Sept. 18, 2009

By Amy Farnum

No. 1 Mount Union and No. 7 Ohio Northern looks to be the most-anticipated match-up of the week in Division III as the two Ohio Athletic Conference squads open league play with the lone contest between Top 10 schools on Saturday.

It is the fifth straight year, and ninth time in the last 12 years, that both teams are nationally-ranked entering the game.  Last year, Mount Union was also No. 1 as the Purple Raiders dismantled No. 25 ONU, 44-7.  In 2007, both squads were also ranked in the Top 10, and No. 1 Mount Union shutout No. 9 ONU, 44-0.  Although the Purple Raiders have won the last three games of the series, the Polar Bears had the honor of ending MUC's 110-game-regular season win streak in 2005 with a 21-14 win in Alliance.

Senior quarterback Kurt Rocco made his first collegiate start in MUC's 52-10 season-opening victory at St. John Fisher, and after completing 13-of-16 passes for 249 yards and three TD, he leads the nation in pass efficiency.  Rocco and the Purple Raiders will face an upset-minded Polar Bear defense that intercepted three passes as ONU knocked off then-No. 4 North Central, 28-19, to open the year. 

Ohio Northern hosts Mount Union on Sept. 19 at 1:30 p.m. 

WEST COAST BATTLE:  No. 14 Linfield and No. 21 Occidental will meet for the third time, but for the first time in the regular season, Sept. 19 in one of three Top 25 matchups this week.

The Wildcats opened 2009 with an upset of then-No. 4 Hardin-Simmons Sept. 12 as junior Aaron Boehme had a spectacular return to the field with 335 yards passing and three touchdowns.  Boehme was injured in the 2008 Hardin-Simmons contest and sidelined the remainder of last season.

Oxy picked up where it left off in 2008, shutting out Menlo, 17-0, to start the season on Sept. 5.  The Tigers, who have won five straight games on their home field, posted a perfect regular season in 2008 before falling to Willamette in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs.

Linfield, which has reeled off an NCAA all-division record 53 straight winning seasons, defeated the Tigers in both previous meetings in the 2004 and 2005 NCAA playoffs.

RUNNING WILD:  When Saint John's head coach John Gagliardi coaches his 600th career game against Concordia-Moorhead, the running game will sure to be in focus when the No. 6 Johnnies and No. 23 Cobbers meet on Sept. 19.

The Johnnies are coming off a 35-27 win at Wisconsin-Eau Claire in which five different players ran for a touchdown - the first time that has happened in program history since 1998.  SJU is averaging 204.5 yards on the ground after the first two games, but the Cobbers have been stingy upfront, giving up just 99.5 yards rushing per game.

This could be a higher-scoring affair as the Cobbers have put up 33.5 points per game, while the Johnnies have allowed at least 24 points in two straight games for the first time since 2002.  

QUICK HITS:  Massachusetts Maritime sophomore running back Nathan Sherr tops the nation in rushing after gaining a school-record 325 yards on 26 carries in a 49-27 win over MIT last weekend.  The native of Lynnfield, Mass., is averaging 257.5 yards per game after two weeks of play ... Case Western Reserve quarterback Dan Whalen became the school's all-time leading passer in 45-14 win at Rochester on Sept. 12, finishing the game with 331 yards to improve his career total to 7,120.  The two-time University Athletic Association Player of the Year is also the Spartans' career leader in passes completed with 547 and his mark of 933 pass attempts is two shy of breaking Nick Leskiewicz's (1994-97) career record of 934.