PSAC Second Round Playoff Preview

November 25th, 2022 5:00am

PSAC Second Round Playoff Preview

The second round of NCAA Division II Super Region One Playoffs is here. #15 IUP (PSAC West) had a bye last week as the number one seed. Both of the PSAC teams in action last week, #9 Shepherd (PSAC East) and #20 Slippery Rock (PSAC West), won their contests against teams from the NE10. A note on the Top 25 ranking listed with each of the teams still remaining in the playoffs, this ranking will not change until after the Division II National Championship Game is played. The last Top 25 rankings from was done at the conclusion of the regular season heading into the playoffs. The final Top 25 ranking for 2022 will be released when the season is over. Before the Super Region One Playoffs started, I ran a poll on Twitter asking if we will see an all PSAC Super Region One title game. 60% of the responses said yes, Shepherd at IUP, 22% said yes, Slippery Rock at IUP, 17% said no, one team from the PSAC, and 2 % said no, zero teams from the PSAC in the title game. With three of the four teams remaining in Super Region One from the PSAC, the probability of an all PSAC title game is extremely high. The highest seeded team remaining after this week’s games will host the title game. IUP is seeded first, Shepherd is second, and Ashland is the fourth seed. Keep reading below to find out more about last week’s round one games, team news from the week for each PSAC team playing in the Super Region One Playoffs, previews for this weekend, and my predictions for the games. I was two for two on my predictions last week and I am now 73 of 97 on my predictions for the entire season (75.3%).

Super Region One Playoffs – Round Two – Saturday 11/26/22

#20 Slippery Rock (10-2) PSAC West at 2nd Seed/#9 Shepherd (11-1) PSAC East – 12 Noon

Slippery Rock: Last week, the Rock beat Assumption from the NE10 17-14. With the win, head Coach Shawn Lutz and Slippery Rock moved to 10-2 on the season and advanced to the second round this week. The Rock opened the game against Assumption with a 21 play 82 yard drive which took over 10 minutes off the clock in the first quarter. Chris D’Or had a two yard touchdown run to cap off the drive and the Rock took a 7-0 lead and led the rest of the game. After a DJ Opsatnik field goal, quarterback Noah Grover connected with Cohen Russell for a touchdown to cap off a15 play 75 yard drive to end Slippery Rock’s scoring in the game. All of the Rock’s scoring was done in the first half and they took a 17-7 lead into halftime. They hung on for the 17-14 win after Assumption scored seven in the third quarter. Grover was 17 of 28 for 188 yards on the afternoon with a touchdown pass after returning from injury and missing the previous game against Kutztown in week 11, the regular season finale. D’Or left the game in the first quarter and leading receiver Kyle Sheets only played in the first series. Tight end Max Maciejewski did not play after being injured week eleven of the regular season against Kutztown. Russell led the receivers with seven catches for 98 yards and a touchdown. As a unit, the Rock defense came up with big plays throughout the afternoon. DJ Adediwura and Cottrell Hatchet each had 2.0 tackles for loss and Jeff Marx added another. Brandon Tuck-Hayden had seven tackles and a pass break up. Slippery Rock won the time of possession battle by having the ball for 34:35. They held Assumption to 226 yards of total offense on 46 plays. The Rock had 279 yards on 72 plays. This week was a big week for defensive end DJ Adediwura. He was nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy, which goes to the Division II Player of the Year, and he was also named as a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award. At the end of the regular season Adediwura was named First Team All PSAC West. Slippery Rock led the PSAC West with 14 selections. Joining Adediwursa as First Team Defense selections were defensive tackle Jeff Marx, who made the team for the third time, and defensive back Jalen Dangerfield. First Team Offense selections were running back Chris D’Or, tight end Max Maciejewski, and return specialist Jawon Hall. Quarterback Noah Grover was one of five players named second team on offense. On defense, three players including punter Kyle Butts were named to the second team.

Offense (31.2 points per game) PSAC Rank:  4th / National Rank: 46th

Defense (14.4 points allowed per game) PSAC Rank: 1st / National Rank: 9th

#9 Shepherd: Last week, led by PSAC East Coach of the Year Ernie McCook, the Rams moved to 11-1 on the season and advanced to the second round this week. In the win over New Haven, junior running back Ronnie Brown rushed for 223 yards on 20 carries and two touchdowns Quarterback Tyson Bagent was 28 of 39 for 235 yards passing and now has 16,464 yards of total offense in his career which is another NCAA Division II record that he now holds. Freshman wide receiver Cameron Dorner had six receptions and senior tight end Brian Walker and Brown each had five each. On defense, junior linebacker Dewayne Grantham had eight tackles and senior defensive end Kyle Smith had two sacks. The Rams had 471 yards of total offense in the game. This week, 2021 Harlon Hill Trophy winner, quarterback Tyson Bagent, was again nominated for the 2022 Harlon Hill Trophy which goes to the Division II Player of the Year. The previous week Bagent was named the PSAC East Offensive Athlete of the Year. Bagent has also accepted an invitation to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl All-Star Game. Also this week, offensive tackle Joey Fisher was named as a finalist for the Gene Upshaw Division II Lineman of the Year Award. Fisher has accepted an invitation to play in the Hula Bowl College Football All-Star Game. At the end of the regular season the Rams had 17 players in all named to the All PSAC East First and Second teams. Joining Bagent and Fisher on the PSAC East First Team Offense were running back and return specialist Ronnie Brown, tight end Brian Walker, wide receivers Marlon Cook and Ryan Beach, and offensive linemen Ty Lucas. First Team members on defense included defensive ends Mark Holloway and Kyle Smith, linebacker Dewayne Grantham, and defensive backs Keyshawn Hailey and Klayton Batten.

Offense (40.8 points per game) PSAC Rank:  1stth / National Rank: 6th

Defense (15.3 points allowed per game) PSAC Rank: 2nd / National Rank: 12th

My Prediction: Shepherd – As I mentioned last week, the Rams were my preseason pick to win Super Region One. I will be in attendance at this game and I am expecting a great one. I had the opportunity watch Slippery Rock in-person twice earlier in the season when they were in crossover action in the East. They were impressive in those two games beating both West Chester and Millersville. As with Slippery Rock, I had the opportunity to watch Shepherd twice in-person during the regular season, a comeback win over Kutztown, which they were losing at half, and in a win over West Chester, a team who beat both Gannon and Kutztown in the regular season. I was also in Shepherdstown last week for the Rams first round win. The challenge for Shepherd is not to have a slow start on offense which has been a reoccurring theme during the season. Slippery Rock showed us last week what they can do with sustaining long drives and controlling the clock. This week we should see a great battle between Shepherds Offense, number one in the PSAC, and Slippery Rock’s defense, number one in the PSAC. The biggest question mark in this game is the overall health of the Rock’s playmakers on offense and will they be able to generate enough points against Shepherd’s defense which is a very good unit themselves. Special teams, mistake free football, and ball security (Slippery Rock is plus two in turnovers on the season and Shepherd is tied for fifth in the nation at plus eleven) will also all be important factors in what has the makings of being a close, down to the wire, type of game.


4th Seed/#12 Ashland (10-1) GMAC at 1st Seed/#15 IUP (9-1) PSAC West – 1 PM

#12 Ashland: Last week, the Eagles beat Notre Dame (OH) 20-13 to move to 10-1 on the season and earned the opportunity to advance to round two to take on IUP. In the game, Ashland’s junior running back Larry Martin rushed for 135 yards on 25 carries. As a team, the Eagles rushed for 224 yards in the win. Senior wide receiver Logan Bolin caught five passes for 43 yards. Ashland ran the ball 50 times in the game and only passed it 15 times. The defense allowed 300 yards of total offense to the opponent on 58 plays and the Eagle’s defense forced five punts. Ashland won the time of possession battle keeping the ball for 31:19. Head Coach Lee Owens, who is in his 19th year at Ashland, was named the GMAC Coach of the Year for 2022. Senior linebacker was named Player of the Year and center Ethan Enders was named the league’s Freshman of the Year. The Eagles placed five players on the GMAC First Team Offense including Senior quarterback Austin Brenner who threw for 1,737 yards and 17 touchdowns. He also rushed for 265 yards and ran for three touchdowns. Running back Larry Martin was also a first team selection rushing for 1,020 yards and nine touchdowns with a 5.5 yards per rush average on the season. He also had nine catches for 98 yards. The Eagles also had three offensive linemen named to the first team. First teamers on defense included defensive end Jeffrey Barnett, and defensive backs Devin Prude and Jourdan Swett. Ashland’s lone loss on the season was to Hillsdale, 36-20, back on 10/29/22.

Offense (30.7 points per game) National Rank: 50th

Defense (14.3 points allowed per game) National Rank: 8th

#15 IUP: The Crimson Hawks last played two weeks ago when they beat Shepherd 24-21 in the PSAC Championship Game. QB Mak Sexton was named the Player of the Game and he was also named the PSAC West Offensive Athlete of the Week. After the regular season, when PSAC West post season honors were released, Head Coach Paul Tortorella, in his sixth year at the helm, was named the PSAC West Coach of the Year.  Wide receiver Duane Brown was named the PSAC West Offensive Athlete of the Year. Just this week Brown was also nominated for the Harlon Hill Trophy which goes to the Division II Player of the Year. IUP had five first team selections on offense and three on defense. The Crimson Hawks had 12 student-athletes in all named to the First or Second teams in the PSAC West. Joining Brown on the PSAC West First Team Offense were three offensive linemen Darrell Davis, John Robinson, and Colin Pietropola. First team defense selections included defensive lineman Gregory Moore II, linebacker Drew DiNunzio-Biss, and defensive back Bruce Davis.

Offense (34.7 points per game) PSAC Rank:  2ndth / National Rank: 24th

Defense (17.6 points allowed per game) PSAC Rank: 3rdnd / National Rank: 24th

My Prediction: IUP – As with the other game being played in Super Region One this week, I expect a hard-fought, probably down to the wire type of game. These are two gritty teams and the order of the day will be playing mistake free football to come out on top. Ashland is plus five and IUP is plus six in turnover margin for the season. I think IUP has the advantage in the trenches and that could very well be the difference maker in this one.