football-d3 flag | September 23, 2013

Top 10 Preview

No. 1 Mount Union



No. 2 St. Thomas (Minn.) at Wisconsin-River Falls, 8 p.m. ET Thursday

This might be the first Thursday night outdoor football game in St. Thomas (Minn.) history. The Toms’ last football game played on a Thursday was a 1999 season-ending night game in the Metrodome against Hamline. UST played at least one memorable Thursday game prior to that: The Thanksgiving Day game in 1901 against St. John’s, the first time those teams ever played in football.

St. Thomas is 3-0 against River Falls under Glenn Caruso, but the Falcons lead the overall series 8-5. The Falcons won four consecutive meetings with the Toms from 1992-95. The schools didn’t play between 1937-1991. After a 15-year break, the RF-UST series resumed in 2010.

The teams first played 100 years ago in the second game of the 1913 season at UST. The 1930 game in St. Paul on the Tommie campus was the first night football game in Twin Cities history.

Ten different players scored points -- including seven touchdowns from seven different players -- as the No. 2-ranked Tommies scored a 52-7 victory against Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the Sept. 7 season and home opener at O'Shaughnessy Stadium. The 52 points were the Tommies' most scored in a home opener since 1917 when St. Thomas recorded a 52-0 win against the Silver Swans.

No. 3 Linfield at Hardin-Simmons, 1 p.m. ET Saturday

Linfield opens its 2013 season on the road as it takes on Hardin-Simmons. Linfield must find a replacement for graduated quarterback Mickey Inns, who passed for more than 3,200 yards and 30 touchdowns in leading the Purple and Cardinal to an 11-1 record last season. With solid play quarterbacking the team during spring and fall practices, senior Josh Yoder has earned the starting job heading into the opener against Hardin-Simmons. Junior Matt Yarbrough stands waiting in the wings and is fully capable of running the offense effectively. Both were understudies to Inns the past two seasons.

Production at the tailback position is expected to revolve around Josh Hill, whom Linfield head coach Joseph Smith calls a legitimate candidate for the Gagliardi Trophy. Hill returns healthy after missing the final nine games of 2012 with an injury. He recorded three consecutive 100-yard rushing games before injuries ended his season in Week 4.

Linfield’s defense should again be among the nation’s best, though optimism is a bit tempered after the Wildcats lost a pair of top-tier defensive linemen. The Wildcats return 10 starters from last season’s squad that led Division III in sacks and was No. 1 in the Northwest Conference in total defense.

Hardin-Simmons hits Shelton Stadium for the first time this season in what will be the sixth meeting in the series with Linfield and the home team has won each of the previous five games. Linfield won last season in McMinnville 49-35 with a strong third quarter. The Cowboys trailed 29-0 against Willamette before you could blink and suffered a 64-34 loss in the season opener. The Bearcats took the opening kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown and added another kickoff return for a touchdown.

No. 4 Mary Hardin-Baylor at Kean, 1 p.m. ET Saturday

Mary Hardin-Baylor continues it coast-to-coast, season-opening road swing with a trip to Union, N.J. to face Kean. The Cru is 1-0 after posting a 31-13 victory against Redlands last Saturday in California. Now UMHB travels across the country to the East Coast to face a Cougars team that is 0-1 after dropping a 30-14 road decision to Albright last Saturday.

The Cru committed four turnovers and were penalized 11 times in the victory against Redlands. The game is the middle game of a stretch that will see the Cru play its first three contests in three different time zones and comes just a week before UMHB hosts its inaugural game in the on-campus Crusader Stadium. The Crusader Stadium opener will feature the Cru taking on traditional rival and fifth-ranked Wesley.

The Cru leads the all-time series with Kean 1-0. UMHB posted a 34-7 victory against the Cougars in the 2012 season opener in Belton. Saturday's game will also mark the first time the Cru has played a game in the state of New Jersey and will be just the 10th game played in the Eastern time zone.

Salisbury at No. 5 Wesley, 1 p.m. Saturday

In what looked like a matchup between two ranked teams, Salisbury didn't hold up its end of the bargain. The Sea Gulls dropped their opener to Christopher Newport and fell out of the latest top 25, but the task gets no easier this week as they head to Delaware to take on No. 5 Wesley in the Route 13 Rivalry.

Quarterback Joe Callahan and wide receiver Steve Koudossou set several school-records on the day, and along with an impressive defensive effort in the second half, Wesley defeated No. 20 Widener 33-21 in the first night football game at Scott D. Miller Stadium in Week 1. Callahan set single-game marks for completions (37) and yards passing (510) to go along with five touchdowns in his first career start. Catching nearly half of those passes was Koudossou as the speedy receiver established records for receptions (17) and receiving yards (266), while tying the school-record for touchdowns receiving (four).

Wesley won last year's matchup at Salisbury 17-7.

No. 6 North Central (Ill.) at Wisconsin-La Crosse, 2 p.m. ET Saturday

North Central (Ill.) opens the 2013 season on Saturday at Wisconsin-La Crosse. The Eagles lost their first game of the season last Saturday, a 35-24 setback at home against the Dubuque.

The chase for North Central's eighth consecutive College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin championship will begin, spearheaded by strong leadership from its senior class and armed with a large arsenal of experienced players in the starting lineup.

After a 9-3 finish in 2012 which included a third consecutive trip to the second round of the Division III playoffs, the Cardinals' 21 seniors, inlcuding team captains Shane Dierking, John Focosi, Ryne Rezac, Alex Tripp and Greg Whalen, look to lead the program to new heights this season.

Offensively, the Cardinals' game plan remains largely the same, though they will look to speed up the tempo by cutting down the amount of time between plays. North Central has set a goal to run at least 80 plays per game this season after running a little more than 65 plays per game in 2012.

No. 7 Hobart



Wartburg at No. 8 Bethel, 2 p.m. ET Saturday

Bethel opens its season on Saturday against Wartburg and was ranked No. 8 in the Preseason Top 25 poll. It marks the third time the program was in the preseason top 10. The Royals were picked to finish second in the preseason Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference poll behind No. 2 St. Thomas (Minn.). Head coach Steve Johnson returns for his 25th season and has a career record of 173-78.

Bethel returns a pair of important players including linebacker Seth Mathis -- a 2012 AFCA and All-American First Team player -- who led the MIAC in tackles a year ago. Wide receiver Mitch Hallstrom also led the conference in receptions in 2012.

Wartburg won its season opener a week ago against MacMurray, 58-7.

No. 9 Wisconsin-Platteville at Dubuque, 7 p.m. ET

Wisconsin-Platteville will travel to Dubuque on Saturday for the "Battle of the Bridge" after defeating Buena Vista in its opener 42-17. UW-Platteville didn't waste any time to get on the board, scoring on its first possession of the 2013 campaign. Senior John Kelly conducted a 12-play, 89-yard drive and connected with junior Bryan Whitehead for a 19-yard touchdown pass. A little more than four minutes later, the Pioneers took advantage of a Beaver fumble when junior Andy Puccini put UW-Platteville up 14-0 on a 23-yard touchdown run.

Puccinni led the Pioneer offense with 149 rushing yards on 21 touches. Quarterback Bryce Corrigan was extremely efficient, completing 15 of 19 for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

Dubuque beat Wisconsin-La Crosse in Week 1.

No. 10 Wisconsin-Oshkosh at Marian (Ind.), 1 p.m. ET

A pair of top-10 football teams from different national organizations meet when Wisconsin-Oshkosh travels to Marian (Ind.). The Titans (1-0) are ranked 10th in Division III, while the Knights (1-1) are listed second in the NAIA Top 25. Marian won the 2012 NAIA championship with a 12-1 record.

The Knights are coming off a 31-24 overtime loss to fourth-ranked Saint Xavier (Ill.). Marian recorded a 23-0 win against Kentucky Christian in its season opener. Tevin Lake has led the Marian offense so far with 200 yards rushing and four touchdowns. The passing game goes through quarterback Joey Hecklinski (364 yards) and receiver Anthony Jones Jr. (177 yards). On defense, linebacker Ryan Hartnett tops the squad with 12 tackles and two sacks.

UW-Oshkosh stormed back from a 17-point deficit in last week's 24-20 victory at Central (Iowa). Nick Olla threw for 325 yards in his first career start, while Cory Wipperfurth had two catches of 56-plus yards. The Titans also stepped up on defense, with Austin Blashka intercepting two passes and Dexter Charles registering 1.5 sacks. A total of 44 lettermen and 12 starters return from a UW-Oshkosh team that reached the semifinals of the 2012 Division III playoffs. UW-Oshkosh started 13-0 and captured a Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title on the way to its first playoff appearance. This is the first meeting between the two schools. UW-Oshkosh's last NAIA opponent was Ohio Dominican in 2009.