Dec. 1, 2010

By Amy Farnum

Augustana (11-1) at Minnesota Duluth (12-0), 12 p.m. CT
This battle of Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference foes on Saturday will be a classic match-up of the favorite and the underdog. The Vikings are coming off their first-ever NCAA playoff victory - a dominating 38-6 win over perennial power Grand Valley State - as they attempt to keep their best season in school history alive. The Bulldogs, who won the NCAA title in 2008, are a familiar face in the NCAA playoffs, but had to scratch and claw for a 20-17 overtime victory against St. Cloud State to advance to the quarterfinals for the third straight season. Placekicker David Nadeau nailed a game-tying field goal to force overtime, and then hit a game-winner in the first overtime to lift the Bulldogs over the Huskies.

The two squads did not meet in the regular season, although they have played in each of the last six years. UMD leads the series 4-2, and has won the last three meetings, including a 42-21 victory in 2009.

Augustanas defensive unit keys the team, and is ranked sixth in the nation in total defense (251.5 ypg) and third in scoring defense (13.17 ppg). The Vikings have shutout three opponents and held GVSU, a team averaging 38.6 ppg entering the contest, to six points last weekend. Senior wide receiver Tyler Schulte has caught 17 touchdowns this season, including three against the Lakers last Saturday.

Minnesota Duluth also boasts a stout defense, and is giving up just 12.25 ppg, which ranks second in Division II. However, the Bulldogs are also a force offensively, and enter the contest ranked second in scoring (44.50 ppg) and 11th in total offense (460.75 ypg).

Central Missouri (11-2) at Northwest Missouri State (11-1), 1 p.m. CT
The Mules continued their run through the NCAA playoffs with their second win over a Lone Star Conference squad as they upended top-seeded Abilene Christian, 55-41, on Saturday, handing the Wildcats their first loss of the season. After claiming its first NCAA playoff win against West Texas A&M two weeks ago, the Mules are now headed to the quarterfinals for the first time in history. Their opponent will be a very familiar foe as UCM travels to Northwest Missouri State, the defending NCAA champion. The Bearcats survived a tough test against Texas A&M-Kingsville as quarterback Blake Bolles connected with Josh Baker for a three-yard TD pass with 17 seconds left in regulation to lift Northwest to a 35-31 victory.

UCM senior quarterback Eric Czerniewski directs an offense that is ranked in the top five nationally in three categories, including the fourth-best passing offense (392.23 ypg). He threw for 477 yards and six touchdowns last week. It was the second-highest passing total in school history.

The Bearcats boast their own prolific passer in Bolles, who tallied three TDs and 380 yards against TAMU-Kingsvilles fourth-ranked defense last Saturday. Northwest has won both NCAA playoff games by four points.

Central Missouri and Northwest will be meeting for the 90th time in series history. The Bearcats lead the all-time series 53-34-2 since it began in 1921. Northwest won this years meeting, 17-16, thanks to Todd Adolfs game-winning 45-yard field goal as time expired. UCMs last win in the series was in 2003. The two coaches also have a long history as UCM first-year head coach Jim Svobada served as Northwests offensive coordinator from 1994-2003 under Mel Tjeerdsma.

Delta State (10-3) at Albany State (11-0), 12 p.m. ET
The Statesmen advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for fourth time, and first time since 2008, with a convincing 47-24 win over North Alabama last weekend, avenging a 31-7 regular season loss to the Lions. Delta State racked up 524 yards of total offense, including 359 yards on the ground, against the Lions, and held UNA to just 66 yards rushing.

The Rams moved on to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2004 and second time in program history as they fended off a pesky Wingate squad, 30-28, last Saturday. Wingate narrowed the Rams lead to just two points, scoring a TD with less than two minutes remaining and then tried an onside kick, but ASUs LiRonnie Davis recovered the ball to squelch the comeback. Davis also scored two TDs on the day.

DSU sports a balanced offensive attack, and ranks seventh in the nation in total offense with 479.08 yards per game, led by quarterback Micah Davis, and running backs Trevor Deed and Brandon Lucas, who each ran for over 100 yards against UNA. The Rams will counter with the top scoring defense in the nation as they are allowing just 11.55 points per game, and giving up just 217.64 yards per game, which ranks third in Division II.

This will be the first meeting between the two programs. DSU is 10-4 all-time in NCAA postseason play, while the Rams are 3-11.

Shepherd (11-2) at Mercyhurst (10-2), 12 p.m. ET
The Rams advanced to their third NCAA quarterfinal appearance in the last five years, and first since 2007 after ousting top-seeded Kutztown with a 41-34 win in second round action. Sophomore Keon Robinsons 97-yard kickoff return for a TD in the fourth quarter helped the Rams tie the game, and just seconds later outside linebacker Maurice Perry returned an interception 32 yards for a score, giving Shepherd lead they would not relinquish.

The Lakers won their first-ever NCAA playoff game with a 28-14 defeat of Bloomsburg behind the stellar play of quarterback Travis Rearick, who threw for three scores and rushed for another. Mercyhurst enters the contest on a school-record seven-game winning streak.

Shepherd ranks sixth in the nation in scoring offense (40.25 ppg), sparked by a running game that features junior Tommy Addison, who is averaging 124.58 ypg, which ranks ninth in Division II. The Rams also field a stout rushing defense, allowing just 88.0 ypg on the ground (12th in nation), and are second in Division II with a 1.67 turnover margin. Mercyhurst is holding opponents to just 18.0 points per game, and less than 100 yards per game on the ground.

The two teams will meet for the first time in program history.