Vols jump to No. 3, Alabama falls to No. 6
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🏈 Tennessee, Utah land upsets, more from Saturday
In case you didn’t hear, there was a kind of big football game this past Saturday. For the first time in their illustrious rivalry, Ferris State and Grand Valley State battled as the No. 1 and No. 2 team in the country. The two delivered, in front of an enormous, record-setting crowd of well over 12,000 fans at Top Target Field in Big Rapids, MI, as Grand Valley State ended Ferris State’s 19-game win streak in a thrilling 22-21 victory.
However, there was a lot of other great — and pivotal — football played as well. Let’s not waste another minute and jump into the week that was.
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It wasn’t pretty, but recently, the Anchor-Bone Classic has turned into a slugfest. As it has the past four years, this one was decided in the fourth quarter, with Grand Valley State walking away the 22-21 winner. The victory improves Grand Valley State to 7-0, with four of those wins coming against top 25 teams. It ends Ferris State’s 19-game winning streak and is its first regular-season loss since 2017.
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Quarterback Mylik Mitchell returned from a four-game absence for the Bulldogs and looked good, getting Ferris State out to a 21-10 lead entering the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs Marcus Taylor was so instrumental in getting that lead, ripping off big yards in the rushing, receiving and return game, including a pretty 31-yard touchdown connection from Mitchell. But the fourth quarter was all Grand Valley State.
Grand Valley State scored twice in the final stanza, but it was the go-ahead drive that was impressive. The Lakers went 83 yards in just five plays with Jack Provencher, who started the scoring in the game catching a wide-open touchdown pass from Cade Peterson, rushing it in for the game’s final score. A turnover frenzy ensued, and Ferris State had a final chance, but the Lakers were able to fend them off. There is plenty of reason to be hopeful that we see these two meet again, and this victory gives Grand Valley State a huge upper hand to be the host of that game.
The MIAA is wild this season as there are seven teams in the hunt. Emporia State remains one of those teams, improving to 5-2 with a commanding 44-21 victory over nationally ranked Nebraska-Kearney. Lopers’ elusive quarterback T.J. Davis was responsible for all the scoring, throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for another, but fellow Harlon Hill-hopeful quarterback Braden Gleason was the victor. Emporia State actually relied on its rushing attack on Saturday as Billy Ross Jr. and Canaan Brooks combined for 235 yards and four touchdowns.
The Jada Byers show continued to roll through the CIAA this weekend, powering through one of the tougher defenses in DII with another brilliant day. Byers, who is running away with the DII rushing title, reeled off 277 yards and a score, his second 200-yard day in a row. He now has over 1300 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns on the season. It’s now an uphill battle for every team in the CIAA to catch the Panthers who are off to one of the best starts in program history.
In a matchup of Mines, it was the Orediggers that took the victory, downing a fellow 4-2 South Dakota Mines 48-20. Colorado School of Mines is now in control of the RMAC, sitting at a perfect 5-0. The Orediggers have yet to score fewer than 45 points in any of those RMAC wins as a seemingly unstoppable force. This week it was quarterback John Matocha leading the charge with 336 yards passing and five total touchdowns. Even in the loss, Hardrockers’ quarterback Jayden Johanssen had an impressive game totaling more than 290 yards and three more touchdowns. Another important RMAC game awaits the Orediggers next week against Black Hills State.
The Cardinals got off to a hot 4-0 start before dropping the Battle of the Valleys to Grand Valley State and a heartbreaker to Ferris State in consecutive weeks. They righted the ship this week, dominating UIndy 38-14. The Greyhounds starting quarterback Connor Kinnett missed this one with injury and that pesky Cardinals’ defense was able to home in on Toriano Clinton and hold the superstar to just 52 total yards. SVSU quarterback Andrew Brito had another strong day throwing for three touchdowns improving to 5-2 and handing UIndy its first loss of the year.
Benedict improved to 7-0 with an impressive victory, and minor upset, over No. 21 Albany State (GA), 24-20. That gives the Tigers a win over 6-1 Fort Valley State and now the Golden Rams in two of the past three weeks, giving them the upper hand in the SIAC. It was a balanced attack as quarterback Eric Phoenix led the charge with a passing and rushing score. The Tigers have the best scoring offense in the conference and are right behind that tough Albany State defense at third in the SIAC allowing just over eight points per game. Benedict should be getting top 20 consideration this week.
Ouachita Baptist, Harding and Henderson State always play each other so well, it always makes for a close, exciting matchup. Harding led 14-6 most of the way, but a 9-0 fourth quarter from the Reddies sealed the deal, bumping Harding from its Power 10 perch. A Tristan Heaton 46-yard field goal put Henderson State ahead for good despite being held to just 33 yards rushing by this tough Bison defense. The win keeps Henderson State in the hunt for the GAC, especially with the Battle of the Ravine still on tap for the regular-season finale.
There are a few more games to get to, but first, how did all this affect the latest Power 10 rankings? Let’s take a look.
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No. 1 Grand Valley State | Previous: 2: If the adage claims to be the best, you must beat the best, well, the Lakers continue to do so. Four top-25 teams have challenged the Lakers and all have left with the same result, a big ol’ L. Next up is Northern Michigan.
No. 2 Ferris State | Previous: 1: That’s right, I’m keeping Ferris State at No. 2. A one-point loss to the now-No. 1 team in the land is the only blemish on the Bulldogs’ record… for the past few years! Simply put, these are two of the best teams in DII football for a long-time running and you simply can’t expect the Bulldogs to win every game. They’ll get the chance to right the ship against Michigan Tech next week.
No. 3 Shepherd | Previous: 3: It was just another day at the office for Tyson Bagent and company. The Rams continued to steamroll over opponents, moving to 7-0 behind a 55-17 victory over Millersville. Shepherd is scoring more than 44 points per game, a top-10 mark in DII football. The Rams have a tough matchup against West Chester looming next week.
No. 4 Angelo State | Previous: 4: Zach Bronkhorst threw for three more touchdowns and Nate Omayebu III totaled 196 yards as these Rams continue to roll through the Lone Star Conference, and are now a perfect 7-0 on the season. A huge matchup awaits next weekend against a Texas A&M-Kingsville team that has the top offense and defense in the LSC. They win that game and they could jump Shepherd.
No. 5 Ouachita Baptist | Previous: 5: The Tigers ran amok this week, dropping 41 points. That’s the sixth time in seven tries the Tigers have scored at least 41 points. TJ Cole and Kendel Givens power what is arguably the best backfield in DII football, this week combining for 363 yards and five touchdowns. Southern Arkansas awaits next week.
No. 6 Pittsburg State| Previous: 6: A well-executed victory has the Gorillas in control, at least temporarily, of the MIAA. This team has a lot of balance under center, in the backfield and certainly on defense, leading the MIAA by allowing just 15.1 points per game. Missouri Western is up next.
No. 7 Delta State | Previous: 7: What a rare occasion for the Statesmen this season, as Delta State played a game at home. The result was the same as every other week, as they dropped a 20-7 victory over West Alabama. Patrick Shegog had two long touchdown passes while passing the century mark rushing. Next up is a Thursday night showdown in Rome, GA, on the road again (surprise, surprise) at Shorter.
No. 8 West Florida | Previous: 10: The Argos suffered one loss and it was to Delta State, which turns out to be a really good team. This offense is a juggernaut and has scored 92 points the past two weeks. Wide receiver David Durden had another huge week with a pair of touchdowns. An interesting matchup with Mississippi College awaits, with the Choctaws dropping serious offense the past three weeks.
No. 9 Ashland | Previous: 9: It was the tale of two halves for Ashland. Starting quarterback Austin Brenner was held out in the first half and Ashland was blanked, trailing 7-0 at the half. Upon his return, it was all Eagles, as Ashland moved to 7-0 with a 14-7 victory. It was a must-win as Ashland faces Tiffin this coming week, the only other team left undefeated in G-MAC play.
No. 10 Colorado School of Mines| Previous: First five out: The Orediggers return to the top 10 because this offense (discussed earlier) is an absolute steamroller. It took a couple of close games to figure everything out, but they clearly have it going heading into another big RMAC matchup next week against Black Hills State.
There was a slew of some of the best performances of the season all in one week this past Saturday. Mario Anderson, Thuro Reisdorfer, Jada Byers and TJ Cole all rushed for over 200 yards, for example. This is when the elite begin to separate themselves from the rest of the pack.
The goal of this list is to track the contenders throughout the season. That means some players may fall out, while others are added.
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Northwest Missouri State sneaks by Washburn in a must-win: It took just about every second of the clock, but the Bearcats won 32-30 on a Cole Lammel field goal with two seconds left. Washburn quarterback Kellen Simoncic went bananas in the fourth quarter, erasing a 23-10 deficit by throwing for two touchdowns and rushing for the go-ahead score with 24 seconds left on the clock. A pair of big passes from Mike Hohensee got Lammel in position for his game-winner. Bearcats have Northeastern State next weekend before a huge showdown with Nebraska-Kearney.
Quincy and McKendree combine for 125 points in wild overtime thriller: The Hawks were down 49-28 at the half but used a 21-0 third quarter to even things up. Quincy stopped McKendree’s two-point conversion in double-overtime to win 63-62, with Quincy putting up 703 total yards in the contest. As I’m sure you can imagine, there were some serious stats in this one. Quincy quarterback Tionne Harris threw for 469 yards and three touchdowns while running back Tremayne Lee ran for 192 yards and four touchdowns. McKendree’s stud quarterback Turner Pullen threw for 376 yards and five touchdowns. Two different Bearcats receivers topped 100 yards while all-purpose back Narkel Leflore ran for 134 yards and two scores while reeling in eight receptions for 73 yards and netting 57 yards on three kickoff returns.
The undefeateds: Grand Valley State, Virginia Union, and the rest of the teams featured in the Power 10 aren’t the only teams without a loss this season. Here are four more still striving for perfection.
Wayne Cavadi has covered all things Division II sports for NCAA.com since 2016. He hosts the weekly DII Nation Podcast available on Spotify and YouTube. His work has appeared on Bleacher Report, MLB.com, AJC.com, SB Nation and FoxSports.com and in publications like The Advocate and Lindy’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @WayneCavadi_D2.
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