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Wayne Cavadi | | September 11, 2022

DII football Sunday: 8 top-25 losses lead to a shakeup in the rankings and what else you missed in Week 2

Ferris State wins the 2021 DII football championship in dominant fashion

Holy cow, Jada Byers.

The Virginia Union running back had a monster day, rushing for 283 yards and totaling four touchdowns in a monumental upset over nationally ranked Valdosta State. In a week chock full of upsets, none was bigger than the Panthers, which leads to a shakeup in the latest DII football Power 10 rankings.

With another week of DII football in the books, we can look back at the week that was in DII football. It was a good one, with three top-25 matchups, including one involving the defending champion Ferris State Bulldogs.

WEEK 1 REWIND: Last week's Power 10 rankings and initial Harlon Hill watchlist

That seems like a good place to start.

Ferris State's defense domination

I made the trip to Hickory, NC, for the nationally ranked battle between No. 1 Ferris State and No. 14 Lenoir-Rhyne. It was a chilly, rainy day, but those are conditions the defending champions are well-suited. Starting quarterback Mylik Mitchell was out for the Bulldogs, so it took a bit to get the motor going, but the defense made sure they had time to get acclimated.

Consider this a Caleb Murphy appreciation post. He certainly put his name into the mix for defensive player of the year and a Harlon Hill candidate. He single-handedly disrupted the Bears backfield all day. He helped hold preseason All-American running back Dwayne McGee to 36 yards on 16 carries and didn’t give Sean White a minute to get comfortable. The Bulldogs' defensive end finished with 10.5 tackles, five sacks, and forced a fumble inside the Bears’ own five-yard line, leading to third-string quarterback Carson Gulker rushing in his third touchdown of the day.

And that’s precisely why Ferris State remains No. 1 in the latest DII football Power 10 rankings.

The 2022 football Power 10: Week 2

To kick things off,  here is your weekly reminder: These are my rankings. There is no voting body. I combine the metrics used by the selection committee come tournament time (strength of schedule, victories against ranked competition, and numbers of those nature) with the eye test for what I feel is a fair look at the top 10 in DII football.

No. 1 Ferris State | Previous: 1: The last time the Bulldogs lost a regular-season game was my second year covering DII football, so yeah, it has been a while. Next up is some relief for the Bulldogs as they get a bye and then play Waldorf on Sept. 24.

2021 CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP: Finally Ferris... Bulldogs take home first title

No. 2 Grand Valley State | Previous: 2: Two weeks in, two top-25 showdowns against teams from Colorado. In Week 1, the Lakers squeaked by, but this week they left no doubt, taking down No. 21 CSU Pueblo 35-10, with all five scores coming on the ground in this balanced rushing attack. Finally, the Lakers won’t have to gear up for a playoff contender in a matchup against Lincoln (CA) next week.

No. 3 Northwest Missouri State| Previous: 3: Quarterback Mike Hohensee had a big day, completing 21 of 24 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns while the defense locked up Lincoln (MO) for just 29 yards rushing. The Bearcats are doing Bearcat things already. Next up is the Central Missouri Mules at home.

No. 4 Shepherd | Previous: 4: The Rams showed how deep they are and don't necessarily need Tyson Bagent to do all the dirty work to win. In his second big week of 2022, running back Ronnie Brown went off for 320 total yards and three scores. Next week, Bagent and the Rams’ offense will be put to the test in a showdown against Cal (Pa), which had the best defense in the PSAC in 2021.

No. 5 Angelo State | Previous: 6: The Rams squeaked by Colorado School of Mines 30-27 in overtime. That is a tremendous victory on the road against a nationally ranked team that earns the Rams major points. Nate Omayebu III and Alfred Grear look like one of the best backfields in the nation. Next up for the Rams is UTPB as they open their Lone Star Conference slate.

DII FOOTBALL HUB: News, rankings, stats for 2022

No. 6 Harding | Previous: 8: Things were back to normal this weekend for the Bison. There were no passing touchdowns, but instead, four different players ran one in with Jhalen Spicer leading the way with 101 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The defense is allowing just 12.5 points per game as Southern Arkansas awaits next. 

No. 7 West Florida | Previous: 10: After a blowout victory in Week 1 against an NAIA school, I wanted to see how the new-look Argos responded to DII competition. The results were the same, if not better. In fact, No. 7 may be too low. This is a balanced team in every aspect of the game, including what looks to be a stout defense. The Argos get a week of rest before opening GSC play against Delta State. 

No. 8 West Georgia | Previous: 9: Going on the road and pitching a shutout is impressive. Doing so while dropping 42 points moves one up the charts. The Wolves get some rest on a bye before opening GSC play on Sept. 24 against West Alabama.

No. 9 Ouachita Baptist | Previous: First five out: Though it's only two weeks, this offense has put up 42 and 45 points in each of its first two games. This week, the defense didn't allow any. Running back TJ Cole is a beast and when he gets downhill it's all but over as many yards and touchdowns ensue. The Tigers head to Arkansas Tech next week.

No. 10 Valdosta State | Previous: 5: There could be a debate made that the Blazers should drop from the top 10, and I would listen and possibly agree. The bottom line is this is Valdosta State and a team that rarely loses an early regular-season game. This is the lowest the Blazers have been since the advent of the Power 10 five seasons ago, so they get one more week to show they can come out and dominate from start to finish. There’s one more game before GSC play opens, as the Blazers head to Miles next weekend.

First five-ish out (in alphabetical order)

In doing my overall top 25, and with all the losses this week, the next five were very close. This week, you'll get a peep at my next 10 because of how tight the race was.

  • Ashland
  • Augustana (SD)
  • Bowie State
  • Colorado School of Mines (FYI, this was a very tough pick, so I wanted to explain the rationale. The Orediggers are 0-2, which is pretty much a death sentence for the postseason this early in the year. However, both losses are to top-10 teams by a total of six points, and both games were a play away from a different outcome. Should Mines win out its RMAC schedule, and it certainly has the talent to do so, that should still get them into the bracket.)
  • Minnesota State 
  • Nebraska-Kearney
  • Newberry
  • Slippery Rock
  • Washburn
  • West Texas A&M

Harlon Hill 2022 Watch: Stats that stood out

As previously mentioned, the reigning Harlon Hill Trophy winner had a quiet week, but still added two scores to his resume. Don't fret, there were plenty of others that had a stellar week.

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW: The essential guide to the Harlon Hill Trophy

The goal of this list is to track the contenders throughout the season. That means some players may fall out, while others are added. As a note, no matter what the performances have shown, I will not be removing any player until Week 3, unless they are out for the season with injury. All new additions to the list will be in bold.

*NOTE: There was a problem with many box scores this weekend. Several of these numbers were taken from game recaps with box scores still unavailable as of Sunday morning. Those stats taken from recaps should be considered unofficial and are labeled with a *.

Player School Position Week 2 Stats
Brandon Alt Bemidji State QB 384 pass, 2 TD, 2 Int
Tyson Bagent Shepherd QB 189 pass, 2 TD, 1 Int
Cooper Callis Southwest Baptist QB 182 pass, 14 rush, 1 TD, 2 Int
TJ Davis Nebraska-Kearney QB 84 pass, 139 rush, 3 total TD
Ivory Durham Valdosta State QB 314 pass, 43 rush, 5 TD
Harrison Frost West Georgia QB 151 pass, 1 TD*
Braden Gleason Emporia State  QB 411 pass, 1 TD, 8 rush, 1 TD
Mylik Mitchell Ferris State QB DNP, Injured
Logan Nelson UMary QB 150 pass
Kellen Simoncic Washburn QB 297 pass, 6 TD, 3 Int
Mario Anderson Newberry RB 111 rush, 2 TD, - 2 receiving
Ronnie Brown Shepherd RB 278 rush, 42 receiving, 3 TD
Jada Byers Virginia Union RB 283 rush, 23 receiving, 4 total TD
Toriano Clinton UIndy RB Bye
TJ Cole Ouachita Baptist RB 154 rush, 2 TD
Josh Cummings Western Colorado RB DNP, Injured
Brandon Hall Missouri Western RB 101 rush, 2 TD, 7 receiving
Dwayne McGee Lenoir-Rhyne RB 36 rush
Jordan Terrell Barton RB 99 rush
Michael Zeman Colorado School of Mines RB 77 rush, 1 TD
Ryan Beach Shepherd WR -2 receiving
Brendan Beaulieu Bemidji State WR 167 receiving, 2 TD
Armani Carmickle Minnesota Duluth WR 13 receiving
David Durden West Florida WR 60 receiving, 1 TD
Keilahn Harris Oklahoma Baptist WR 94 receiving, 1 TD
Danny Kitner UMary WR 75 receiving, -20 rushing
James Letcher Jr. Washburn WR 68 receiving, 2 TD
Hunter Budke Fort Hays State TE 18 receiving
Kyle Morlock Shorter TE 49 receiving, 1 TD

3 more storylines you may have missed from Week 2

1. Thursday Night Mayhem: It sounds like an event right out of the WWE, and it delivered as such with excitement down to the final whistle.

It started with Pittsburg State's huge upset in the MIAA, taking down No. 11 Nebraska-Kearney, 35-28. Gorillas’ quarterback Chad Dodson Jr. had a big game, going for 301 yards and four touchdowns while rushing for 57 more. Washburn, which was already No. 22 in the D2Football poll, found itself in a shootout but prevailed 40-32 over Central Missouri. Ichabods' quarterback Kellen Simoncic erupted, throwing for 297 yards and six touchdowns, albeit three picks as well. It was a battle of quarterbacks as Central Oklahoma beat Emporia State 21-13. The Hornets’ Braden Gleason threw for 411 yards and a score while rushing one in as the Bronchos’ Stephon Brown countered with 122 yards passing, 102 yards rushing, and two scores. And last but not least, how about the four-overtime thriller at Fairmont State? The Falcons scored 14 unanswered in the fourth quarter to tie it, but Charleston (WV) prevailed 40-38.

2. Welcome to Upset City: It was a big week for upsets in DII football, but Pittsburg State and Virginia Union didn't have all the fun. Kutztown, which dropped out of the top 25 last week after a 3-0 loss, responded in a big way, taking down PSAC adversary and No. 17 Cal (Pa), 24-19. It was a 17-point fourth quarter that turned the tide for the Golden Bears after the Vulcans led most of the way. Saginaw Valley State may find its way into the top 25 after defeating No. 9 Bowie State quite handedly, 33-12. Seven different players helped the Cardinals rack up 323 yards rushing.

3. Down with the FCS: Okay, the FCS actually had an excellent week against DII football teams. Except for Missouri S&T. The Miners handed Drake a 17-14 overtime loss, giving DII its first win over the FCS in 2022. Despite allowing 322 total yards, the S&T defense picked one ball off and forced three fumble recoveries, one of which it took to the house.  

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