October 1st, 2023 5:00am
Headlines, news and notes from week five
By Chuck Bitner, national columnist
Photo: West Florida's John Jiles had 11 catches for 277 yards and three TD in Saturday night's win at North Greenville.
A lot happened on Saturday, beginning with drama, upsets and comebacks in the early games on the east coast, and not concluding until an untimed down brought the curtain down in the Lone Star Conference. Here are some of the most notable stories from week five, in random order.
No. 5 Minnesota State outlasted No. 7 Bemidji State at a sold out Chet Anderson Stadium on Bemidji’s homecoming weekend. The Mavericks led for most of the middle stages of the game but trailed in the fourth quarter until Shen Butler-Lawson scored his second touchdown of the day with 7:17 remaining. The Beavers had a chance to tie the game in the final minute but a 41 yard field attempt was no good. The MSU rushing offense was as advertised, posting 295 yards against one of the top rushing defenses in D2. Shen Butler-Lawson, the nation’s leading rusher entering the day, carried 25 times for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
No. 12 Slippery Rock scored on their first four possessions of the day in building a 28-0 lead over arch rival No. 18 IUP. The Crimson Hawks would rally for a few second half TDs but The Rock dominated the night on their way to a 42-21 win and a 5-0 record. Standout receiver Kyle Sheets had 131 yards on five catches while Khalid Dorsey had three rushing touchdowns. IUP churned out 217 rushing yards, but just 131 through the air. The Rock defense nabbed three interceptions from Karst Hunter.
On the eastern side of the PSAC, Kutztown dealt East Stroudsburg their first loss of the season. The 34-27 final masks that this was very much a defensive game, especially in the first half. The Golden Bears built a 20-7 lead in the third quarter, largely aided by two explosive scoring plays from 55 and 68 yards. The Warriors then reeled off three unanswered touchdowns to take a 27-20 lead early in the fourth. Kutztown responded with a pair of fourth quarter scores to reclaim the lead and the defense stopped ESU on downs in KU territory in the final minute of the game. Kutztown has now won three in a row after an 0-2 start. We're ony at mid-season, but both teams looked like strong playoff contenders.
There is still a lot of football to be played, but seeing how the divisions are shaping up, I will be very surprised if the PSAC championship game is anything other than Slippery Rock at Kutztown on November 11.
No. 22 Central Missouri survived a fourth quarter shootout to claim their first win over Northwest Missouri State since 2012. In a game that started to feel eerily similar to the Mules’ close loss to Pitt State, there were eight combined scoring drives in the second half. Both defenses struggled, but in the end, Central Missouri’s offense had what they needed to outscore the Bearcats. The Mules accumulated 35 first downs and rolled up 568 yards of offense. There were standout performances from QB Zach Zebrowski (412 passing yards), RB Marcellous Hawkins (149 rushing yards) and WR Arkell Smith (153 receiving yards). UCM is now 4-1 while Northwest is 2-3, having suffered a third straight conference loss.
Elsewhere in the MIAA, Missouri Western knocked off previously unbeaten No. 10 Emporia State. The Griffons led by 18 points at halftime, but Emporia rallied with a big fourth quarter. A Hornets field goal with 0:46 remaining seemingly would send the game to OT, but Missouri Western was able to get close enough to attempt a game winning FG with 0:04 seconds on the clock. The 41-yarder from Cody Watson was good. Both teams are now 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the MIAA. Maybe I was right to have ranked Missouri Western last week…
Interesting note from this game…Missouri Western’s Brayden Wright may end up serving the shortest suspension due to targeting ever recorded. Wright was flagged for targeting on the final play of regulation. As it occurred in the second half, he was immediately ejected and must sit out the first half of the next game. The ejection resulting in him missing only a single play in the win over Emporia: An untimed down that was added following the targeting foul.
No. 1 Ferris State and No. 4 Grand Valley were back in action after being idle in week four. The Bulldogs took out some frustrations from a week off and the close loss to Montana by destroying Northern Michigan 78-3. The Lakers won the Battle of the Valleys, thumping Saginaw Valley 55-14.
Western Oregon and West Texas A&M brought a close to the D2 game day in dramatic style. Down six, Western Oregon scored on 4th and goal with just 0:02 remaining. The PAT gave them the lead. Following the kickoff, West Texas had time for one play. A long completion, plus a 15 yard personal foul gave the Buffs an opportunity for a long FG to win the game. The kick had the distance but went wide right. Western Oregon hung on for a 37-36 win. It was the last game of the day to go final. You can see the final sequence of events in this short video from Press Pass.
No. 6 Delta State stayed unbeaten with a 47-17 win at West Alabama. QB Patrick Shegog exited the game in the first half and did not return. That may have simply been precautionary as the Statesmen led 37-3 at halftime. They have a trip to Valdosta State up next.
Other teams staying unbeaten with week five wins included Minnesota-Duluth, Augustana, Davenport, Pittsburg State, Indianapolis, Benedict, Colorado Mines, Harding, Lenoir-Rhyne, Truman State, Virginia State, Ouachita Baptist, Western Colorado, Tiffin, Valdosta State and Charleston.
Of the named teams above, Augustana, Charleston, Tiffin, Valdosta State and Virginia State are unranked. Two of those teams earned their best wins of the year on Saturday. Charleston beat a decent Glenville State team 52-17 while Augie won their rivalry game over Sioux Falls 49-29.
No. 8 West Florida wracked up 607 yards of total offense to pull away from North Greenville. A strip, scoop-and-score drew NGU within three points early in the final period, but the Argos responded with three answered touchdowns in the final 10 minutes. PeeWee Jarrett threw for 419 yards, with 5 TD. John Jiles grabbed 11 of those completions for 277 yards and 3 TD.
South Dakota Mines dominated the 138th Black Hills Brawl, blasting arch-rival Black Hills State, 49-14. The Hardrockers passed for 237 yards and rushed for 227. They finished the game scoring touchdowns on the last four drives including all three possessions in the fourth quarter. This felt like a bit of revenge for the Hardrockers. They lost this meeting at home a year ago when they appeared to be the better team. The roles were reversed this year.
Central Washington won for the third week in a row. Also for third week in a row, saftey Tanner Volk had two interceptions in the win. Volk has six interceptions in the last three games and seven for the season.
Lock Haven beat Millersville to climb to 3-2. Three wins marks the most in a season since 2016 and the divisional victory is the first since 2018 for the Bald Eagles. Good things are happening at The Haven under second year coach Dan Mulrooney.
Also celebrating new-found success is Johnson C. Smith. It’s been a while since the Golden Bulls were a threat in the CIAA but their win over Elizabeth City State moves them to 4-1 overall and 3-0 in conference play. The Bulls trailed 20-7 at half, but scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to take the win, 21-20.
Also jumping to 4-1 was Southern Arkansas. The Muleriders have inserted themselves as the leaders of the pack chasing the big three in the GAC.
New Haven has quietly won four in a row since the season opening loss to Frostburg State. They are undefeated in NE10 play and look like the team to beat. A big date with Assumption looms on Oct. 28.
Speaking of Frostburg State, they are undefeated no longer. Notre Dame ended a two game losing streak with a gutsy 24-21 win at Frostburg on Saturday. A Falcon field goal early in the fourth quarter would be the only points in the second half.
Livingstone entered the day 0-4 but pulled off a significant upset of Bowie State, 31-18. Blue Bears QB Marcus Drish passed for 224 yards, with four touchdowns and also ran for 52 yards.
Since starting the season 0-2 with a pair of out of conference losses, Limestone has won three in a row to remain a player in the SAC. The Saints knocked off previously unbeaten Mars Hill on Saturday.
Also in the SAC, Carson-Newman got a nice bounce-back win at Newberry. The win was the Eagles' first at Newberry's Setzler Field since 2010.
Arkansas Tech got their first win of the year, 44-7 over Northwestern Oklahoma, who remains winless.
That’s the recap for week five. Remember to watch Inside D2Football on Sunday night at 8pm, eastern.
Questions, suggestions, comments, complaints? Email me at [email protected] and follow me on Twitter @D2Chuck