The second round of the playoffs provided some more upsets and some interesting story lines, although not quite as shocking or surprising as the opening round.
With teams like Grand Valley, Northwest Missouri, CSU-Pueblo and Shepherd surviving, we have some traditional playoff teams still in the mix - three that have won national championships. Slippery Rock, West Georgia, Tuskegee and Emporia State are providing us with some new blood, giving the playoffs a great balance.
A lot was made of Ferris State dismantling Grand Valley earlier in the season, 61-24. The Lakers also lost to Ashland comments were made about GV being the third best team in the conference.
A wise man once said that there is no such thing as a big game in September and the Lakers proved that for a second week in a row, eliminating Ferris State from the playoffs and proving that experience matters this time of year.
In spite of the fact that the Laker offense was a machine, averaging 7.1 yards per play, the key to the game was most likely the fact that the GV defense was able to force three turnovers because it had trouble stopping FSU quarterback Jason Vander Laan. The best player in Division II the past two years, he led the Ferris offense to 492 yards, throwing five touchdown passes and adding 126 yards on the ground.
Vander Laan ends his career as the top rushing quarterback of all time and Grand Valley extends its season, something the Lakers have been doing on a regular basis since 2001.
Tuskegee upset North Alabama to advance to the regional finals against West Georgia. It is significant for a couple of reasons.
Tuskegee is once again showing it can compete with the best teams in Division II after opting out of the playoffs for so many years. It now has playoff wins against teams from two other conferences in this year's playoffs. The Golden Tigers will have to beat West Georgia in order to have an opportunity to beat a team from a third conference. They have represented the SIAC well.
Also, Tuskegee's coach Willie Slater was the offensive coordinator for Bobby Wallace and UNA when the Lions won three national championships in a row from 1993-1995. The Lions remain the only team to accomplish this.
Another team has also represented its conference well. The assumption, no pun intended, in Super Region One has long been that the PSAC is the dominant conference and should have multiple representatives in the playoffs.
It has generally been considered the weakest in SR1, but Assumption College represented the conference well. After dominating in round one, Assumption was a failed two-point conversion away from tying the game with Slippery Rock late in the fourth. In fact, it took an interception by the SRU defense in the final minutes to seal the deal.
The Greyhound performance should have an effect on how the relatives strength of each conference is perceived in the region.
The Hornets, typically a pass-first team, rushed for 268 yards in bad weather conditions, beating Henderson State, 29-3. Quarterback Brent Wilson, a candidate for the Harlon Hill Trophy, only attemped 14 passes and only threw for 63 yards.
The ESU defense allowed only 137 yards of total offense to HSU.
Speaking of Defense
Last week I mentioned how the games were very offensive oriented. In round two, not only did Emporia State have a good defensive performance, they were one-upped by conference rival Northwest Missouri.
A week after Humboldt State had gained over 700 yards in its win over Augustana, the Lumberjacks were held to 48 total yards for the game. They averaged only 1.1 yard per offensive play and their only score came on a blocked punt.
The Northwest defense was credited with 14 tackles for loss on the way to holding the nation's leading rusher, Ja'Quan Gardner, to 24 yards on 14 carries. It was his lowest total since he gained 107 yards on 21 carries against Dixie State. It was the only time all season that he had been held under 100 yards on the ground.
Northwest quarterback Brady Bolles threw for 276 yards and two touchdowns in the win.
The Bearcats will face Emporia State to decide the winner of SR3.