Oct. 16, 2009

By Amy Farnum

TOMMIE-JOHNNIE SHOWDOWN:  When No. 15 St. Thomas travels to No. 6 Saint John’s on Oct. 17, it will not only be one of the games to watch on a national level, but will have huge implications in the race for the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title.

Both teams are unbeaten, and boast 4-0 records in MIAC play, as they prepare for the 78th meeting in series history.  The last time both teams came into the contest unbeaten in the second half of the season was 1942.  St. Thomas has not won against the Johnnies in Collegeville since 1986.  The Tommies last defeated Saint John’s was in 1997 in the series that dates back to 1901.

This game will most likely be won in the trenches as both defenses are limiting opponents to less than 100 yards rushing per game.  The St. Thomas running back tandem of Ben Wartman and Colin Tobin enter the contest with a combined 1,131 yards rushing (an average of 7.07 yards per carry) and 18 touchdowns; 870 yards (6.49 avg.) and 15 touchdowns of which have come in the four MIAC games.  St. John’s is averaging over 200 yards rushing per game led by junior Jakob Reding, who ran for 94 yards and a TD in last year’s win at St. Thomas.

BATTLE OF UNBEATENS:  In the only other tilt between nationally-ranked foes this week, No. 10 Wabash College will host No. 22 Wittenberg in North Coast Athletic Conference clash on Oct. 17 at 1 p.m.  Both teams enter the game with identical 5-0 records and 3-0 marks in conference action.

Wabash and Wittenberg have combined to win nine of the last 11 NCAC titles, including a shared conference championship between the two schools in 2006 when both teams finished 6-1 for the season. Wabash has four straight NCAC championships to its credit. The Tigers won five consecutive NCAC titles from 1997-2001, including a three-way tie with Wooster and Allegheny in 1997.  The Little Giants have won the last two games of the series, including a 13-10 victory in 2008.

Wabash senior quarter Matt Hudson is coming off a spectacular performance against Washington University (Mo.) in which he threw for 335 yards and three touchdowns.  The reigning NCAC Offensive Player of the Week became only the fourth player in school history to pass for more than 7,000 yards in his career.  However, Hudson will be facing one the top defenses in the nation as Wittenberg ranks first in total defense (122.6 ypg) and passing efficiency defense (61.20 rating).

“Both teams post some phenomenal numbers and are ranked at the highest levels nationally,” said head coach Erik Raeburn. “However, football is a team game. Last year, both defenses played outstanding games. I thought we gained a slight edge in special teams when we blocked one kick and, of course the field goal by Spencer (Whitehead) at the end of the game. That could prove to be the difference again this year.”

LIONS ROAR:  Albright (Pa.) College cracked the latest AFCA Top 25 at No. 23 after starting the season 5-0 for the first time since 1997.  The Lions will look to extend their winning streak to six when they travel to King’s College for a Middle Athletic Conference contest on Oct. 17.

The Lions are tied with Delaware Valley College for first place in the MAC standings as both squads are unbeaten in league play.

Senior quarterback Tanner Kelly passed for 403 yards and three touchdowns without an interception and ran for 87 yards in the Lions’ win over Lycoming College last weekend.  Kelly’s passing efficiency of 194.20 ranks him first in the MAC and fourth in Division III, while his 326.20 yards of total offense is ninth in the nation. He also leads the MAC in passing yards per game with 279.0 and has thrown for 11 touchdowns and has rushed for three more.
  Hampden-Sydney broke into the latest AFCA Top 25 at No. 21 on the merits of a 6-0 start and will test the national ranking by hosting Old Dominion Athletic Conference foe Washington and Lee on Oct. 17 for the 68th time in series history.

The contest will feature the ODAC’s top-rated rushing offense and the ODAC’s second-rated rushing defense. The Generals’ 213.2 yards-per-game on the ground are paced by reigning ODAC Offensive Player of the Week Jonathan Clemo who has been churning for 94.0 yards-per-game while also scoring seven touchdowns.

The Tigers’ defense is holding opponents to just 116.5 yards per game on the ground. Hampden-Sydney, along with reigning ODAC Defensive Player of the Week Trevor Ikwild, has already posted 62 tackles for loss costing their opponents 256 total yards.

Hampden-Sydney enters the contest with a perfect 3-0 mark in ODAC play as they look to remain on top of the league standings against the Generals.