On Nov. 28, 1987, hope was kindled in the hearts of thousands of college football players. Until that day, players in Division III were correct when they said that they just played for fun, win or lose. Of course, they had no choice; they obviously couldn't win a championship...unless they played for Augustana. But on that historic Saturday a new incentive was added in Division ITT football: Augustana finally lost.
For almost five seasons, the Vikings owned college football's biggest division (216 teams at last count). Then Dayton beat them 38-36 in the playoff quarterfinals, ending Augustana's 60-game unbeaten streak. "It's strange to lose one game and have a disappointing season," says Viking coach Bob Reade, "but that is the way our players feel."
The Augustana players can console themselves with the thought that they probably won't be confronted with their own vincibility this season. If Wagner is unable to repeat its dream season of '87 (see page 112), the Vikings won't be stopped. Yes, there will be a new quarterback at Augustana, but the dynasty has been built on defense (190.1 yards allowed per game last season) and rushing (a division-leading 369.1 yards per game). Both are sound, with six starters back for the defense and four players returning to the offensive line, including center John Bothe, an All-America and Academic All-America who muscled up this summer by working on his parents' farm in Amboy, Ill.
The good news for the giant-killers from Dayton is that they are good enough to reach the championship game again this season. The bad news is that they are probably not good enough to beat the vengeful Vikings, whom they will likely meet there. Last year the Flyers' defensive line was strong, limiting opponents to 71.7 yards rushing per game, but the team has lost two All-Americas from that unit. The secondary will also have to improve: Dayton's opponents gained 70% of their yards through the air last season.
September 4, 1988
The Flyers' offense derives strength from two players with athletic legacies. Many of Dayton's 284.5 yards per game on the ground came through holes opened by right guard Gordy Massa, whose father, Moose, batted .412 in eight games with the 1957 and '58 Chicago Cubs. The placekicker will again be Mike Duvic, who made good on 14 of 17 field goal attempts in the regular season and playoffs, with five of six from 40 yards or more. Duvic's brother, John, also a kicker, is the leading scorer in Northwestern history.
As was the case last year, seven of Dayton's 10 regular-season games are at home. But unlike last year, or any other year since 1938, the Flyers will play traditional Division III power Wittenberg from nearby Springfield, Ohio, at Dayton. Dayton should win, but if the Flyers take the Tigers too lightly and are unimpressed by Wittenberg's 504 wins—tops among Division III schools—Dayton could miss the playoffs.
Wagner, the team that beat Dayton 19-3 in the championship game last season, will be back in the playoffs, but the Seahawks are not the only power in the New York City area. Fordham, with a multiple-set offense that head coach Larry Glueck learned as backfield coach at Harvard., should win another 10 games this season. All-America halfback Rick Hollawell returns, as does defensive back Jerry Kehm, who was third in Division III with 10 interceptions last season. Also back is Academic All-America Matt Michaels (3.54 GPA in prelaw) at adjuster—a lofty Harvard term for strong safety.
A few miles east of Wagner and Fordham, on Long Island, is Hofstra. The Flying Dutchmen were 1-1 against their local rivals last season, beating Wagner 35-28 during the regular season but getting creamed by Fordham 41-6 in the first round of the playoffs. With 14 starters gone from last season's 9-2 team, Hofstra will be hard-pressed to keep up with its neighbors.
In upstate New York, Ithaca should finally emerge this season from the faint shadow cast by the Ivy League's Cornell. The Bombers' best is Mike Scott, a senior tailback who led the team in rushing, receiving, and scoring last season and averaged 8.3 yards every time he touched the ball. If Scott could only kick, Ithaca would have been 9-1 instead of 7-3. The Bombers lost to Albany 15-14, when Joe Johnston missed a 24-yard field goal with three seconds left, and to Plymouth State 13-12 in a game in which Ithaca blew two extra points.
The best athlete in Division III plays in Illinois, but not at Augustana. Junior Chris Vogel is a receiver at Knox, in Galesburg. Vogel runs the 40 in 4.6 seconds and led Knox to its first winning season (6-3) in 11 years with 78 catches for 1,326 yards.
Another program on the rise is the one at Wisconsin-Stout. Two years ago the Blue Devils were shelled by Grand Valley (Mich.) State 35-0, racking up minus-three yards in total offense. Last season Stout had the top passing game in the division, led by quarterback Tim Peterson (2,871 yards). Unfortunately for Stout supporters, even with 314.6 yards per game passing, the Blue Devils finished the season at 6-5.
It's rushing and defense that wins in Division III, and Augustana has both. The new streak begins against Lake Forest on Sept. 17.