Triple Take: Regions’ best meet

Mount Union
Will Mount Union run away and hide on Saturday? Perhaps not.
Photo by Dan Poel for

Remember the last times these two groupings of teams lined up against one another? Fans of the losing teams would probably rather forget those lopsided outings.

But that was then — long enough ago that it doesn’t matter how those matchups played out. At best, a handful of seniors on Mount Union’s and Bethel’s teams were on the 52-man roster for (and actually played in) the semifinal game from 2007. And then there’s UW-Whitewater and Wesley, which haven’t met in the postseason since 2006.

This is a whole new era for each of the four teams on the field.

So perhaps there will be some new predictions from Pat, Keith and Ryan. Or maybe not. You’ll have to keep reading to find out.

Bethel at Mount Union

Ryan: Mount Union 38, Bethel 14
I can hardly remember the last time a one-dimensional offense fared well against the Purple Raiders. Ironically, maybe it was back in 2004 in the Mount Union loss against Mary Hardin-Baylor. But even then, UMHB needed to have enough skill and composure to complete a long pass in the waning seconds for the win. Can Bethel successfully pass if the going gets tough? The Royals showed they could in an impressive Round 1 against Wartburg. Muster up that kind of outing, and Bethel will have a shot on Saturday. If Bethel puts too much faith in the ground game, Mount Union will be celebrating its 14th consecutive victory.

Keith: Mount Union 14, Bethel 0
I don’t think I’ve ever predicted a shutout before, at least not this deep into the playoffs. And maybe 21-7 is more like it. Or maybe it spirals out of control and my prediction is way wrong. Wouldn’t be the first time. But I’m calling a super-low-scoring semifinal because as much as we like to obsess over offensive stars, the back end of the playoffs rewards the team that gets dirtiest and is willing to do the simple things well, like finish blocks and wrap up tackles. Both the Purple Raiders and Royals excel on defense. If Bethel is smart enough to use more than one player to try to limit Cecil Shorts III (59 catches, 16 TD), Mount Union will be able to go to tight end Kyle Miller (54 catches, 5 TD) and wide receiver Jasper Collins (53 catches, 0 TD) for key conversions. Bethel, on the other hand, might end up a one-dimensional running team against a 4-2-5 defense that excels at pursuing to the ball and finishing when they get there. The Royals told our Brian Hunsicker that they don’t send fat guys after the quarterback; Their well-toned rushers better make it to Neal Seaman, who’s hardly needed his uniform washed after some games. Otherwise I think both defenses get their licks in early, and the Purple Raiders emerge with just enough offense to get to Salem.

Pat: Mount Union 24, Bethel 8
Struggling to figure out how Bethel will score, as I suspect my compatriots were. One-dimensional offenses don’t tend to fare too well against Mount Union. In the first meeting with St. Thomas, when Bethel was even more one-dimensional, it wasn’t even Logan Flannery who scored, but Kevin Lindh breaking one open for 52 yards. Mount Union isn’t necessarily the immovable object on defense that the playoffs have portrayed the Purple Raiders as, but the Royals will need to get or create a couple of breaks to put more points on the board. Defensively I see them slowing the Purple Raiders down but not necessarily enough to make more than a dent, although Brendan Flaherty’s reputation as a cover corner will be put to the test against one Cecil Shorts III.

UW-Whitewater at Wesley

Ryan: Wesley 31, UW-Whitewater 27
To come out gun-slinging and not turn the ball over are the best nuggets of advice I can give to Wesley. Wolverines quarterback Justin Sottilare has been wicked-crisp during the postseason: going 63-for-91 (that’s almost 70 percent) with nine touchdowns in that time. And that comes against some solid defenses. The cherry on top might be that Sottilare has also had zero picks in the past three weeks. That’s the playmaker front; Wesley may also be able to harness a bit of an edge in the trenches. The size of the Wolverines’ offensive and defensive lines seems to be better matched than that of their Warhawk counterparts, though it won’t be until we see these teams collide as to whether it’s clear if any speed has been sacrificed in the size differential. To be sure, UW-Whitewater is a top-notch team that could certainly win in Salem for the second year in a row (we’ve all been talking about that for months), but I don’t think of this prediction as going out on a limb — at least not when a team like Wesley also brings so much to the table.

Keith: UW-Whitewater 21, Wesley 16
I’ve been stuck on the same thought since I realized this matchup was taking place: Is this Wesley team significantly different from the the previous three who reached the semifinals and lost, two by blowout at UW-Whitewater? Fans around the country who are tired of seeing Purple in Salem would love to hear a yes, but I think it’s a no. If these Wolverines are better than the ones I picked to win at Mount Union in this round last year, it’s something intangible that I haven’t picked up on. If Wesley wins this Saturday, I don’t think home field is a big factor. It’s Mike Drass and staff vs. Lance Leipold and staff this time, which is a difference from the ’05 and ’06 meetings, when Bob Berezowitz coached the Warhawks. But at this point in the playoffs, every year it comes down to virtually the same thing: What you’ve got up front. And while I have it on good authority that this is Wesley’s most cohesive offensive line, if not it’s most physically talented of the era of Wolverines dominance, I’ve seen both teams this year with my own eyes. UW-Whitewater still does two things most teams can’t: Generate a pass rush using only their defensive line, and bear down and grind out tough rushing yards in the fourth quarter behind their offensive line. Having the nation’s best running back in Levell Coppage doesn’t hurt either. This might be Wesley’s best defense ever, but unless they can win in the trenches more often than not, it’s the same end result.

UW-Whitewater 21, Wesley 16
I’ve resisted making Blanchard plays/Blanchard doesn’t play predictions so far and I’m going to continue to do so even though I feel there is a difference of about a touchdown or so. Having seen UW-Whitewater’s MO on paper the previous two weeks and in person last week, it’s a game plan that should have just as reasonable a chance of succeeding as it did against North Central. Play it fairly close to the vest on offense, wear the other team down, right? Except Wesley isn’t supposed to be as easy to wear down. Here’s where I struggle with Wesley, however — Ellis Krout injured his knee last week against Mary Hardin-Baylor and if he’s not able to go 100 percent, that cuts into one place Wesley has a distinct advantage, its passing game against the UW-Whitewater secondary. Whitewater will have to contain Chris Mayes early after his four sacks in the first half against Mary Hardin-Baylor, as Lee Brekke isn’t as experienced at facing the rush at the college level as LiDarral Bailey was. And this is likely to be an extreme rush. With that in mind I see another low-scoring game, but I still think UWW has enough of the extras aside from the starting 22 to push the balance in its favor — more reliable kicking game, better discipline, and other things that can’t be measured by stats or a roster.

35 thoughts on “Triple Take: Regions’ best meet

  1. I have been waiting all morning to get the trio’s take. Although, I think everyone has pretty much the same feelings about each game. The only real difference seems to be how long Bethel stays strong against the machine. All three guys (also myself) seem to think the WW/Wesley game is a bit of a toss up and 2/3 giving the Warhawks the edge.

    With all the talk in the last 4 weeks about seeds. It still shows the success of a bracketed system. Four amazing teams still alive.

    I’m as excited as anyone for tomorrow. Good luck to all 4 teams, and safe travels for everyone.

  2. Bethel is one-dimensional..until you don’t expect it. I agree with keith for it being a low scoring game, but I think Bethel can hang in there and atleast make it a field posetion game. I wish I could go to Ohio and watch a great battle. Mount union has given up 17 points in 7 home games. Bethel has not allowed over 20 points in a game. Only 14 or more points 4 times. Mount union has not scored less than 27.. something has to give and it will be in the trenches. GO ROYALS, we have faith in you!!!

  3. Pretty fair analysis guys. Two powers take the field against two teams with something to prove from the last matchup(s).

    Wesley v. UWW:
    Seems to me like it’s all about the trenches. This is where UWW has been a cut above in previous meetings. We will finally see if Wesley has made the next step. Even a close loss would speak volumes to how much they’ve closed the gap.

    Mt. Union v. Bethel:
    Flannery and Pearson (maybe A. Johnson) are probably the only seniors who saw significant action for Bethel in 2007. For Bethel to win they have to keep the score down, the O-Line has to play well against Mount’s speed and they need a big (esp. offensive) play from someone not named Logan.

    If either Bethel or Wesley gets down by a few scores early it could snowball quickly. History and the Mt./UWW aura could start creeping up their backs and that nasty thought…’not again.’ If they can stay in the game early, the jitters, history and aura shouldn’t play a role and it’ll just come down to talent.

    The rest is just cliche and applies to all the teams. Don’t turn the ball over, don’t give up the big play, capitalize on red zone opportunities, etc.

  4. It’s pretty clear that even the NCAA is getting embarrassed by the ridiculous fact that Mt. Union plays every playoff game at home every year. Their clumsy attempt to remedy the situation by seeding St. Thomas (St. Thomas?) ahead of Mt. Union and Whitewater shows they want a face-saving way out of this dilemma. Just do the right thing and let each region host a semi final game every other year. Wouldn’t Mt. Union at Bethel be a lot more interesting than another game in Alliance?

  5. I think teams need to quit complaining about playing at mt union. If your team is truly better, you will beat them. If WW is truly the power everyone perceives them to be, home or away shouldn’t matter.

  6. the best teams deserve the home games.. the ncaa messed up trying to give mount and whitewater away games,,thats bs the best teams should get the top seeds cause they earned it..theres a reason mount and whitewater play every year. they are so far above everybody was always mount that was head and shoulders above the rest,, whitewater caught up.. who will be the next to catch up. its really a good thing for d3 its forcing other teams to have to get better..wesley is catching up and there are a few other teams that i bet in a few years will be putting an end to purple bowl, but for now mount and whitewater are the class of that i said this theyll probably both loose on sat..haha

  7. geiger,

    Yes, Mt. Union at Bethel would be interesting, but are you saying the playoffs should be set up to take the top 8 teams from each “region” as currently defined by the NCAA? This would be a return to the pre-1999 system, but expanded. In other words, no more AQs.

    Because as it stands, we have no East teams left, two West teams left, one of which won what could be called the North bracket, and a North team that won the East bracket. So how would you determine which region each team represents and thereby determine the home game?

  8. It’s time to end the talk and put it on the field! Seeding and field doesn’t really matter at this level. The fames are too important to worry about that.


  10. I find your semi-final predictions and your comments interesting. You guys (Keith, Pat and Ryan) are a combined 2-7 on your Bethel predictions in the first three rounds of the 2010 play-offs with Keith holding a slim lead with a perfect 0-3 record. I find it quite amusing that you (Keith) question if Bethel is “smart enough to use more than one player to try to limit Cecil Shorts III” in your latest prediction. I hope your “smart enough” Keith to stay a perfect 0-4 after Saturday.
    You guys talk about Bethel’s one dimensional run offense having trouble scoring verse Mount Union and that may be the case but MU’s one dimensional pass offense will stuggle to score also when Bethel takes away their run game. The game comes down to making big plays and turnovers. Bethel will frustrate MU in a relatively low scoring defensive battle –MU racks up loads of passing yards but has to settle for fields goals instead of touchdowns-Bethel runs for 2 TDs, gets a pick six, and converts on all 2 pointers to advance to Salem–Bethel 24 Mount Union 23- you heard it here first

  11. Bum: I think we’ll be 5-7 (and I’ll be 2-2) after Saturday. You make it sound like nobody EVER gave Bethel a chance but the fact of the matter is twice it was a split decision and never was anyone expecting a blowout. From the moment this bracket was released we all thought it was very possible for any of six teams in that bracket to get this far, and yes, Bethel was one. The four teams in the bottom half of the bracket, St. Thomas and Linfield all had a good shot.

    So play the “Bethel against the world” card if you like, if that makes you feel better, but reality does not bear that out whatsoever. We’ve had plenty of respect for Bethel throughout.

  12. Regardless of who wins, if Bethel scores 24 points in that fashion, I’ll rip off all my clothes, jump out of the pressbox, and shimmy up a goal post.

  13. @Bum:
    I have to agree with Pat here. Yeah, they’ve picked against us, but they’ve all been tight score predictions. In each game we were the lower seeded team and by extension also playing on the road. Against UST, we were up against a team that had already handed us our lone defeat.

    Now, I was confident that Bethel would win those games, but it wasn’t ridiculous to pick against them in tight games. And given the strength of the West this year, it was legitimate.

    In regards to Mt. Union. I hope we bring our A game, acquit ourselves well and come away with the victory. I believe in this team and this coaching staff. That said, the 2007 game and Mt. Union’s history both make it perfectly reasonable for all three to pick against Bethel. With the exception of Whitewater (maybe Wesley), I think any team inserted against Mount in the semis could have legitimately gotten this 0-3 prediction.

    And hey, having the majority go against us on Triple Take has worked out pretty well for us so far in the playoffs right 😉 Go Royals!

  14. DEFENSE defense DEFENSE defence DEFENCE defence… I miss the home croud craziness…. Im shaking I just cant wait till tommorow. The game better have live video.. Or atleast sound. I predict the game 18-17 Bethel….. It feels good to have faith in something in life, just let it snow, maybe sleet? Rookie QB might bend under the pressure.. I love that I agreed with Keith as that other guy ripped him a new one, God I love football, just debate until the wissel blows

  15. yeah….hey Pat I will have to give you one there you really hit that one on the head by going way out on a limb to(cover your media butt) by making that bold and daring pick that one of six teams will win the eight team WEST REGION—even Keith might have gotten that one right with those kind of odds -Kudos to you Pat on that premediated “CYA prediction” card and it is nice to see your “smart enough” to know when to play it

  16. I know I am in the wrong section but I could not find a spot to ask this question….. How does Tyler Beiler earn offensive player of the year and Ellis Krout and Justin Sottilare get 3rd team honors…. Seems to me like the best 2 WR in D3 are Krout and Shorts

  17. Tomorrow will answer a lot of questions. To be the best you need to beat the best!! I would love to be able to watch the Wesley – Whitewater game. Is that a possibility? Can someone direct me to a possibility? My predictions are:
    Wesley 24 Whitewater 17
    Mt. Union 34 Bethel 10

  18. hey ricb–thanks for the heads up, I won’t eat much before the game(weak stomach) and I will bring my video camera to the game and make you a You-tube star –just so I am ready –are you planning this salute to Bethel right when they score their 24th point or will we all have to wait to the end of the game for you to display your end–heck I might even chip in some cash to bail you out– should be a fun day

  19. Why all the rancor in the posts, especially from the Bethel fans?
    1. I’m a Bethel fan, and ex-player, from way back – before many of you were born.
    2. I kind of like “hiding in the weeds” when it comes to predictions. It takes the pressure from us and puts it on them.
    3. Based on last year’s performance, and the early season ratings, it comes as little surprise that Bethel has a low seed and that no great expectation has been placed on them. (Honestly, who would have foreseen a semifinal run this year?)
    4. The offensive numbers that Wartburg, Wheaton, St Thomas, and now Mount Union put on the board make them the favorite. No problem for me!
    5. What is less obvious is the Bethel defense. That has been the horse that brought them to the parade. In a post game interview last Saturday Logan F. said as much.
    6. The Royals commit fewer penalties than many teams. They also are less prone to turnovers. Those are two keys.
    7. Another key, as I suggested earlier in the week, is field position. (And be careful when referencing the “one dimensional” game. St Thomas had a top flight rushing defense this year. Bethel was able to push the ball on a 60+ drive against that team.)
    8. I have confidence in the defense, especially the defensive line and linebackers, to the point that I’ll be very surprised by a repeat of ’07. Like Coach J says, we want the other team to hate to play us because we play so hard. That’s Bethel football.
    9. I’ll give a big thank you to the D3Football folks, because even when I don’t agree with the result, I appreciate their dedication to publishing a good product.

  20. Too bad the cannon can’t travel to Wesley. I’m sure they would just LOVE to hear it once more. Can be assured it will be fired in Wisconsin to celebrate the win. Go HAWKS!!!!!

  21. I sure hope the NCAA stream is decent tomorrow for watching the games. I couldn’t afford the time off and expense of travelling down to Alliance to watch Bethel play this week. I am hoping that they upend Mt. Union somehow so I can justify spending money to go to Virginia the following week. I know it could happen – but the ball has to bounce the right way and Bethel has to be opportunistic. Straight up and no surprises and Union walks away the winner. I suspect the biggest surprise for Mount will be that they haven’t played too many teams this year that they match up as well against.

    I shared in the comments of the ATN podcast on Monday what I felt were 4 keys for Bethel to have a chance. At this juncture I would add one or two more and that is if Mt. Union doesn’t score quickly and get a two or three score lead before the half. If Bethel hangs in there and can go into half-time being down by a score or less – then the second half of the game will be a GREAT game. I looked up the time of possession against St. Thomas last week and here’s what I found: in the first half Bethel had the ball 12:23 and in the second half they controlled the ball 20:14. Bethel had the ball over twice as long as the Tommies did in the second half of that game. The Mount defense will not be used to being on the field that long, as their offense usually is in control of the game by that time. Can Bethel do it? We’ll have to wait and see.

    As I’ve said all along, I think Bethel can win this game. Will they though? I really hope so. I think odds are down to around a 20% chance. If I were in Pat, Keith and Ryan’s positions I’d probably have to pick against the Royals as well – because odds are they won’t win. But that’s what makes the post season so exciting – because an underdog can upset a favorite using unconventional means.

    I will go somewhat out on a limb and share what I think is a realistic score if Bethel wants to win:
    BU 22 (3 TDs and 2 2 point conversions) UMU 21 (3 TDs and 3 extra points)

    Now for the “other game”: UWW comes from behind to beat Wesley – 24 to 21. I say this because of the tenacity and pugnaciousness of the Warhawks. It will be hard for me to flip back to this game to see what’s happening. It sure would have been nice if the NCAA would have forced either of these games to start an hour ahead of the other – or maybe a 10:00 am start and a 1:00 pm start would be better.

    As many have already stated – let the games begin and the better teams left standing to do battle again in one more week.

    PS. edstone – I played for BU in 79, 80 and 81 but I suspect you were there before that from the way you posted earlier.

  22. First off,
    A salute to all our insightful posters, even those who respectfully disagree. Please accept my non-response to your posts as an endorsement of the good you bring to If we’re not responding to you, it means you said everything that needs to be said.

    Before posting this week, I combed back through previous Wesley/UWW picks and Bethel/MUC and noticed some of the other blog posts. Just this morning, I remarked to Pat how we haven’t had our annual loudmouth joker show up on the predictions thread.

    Then I read these comments.

    Meh. That’s not being ripped a new one. That’s somebody popping off at the mouth under a psuedonym because he knows he’ll never have to face the music.

    The thing about being a pro is I post my predictions under my real name, and everybody knows exactly where to find me every Saturday evening, Sunday and Monday. I already know those who chirp loudest are nowhere to be found as soon as their team loses.

    I have no problems admitting to being wrong. If you have the stones to put your predictions up every week, you get used to it. And I want to be wrong sometimes. How boring would the playoffs be if I could predict every result?

    My job, and that of Pat and Ryan, is to provide an idea of what the expectations are from those who are not nearly as invested in the outcome as the fans of competing schools are. You’ll notice that the three of us never track or post our records — even though we’re surely well above .500. That’s because it’s not about us, and never will be. Ultimately it’s about the games themselves and all the coaches and players who participate.

    (I know the vast majority of you already know these things, and those who really need to hear it aren’t going to heed it.)

    This is why we love the D-III playoffs; history is written on Saturday afternoons.

    And that highlights the simple point that every loudmouth from an underdog school fails to grasp: The respect comes AFTER you beat the big dogs.

  23. It is 11:00pm here on the West Coast…Ten hours from now and we should know if Bethel has risen to the next level, the “elite” level. Will a win tomorrow do it? Probably not, but it should show that we are getting close. Whatever the outcome, I want to commend all the players and coaches in DIII football who represent their schools well. If we were fortunate to play for one of the schools still in the playoffs, we have a lot of emotion invested in these games but that is probably all. Life for all of these student-athletes will go on no matter who wins tomorrow, as it will for me.

    Regarding tomorrow’s game, I don’t expect to see C. Shorts running past our DB on the first (?) play from scrimmage as happened in ’07. I am looking forward to Mts first offensive series, which may provide some indication of how the game will go. However, St. Thomas ran into a stubborn Bethel defense after their first and only score last week. For a Bethel win, I believe our defense will have to have a huge game and limit Mts time of possession. That is the key to the game for Bethel.

    P.S. edstone and Art76…I may have you both beat…I played for Bethel in ’57 and ’58…won the Badger/Gopher Conference in ’58, Bethel’s first conference championship. Have followed Bethel football for over fifty years now!

    And, thanks to Pat, Keith and Ryan for their great work for DIII football.

  24. I want to echo the thanks to Pat, Keith and Ryan for their great work for DIII football. I’ve followed for years but am just joining the blogs now.

    I’m a Bethel alum from ’06 and have followed the program closely for the past 10 years. For those criticizing any of the paid professionals for picking Mount Union in this game, it’s time to wake up. I fully admit Mt. Union is a machine and should be picked 99% of the time (except for vs. UWW because they’re the only team that’s proven they can consistently compete with Mt. Union) until proven otherwise.

    The piece of hope I’m clinging to in this Bethel vs Mt Union game is the combination of a strong defense and a solid running game. Sure, we may be one-demensional at times. But if we are able to sustain any type of meaningful drives and keep the Mt. Union offense off the field, you always have a chance. I will agree with some earlier postings regarding the strong run defense for St. Thomas. They were thoroughly demoralized by the end of the game last week, because they knew what was coming and couldn’t stop it. Is St. Thomas the same as Mt. Union? No way, but it’s reason for hope.

    Go Royals!

  25. Keith – I think you gave as good as you got. We are fans so will have a different perspective then a journalist but it should never get personal or disparaging.

    I think it is more than reasonable for Bethel to have been considered underdogs in all their games so far but it is also true that they have won these games, on the field, where it counts. Will they beat Mount Union, I hope so and think they can but more realistically I am hoping that they give a good account of themselves and make it a close game.

    As far as respect goes, regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s games all 4 of these teams have already earned it on the field this season. Here’s hoping we have two exciting games and everyone has a good time.

    Go Royals

  26. Thanks for the couple of new Bethel posters reminding us what Bethel is really about as a school, unlike bethelbum running his mouth. Easy to take potshots without making predictions, big guy!

    art76: The NCAA stream traditionally fits the bill as “decent” — make sure your connection is good, though, this is video after all and sometimes a wireless connection isn’t the best. Better to be plugged into your router or cable modem or whatever directly.

  27. @bethelbum

    “but MU’s one dimensional pass offense will stuggle to score also when Bethel takes away their run game.”

    Jeremy Murray is averaging 127 ypg (11th in Nation) in 12 games (didn’t play week 3 against a very weak Wilmington team where he could have easily padded his stats). He actually didn’t really get warmed up till week 4 and has run for 183 and 131 yards the last two weeks. So please go ahead and try to take away the run game, because I’m sure that Seaman will gladly throw the ball to Shorts and Miller.

    Oh, and MTU has a pretty good run defense as well. 😉

    I don’t think MTU has ever really been one dimensional on offense…

  28. @Pat, Keith, Ryan: I’ll echo all the thanks that’s previously been given. As fans we can be passionate and very biased at times, but that’s no excuse for a lack of gratitude. What you guys do here week in and week out is incredible. You’ve served DIII and raised its profile in significant ways. Thanks, PERIOD!

    @edstone; bu5758; bugolfer06; etc. – basically anyone besides bethelbum 🙁 – thanks for giving a more accurate picture of Bethel and its fans.

    I played linebacker for BU at the turn of the century (that is just fun to say!) and graduated in 2004. Fun to have so many different eras of BU alums posting on here!

    @Mount fans:
    Most Bethel fans are well aware of your tradition and have a healthy respect for your program. We’d be crazy not to. 16 straight semi-finals doesn’t come without sustained excellence. The comments about your one dimensional offense are just silly. If anything, from what I’ve seen over the years, Kehres’ MO has been to strive for offensive balance. It’s almost like he has some idea that you need a good D and consistent running game to win in the playoffs 😉

    That said, I hope we climb the proverbial Mount today!

    Go Royals!

    As Coach J would say: “Give ’em Heaven…and do the impossible, play 60 minutes!” We’re all behind you and I’ll be cheering loudly and obnoxiously from Caribou Coffee!!!

  29. Ryan and Pat both came very close on the Mount – Bethel score. Ryan’s totals were closer, Pat’s spread was dead on.

    Looks like Wesley wasn’t quite up to the hype.

    For better or worse, Purple Bowl VI here we come. There is not doubt that these are the best two teams. Good to see that they weren’t matched up in the semis, leaving an over-matched team against one of them in the Stagg Bowl.

Leave a Reply