 yards of total offense and 30-plus points per game. And, both squads have solid receiving corps, highlighted by EWU’s Brandon Kauffman, who ranks fourth in the nation with 120.20 receiving yards per game, and Montana State’s Tanner Bleskin, who is 23rd in the nation with 85.17 receiving yards per game.
The Bobcats have won the past two meetings against the Eagles, but the Eagles had won the previous seven. The teams shared the 2010 league title, however the Eagles went on to win the national championship.
• Division III football fans will be focused on a battle of unbeatens in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference on Saturday as No. 7 Bethel travels to No. 3 St. Thomas (Minn.) in a game that has major conference title implications. St. Thomas (5-0) has won the MIAC in each of the last two years, while Bethel (5-0) is seeking its first league crown since 2007. St. Thomas is Bethel’s fourth consecutive game against an unbeaten opponent.
Look for this one to be a defensive battle. Bethel has given up just 11.0 points per game, which ranks eighth in DIII, while St. Thomas has surrendered only 46.80 rushing yards per game, which is good for fifth in the nation. Bethel may have one advantage as the Royals rank ninth in the nation with a 2.20 turnover margin.
• The No. 4 Stanford women’s volleyball team will attempt to stretch its winning streak to 14 matches when the Cardinal plays host to No. 7 UCLA on Friday. The Cardinal is coming off a sweep of No. 6 USC on Wednesday, which moved them to 7-0 in Pac-12 play, one game ahead of No. 2 Washington (6-0). Stanford, which leads the Pac-12 in opponent hitting percentage with a .159 clip, held the Trojans to a .085 hitting percentage with its stellar defense.
UCLA is the defending NCAA champion and is in fourth place with a 4-2 Pac-12 record. The Bruins defeated Stanford twice last year, but the Cardinal holds the series advantage 41-35.
• The Georgetown women’s soccer team heads into the weekend with the program’s highest ranking in history at No. 11 as the Hoyas look to gain the edge in the Big East National Division in a contest against No. 24 Notre Dame. Both teams are 6-0-1 in the league, and the winner will have an edge heading into the final week of regular-season play, which ends Oct. 20.
The Hoyas offer a balanced attack with a defense led by redshirt freshman goalkeeper Emma Newins, who tops the Big East with a 0.62 goals against average, and an offense sparked by sophomore midfielder Daphne Corboz, who paces the league with 15 goals and 36 points.
Georgetown has never won a Big East regular-season or tournament championship.
• The Xavier men’s soccer team is one of six Division I programs without a loss this season (9-0-2) after opening Atlantic-10 play with a 2-0 mark for the first time since 1998. The Musketeers moved up to No. 13 in the NSCAA national poll thanks to their 11-game unbeaten streak. The Musketeers will test their lofty ranking against A-10 rival Dayton (7-3) on Oct. 12.
Xavier is scoring 2.27 goals per game, which ranks 10th on the nation’s scoring offense list, while the Musketeers are holding opponents to 0.79 goals per game. The Musketeers top the nation with 32 assists behind junior Matt Walker, who has contributed seven on the year.
• There will be volleyball galore at the fifth annual Mizuno GLVC/GLIAC Crossover Volleyball Tournament, the nation’s largest collegiate volleyball tournament, at the Great Lakes Center in Aurora, Ill., on Friday-Saturday. The tournament features 16 Great Lakes Valley Conference teams and 16 Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference squads. Ninth-ranked Indianapolis is the GLVC’s No. 1 seed, while No. 25 Northwood is the top seed from the GLIAC. Both teams are 9-0 in their conferences.
The two-day tournament will consist of 48 matches on eight different courts. The conference that boasts the best combined record at the end of the event will earn the Crossover traveling trophy, which has been in the GLVC’s possession the past two years.
• The second University Athletic Association Round Robin of the season will take place Sunday-Monday in Pittsburgh with the most highly anticipated DIII women’s volleyball match of the weekend featuring No. 1 Washington University (21-1) and No. 6 Emory (19-3). Washington U. has swept its past eight opponents, while 18 of the Bears’ 21 victories have been in three sets this year. Both teams enter the weekend with spotless 3-0 records in conference play.
• Palm Beach Atlantic junior forward Kenny Hogg leads Division II men’s soccer in total goals for the second consecutive season. A native of Irvine, Scotland, Hogg currently tops the nation with 17 goals, and also leads with 3.33 points and 1.67 goals per match. Last season, he led DII with 23 total goals, and finished second in goals per game. Hogg is in only his second year of play for the Sailfish, who are ranked No. 10 in the NSCAA Top 25, and boast a 9-2-0 record. The Sailfish will enjoy the weekend off before playing host to No. 3 Lynn in huge match on Oct. 17.
• Put a hockey stick in Lauren Greer’s hands and it doesn’t matter if she’s running on turf or skating on ice, she will most likely score for either Middlebury’s field hockey or hockey team. This fall, Greer already has scored 22 goals and leads the nation in goals per game, plus has contributed 10 assists, sparking No. 2 Middlebury to an 11-0 record heading into a NESCAC clash at Trinity on Saturday. Greer, a senior forward, owns every school scoring season and all-time record, and tied her career-high with five goals in a 9-0 win at Keene State on Tuesday. When she wraps up her dominant career on the turf, she will return to the ice where she garnered second-team AHCA All-America honors after scoring 13 goals last year.
• MIT freshman middle hitter Ada Taylor is on pace to set a school season record in hitting percentage as she leads DIII women’s volleyball at a .458 clip. She has committed just 23 errors in 216 total attacks, along with 122 kills. The MIT record of .447 is held by Kamilah Alexander and was set in 1995. The Engineers picked up their 20th win against WPI on Oct. 4 — marking their 17th consecutive 20-win season — as they moved to 5-1 in NEWMAC play. On a break from league action, they will host the MIT Quad Tournament on Friday-Saturday.
• There is some pretty good soccer being played at Brandeis. Both the men’s and women’s teams are nationally ranked in the NSCAA Division III polls — No. 9 and No. 20, respectively — and they have combined for an incredible 21-1-2 record entering the weekend.
The men’s squad (11-0-1) is on a 17-match unbeaten streak dating to last season, while the women’s (10-1-1) 0-0 tie against Case Western Reserve on Oct. 6 was the Judges’ 10th shutout of the year — one shy of the season record.
The Judges go on the road this weekend, heading to Chicago on Friday and to Washington University in St. Louis on Sunday.
Follow Amy Farnum on Twitter: @NCAA_Amy