November 19 - After 32 playoff matches at regional and on-campus sites over the weekend, 16 teams remain in the hunt for a national title. In Division II and Small College, four teams punched their tickets to Nationals at SaberCats Stadium in Houston December 8-10. Division I and DI-AA are also down to four teams each, but they must win the December 2nd semifinals in Reading, PA to clinch a trip to Texas.
Defending champion Brown fended off Kutztown, winning 31-12 in muddy conditions in Providence, R.I., setting up a rematch of last year’s semifinal with St. Bonaventure. The win extends Brown’s two-year unbeaten streak, as the Bears’ last loss was to Penn State in November, 2021.
The Bonnies did their part to assure the rematch with a 26-13 win in Wheeling, WV Saturday over the Big Rivers champion Cardinals. Bonnies’ first-year wing Noah Edwards played well and was consistent from the tee. Bonaventure’s tight five also showed grit in defense against the hard-charging Wheeling ball carriers.
“I’m proud of the way we finished out that game as it’s been a work-on for us. Our finishers came on and did their jobs, which is always great to see,” St. Bonaventure head coach Tui Osbourne said.
At Notre Dame College in South Euclid, OH, the second-ranked Falcons impressively defeated Liberty runner-up Siena, 50-0.The Falcon scrum was dominant in the effort. NDC draws Big Ten champion Indiana in the semifinals, as the Hoosiers narrowly escaped Big Rivers runner-up Principia, 32-26, in Bloomington, IN on Saturday.
Two-time defending national champion Virginia Tech evaded a quarterfinal upset Saturday, defeating UMass, 25-22, in Culpepper, VA. The Minutemen were down 15 with 13 minutes left before scoring back-to-back tries. Down just three with time expired, UMass had possession and was driving, but the Hokies forced a turnover to hold on for the win. Virginia Tech will face MAC champ Louisville in the December 2 semifinal in Reading, PA., setting up a rematch of last year’s two-point national championship game.
Louisville punched its ticket to the semis with a 28-24 defeat of Southeastern runner-up Tennessee Saturday in Lexington, KY. The Vols were up 21-5 at halftime before a furious second-half Cardinal comeback. Since dropping back-to-back games in October and falling out of the Top 10, Louisville has reeled off three-straight wins over the third-, fifth-, and seventh-ranked teams in the country.
Lexington hosted two quarterfinals Saturday, with the hometown and top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats also defeating N.C. State, 32-12, from the Southern Conference. To reach the final in Houston, Kentucky will have to eliminate the entire Liberty conference from the postseason, as champion Boston College looms after beating West Chester, 22-5.
The East Region in Reading, PA produced two upsets in the opening round, with third-ranked NEWCRC champion Maine falling to No. 8 Villanova, 34-17, and 10th-ranked Vermont knocking off No. 7 Marist, 29-12. The upsets continued in the second-round, with the Catamounts, who finished third in the NEWCRC, beating Villanova, 28-20, to advance to the final four.
In the South Region in Culpepper, VA, second-ranked Indiana University of Pennsylvania poured on the offense en route to Houston, beating Scranton, 63-31, Friday and No. 5 Norwich, 46-26, in the quarterfinals. The Cadets handled Southern Conference champion UNC-Wilmington, 27-15 on Friday.
Both Georgetown and Memphis were explosive offensively in the Midwest Region in Knoxville, Tennessee, piling up a combined 115 points in their first-round wins over Grand Valley State and Wisconsin-Whitewater, respectively, setting up a defensive tussle in the quarterfinals. Memphis stole the win late, 17-15, with the game’s only converted try in the final minutes.
Meeting them in Houston will be top-ranked juggernaut Northern Iowa. The Great Midwest champions mauled Gateway champ Saint Louis University, 78-5, Friday at Forest Park in St. Louis, before defeating Montana State, 42-20, in Sunday’s quarterfinals. The Bobcats advanced to the second round with a 34-10 win over Great Midwest runner-up Loyola, despite losing their starting No. 8 to a red card.
Two top-10 teams fell in the Round of 16, with 14th-ranked Southeastern Louisiana knocking off No. 5 VMI, 29-24, and 15th-ranked St. John’s toppling No. 6 Slippery Rock, 20-19. Top-seeded Babson did not get the memo about first-round upsets, though, as the Beavers won big over No. 16 Springfield, 83-0.
Awaiting Babson in the second round was Endicott, 41-7 winners over unranked Holy Cross on Sturday. The result was an offensive shootout, with Babson outscoring Endicott, 50-45, to advance to the semifinals.
Ripping Cinderella’s slipper off of Southeastern Louisiana in the South Regional final in Culpepper, VA was seventh-ranked Catholic. The Cardinals edged the Lions, 28-24, to book a Houston semifinal with Babson. Catholic won big in the first round over Christendom, 52-17.
Mid-America champion Wayne State claimed the Midwest Region in St. Louis, MO. The Wildcats put down a tough Franciscan side in the Round of 16 Friday, 29-10, before racing past St. John’s, 63-7, Sunday. The Johnnies were the lowest ranked team (15th) to register a first-round win, edging sixth-ranked Slippery Rock, 20-19.
Out West in Vallejo, CA, both first-round games were competitive. Defending national champion Cal Poly Humboldt held off High Peaks champ Colorado School of Mines, 22-11, and No. 8 Western Oregon edged 20th-ranked Cal Maritime, 19-17. It was all Humboldt in the quarterfinals, though, as the Lumberjacks defeated the Wolves, 71-3, setting up a box office semifinal with Wayne State.