Sunday, November 18, 2007

ncaa football playoffs

Southern Connecticut Beat Bryant To Advance In Division II Football Playoffs
Defeats Bryant In Playoff Opener
By DOM AMORE | Courant Staff Writer
November 18, 2007
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Digg Facebook Fark Google Newsvine Reddit Yahoo Print Single page view Reprints Reader feedback Text size: NEW HAVEN - ― It would be hard to blame the Southern Connecticut players if they've begun to think of themselves as invincible.

"Invincible? No," said running back Jarom Freeman, "but confident. ... Very confident."

Freeman had 146 yards rushing yards, 65 receiving yards and three touchdowns ― a pedestrian day for him ― as the Owls beat Bryant 45-28 in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs Saturday at Jess Dow Field.

It was the first NCAA win in the school's 59-year football history, and served as a reminder of where this could all end up.

"It's great to be the first," said quarterback Steve Armstrong, who threw for 286 yards and three TDs. "People always remember the first. There have been a lot of firsts for us, and there could be more firsts, too."

The Owls, after a three-game losing streak in September, have left little doubt they're the strongest, fastest kids on their block. Now they aim to begin showing the nation. Next, they play on the road against the No.1 seed in the region, undefeated California (Pa.) in the quarterfinals next Saturday.

"This is a fun group to coach," said Rich Cavanaugh, who took over the program in 1985. "You can have fun with them, but they know when it's time to work and they snap back to it. This is a group that genuinely likes each other, and backs each other up."

Southern (9-3) has won seven in a row, outscoring opponents 322-108. In two games against Bryant, the Northeast 10's outright champion, a program making the move to Division I, the Owls scored 103 points and Freeman has gained 564 yards, including his NCAA Division II record 418-yard game on Nov. 2. In this game, SCSU, its offensive line executing flawlessly, made 27 first downs and produced 542 yards in 74 offensive plays.

"The better team won," Bryant coach Marty Fine said. "They have the best coach in this league, the best quarterback, the best group of running backs, the best offensive line, the best secondary. ... We both completed 17 passes, but they got 300 yards out of it and we got 200 ― that shows the difference in where the two programs are right now."

The Owls scored on their first two possessions, Armstrong finishing a four-play, 58-yard drive with a 15-yard pass to Craig Toulouse. Next possession, Armstrong and Freeman hooked up on a 65-yard screen pass for a touchdown.

SCSU went up 21-7 on Brandon Toles' 21-yard run, but Bryant got briefly back into it in the second quarter. Armstrong threw an interception and Lindsey Gamble ran 40 yards for a score. Only a missed extra point kept Southern in the lead at 21-20, but Bryant didn't score again until the final minute, when the outcome was no longer in doubt.

"We were over-pursuing and they were cutting back on us," said Southern linebacker Chris Lorenti. "We didn't make any adjustments, we just settled down, started filling our gaps."

Armstrong threw a 10-yard TD pass to Chris Bergeski and, after the defense forced Bryant to punt from deep in its own territory, the Owls got close enough for Chris Gallagher to kick a 22-yard field goal just before the break.

In the second half, Southern's defense dominated. Freeman scored twice to power the running game, and as he hurdled over the line for the last score, fans were shouting "Three more wins."

"There's a lot of history here at Southern," Lorenti said. "A lot of guys came before us and we see a lot of them at our games. It's great to be doing this for them." After 83 seasons in which they have never played each other, the University of Delaware and Delaware State University will finally meet on the football field.

The NCAA today matched up the Blue Hens and Hornets in the first round of the 16-team Division I-AA playoffs, now called the Division I Football Championship. The Hens (8-3) will host the Hornets (10-1) on Friday at 1:30 p.m. at Delaware Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN.

Tickets will be on sale at both schools beginning Monday.

Delaware State qualified automatically as champion of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, one of eight leagues that sends its first-place team to the 16-team field. This is DSU's first NCAA postseason appearance in football.

Delaware lost its last two regular-season games and did not earn the Colonial Athletic Association's automatic bid. Instead, the Blue Hens secured one of the eight at-large tournament spots.

The NCAA tries to match teams based on "geographic proximity," according to its tournament guidelines. In determining host teams, the NCAA considers quality of facility, revenue potential, attendance history and potential and a team's
performance. Delaware ranked third nationally in I-AA going into this weekend's games with average home attendance of 21,801 behind Appalachian State (27,903) and Montana (23,234).

Postseason crowds are traditionally smaller because students must purchase tickets (they are admitted free during the regular season), there isn't the built-in pre-purchased, season-ticket base and, on Thanksgiving weekend, some fans and students are out of town.

Delaware's largest-ever home playoff crowd was 16,390 for a 2000 quarterfinal against long-time rival Lehigh. Its highest first-round, Thanksgiving weekend attendance was 15,576 for a 1974 game against Youngstown State.

The NCAA instituted postseason championship play in its lower divisions in 1973. Delaware will participate for the 19th time in that 35-season span. The Blue Hens won the NCAA Division II title in 1979, moved to Division I-AA in 1980 and won the I-AA title in 2003. Division I-AA was established in 1978.

Delaware began playing football in 1889. This game will be the 1,069th in its history. During that span, Delaware has played most of the other colleges located within about an hour's drive, including Drexel, Franklin & Marshall, Haverford, La Salle, Pennsylvania, PMC (now Widener), St. Joseph's, Swarthmore, Temple, Ursinus, Villanova, Washington College and West Chester.

But it has never squared off against Delaware State, which played its first football game in 1924.

One reason, at the outset, was because the state of Delaware had a segregated school system until the mid-1950s. Delaware State, created in 1891 to provide educational opportunities for African-American students, played a football schedule comprised entirely of other historically black colleges and universities until the late 1950s and '60s. The MEAC consists of other historically black schools. DSU's student body is now approximately 80 percent black.

Efforts by Delaware State to schedule a game with Delaware have been repeatedly rebuffed by UD administration. For more than 20 years, UD athletic director Edgar Johnson has cited full schedules, often completed more than five years in advance, and a desire to play other schools in explaining Delaware's unwillingness to play Delaware State.

The issue was the subject of a recent episode of ESPN's investigative series "Outside The Lines," which featured this reporter.

In the late 1970s, the presidents and athletic directors from the two schools did agree to play two games in the 1980s. But they were subsequently called off by UD, without explanation.

Delaware and Delaware State never met head-to-head in any sport until a men's basketball game on Dec. 5, 1991, at the UD Field House. Delaware State won 99-95.

Recently, however, UD president Patrick Harker, who took office in July, has pledged to arrange a Delaware-Delaware State regular-season football game.

"It would be a good rivalry, good for the state and the two teams and a nice event . . . Now we just need to make it happen," Harker said.

Delaware's schedule is nearly complete through 2011, so any regular-season
meeting is still years away. Johnson and DSU athletic director Rick Costello plan to discuss arranging a game after this season.

Many UD fans have maintained that DSU's lack of success didn't warrant a contest between the two, even though the Blue Hens have annually scheduled a Division II school, West Chester, since 1968. Delaware has won all but three of those meetings.

Others have wondered why what seems to be such a natural � a football game between the country's second smallest state's lone Division I schools � has never taken place.

"A football game between Delaware and Delaware State would be such a wonderful thing for the state," said Wilmington resident Nate Beasley, a Dover native who played running back for a year at DSU and for three years at UD. "It just doesn't seem to make any sense that it hasn't happened."

Delaware returned to the playoffs after missing the postseason when it finished 6-5 in 2005 and 5-6 in 2006. It had not gone three years without qualifying since 1983-85.

The I-AA playoffs culminate Dec. 14 with the title game at Max Finley Stadium in Chattanooga, Tenn. Brock Graham scored two third-quarter touchdowns as Wabash defeated visiting Mount St. Joseph 31-21 in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs Saturday.

Wabash quarterback Matt Hudson was 25-of-46 for 263 yards. Evan Sobecki led the Little Giants (10-1) with 94 yards on 18 carries, while Mike Russell had five receptions for 76 yards.
Mount St. Joseph (9-2) had 159 yards rushing, led by Tyrone Jones with 56 yards.
Wabash advances to play Case Western Reserve (11-0).
NORTH CENTRAL 44, FRANKLIN 42 -- Aaron Fanthorpe's 19-yard touchdown pass to Steve Hlavac on the last play of the game led North Central (9-2) over host Franklin (9-2) in an NCAA Division III first-round playoff game.
Fanthorpe passed for 356 yards and five touchdowns, and Hlavac caught 11 passes for 127 yards and four TDs.
Chad Rupp passed for 400 yards and four touchdowns and ran for another score for Franklin. Adam Mellencamp caught four passes for 226 yards and two scores.
ST. FRANCIS 35, LINDENWOOD 14 -- The Cougars (10-1) scored 21 points in the second quarter on Lindenwood (10-2) en route to their 45th consecutive home victory, as they advanced in the NAIA playoffs.
Doug Wasylk rushed for 65 yards and scored two touchdowns, including a 17-yard TD pass from quarterback Jeff Wedding. Wedding went 17-of-24 for 141 yards and two touchdown passes.
Division III football playoffs: Defense delivers for Warhawks


WHITEWATER ?The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater forced five turnovers, turning three of them into touchdowns, to beat Capital University 34-14 in the first round of the NCAA Division III football playoffs on Saturday.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, Warhawks defensive end Ryan Ogrizovich took the ball out of quarterback Robbie Thayer's cocked arm and ran 15 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-14.

An interception by Ben Farley set up a 50-yard touchdown pass from Danny Jones to Neil Mrkvicka about 4 minutes later to put the game away.

The Warhawks (10-1) held Capital (8-3) to 32 yards on 27 rushes, while Justin Beaver picked up 122 of Whitewater's 197 rushing yards. Jones rushed for two touchdowns.

Whitewater, which reached the Division III championship game the last two years, hosts North Central College (9-2) of Naperville, Ill., on Saturday.

Bethel 28, Concordia 0

ST. PAUL, Minn. ?The Royals pulled away with a three-touchdown onslaught in the second quarter and earned their first playoff victory.

Bethel (10-1) rushed for 259 yards and outgained the Falcons (7-4) 410-160. Logan Flannery, Dusty Wahl and quarterback Ben Wetzell combined for 244 rushing yards. Each of them scored a touchdown, and Wetzell added 135 passing yards and another touchdown.

Bethel hosts the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in a second-round game next week.


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