Here we go … Week 7 of the D3 football season is upon us. (Cue dramatic music, or go here) Who will rise? Who will fall? Who will … stay exactly where they are? There aren’t a lot of powerhouse matchups to be found this week in the Top 25. Most top teams should win with relative ease (looking at you BR-2 Mount Union and BR-1 Linfield). But because football is such a wacky sport that’s almost impossible to predict, I’ve found three match ups that should provide plenty of excitement this weekend.
BR-32 Stevens Point at BR-5 Oshkosh
This matchup may not amount to much, though injuries might make it interesting. The Pointers are 3-2 on the season and coming off a tough road loss to a very good BR-14 UW-Platteville team and must now contend against Oshkosh’s No. 12 defense and No. 20-ranked offense. On the road. Ouch.
What has my interest piqued is the opportunity to watch the Titans play, especially after their big time 10-7 win-by-blocked-field-goal over BR-6 UW-Whitewater last week. This team is putting up solid numbers on both sides of the ball and taking down some pretty tough opponents to boot, with their only loss coming against Robert Morris in Week 1.
The conundrum here is that starting Titans QB Brett Kasper could miss the game due to an injury sustained against Whitewater. Oh, and his backup, Connor Senger, was hurt too, which means third-stringer Jayden Essman will start under center.
That may not be such a bad thing. Essman played the last 30 minutes against the Warhawks and completed 11-of-18 passes for 73 yards. The team also has rushing star Dylan Hecker (458 yards and eight touchdowns on the season) to help shoulder the load. Not to mention an amazing defense that’s surrendered just 42 points in five games this season, with two posted shutouts.
I figure Stevens Point is itching for some redemption after blowing a fourth-quarter lead last week, and will look to pound the rock with its rushing corps — DeJuan Wright (293 yards, five TDs), Christian Almonte (259 yard, two TDs) and Britton Veron (237 yards, four TDs).
The Pointers know how to put points on the board, evidenced by their 77-6 blowout victory over Finlandia in Week 3. Starting QB Kyle Larson’s 15 TDs are the most in the WIAC this season, while wide receiver Matt Sosinsky’s 100 receiving yards per game average puts him among the Top 15 WRs in the nation.
This should be an interesting match-up.
BR-47 La Crosse at BR-6 Whitewater
A notable game if only to see how the Warhawks respond to their first loss in 36 tries. As stated above, Oshkosh topped Whitewater 10-7 thanks to a blocked field goal (and a handful of other monster plays). The writing was on the wall, however, as Whitewater’s offense has had trouble producing against tougher opponents.
A couple of things to watch for: will the Warhawks change their offensive strategy at all? Will they open up the passing game, which, to date, has accumulated 750 yards and four touchdowns after five games — No. 208 in the nation?
I’m not knocking Whitewater. Quite the contrary. It’s a top-flight program and the class of D3 football over the past five years. They have won a number of championships, including back-to-back titles over the past two seasons. Down years are not only inevitable, but necessary to keep parity amongst the teams. In truth, I’m actually amazed that Whitewater has done as well as it has considering the players (and coaches) it lost in the off season. Highlighting their rare misstep isn’t meant as an insult. I like watching great teams battle through adversity — one of the things that makes football fun.
That being said, this should be a doozy.
BR-26 Gustavus Adolphus at BR-13 St. John’s
Here is the game I’m most excited for this weekend. Here’s a little background: Gustavus Adolphus rocked the D3 world roughly up until this point last season. One year ago this week, the Gusties were 6-0 and set to face St. John’s at home. Four turnovers later and the Gusties had their first loss of the season. Three games after that, they finished the season with a 6-4 record, bad enough to nix their playoff bid.
This season, the Gusties are 6-0 and set to face St. John’s on the road. What happens next? Gustavus is putting up better offensive numbers than last season thank to quarterback Mitch Hendricks and wide receiver Matt Boyce, who will square off against the No. 70 passing defense in the nation (currently allowing 185 yards through the air per game). Can the Gusties make it past St. John’s? If not, will they whither away from a playoff bid?
The Johnnies are 4-1 on the season, with the lone loss coming against BR-4 St. Thomas two weeks ago. They feature one of the best running backs in all of D3 football — Sam Sura, who currently ranks 17th overall in rushing yards with 680. Clearly the key to stopping the Johnnies is to hold Sura under 100 rushing yards. In last season’s loss to St. Thomas, the Tommies held the stud RB to 84 yards and “just” two touchdowns.
Currently, Gustavus Adolphus ranks 98th in rushing defense, allowing 144 yards per game. The Gusties have also given up eight rushing TDs. It’ll be interesting to see if their defense can stop Sura from having another career day.