NAIA Ramblings of Jason Dannelly: Review Preview for 10/14/2006

If I had to go out on a limb this week I’d say the best game of the week on paper is probably Sioux Falls hosting Morningside. But I preface that to say “on paper”. I get a sneaking suspicion that this week’s game might get out of hand. Morningside has struggle on offense and Sioux Falls wants revenge.

 But there is something to be said about wanting revenge too. Sometimes teams over inflate themselves on the importance of a football game and play really tight. If that is the case then I think USF and Morningside could be another great college football game. However if the Cougars show up with their ears pinned back it could be a long day for Morningside and their young quarterback Tim Richard.

The other big game this week is probably in the KCAC. If the KCAC has any shot at all of getting two teams in the playoffs, it will have to come from this week’s winner of Bethel and Friends. Friends only loss this season came to the current top rated KCAC team Kansas Wesleyan (5-0). Bethel is also unbeaten and a win would set up for a battle of undefeated’s on October 28th in North Newton. That is if both teams make it that far without a loss.

I mean no ill towards the Threshers. I think they are a great football team that has vastly improved over the last couple of seasons. But I am like every other college football fan when I see Bethel and wonder how soon before the wheels come off? We’ve seen it before, great starts in September and let downs in October.
It would seem like this team has matured past that and is moving onto a great season. But until Bethel gets out of October, I’m walking on eggshells.

In this week’s NAIA Minute I mention that Black Hills State could take control of the conference title with a win this week. I want people to understand that by no means am I crowning them the DAC conference champion, I just feel they would be the most likely team to do it, if they get a victory this week over Jamestown.

The Black Hills State/Jamestown match up will be featured in next week’s campus report as DAC Columnist Josh Vice will be following this week’s action. In his lead up to the game Josh put together these numbers for us:

Team match-up for Jamestown vs. Black Hills State
BHSU Record 4-2 
JC Record 5-1
BHSU Scoring 99 points
JC Scoring 186
BHSU Total Offense 1321 yards
JC Total Offense 1906 yards
BHSU Yards per play 3.8 – Yards per game 220.20 
JC Yards per play 5.1 – Yards per game 317.70
BHSU Total TD’S 13 
JC Total TD’s 24
BHSU Rushing yards 616 – Rushing YPC 2.8 – Rushing YPG 102.7 
JC Rushing yards 1197 – Rushing YPC 4.8 – Rushing YPG 199.5
BHSU Total Passing Yards 705 – Passing YPG 117.5 
JC Total Passing Yards 709 – Passing YPG 118.2
Those are this week’s biggest games. To get updates on these games as they happen, click on the ESCORES link on the left hand side of this page and sign up to get text messages to your cell phone.
Stat Leaders
Enough of the season has gone by and we can finally look at some of the NAIA stat leaders with validity. Early in the season 1-2 big games can misrepresent how good a team or player really it. Now we are seeing some of the nation’s best step up. Here is a look at the current offensive leaders as next week we’ll examine the defense.

Individual Rushing: As a former running back and guy from Nebraska, I absolutely love to see good running backs pounding the football. There is no question that Ra’Shad Morgan has been the most impressive runner in the NAIA this season. Morgan currently averages 160.7 yards per game and has 16 touchdowns. On top of that he had a season high of 289 yards against Cumberland on September 23rd. That performance led to player of the week honors for this UVA-Wise Cavalier.

Next on the list are Bethel’s (KS) Beau Cox at 147.8 yards per game and Kenton Wills of Haskell Indian Nations at 127.5. This is the first time I can remember in a longtime, if ever, any running back or quarterback from Haskell has been rated in the top five of any category. Congrats to them and Coach Eric Brock.

Last season’s returning NAIA rushing leader Darell Grames of Kansas Wesleyan is 4th on the NAIA list with 623 total yards this season. Grames is having a great season and the diminished rushing yards this season come from the fact the Coyotes have another quality back in DeChad Ward who has rushed for 289 yards this season.  Grames is probably still the NAIA’s best all around back, he just has more help this season.

Individual Passing: UVA-Wise again leads another offensive category with Randy Hippeard leading the NAIA with 1784 total passing yards this season. He averages 297.3 yards per game. Right behind him is Cris Reisert of Ohio Dominican who is currently averaging 263.4 yards per game. But more impressive than Reisert’s passing numbers are his efficiency numbers. On the season he has thrown 12 touchdowns and only one interception while completing 71.7% of his passes. There is no question he is a major reason why ODU got into the Top 25 this week.

Clayton Braddock of Graceland follows at 261.4 ypg and Chad Cavender of Sioux Falls is fourth on the list at 247.7ypg

Individual Receiving: Dusty Hovorka leads the way averaging 100.7 ypg with just 31 receptions on the season. His counterpart from the VSN NAIA Preview cover Andy Ricca is 24th on the NAIA receiving list at 66.7 ypg but is one of the NAIA’s favorite targets with 39 catches over six games. Leading the country in receptions per game is Avila’s Doug Wendell who has hauled in 45 grabs in 6 games.

Phoenix Thompson of Belhaven is second in the country in receiving yards with 99.5 ypg and Jimmy Early of Langston is next on the list at 96.8 ypg. Early also had a season high 187 yards receiving on September 2nd against DII Midwestern State.

Conclusion
Right now is when teams begin defining their seasons. Many fans can look at their team’s current record and figure out whether or not they are going to make the post season. Teams are made now because they start playing for pride and they start playing for improvement over the week before.

I think we’ll see quite a bit of separation this weekend between the top and the bottom of a lot of conferences this week. Now get out there and see some NAIA Football!

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