A crazy D2 postseason continued last week, with
the road team winning three of the four quarterfinal games. In fact, the three
road teams that won last week – Harding, West Florida and Texas
A&M-Commerce- are a combined 9-0 on the road this postseason. That is simply
Indiana, the top seed in Super Region One, is the
only team that has held serve this postseason. But even the unbeaten Crimson
Hawks had to sweat one out last week, narrowly defeating a very solid Assumption
team 27-22 to reach the semifinals.
Last year it was apparent early in the year that
Northwest Missouri and North Alabama were the top two teams and they played like
it right through the postseason, meeting for the championship. I think you could
replay the 2016 postseason ten times and NWMSU wins the title eight times and
UNA twice. However, this year you could replay the postseason ten times and get
ten different results.
Harding started the year 0-3 and was a
controversial choice as the seven seed in SR4. I would still argue that it
should have been Grand Valley getting that spot and not the Bisons. And remember
the end of Harding*s opening round win over Indianapolis? The Greyhounds fumbled
two snaps in the final minute of that game when they were in a position to win
or tie the game. In a season like this a little luck helps.
TAMUC was in huge trouble down by 21 at halftime
in the second round against Central Washington. But the Lions fought back and
converted several do-or-die plays at the end of that game to tie it up and win
in overtime. Just one play goes differently and the Lions would not be in this
Then there is West Florida getting to this point,
which is probably the most incredible story I have seen while covering D2
football. The Argonauts are in just their second year as a program! There is no
way this team should be in the final four of the postseason already but here
they are. When the postseason bids were due to the NCAA in early November, UWF
had a 5-3 record so the administration at the school didn*t even submit a bid
which cost the school a home game in the second round.
It will be very interesting to see how these last two weeks unfold. Nothing
would surprise me at this point. I think any of the four remaining teams has a
legitimate shot of winning it all and that makes watching it unfold so much fun.
Humboldt State Keeps Football
The news came out this week that the
administration at HSU has elected to keep the football program. I think most
assumed the program would get the axe so this is certainly terrific news not
only for the school, but for the health of D2 football in the western part of
the country. I don*t know how the other programs in the GNAC would have survived
in this division without having HSU to schedule.
Harlon Hill Finalists
The ten finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy have
been announced. Here is a look at each of the ten from a statistical standpoint
followed by my thoughts on who the recipient should be:
Connor Jessop SR QB Shepherd
Key stats: 3532 passing yards, 40 TD, 9 INT, 355 rushing yards, 6 rushing TD
Marc Jones JR RB Gannon
Key Stats: 2176 rushing yards, 288 receiving yards, 31 total TDs
Marcus Martin SR DE Slippery Rock
Key Stats: 26.5 TFL, 15.5 sacks (both best in D2), NCAA record 56 career sacks
Amir Hall JR QB Bowie State
Key Stats: 3519 passing yards, 41 TD, 4 INT, 176 pass efficiency, 406 rushing
yards, 8 rushing TD
Devontae Jackson JR RB/KR West Georgia
Key Stats: 1765 all-purpose yards, 8 TD
Harry Satterwhite JR QB West Alabama
Key Stats: 3421 passing yards, 26 TD
Brook Bolles JR QB Central Missouri
Key Stats: 3766 passing yards, 23 TD, 12 INT, 556 rushing yards, 9 rushing TD,
nation*s leader in total offense per game.
J.T. Luper SR WR Central Oklahoma
Key Stats: 1593 receiving yards, 12 TD
Ja*Quan Gardner SR RB Humboldt State
Key Stats: 1259 rushing yards, 212 receiving yards, 21 total TD
Luis Perez SR QB Texas A&M-Commerce
Key Stats: 4388 passing yards, 42 TD, 10 INT, 162 pass efficiency
My take: It*s a balanced year for teams and it*s
a balanced year for the Harlon Hill Trophy as well, as there isn*t a clear-cut
favorite in my opinion. Of the players listed I believe Jessop, Jones, Hall and
Perez have the strongest resumes and a case could be made for each of them.
However, my pick for the award would be Perez. I have been saying for weeks that
I feel he is the best quarterback in D2 and he has carried his team to three
straight road playoff wins.
West Florida (10-3) at Indiana (13-0)
UWF has been outstanding defensively through the first three rounds of the
playoffs, giving up a total of just 35 points. The Argonauts will have a stiff
test in trying to shut down an IUP offense that runs the ball very well and has
a star quarterback in Lenny Williams.
I am concerned about UWF*s ability to score points in this game. The IUP defense
is very good and very physical and although the weather won*t be unseasonably
cold, it is definitely different than what a team stationed along the gulf coast
I think this game will be defensive in nature, but I feel IUP with the home
field and a few more weapons on offense will find a way to prevail. Indiana 20
West Florida 16
Harding (11-3) at Texas A&M-Commerce (12-1)
Harding has won three playoff games and hasn*t completed a pass in two of them.
This just goes to show how effective a good option offense can still be,
particularly in an era where it isn*t the preferred style of play. The Bisons
have also been very effective defensively, and at least some of the credit for
the defensive effectiveness goes to the offense for controlling the ball and
creating good field position.
TAMUC likes to throw the football with Luis Perez running the show. However, the
Lions can sneak in an effective running game at times. Defensively the Lions are
athletic with the biggest strength being depth. I*m not sure if that depth is an
advantage against an option team, but I do know that DC Justin Deason has really
done a nice job of making adjustments these past two weeks to help shut down
I think this will be a very good game with both offenses having some success.
However, Perez has been very good with the game on the line and I think he will
help his team pull this one out late. Texas A&M-Commerce 31 Harding 27
[Q] Are we entering an era of increased parity in D2 football?
[A] I think two things. One, some of the conferences that have traditionally
been on the weaker end of the spectrum are definitely improving. There were many
schools that transitioned from NAIA to D2 in the 90*s and it*s taken several of
those schools until just the last few years to develop highly competitive
football programs at this level. In particular, the GAC and Northeast 10 are two
leagues that have really stepped up their game over the past couple of seasons
to compete well in their regions.
Secondly, I think the perception of parity is there because there is no dominant
team this year like Northwest Missouri State has been the last several years.
The Bearcats have participated in eight of the previous twelve national
championship games but in the years where they have been down a bit this topic
creeps up. In 2014 when Colorado State-Pueblo and Minnesota State played for the
championship people were saying similar things about parity. Northwest then went
on another two-year run of dominance and people quit bringing up the topic.
So, to answer your question, yes, I think there are more solid football programs
in D2 than at any point in the last 20 years. However, history has shown us that
there tend to be runs of domination by certain programs in this division, and
going forward I would expect that to continue to happen, whether it is Northwest
Missouri State doing it or another program.
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