The NAIA Football Weekly Report and Predictions by Jason Dannelly (9/5/15 Edition)

SOU RB Melvin Mason. Photo Courtesy SOU SID.

SOU RB Melvin Mason. Photo Courtesy SOU SID.

Well hey lookie there. . .the NAIA football has started and there has already been a round of upsets. But if you are like me, you start off initially shocked before talking yourself back into reality that it is essentially Week 0 and we don’t really know what anyone really has for a team.

I mean we can do some guess work and determine who some of the best teams in the country are but we don’t really know how they stack up. That’s the tough part but interesting part about NAIA football. Every team out there has some pretty good players, that goes without saying. But what do they have behind them and next to them are the real questions.

If you are going to be good at this level you have to have depth and you have to be able to sustain your success throughout the entire season. And to cap it off, you’d better be able to overcome some adversity. That’s ultimately why Marian University found themselves vying for a national title instead of missing the postseason.

Sure all of those things are pretty football cliché but it’s the truth. The Knights were 2-2 at the start of last season and no one outside of Indianapolis were thinking they would make a run to the national championship game.

“YES THAT’S NICE JASON, BUT WHAT’S YOUR POINT?!?”

While all of the games over the last two weeks have been exciting, because let’s be honest it’s college football, none of them will ultimately determine who will make the postseason in November. If you lost the last two weeks and you win out, we’ll see you in the championship series. Well. . .all dependent on voters.

What did I miss?

No. 1 Marian beat No. 4 Saint Xavier, 45-13. Marian’s Hayden Northern had 403 total yards and three touchdowns. Krishawn Hogan was his top target pulling in six catches for 140 yards and two scores. Marian totaled 622 yards of total offense in the win to lead all teams last week.

Lyon (Ark.) played their first college football game since announcing they were adding football. They lost to Tabor 45-21. Lyon actually scored in just 57 seconds as Michael Bowles ripped off a 56 yard run for the first touchdown in the modern era for Lyon. He finished the game with 28 carries for 189 yards. Tabor was led by a tandem of backs in Joseph Donnell and D’Marco Smith who each went over the century mark.

Baker defeated Grand View, 20-15. No doubt the HAAC is probably the toughest conference in the country with the addition of GV and William Penn this year. BU QB Nick Marra was 17-30 with 229 yards and one touchdown.

Reinhardt didn’t forget how to score points. They defeated Point 73-21. Last year RY scored over 40 points in 6/10 of their games. The 73 points are the most ever in a game during the short history of the program. It was the first career win for Drew Cronic who took over the program this year for his father Dr. Danny Cronic who stepped down due to health concerns.

William Penn defeated Missouri Valley, 35-28, in probably the wildest game of the first two weeks. The Statesmen trailed 28-13 at the start of the 3rd quarter before coming back for the win. William Penn’s defense forced five interceptions against two MoVal QBs.

Cumberlands defeated Campbellsville, 27-24 after scoring the game’s final touchdown with just 4:46 left to play. UC QB Adam Craig threw for 120 yards and rushed for 62 yards to lead the Patriots. Yes, that Adam Craig. The same one who QB’d them to the national title game two years ago in case you forgot.

The Biggest Game This Week in NAIA Football:

The biggest game of the week is in Helena, Mont. as Carroll College hosts No. 1 Southern Oregon. A lot of people are anxiously anticipating this game because they want to see what Craig Howard and the defending national champions have up their sleeve after graduating a ton of talent. The Raiders are looking to Kamerun Smith and Tanner Trosin to lead the offense this year. As of right now, Howard says the two will be splitting reps.

The top statistical returner for SOU on the offensive side of the ball is running back Melvin Mason. Mason, a junior, rushed for 1013 yards last year. Add three senior returning starters on the offensive line and you’d have to admit that SOU is going to be better than some would think.

Ultimately the strength of SOU’s defense will carry them early in the season while the offense gels together. The Raiders return four seniors on the defensive line, five defensive backs and several solid linebackers including transfer Oshay Dunsmore.

Listening to several people in the offseason you would have thought SOU graduated every player on roster and was being forced to start over from scratch. But given the talent coming back SOU will be solid again this season.

Carroll College will give the Raiders everything they want in a week one opponent. Mac Roche will again lead the Saints offense with a bevy of talented players. However, the Saints will be without the services of Kyle Griffith at wide receiver this year due to a knee injury. That means Dylan Simac will be the Saints top returning statistical WR. Last year Simac had 36 catches for 343 yards.

The Saints defense will be stout once again with James Dowgin back at strong safety and Shayne Durbin at linebacker. Dawson Osborne (LB) Gus Sommerfeld (DE) and Jake Konen (DE) are just a few more of the names you should get to know on the Saints defense.

Add in the atmosphere of Nelson Stadium for the opening game of the year and you can’t find a better place to watch an NAIA football game this week.

Other News and Notes:

Bethany College travels to Houston, Texas this week to take on Houston Baptist. I find this comical because when HBU was an NAIA DI basketball program a few years back there is no way they would have scheduled a game like this. But now that they are an NCAA DI-FCS school, I’m sure they are looking for someone to beat up on. I hope first year Head Coach Paul Hubbard’s team can give them all they want and more.

Last week Webber International played at Arizona Christian. The daytime high in Phoenix was 104 with game time kickoff being ONLY 95. But as they say. . .it’s a dry heat. Darius Page led WIU in the win with 35 carries for 206 yards and three scores.

Edward Waters is 2-0. . . I think? The Tigers have beaten, and I’m not making this up, University of Faith and University of God’s Chosen. UOGC has no campus or dorms and is based (I think) in Fayetteville, NC. UOF is based in St. Petersburg, Fla. Wins are wins but EWC will see their first real test this week against Morehouse College.

Kurtis Walls of Valley City State put up 516 yards of total offense last week against Jamestown College in the Vikings 41-31 win over the Jimmies. He was 30-45 on the day with four touchdowns. His top target was Josh Tovar who finished with 211 yards on nine receptions.

MNU put up 80 points against Culver-Stockton in their season opening victory. The Pioneers scored 11 touchdowns and put up 514 yards against the Wildcats. MNU exploded in the 3rd quarter for 35 points to put CSC away for good. CSC lost five fumbles on the day but managed to put up 450 yards on offense.

Olivet Nazarene limited Midland University to just 8 rushing yards last week in their 27-21 defeat of the Warriors. ONU’s D was the only team in the NAIA to limit their opponent to fewer than 10 yards last week.

Predictions for This Week:
(A) 1 Southern Oregon  @  (H) 4 Carroll (Mont.): SOU is going to be good this year. But on the road to start the season against a very good Carroll College team is not the place to get their first win of the season. Carroll 35 SOU 24.

(A) 12 Northwestern (Iowa)  @  (H) 22 Tabor (Kan.): I love these GPAC/KCAC games. Tabor has a big advantage with one game under their belt and playing the game in Hillsboro. NW has a solid team coming back and if they can get to halftime even with Tabor I think they will win this one. NW 24 Tabor 21.

(A) 22 Doane (Neb.)  @  (H) McPherson (Kan.): You might be saying “why the heck is this game on your radar?” Well as you know I’m a fan of coaches in the NAIA and have made some great friendships along the way. When I lived in Grand Island, Neb I got to know the Hastings College staff at the time pretty well. Paul Mierkiewicz, now head coach at McPherson, was the head coach at Hastings College. His offensive coordinator was Matt Franzen who is now the head coach at Doane. Always great to see guys like this bring their programs against one another. Doane 42 McPherson 17.

(A) 8 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)  @  (H) 19 William Penn (Iowa): William Penn’s early schedule is pretty much murderers row. Another big test for the Statesmen on their inaugural year in the HAAC as they take on an MNU program that barely had to take it out of first gear last week. Penn showed moxie last week in their comeback win but I think MNU is a better team than MoVal. MNU 34 WPU 24.

(A) Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.)  @  (H) 14 Ottawa (Kan.): Another great GPAC/KCAC match up. DWU needs this win to show they are more than just the 3rd or 4th best team in the GPAC. They need it to propel themselves in the ranking and as a catalyst for the rest of the season. For Ottawa they need the win to stay up in the early rankings and to sharpen some inexperience they have on the roster. DWU 31 Ottawa 28.

The Rest of the Schedule: Predicted Winners in BOLD

(A) 10 Faulkner (Ala.)  @  (H) Southeastern (Fla.)

(A) 11 Georgetown (Ky.)  @  (H) Cumberland (Tenn.)

(A) 13 Eastern Oregon  @  (H) Sacramento State University

(A) 15 Baker (Kan.)  @  (H) Culver-Stockton (Mo.)

(A) 17 Valley City State (N.D.)  @  (H) Mayville State (N.D.)

(A) 25 Benedictine (Kan.)  @  (H) Avila (Mo.)

(A) 3 Morningside (Iowa)  @  (H) RV Sterling (Kan.)

(A) 4 Saint Xavier (Ill.)  @  (H) St. Francis (Ill.)

(A) 6 Grand View (Iowa)  @  (H) Central Methodist (Mo.)

(A) 7 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)  @  (H) Lyon (Ark.)

(A) Arizona Christian  @  (H) Western New Mexico University

(A) Ave Maria (Fla.)  @  (H) Pace University

(A) Bacone (Okla.)  @  (H) Lamar University

(A) Bethany (Kan.)  @  (H) Houston Baptist University

(A) Briar Cliff (Iowa)  @  (H) Saint Mary (Kan.)

(A) Concordia (Neb.)  @  (H) Southwestern (Kan.)

(A) Cumberlands (Ky.)  @  (H) Carson-Newman College

(A) Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.)  @  (H) 14 Ottawa (Kan.)

(A) Dordt (Iowa)  @  (H) Dakota State (S.D.)

(A) Edward Waters (Fla.)  @  (H) Morehouse College

(A) Graceland (Iowa)  @  (H) 9 Missouri Valley

(A) Hastings (Neb.)  @  (H) Bethel (Kan.)

(A) Kentucky Christian  @  (H) Duquesne University

(A) Lincoln University  @  (H) 18 Langston (Okla.)

(A) Midland (Neb.)  @  (H) Kansas Wesleyan

(A) Montana Tech  @  (H) Montana State-Northern

(A) Nebraska Wesleyan  @  (H) 21 Friends (Kan.)

(A) Olivet Nazarene (Ill.)  @  (H) RV Saint Francis (Ind.)

(A) Pacific University  @  (H) College of Idaho

(A) Peru State (Neb.)  @  (H) Evangel (Mo.)

(A) Pikeville (Ky.)  @  (H) Campbell University

(A) Point (Ga.)  @  (H) Bluefield (Va.)

(A) RV Montana Western  @  (H) Rocky Mountain (Mont.)

(A) Siena Heights (Mich.)  @  (H) Lindenwood-Belleville (Ill.)

(A) St. Ambrose (Iowa)  @  (H) Concordia (Mich.)

(A) Texas College  @  (H) Mississippi College

(A) Warner (Fla.)  @  (H) Union (Ky.)

(A) Westminster College  @  (H) SAGU (Texas)

(A) Wisconsin-Oshkosh  @  (H) 20 Robert Morris (Ill.)

The Wrap Up

That’s going to do it for this week. My apologies for not getting anything written sooner this season on NAIA football. It was my intent to do a full on season preview but time got away from me with my “real job”. Each week I will plan on writing a preview article on what’s happening that weekend in NAIA football and also recap the action from the week before.

At this point I do not plan on doing a Top 25 ranking for several reasons. The biggest being that ultimately how I rank the Top 25 teams in NAIA football has no bearing on the outcome of the season nor does it factor into the selection process for the NAIA Championship Series. While I enjoy comparing my rankings to the coaches’ ranking it ends out muddying the waters and causing a lot of grief with the coaches who are selected to do the job for the NAIA. There’s no exact science behind it and by the time the second round of the postseason rolls around we’re both typically wrong.

If there is one thing I have learned about NAIA football it’s not to think you can figure out who is going to be “good” early in the season based off of a few returning starters and a program’s history. You have to win the games. That’s it. So I wish the best of luck to all of the NAIA coaches involved in the rating system.

Are you are looking for some good “football” music? Then check out Screaming for Silence and their song “The King is Crowned”. Not only is it a great anthem for a run to the national championship but the core members of the band were actually athletes in the NAIA at my alma mater Dana College. Zeb Christensen, Casey Newson and Danny Irwin all played while going to Dana. You can download the song or entire album on iTunes.

Have a great week! As always feel free to comment, share, like or do whatever you can to spread the word about the NAIA level of football! And if you feel so inclined, email me at jasondannelly@gmail.com.

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