🏈 Oregon blasts BYU, App State's miracle, more from Week 3
App State's Hail Mary
⚽️ Virginia women upset No. 2 UNC in record fashion
Week 1 of the DII football season is just about in the books, and we certainly were treated to a show. Minnesota State won a slugfest against last year’s surprise Bemidji State and Colorado School of Mines and Grand Valley State went toe-to-toe in a top-5 matchup that earned every bit of its top-star billing.
More on both of those games in just a bit. Right now, it’s time for your first Power 10 rankings of the year. For those new to the Power 10 rankings, it is important to note that these are mine, and mine alone. There is no voting body. I combine the metrics used by the selection committee come tournament time (strength of schedule, victories against ranked competition, and numbers of those nature) with the eye test for what I feel is a fair look at the top 10 in DII football.
This week, the GLIAC holds its head up proudly as the top two teams in the nation hail from Michigan.
2021 CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP: Finally Ferris… Bulldogs take home first title
No. 1 Ferris State: The Bulldogs opened the season as they ended it: Defeating a playoff team. The big 36-20 victory over Central Washington was highlighted by Mylik Mitchell’s big day at quarterback, throwing for 339 yards, rushing for 34 more and totaling two touchdowns. Yet another big game awaits this weekend as the Bulldogs head to Hickory, North Carolina in a battle with Lenoir-Rhyne.
No. 2 Grand Valley State: It took every tick of the clock, but the Lakers walked away victorious against then-No. 3 Colorado School of Mines, 25-22. I said in my preview that this may be the best front seven in DII, and they sure looked the part, holding Harlon Hill candidate Michael Zeman to just 38 yards rushing. Linebacker Abe Swanson is a beast (nine tackles, half a sack) and will lead the defense on the road against CSU Pueblo next week.
No. 3 Northwest Missouri State: I felt this was a big test for the new-look Bearcats against a sneaky Fort Hays State offense. Despite Tigers quarterback Chance Fuller going for 300 yards, the Bearcats clamped down, held running back Adrian Soto to just 32 yards, and took over in the second half. They look fine: Zach Howard had five tackles, three of which were sacks. This defense should feast against Lincoln (MO) next weekend.
No. 4 Shepherd: The reigning Harlon Hill Trophy winner, quarterback Tyson Bagent, made his case for a repeat performance. He threw for 394 yards and five touchdowns (three went to top receiver Ryan Beach) in an offense that looked like it was in midseason form. The defense was quite impressive as well and looks sharp as the Rams head into their home opener next weekend.
No. 5 Valdosta State: Maybe this is a little unfair to drop the Blazers — who were No. 2 in the preseason Power 10 — after a win, but the reality is they struggled mightily against Keiser in the first half and even into the third quarter. Ivory Durham, Jamar Thompkins, and Seth McGill turned it on for the Blazers, but they will need to be ready out of the gates next week. They host a Virginia Union team that dropped 77 points on opening night.
DII FOOTBALL HUB: News, rankings, stats for 2022
No. 6 Angelo State: The Rams looked good, utterly dominating Chadron State, 35-0. The defense, one of DII’s best last year, held the Eagles to just 224 yards and forced two interceptions, with one being a pick-six. The rushing attack is going to be a handful with Alfred Grear and Nathaniel Omayebu III combining for over 200 yards and a score. The Rams have a big matchup next weekend against Colorado School of Mines.
No. 7 Colorado School of Mines: Did someone say Colorado School of Mines? Maybe you disagree that the Mines only fall a few spots, but they were one yard away from winning this game. If you watched that game, you saw what I saw. The defense battled and kept the Lakers from running away with it until they scored 22 unanswered to take the lead late in the fourth quarter.
No. 8 Harding: With Cole Chancey leaving, we knew there was going to be a new look. But how about this: Harding’s first three scores were touchdown passes. The Bison have been atop DII in rushing with that wild triple-option offense, so to see those first three touchdowns of the year come through the air was surprising — considering they had five all last year. They have a big GAC matchup with Southeastern Oklahoma State next week.
No. 9 West Florida: Byron “Peewee” Jarrett looked just fine as the new quarterback, leading the Argos to a 52-3 victory over Warner. He threw four touchdown passes, and that was without top wide receiver David Durden, on the shelf with an apparent knee injury. This Argos defense, which allowed just 144 yards, will have its hands full next week with the elusive Cooper Callis and Southwest Baptist.
No. 10 West Georgia: The Wolves showed quickly that last year was no flash in the pan. Despite a slew of new weapons, veteran quarterback Harrison Frost threw for 298 yards and four touchdowns in a commanding 38-7 win over Carson-Newman. This weekend, West Georgia heads down I-20 to Atlanta with a showdown against Morehouse before opening GSC play.
First five out (in alphabetical order)
Tyson Bagent is the reigning Harlon Hill Trophy winner, presented each season to the top player in DII football. Below are a few contenders on the offensive side of the ball who I believe will be in contention come December for this year’s trophy, along with their respective stats from Week 1.
EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW: The essential guide to the Harlon Hill Trophy
The goal of this list is to track the contenders throughout the season. That means some players may fall out, while others are added.
1. Ashland picks up first major upset of the year: I had this game as one to watch because Ashland has real sleeper potential this year. The Eagles showed that, taking down No. 10 Notre Dame (OH) 31-14 in a game that was never really in doubt. Both Gei’ ’vonni Washington (150 yards rushing, 1 TD) and Larry Martin (122 yards rushing, 2 TD) led the attack on the ground for the Eagles as Ashland held the Falcons to just 116 yards rushing.
2. Minnesota State and Bemidji State duke it out: This was a wild one from start to finish. As I mentioned in the preview, this was a solid chance for Minnesota State to bounce back against a top-25 team, and it did, in thrilling fashion. The Mavs, trailing 34-30 late in the fourth quarter, converted a huge fourth-and-18 to get inside the red zone. On the very next play, Jalen Sample — who caught the previous fourth-down pass — ripped the ball out of a Bemidji State defender’s hands in the end zone for the go-ahead score. The Mavs then sealed the deal picking off Brandon Alt. It was a good old-fashioned NSIC thriller and with Minnesota Duluth and Augustana (SD) winning, this is going to be a fun conference to watch.
3. Grand Valley State and Colorado School of Mines put on a show: Speaking of thrilling, did you catch the end of that Lakers/Mines game? The Mines stormed back from a 17-0 deficit to take the lead 22-17 late in the fourth. Lakers quarterback Cade Peterson showed no fear and led them down the field for the go-ahead score… but man, was this finish close. Mines quarterback John Matocha, who already had a huge 300-yard, two-touchdown day, heaved a Hail Mary into the end zone, where star running back Michael Zeman caught the deflection on the one-yard line and was immediately stuffed by Lakers defenders as GVSU held on to the victory. Neither team has time to catch their breath with big matchups in Week 2.
Laker defense closes it out 🔒
GVSU stops the Orediggers hail mary attempt to take the opener 25-22 and move to 1-0 on the season!#AnchorUp pic.twitter.com/Cjo7ti0eHN
4. Early season intrigue: I already mentioned how Ashland’s big win shakes up the G-MAC, but so does Ohio Dominican taking down pre-season favorite Findlay on Saturday. With Tiffin exploding for a 42-0 victory this race should be a wild one to watch… Bowie State, who had a turnover in the coaching staff after a historic 2021 season, came out of the gates in a big way, winning a thriller over nationally-ranked New Haven, scoring 20 points in the fourth quarter and scoring the go-ahead touchdown with just nine seconds remaining. They look to be a contender once again… West Texas A&M totally dominated nationally-ranked and 2022 playoff team Western Colorado, 44-6, in one of the more lopsided victories of the week. Quarterback Nick Gerber had a big day, combining for more than 240 yards, rushing in a touchdown and passing three to three different receivers… Slippery Rock lost arguably its best wide receiver duo in program history, but had little problem putting up big numbers in its 2022 debut. Quarterback Noah Grover passed for 276 yards and three touchdowns while rushing for one more in a 42-10 victory over Wayne State (MI)… Per usual, it appears the Ouachita Baptist running game will be one to contend with: TJ Cole had 176 yards rushing with two touchdowns and Kendel Givens ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns, while reeling in a 42-yard pass for another score in a 42-32 thriller over Oklahoma Baptist. That defense will have to tighten up against some of those GAC offenses, but it looks as if the Tigers are on the hunt once again.
5. Big days for fantasy football: If you play fantasy football, you know wins are not just about the top draft picks, but how well the players who flew under the radar performed. Here are just a few studs that caught my eye from teams outside the top-25 conversation:
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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