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Wayne Cavadi | | September 27, 2022

Here's how three top-10 upsets completely rocked the latest DII football power rankings

Ferris State wins the 2021 DII football championship in dominant fashion

What a week, DII football fans. Both No. 3 Northwest Missouri State and No. 7 West Florida were upset in stunning fashion, while No. 9 Ouachita Baptist took down GAC rival, No. 6 Harding in a top-10 battle.

That’s three DII football Power 10 teams that lost which leads to a shakeup in the rankings.

Let’s get right to it.

DII FOOTBALL HUB: News, rankings, stats for 2022

Welcome back to the MIAA, Adam Dorrel

Central Oklahoma made a big splash this offseason when they hired Adam Dorrel as its new head coach. Dorrel, of course, was a successful DII football player for the Northwest Missouri Bearcats before becoming the head coach in Maryville which led the Bearcats to three undefeated, national championship seasons in 2013, 2015, and 2016. He then parted for a brief tenure in the FCS ranks before returning to DII football.

Naturally, in storybook fashion, the old Bearcats' skipper got the W in his first matchup against the school he helped put on the map as the benchmark of DII football for the 2010s. It was a defensive masterpiece, as the Bronchos held the Bearcats to just 291 total yards and forced five turnovers. Offensively, Central Oklahoma cracked the code and ran on the Bearcats. Entering the game, Northwest had allowed just 34 rushing yards this season IN THREE GAMES, but Jaylen Cottrell ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns, with the bulk coming on an 83-yard touchdown run.

The DII Road Warriors: Delta State just keeps winning

I spoke about the Statesmen in last week’s roundup after they went on the road and took down an FCS foe. Well, the hits keep on rolling. In the first four weeks of the season, the Statesmen have traveled to Kentucky, Illinois, Mississippi, and now Florida, and while the scenery may be different, the end result has been the same: a big ol’ W.

This week, Delta State improved to 4-0 taking down No. 7 West Florida in a double-overtime thriller, 45-42. It showed the scariest part of what we’ve learned about Delta State so far: This team can win in a wide array of ways, whether it’s a blowout, a tightly contested, low-scoring affair, or a shootout decided in the final minutes.

This one was awesome, a true Rocky Balboa slugfest. West Florida went down early and came back to tie it at the half. The Argos went down again and used a 14-point fourth quarter to extend the game to overtime. Eventually, the comebacks let up and Delta State won. There were over 1,000 total yards of offense in this one with DSU receiver Dohnte Meyers reeling in six receptions for 150 yards and two scores, while Statesmen QB Patrick Shegog threw for 294 yards and ran for another 82 while totaling four touchdowns. The good news for Delta State is next week the team returns home… only to face another nationally ranked team in Valdosta State. You got to love GSC football.

No. 9 Ouachita Baptist stakes its claim as kings of the GAC

For the past half decade, if not longer, the GAC has been an exciting battle between Harding and Ouachita Baptist. Sure, Henderson State has thrown its name in the mix, but come playoff time it always seems like the Bison and Tigers find themselves in the Super Region Three bracket.

The Tigers made a huge statement to make yet another trip to the postseason, taking down No. 6 Harding in a mini upset, 21-13. As anyone familiar with DII football should have expected, there was a lot of defense, hardly any passing, and a whole bunch of running. That’s what this game is all about every year.

Both Harlon Hill candidate TJ Cole and Kendel Givens found the end zone for the Tigers as OBU piled up 177 yards rushing against this stout Harding defense. Jhalen Spicer ran for 128 yards and a score for Harding, making for his second 100-yard rushing game of the season.

How do these three games affect the Week 4 DII football Power 10 rankings? I’m so glad you asked.

The 2022 football Power 10: Week 4

This was the toughest rankings of the 2022 season to date. Three Power 10 teams lost and all five of the "first five out" were victorious. This time of year, in my opinion at least, being undefeated matters, but especially when you dissect it against how they got there. Strength of schedule played a strong role in what I looked at this week, and it should be noted, a lot can change over the next couple of weeks as we settle into conference play across the nation. I expect a lot of people to disagree with this week's rankings. 

No. 1 Ferris State | Previous: 1: The Bulldogs were well rested and against an NAIA opponent, completely dominated, rolling to a 69-3 victory. One important note is that Evan Cummins led the way under center once again as Mylik Mitchell missed yet another game at quarterback. The Bulldogs have quite the stretch coming up against Findlay, Saginaw Valley State, and then Grand Valley State on Oct. 15.

No. 2 Grand Valley State | Previous: 2: Yes, these very Grand Valley State Lakers. That Oct. 15 showdown should be the game of the season if both teams keep tearing apart teams at the pace they are. Tariq Reid is becoming an absolute stud at running back, with his second 140-plus-yard game in three weeks, this time adding three scores. The defense is scary, and — I don’t care what the numbers say — it may be the best in the land.

No. 3 Shepherd | Previous: 4: That’s two huge wins for the Rams in a row, last week downing Cal (Pa) and this week coming back to defeat Kutztown 42-35. The defense will have to tighten up for later in the season, but right now this offense is steamrolling. Tyson Bagent has three games with 390-plus yards passing this season… and the Rams have only played four games. There may not be a better quarterback in the final minutes of the game anywhere in DII football.

No. 4 Angelo State | Previous: 5: This team is really good and has the resume to match. The Rams have a top-10 victory on the season and this week downed fellow Lone Star Conference title contender — and nationally ranked — West Texas A&M, 34-14. The defense is stout and quarterback Zach Bronkhorst is visibly better than his breakout 2021. The Rams travel to Western Oregon next week to welcome the LSC newbie to the conference.

No. 5 Ouachita Baptist | Previous: 9: It’s pretty simple: Beat the No. 6 team and jump up the rankings. The Tigers, who had one of the top-scoring offenses in DII averaging 50 points per game heading into this one, showed they can still win when kept out of the end zone eight times a game. Next week, they head to Alva for a battle with Northwestern Oklahoma State.

No. 6 West Georgia | Previous: 8: This is the highest the Wolves have been ranked in the history of the DII football Power 10 rankings. They have done it by going 3-0 and allowing a whopping 14 points to date. This week, that defense held West Alabama to 259 yards and forced three turnovers. Next up is Mississippi College on Oct. 1 before welcoming an angry West Florida to town.

No. 7 Augustana (SD) | Previous: First five out: The Vikings have played some good teams in Bemidji State and Northern State and are now undefeated at 4-0 on the season. We are about to find out how real this team is as they face 4-0 Sioux Falls, 4-0 Wayne State (Neb.), and perennial NSIC threat Minnesota State in three of the next four weeks. For now, this team jumps up several spots to make its 2022 Power 10 debut, but we shall see how long that lasts.   

No. 8 Harding | Previous: 6: Harding did lose this week but gets bailed out by other Power 10 teams losing. And let's face it: The Bison lost by one score to a top-10 team in a battle that could have gone either way. This team is still very good on both sides of the ball (we saw what they did to the Tigers' steamroller of an offense) and could very well still be playoff bound. Look for a bounce back against Oklahoma Baptist next week.

No. 9 Newberry | First five out: The Wolves, coming off that Cinderella 2021, are back in full form, sitting atop both divisions of the SAC as the lone undefeated team in the conference. Now, they haven't played the toughest schedule just yet, but as we are seeing, undefeated is undefeated at this point. Mario Anderson is healthy again and really settling in. With his nearly guaranteed 100 yards rushing and a touchdown each week, Newberry will be tough to beat. Carson-Newman is up next.  

No. 10 Ashland | Previous: First five out: Go ahead, yell at me that the Eagles are a top-10 team when Northwest Missouri State, West Florida, and Valdosta State are on the outside looking in. I get it. But Ashland has a win against a nationally ranked team and just beat a Quincy team that was 2-1 heading into the matchup. This team is balanced under center and in the backfield and the defense is allowing 10.33 points per game and is outscoring its opponents by just about 21 points weekly.

First five out (in alphabetical order)

  • Colorado School of Mines: The Orediggers tested themselves early and lost two games on the final play to a pair of top-5 teams. Now into RMAC play, they look unstoppable and can easily make their way back to the bracket despite the 0-2 start.
  • Northwest Missouri State: Here is where I expect to get yelled at, but the facts are, the Bearcats' three wins were against teams with a 1-11 record. The No. 3 team in the Power 10 rankings is expected to beat 1-2 Central Oklahoma and simply put, they didn't. This defense is outstanding, but the top nine teams in the MIAA look deeper than ever, and this may very well be the toughest conference in the land. The Bearcats have three-straight games against top competition to right the ship with Missouri Western, Pitt State and Washburn in consecutive weeks. 
  • Slippery Rock: The Rock is 4-0, but aside from a win against West Chester, the competition is a combined 1-11 in the other three wins. Don't get me wrong, this team is a machine on offense, but it is the minutiae separating teams right now and that has to be considered. 
  • Valdosta State: The Blazers fall out of the Power 10 with a win? I know that sounds weird, but they had to come all the way back to beat a Shorter team that No. 20 Albany State (GA) manhandled a week prior. That's two wins (including the opener against NAIA Keiser) the Blazers should have won in blowout fashion.  
  • West Florida: This is likely temporary, but the fact is the Argos were 2-0 against an NAIA school and 2-2 Southwest Baptist. It's time for a convincing win and in the GSC, they have plenty of opportunity.

Harlon Hill 2022 Watch: Stats that stood out

The goal of this list is to track the contenders throughout the season. That means some players may fall out, while others are added. Note, for the first time this season, players have fallen from the list as these contenders will continue to whittle down and narrow from here on out. 

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

Brandon Alt Bemidji State QB 231 pass, 4 TD, 2 Int 
Tyson Bagent Shepherd QB 456 pass, 4 total TD
Andrew Brito Saginaw Valley State QB 208 pass, 23 rush, 2 TD
Demilon Brown Arkansas-Monticello QB 114 pass, 184 rush, 4 total TD
Cooper Callis Southwest Baptist QB 306 pass, 5 TD
TJ Davis Nebraska-Kearney QB 134 pass, 191 rush, 4 total TD, 1 Int
Ivory Durham Valdosta State QB 237 pass, 10 rush, 2 total TD, 1 Int
Harrison Frost West Georgia QB 197 pass
Braden Gleason Emporia State  QB 233 pass, 32 rush, 2 TD, 1 Int
Noah Grover Slippery Rock QB 294 pass, 1 TD, 1 Int
Jayden Johannsen South Dakota Mines QB 333 pass, 119 rush, 5 total TD
Kellen Simoncic Washburn QB 311 pass, 15 rush, 3 total TD
Mario Anderson Newberry RB 125 rush, 1 TD
Ronnie Brown Shepherd RB 19 rush, 21 receiving
Jada Byers Virginia Union RB 161 rush, 3 TD
Toriano Clinton UIndy RB 179 rush, 3 TD
TJ Cole Ouachita Baptist RB 85 rush, 1 TD
Josh Cummings Western Colorado RB 64 rush, 1 TD
Dwayne McGee Lenoir-Rhyne RB 108 rush, 1 TD
Jesse Sherwood Southwest Minnesota State RB 147 rush
Jordan Terrell Barton RB 96 rush, 1 TD
Michael Zeman Colorado School of Mines RB 92 rush, 20 receiving, 3 total TD
Brendan Beaulieu Bemidji State WR 100 receiving, 2 TD
Duane Brown IUP WR  47 receiving, 3 TD
Jeremiah Bridges  South Dakota Mines WR 108 receiving, 1 TD
David Durden West Florida WR 106 receiving, 1 TD
Keilahn Harris Oklahoma Baptist WR 95 receiving, 1 TD
Danny Kitner UMary WR 161 receiving, 1 passing TD
James Letcher Jr. Washburn WR 180 receiving, 2 TD
Harrison Budke Fort Hays State TE 73 receiving

2 more storylines you may have missed from Week 4

As if there isn't enough to digest already this week, here are a couple more that stood out to me.

1. Fantasy football stats galore: No. 16 UIndy pulled off its second last-second thriller in a row, this week it was Connor Kinnett with the back-shoulder throw to Alonzo Derrick for the game-winner with 16 seconds left. However, if you are a stathead like me, there were box-score stuffers galore. Greyhounds Harlon Hill candidate running back Toriano Clinton ran for 179 yards and three scores while Derrick added 158 yards receiving. For the Panthers, quarterback Jake Byrd threw for 456 yards and five touchdowns with Andrew Wolf reeling in 13 receptions for 273 yards and four touchdowns. Wolf’s receiving mate, Ty Wiley, added 109 yards and a touchdown himself. What a football game.

2. Surprise, surprise: Delta State is certainly one of the best stories of the season so far. We are now about a quarter of the way into the DII football season. While this is not a comprehensive list, here are some other pleasant surprises that have caught my attention (in no particular order).

  • Virginia Union: The Panthers are 4-0 for the first time since 2007 and Jada Byers is on a record-setting pace. The running back seemingly is a lock for 160 yards and three scores every week.
  • Pittsburg State: This isn't a complete surprise. I knew this team would be good, but the Gorillas are looking great at 4-0. Chad Dodson Jr. is playing well in his first season as a full-time starter and the defense is tough. Add in a signature win over nationally ranked Nebraska-Kearney and we have a real contender to dethrone Northwest Missouri State in the MIAA. 
  • Saginaw Valley State: File under the Pitt State category: This team had the makings of a strong season, but the 4-0 start, including a win over then-nationally ranked Bowie State, is above and beyond. The GLIAC looks tough this year, and there is a long way to go, but it has been an impressive start for the Cardinals.  
  • South Dakota Mines: The Hardrockers (great mascot FYI) are 3-1 and it is in large part thanks to the ridiculous play of dual-threat quarterback Jayden Johannsen, who is responsible for 1,492 yards of total offense and 13 scores through four games.
  • Concord (WV): In the battle of undefeated MEC teams, I thought it would be Frostburg State to come out on top. Lo and behold, here are the Mountain Lions, all alone and a perfect 4-0 atop the MEC. Keep an eye on quarterback Jack Mangel who is having a great season.
  • Arkansas-Monticello: The Boll Weevils are fun and a nice 3-1 to start the season. Demilon Brown is insanely athletic, having rushed for 519 yards and eight touchdowns already... as the team's quarterback. 
  • Wayne State (Neb.): I knew this team was going to be good after an impressive 7-4 run last year. But 4-0 in the NSIC is better than expected. This team can score points and it will be interesting to watch as the Wildcats get into the heart of their schedule. 
  • Texas A&M-Kingsville: Sitting at 4-0, the Javelinas are one win away from matching their 2021 total. That includes a victory over nationally ranked West Texas A&M. The defense appears to be pretty solid while the offense is just piling up points. 
  • Black Hills State: Another impressive start for an RMAC team, the Yellow Jackets are a perfect 4-0 with a big showdown with South Dakota Mines on tap for next week in the 137th Black Hills Brawl.
  • St. Anselm: The Hawks are 4-0 which is one win better than last season and matches the 2019 win total (they didn't play at all in 2020). Already 2-0 in NE10 play, St. Anselm has its biggest test this weekend against New Haven. 
  • Limestone: The Saints haven't got into the meaty part of the SAC schedule yet, but this team is 3-1 and undefeated in DII play. Why is that surprising? The Saints were 0-9 a year ago... what a difference a year makes under head coach and former NFL wide receiver Mike Furrey. 
  • Benedict: The Tigers were 5-5 last year and are off to a 4-0 start. That includes a major 24-6 victory over Savannah State, a team expected to contend for the SIAC title. A matchup against another surprise in Fort Valley State awaits next week. 

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