October 21st, 2023 8:30pm
Headlines, news and notes from week eight
By Chuck Bitner, national columnist
photo: Gannon celebrates with the Niagara Cup, awarded for their victory over cross-town rival Mercyhurst
Augie prevails in battle of unbeatens
#21 Augustana didn’t get onto the scoreboard until late in the second quarter, but it put them in front 7-3 and they would not trail for the rest of the game. The Vikings' defense was the story of the day, holding #4 Minnesota State to a season-low 114 rushing yards and just 295 total. Augie’s offense made big plays in critical situations, highlighted by Jarod Epperson’s 86 yard TD run late in the second quarter and his 35 yard TD reception in the third. The receiving touchdown was a fourth down conversion that gave the Vikings a two-score lead they would maintain to the finish, winning 28-10. Augie’s win will have a big impact on the national Top 25 and the super region four rankings.
Zebrowski has record day in #17 Central Missouri’s win over # 23 Emporia State
Central Missouri’s offense was nearly unstoppable in a 77-27 win in front of a homecoming crowd of 12,102. The Mules scored 28 in the first, 28 in the second and 21 in the third before cruising to victory in the fourth. The Mules came up just short of a four digit offensive day. They rushed for 310 and passed for 671, adding up to a total of 981 yards of offense. If you’re like me, you might need to read through those numbers again. 981 yards of total offense is something that won’t happen often. The Mules opened the game with seven straight touchdown drives, with each covering no less than 75 yards. I had Zach Zebrowski as the midseason leader in the Harlon Hill candidate race and he extended that lead with 627 passing yards and a school and MIAA record 8 TD passes. Emporia State got their yards as well, but Central’s defense deserves a lot of credit for how this game played out. Coming into this game, it felt like the team that could get two stops per half would win. Central’s defense was able to do much more than that, forcing nine punts and creating two turnovers.
#13 West Florida rebounds with upset of #6 Delta State
West Florida rebounded from a perplexing loss at West Alabama with a 24-21 win at previously unbeaten Delta State. The Argos won this one with defense. They pressured Delta State’s Patrick Shegog all day, allowing him just 13 completions on 33 attempts. The defense also held the Statesmen to 109 rushing yards and shut them out in the second half. Four different Argo defenders registered a sack. John Jiles stood out once again for West Florida, grabbing seven passes for 108 yards and two scores.
#8 Slippery Rock pulls away from Cal
California brought a good game plan to their meeting with undefeated Slippery Rock. The Vulcans established a rushing attack on offense and minimized the impact of Rock WR Kyle Sheets. Those priorities worked in the first half as the Rock would lead just 14-13 at the break. In the second half, The Rock found ways to get Sheets involved and used a defensive score to build separation. SRU’s rushing attack took over in the later stages of the game as the Rock finished the day with 235 yards on the ground. Rock’s defense did a phenomenal job against a good Cal passing game, holding the Vulcans to 102 pass yards. Slippery Rock remains undefeated at 8-0 with Clarion and Edinboro remaining on the PSAC west division schedule.
Newly ranked #25 UT-Permian Basin backed up their ranking with a hard earned 28-23 win at #18 Angelo State. The Falcons trailed 20-14 at half, but turned in a tremendous defensive performance in the second half. UTPB outgained Angelo State 366-280 and allowed just 105 yards in the second half. Kenny Hrncir completed 21 of 27 passes with four touchdowns. The Falcons will have an upcoming clash with Central Washington who also remainded unbeated in LSC play with a win over West Texas A&M.
#24 Virginia State was upset by Elizabeth City State, 17-16. The Trojans never led in the second half. They would rally with nine points in the fourth quarter including a touchdown with 1:20 remaining. A missed PAT cost the Trojans an opportunity to extend the game to overtime. Expect to see VSU slip from the Top 25 this week but they remain in play for the CIAA north division title.
The most prophetic thing I said in the week eight preview column was that Southern Arkansas has not had recent success slowing down Harding’s rush. I will be able to say that next year too. #7 Harding rushed for 631 yards, averaging 10.1 yards per carry in a 54-20 win over the Muleriders (who entered the game 6-1). The Bisons had two players exceed 200 rush yards. Braden Jay had 202 and Blake Delacruz had 201.
#9 Ferris State got back in the win column at Michigan Tech, but it wasn’t easy. The Bulldogs were outgained in total offense by a margin of 396-372. All five Ferris State touchdowns were Carson Gulker rushing scores.
#11 Lenoir-Rhyne remained undefeated with a 24-10 win at Newberry. The Bears are at Wingate next week before closing the divisional schedule against Catawba.
Newly minted #1 Colorado Mines struggled in the first half at Black Hills State. The Orediggers trailed 17-14 at the break but reeled off four unanswered touchdowns in the second half to pull away 42-17. The 8-0 Orediggers return home for what will be their biggest game of the regular season: A battle for first in the RMAC with fellow unbeaten #14 Western Colorado.
In a game that had “trap” written all over it, #12 Indianapolis surged ahead of Quincy on the road to win 24-14. The game was tied at 7 at the half, but the Greyhounds scored 17 unanswered in the second half. UIndy allowed just 57 rushing yards and outgained Quincy 442-269. Justin Thomas had three sacks for the Greyhounds.
The Fairmont State defense was tough all day against a good Charleston offense and contributed two pick-six touchdowns in the Fighting Falcons’ 33-30 win. Fairmont State won the game with a touchdown pass with just 0:10 on the clock. Charleston was the last unbeaten team remaining in the MEC. The Eagles are still at the top of the conference standings but are tied with Frostburg State at 5-1 in league play. Conveniently, the two meet this coming Saturday afternoon at Charleston.
A rainy and windy day produced one of the ugliest games I’ve watched in years as neither Assumption nor Saint Anselm registered a single passing yard in Saint Anselm's 14-0 win. Yes, that’s right. Saint Anselm was 0-1 in pass attempts while Assumption completed one pass for zero yards. Weather was terrible, but I’ve seen better football in worse conditions. Saint Anselm had 158 total yards, Assumption had 73. The teams combined for 11 fumbles. Most importantly, this was a crushing loss for an Assumption team with championship and playoff aspirations. For Saint Anselm, it was the program’s first ever win over a ranked opponent (Assumption was not ranked by D2Football but was ranked in the AFCA poll).
Edward Waters is a team we haven’t talked about much, but it’s time to show them some respect. After opening the season with three straight losses, the Tigers have now won five in a row. In the last two weeks, they’ve defeated SIAC heavy weights Tuskegee and Albany State. In both wins, the Tiges scored in the final 10 seconds of the game to take the lead.
Kutztown endured through a slog of a game for the second week in a row. Last week, it was a 9-6 overtime win over Shippensburg. This week, the Golden Bears scored midway through the first quarter but were shutout the rest of the day. Thankfully for their playoff hopes, they made it hold up in a 7-3 win at Lock Haven. The Golden Bears remain in first place in the PSAC east division.
Speaking of enduring, Southern Connecticut prevailed in five overtime periods to earn their second win of the year, 25-23 over Pace.
Hillsdale and Thomas More played one of the most entertaining games of the day. Thomas More trailed 35-21 in the fourth but rallied with a pair of touchdowns late in the game. A missed PAT and failed two point try ultimately cost the Saints as the Chargers held on for a 35-33 win. Hillsdale started the season 0-4 but has won three of the last four.
Northern State overcame a 19 point deficit to stun Wayne State (Neb.) The Wolves trailed 19-0 at halftime but rallied with 25 unanswered points. Drew Smook’s 21 yard field goal with seconds remaining allowed the Wolves to walk off with a 28-26 victory. The Northern State defense picked off Wayne State’s Nick Bohn four times and returned one for a touchdown.
IUP’s season keeps getting worse. The Crimson Hawks fell to 4-4 after losing at Seton Hill on Saturday.
Livingstone completed a 19-yard touchdown pass on the final play of regulation to beat Shaw 27-26. It is the third win in the last four games for the Blue Bears. In the same game, Sidney Gibbs became Shaw's all-time career rushing yards leader.
Gannon won the Niagara Cup game, its annual rivalry with cross-town rival Mercyhurst. With the game tied at 28 in the fourth, the Knights moved 47 yards on eight plays to set up a 32 yard field with 0:06 remaining. Eric Scarpina’s kick proved to be the game winner.
And we'll close with this piece of good news...Post, the only independent team in Division II this season, earned their first victory in program history with a 16-13 win at Franklin Pierce. Post entered this weekend 0-16 all time since beginning competition last year. Post will join the Northeast 10 as a football member next season.
That’s the review of week eight. Remember to watch Inside D2Football for the weekend recap on Sunday night at 8pm, eastern. Central Missouri coach Josh Lamberson will be our guest.
Questions, suggestions, comments, complaints? Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter @D2Chuck
Top 25 Results From Week Eight
D2Football.com Top 25 Poll
October 16, 2023 - Results
Record is Now
W 42-17 at Black Hills
W 73-14 at Northern Michigan
W 28-7 at Northwest Missouri
L 28-10 #21 at Augustana
W 35-21 at Michigan Tech
L 24-21 v. #13 West Florida
W 54-20 at Southern Arkansas
W 42-21 v. California
W 38-3 Concordia-St. Paul
W 63-14 v. Kentucky State
W 24-10 at Newberry
W 24-14 at Quincy
W 24-21 at #6 Delta State
W 62-0 v. New Mexico Highlands
W 44-34 at Mary
W 31-24 v. Arkansas Tech
W 77-27 v. #23 Emporia State
L 28-23 v. #25 UT-Permian Basin
W 59-21 v. West Chester
W 57-0 v. Lincoln (Pa.)
W 28-10 #4 v. Minnesota State
W 31-10 v. William Jewell
L 77-27 at #17 Central Missouri
L 17-16 v. Elizabeth City
W 28-23 at #18 Angelo State