Week 7 got off to a wild start with Shepherd upsetting No. 12 and undefeated West Chester, 35-23. It set the tone for an exciting Saturday of DII football in which three more top 25 teams fell in upset fashion to unranked teams. Here's the complete schedule, rankings, and scores for the top games of the weekend.
DII football Week 7: Games of the week
WEEK 7 RANKINGS: Everything you need to know about the top 25 six weeks in
Shepherd 35, West Chester 23
WHAT WE SAID: This one has plenty of intrigue. Shepherd — new to the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference this season — hosts its first ranked opponent of the season. The last — and only — time these two met was in the 2013 DII football championship tournament. West Chester rose triumphantly that day to win Super Region 1 and head to the semifinals.
Shepherd's quarterback Tyson Bagent is one to watch. His lowest pass total this season in any game has been 337 yards, as he's racked up 1,912 yards, good for third-best in DII football. Opposite him may be a question mark this Saturday. Paul Dooley has handled the snaps for the bulk of the season, but after a rough first quarter last week, Mike Piperno entered the game and went off for 228 yards and three touchdowns to keep the Golden Rams perfect. That depth under center makes them dangerous.
Running backs Ja'Den McKenzie of West Chester and Deonte Glover of Shepherd are also an interesting head-to-head matchup that will be pivotal in the outcome of Saturday's action. West Chester needs a win to keep up with undefeated Kutztown while a Shepherd victory keeps them in the hunt. There's plenty on the line in West Virginia.
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No. 16 Bowie State 24, Virginia State (RV) 14
WHAT WE SAID: There is a big CIAA matchup this weekend. Virginia State has shown it deserves some top-25 attention. This week, the Trojans will have a chance on the national stage in a game against No. 16 Bowie State, the last remaining undefeated team in the conference.
Fort Hays State 42, No. 19 Pittsburg State 41
WHAT WE SAID: Pittsburg State will get a quick chance to bounce back from Saturday's loss to Northwest Missouri State. The Gorillas host a tough Fort Hays State team that has been streaking since two early-season losses bounced it from the top 25.
No. 8 Lenoir-Rhyne 36, Carson-Newman 23
WHAT WE SAID: The Bears look to extend their home winning streak to 11 games. Standing in their way will be a Carson-Newman team that is currently second in the South Atlantic Conference. With No. 13 Wingate neck-and-neck with the Bears, this is a must-win for Lenoir-Rhyne.
No. 24 West Florida 30, West Georgia 2
WHAT WE SAID: West Florida gets its first chance to play as a top-25 team against a fellow Gulf South Conference team that was once in the top 25. A West Georgia win could turn some heads and get some top 25 attention its way.
No. 4 Tarleton State 35, No. 20 Texas A&M-Commerce 21
WHAT WE SAID: There is only one top-25 matchup this week, but it is a big one. No. 4 Tarleton State puts its 11-game home winning streak — tied with Valdosta State and Notre Dame (OH) for the longest current streak in DII football — on the line against No. 20 Texas A&M-Commerce in a showdown of the last two undefeated teams in Lone Star Conference play.
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DII football Week 7 players to watch
Last week, we took a look at five frontrunners for the Harlon Hill Award. This week, let's turn our attention to some under-the-radar players that have big matchups this weekend. Keep your eyes on these players Saturday, and be sure to check back at NCAA.com every Sunday for a rundown of the best statistical performances from the weekend.
- We already mentioned Tyson Bagent, but he'll have his shot on the national stage this week. If his Rams take down the West Chester Golden Rams, he won't be flying under the radar any longer.
- How is the reigning Harlon Hill Award winner under the radar? Ferris State's Jayru Campbell missed three games in the early going, but was back in form last week. He'll look to keep going against Northwood this week, but we were quickly reminded of how gifted he is athletically last week when he put up five total touchdowns on the ground and through the air.
- Lindenwood tight end Erik Henneman made our preseason watchlist, but it's quarterback Cade Brister that deserves some more attention. He threw for more than 300 yards and four touchdowns in last week's upset of then-No. 24 Truman. With a tough out-of-conference game against Saginaw Valley State, Brister and his favorite target Henneman will have to be at their best.
- Shane Zylstra was also on our preseason watchlist, but the Minnesota State receiver got off to a slow start, overshadowed by his fellow running back Nate Gunn. Zylstra has turned it on with 387 yards receiving and five touchdowns over his past two games.
- Sticking with receivers, Adams State's Tariq Bitson is absolutely insane. He recorded his fourth game of the season with more than 166 yards and at least one score and leads DII in receiving by nearly 100 yards. He has a juicy matchup against South Dakota Mines this weekend.