November 28th, 2017 12:00am
The old adage in football is that you win in the postseason by running the football, stopping the run and winning the turnover battle. Since teams facing each other in the postseason should be comparable from a talent standpoint, the theory is that the team holding an advantage in those three categories would also be likely to win the game. This would all seem to make perfect sense.
However, in this D2 postseason, very little seems to make perfect sense. In fact, in roughly half of last weekend*s games conventional wisdom was flipped on its head:
Assumption managed just 10 rushing yards and was outgained 518 to 237 and still came away with a 45-26 win over Findlay on the strength of three returns for scores.
West Alabama was outgained 276-131 on the ground by Delta State and still won 27-20 on the strength of a superior passing game and some timely turnovers.
West Florida quarterback Mike Beaudry threw four interceptions, yet his team was able to beat West Georgia 17-14.
Then there was the game that defied all logic: Texas A&M-Commerce rallied from a 21-point halftime deficit to defeat Central Washington 34-31 in 2OT. The Lions were able to win the game despite throwing four interceptions and being outgained 222 to 35 on the ground.
If you watched the NCAA selection show I picked Central Washington to win it all. Guess what? I still think CWU has the best team, but too many critical mistakes cost the Wildcats in this loss. There are no do overs in the D2 playoffs and that*s what makes it so darn entertaining!
Playoff Games this Week
Super Region One
Assumption (11-1) at Indiana (12-0)
As I mentioned earlier, Assumption was able to win last week despite being significantly outgained. The same thing happened the previous week in the win over California. In that game five interceptions by the Greyhound defense helped seal the win.
The one player the IUP defense must account for is Deonte Harris. The junior receiver had four touchdowns last week- two on receptions and two on kickoff returns. For the season Harris has eight touchdowns on returns alone! I*m sure IUP will do everything it can to keep the ball out of Harris* hands.
Assumption did a very nice job of controlling a talented Findlay rushing attack last week and the Greyhounds will have to do something similar to have a chance of winning this game. However, IUP also has a terrific quarterback in Lenny Williams and standout receiver Walt Pegues was back in the lineup last week for the Crimson Hawks after missing much of the season with injuries.
I think Assumption is good enough to keep the game within reach, but I don*t think IUP will give up the big plays and turn the ball over like the Greyhounds* previous two opponents. It is going to be very difficult for Assumption to move the ball against an outstanding IUP defense and eventually that will give the Crimson Hawks the edge in this game. Indiana 27 Assumption 16
Super Region Two
West Florida (9-3) at West Alabama (10-2)
These two teams met on October 28th at UWA with the Tigers pulling out a 35-18 win. The two teams were actually pretty even statistically, but the difference was that UWA scored touchdowns in the red zone while UWF kicked four field goals.
Things can change drastically over the course of a month and UWF is much better on the defensive side of the ball. In two playoff games the Argonauts have given up a total of 449 yards and 14 points, which is outstanding. This young team is playing with extreme passion and confidence and that is a dangerous combination this time of the year.
I think the key to this game will be the Argonauts finding a way to put pressure on UWA quarterback Harry Satterwhite, which is something opponents have not been able to do all year. Satterwhite has been sacked just 12 times in 459 pass attempts and he is too accurate and has too many veteran receivers to throw the ball to when given time. West Alabama 24 West Florida 19
Super Region Three
Harding (10-3) at Ferris State (11-1)
From a standpoint of playoff experience, these two teams have the most of the eight teams remaining. Both played in a regional final last year, with FSU taking it a step further and advancing to the semifinals.
Harding has now won 10 straight games behind the strength of a flexbone option offense and a defense that has gotten stronger late in the season. Ashland actually did a pretty good job of containing the option last week, but it was three huge passing plays totaling 126 yards that helped propel the Bisons to the win.
FSU also stretched the field in the passing game last week as much as I have seen all year. I think the Bulldogs will have to throw the ball effectively to be successful this week because the Harding defense has done a nice job defending the run.
Harding*s style of play tends to keep scores down and puts pressure on opposing offenses when they simply don*t touch the ball as much as they are used to. The strength of FSU*s defense is in the front four, led by All-American Zach Seiler. However, by its very nature the option offense tends to negate the defensive line and forces the linebackers and defensive backs to be assignment-sharp on every play. We will find out Saturday if the back end of the FSU defense is up to the task. Harding 23 Ferris State 21
Super Region Four
Texas A&M-Commerce (11-1) at Minnesota State (13-0)
I said at the start of the playoffs that a team will have to throw the ball well to beat MSU. TAMUC fits that description and then some. Luis Perez is a terrific D2 quarterback and he almost single-handedly beat Central Washington last week. MSU has played very well on defense this year, but I don*t think the Mavericks have the speed in the secondary to contain the TAMUC passing game.
Last week I said the key to the game for MSU was to run the football and keep the Midwestern State offense standing on the sidelines. The Mavericks executed that plan to perfection in rushing for over 500 yards. Midwestern State quarterback Leighton Rabb actually had a good game against the Mavericks, throwing for 260 yards and three touchdowns. He just didn*t have the ball in his hands often enough to make a difference.
There is no doubt that MSU will have a similar plan this week. However, the Lions are much better than MSU defensively, and maybe most importantly, deeper. The Mavericks can be good at wearing opponents down with their physicality but TAMUC has a lot of bodies to throw out there and the Lions got stronger defensively as the game went on last week.
The weather (upper 40*s) is beautiful for Mankato, MN this time of the year. After winning last week, TAMUC feels a bit like a team of destiny to me and with Perez leading the way I think the Lions find a way to pull off another upset. Texas A&M-Commerce 31 Minnesota State 28
[Q] What can D2 fans do, including better traveling fan bases, to increase the number of bowl games?
[A] I don*t think it*s realistic to have more bowl games at the D2 level. It would be up to individual communities to sponsor the games. The reason this works at the FBS level is that the larger traveling fan bases and the TV exposure make it worthwhile for communities to get behind putting on bowl games. As you correctly pointed out, these advantages don*t exist at the D2 level.
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