ATN Podcast: Game Seven arrives

Matt Piloto
Matt Piloto looked strong at quarterback for Mount Union.
Photo by Dan Poel for

The now-familiar cries come out again this time of year. No, not the misguided calls for UW-Whitewater and Mount Union to move to Division II — not that that’s easy to do, since the whole athletic department would have to go at once. We’re talking about whether UW-Whitewater and Mount Union’s dual dominance is bad for Division III football.

Pat Coleman and Keith McMillan discuss in this week’s Around the Nation podcast.

Plus, they break down the two national semifinals — the return of Jasper Collins, the emergence of Matt Piloto for Mount Union … the defensive performance by UW-Whitewater and more. And the first preview of Stagg Bowl XXXIX and all that goes on in Salem.

You can also get this and any of our future Around the Nation podcasts automatically by subscribing to this RSS feed:

Plus, here’s this week’s reports.

36 thoughts on “ATN Podcast: Game Seven arrives

  1. As both a fan and pro photographer of small college football, (I cover NAIA, D2, FCS, and a few D3 games every year) I think the dominance of the UWW and Mt. Union is very bad for D3 football. Think of this for a moment, most fans don’t see but ONE D3 game per year, the Stagg Bowl. With the same 2 teams playing virtually EVERY year, it becomes stagnant and I think fans lose interest. I know I have.

  2. Loved the podcast and you guys made some great points about the fact that this is a nice rivalry. The games are close and exciting for that matter. So no one should be totally disappointed with this matchup – both teams earned their way there.

    After watching the games and seeing a seventh straight matchup for these two teams I did a little research and found that in the FCS, Div. 2, Div. 3, and NAIA (because they all have playoffs) the most number of times another set of teams has met in a championship game consecutively is three – and only once in all divisions – (Marshall and Youngstown St. between 91-93).

    So that got me wondering. Is this phenomenon unique to non-scholarship football? I think the answer has to be yes, but I am just not sure why that is. Thoughts would be appreciated. Andd of course good luck to both teams in Salem – you’ve earned it!

  3. Nice review, however you failed to address the elephant in the room. Will Coppage gain the D3 rushing title over Kmic’s team, Mount Union.

    Another Point – D3 becoming Stagnant- NOT a chance. All teams have the same opportunity to make it to the final game. It sounds like those claiming problems are asking for not the best two teams to make it.

  4. Hoo boy was I ever wrong. I underestimated by about the same amount both of the “Purple Powers” in thinking that Wesley would win and that St. Thomas would be close. These two purple programs are still just that much better than the next tier of 8 to 12 teams, however you want to count them. What I thought would be the best game on Saturday ended up being a shut-out and pretty much one sided.

    You asked in the pod cast if we thought this was good for D3 Football. For the occasional fan I think it could be getting stale. But for those of us that have followed through the year and seen the ups and downs of the different programs that had a shot to knock the top 2 out it has been good for D3 Football. For the programs “that almost made it”, the other 30 in the playoff bracket, they can look at it in one of two ways. One, with a sour grapes mentality, that “it’s not fair”. Or take the high road and learn from the top two programs and figure out a way to beat them at their own game.

    That being said, one wonders how many of the 239 programs want to win the championship every year. It seems as if some of the programs around the country are satisfied to win more than they lose in a 10 year period. I suspect that is in part due to the mentality and/or decisions made by the administrations at those institutions that winning is not the most important thing. And those are the folks that allocate the funds that are available to the respective athletic departments.

    One wonders how long it is before some programs with this mindset decide to band together and not be part of the end of the year tournament. This would mean that those programs that want to play in the Stagg bowl would start with a smaller pool.

    Another way to artificially poison the pot would be to force all the tournament contenders from the previous year to have to play at least two of the teams that were in the playoffs. That forces teams to play other tough teams but that ain’t going to happen because of previous commitments, travel constraints and other financial considerations.

    It is what it is. Within the constraints of how the NCAA D3 Football program is constructed the only way to knock the powerhouses out of the top spots is to beat them on the field. It will happen, it’s just a matter of time.


  5. Just a fan of D3 football but also a old coach. I watched the St. Thomas – Whitewater game and thought the Whitewater coach was kind not to pass in the second half. This game could have been a real blow out. D1 football also has its issues with the SEC dominating teams consistently.

  6. Both teams played Wis Oshkosh during th season.

    UWW won 21-17
    UMU won 41-17

    Would be interesting to hear from the Oshkosh coach his thoughts.

  7. There’s no doubt in my mind that Wesley has a very good football team, especially offensively. Who knows, if they don’t have six turnovers and several times with no points in the red zone this game could’ve/would’ve been very different in the end. If someone (and I think Art did…lol) would have told me Wesley will put up almost 500 yards against the MU defense I would have said, “you’re crazy”. Well, they did…..I can’t help but wonder though if Wesley doesn’t have the best offense in D3….just a thought. I guess we’ll all see come Friday night. Can’t wait. GO RAIDERS!!

  8. In response to Art, we already have that it’s called the NESCAC. They, much to their disappointment, play only an 8 game schedule and choose not to participate in the playoffs. And I am a little surprised there are not more conferences like that. Whether they chose to do it because that is how the Ivies do it, or for some other reason is not known to me – but I don’t expect to see a whole Division IV anytime soon.

  9. Pat Coleman, I agree with your comment. As a Mount Union fan I am am glad to see that Nate’s record will stand.

  10. Haven’t had a chance to listen yet because of that awful thing called work. Forgive me if you talked about this in the podcast but do you see the game being moved up as an advantage to either team? With one day less to prepare, does that make it more difficult for WW given then need to prepare for a couple different QB’s that may potentially play? On one side note, I wish the rushing record pertained to regular season only. What are the chances of someone beating Kmic, or for that matter Coppage when they played essentially 2 extra seasons? My final side note is I think it’s hard to compare the UW-Oshkosh games. I truely believe the purple powers face better competition is their respective conference. Not because they play in some sort of super conference, but because their conference opponents know them that much better.

  11. I will admit that I have hoped for something other than purple in Salem for several years now. I have also defended the fact that they have earned it on the field. Over the last decade….it has been a lot of fun following D3 on a national level. I give credit to Pat and for that. I also give credit to the Bridgewater Eagles for bringing it front and center on the national level for we folks in ODAC Country. Unfortunately….even I have grown bored. No way…no how….is it good for D3. Other than making purple play with one arm tied behind their back or spotting their opponents a 3 touchdown head start….I don’t know what the answer is. I live an hour from Salem and have no desire to go. I am not even sure if I will watch on TV. I am sure the purple out there will scream “raise your game”. Sorry guys and gals….there are a handful of programs within striking distance. And then there is everyone else. IMHO…..that ain’t changing any time soon.

  12. UWWalum08 — we didn’t talk about the game being moved up in terms of how it affects game prep. Since both schools have been here so many times in a row I don’t think it will favor one team more than the other.

  13. Good afternoon all. I have not had a chance to listen to the podcast yet due to work constraints but wanted to add a comment to the thread.

    The question seems to be, is there another program willing to commit time and energy to develop a program in the vein of UWW and UMU. What exactly happened at UWW in 2003, etc. in order for UWW program to rise to it’s current level? Coaching, recruiting, university commitment? Prior to that time, UWW was an average team.

    Is it bad for DIII? I think variety provides uncertainty which provides excitement. If DIII football boils down to UWW, UMU, and a cast of others, it isn’t good for the long term success of the football program. You want notoriety for DIII which this rivalry brings but, if it continues year after year, what does it say for the rest of the “contenders”?

    A solution to this dilemma is to place UWW and UMU in the same bracket or at least on the same side of the brackets. Then you are assured of another team making it to the finals. Another solution is to change the venues to make them more neutral. Money and geography are always a concern but, if this is a national sport, be prepared to play nationally. Do not always force the west coast teams to travel east. Switch it up!

    Teams like St. Thomas, Mary Hardin Baylor, Wesley, Linfield, etc. are right there and knocking on the door. Don’t blow it up. Just tweak it so uncertainty and variety are more viable.

  14. Something else I have noticed watching the WW and Mt Union run is that the opposition isn’t less skilled than these two teams. Wesley had 6 turnovers and countless dropped passes and lost by 7. The skill is there, WW and Mt Union are just better at not making mistakes. To me that boils down to coaching. Biggest red (yellow) flag I see for WW is penalties. This year’s team has had PLENTY. They can not afford to give Mt Union free yards. Again, coming down to who makes the fewest mistakes.

  15. Most D-3 teams dream of playing Mount Union in the Stagg Bowl and can make that dream come true recruiting talented players just like Wisconsin Whitewater has done the past 7 years. Coach Larry Kehres over 26 seasons has won 317 games and lost only 23 with 4 of those losses in the Stagg Bowl.294 of his wins are versus regular season teams and playoff teams and all those teams dreamed of knocking off Mount Union but could not do it due to lack of talent.

    The answer is simply to go and get talented players just like Whitewater has done and beat those Purple Raiders Of Ohio.

  16. Of course as a Mount Union fan, I’m glad they get another shot at UWW. We’ve built up quite a rivalry and it is fun for us to watch. And in my opinion, UWW has been the best team consistently all year long, and all any team can ask for is a chance to beat the best.

    Wesley could just as easily be playing for the National title on Friday. Their offense came to play and when McSweeney hit that deep touchdown strike on Saturday, I was way impressed. The Mount Union defense was able to cause several turnovers and in the end it was too much for Wesley to overcome. The Welsey defense made some stops and gave their offense at least a chance to tie up the ballgame, but they needed to be stronger.The Mount Union offense was more potent that I personally expected them to be. Jasper Collions had a huge game and they were able to consistently run the ball effectively with Murray. Even with all that, I want to emphasize that Wesley had their chances. This was not a blow out semi-final game. In the end, they did not make Mount Union pay for their mistakes. But they played Mount as tough as anyone had all year.

    Is it good for DIII? I can see how the fans of other teams would get sick of the current situation. But Mount Union was not head and shoulders above Welsey. They were “a head” above Wesley. The competition was there, at least on that side of the bracket. The reason for the domninance of the two programs at the top for the past seven years comes down one word: coaching. At Mount Union, the names change but the result remains the same. The system that Larry Kehres has in place produces championship football teams. But it’s not handed to them. When one season ends, they reboot and do it again. He and the Mount Union players have worked their tails off time and time again to continue to build on the tradition. Plus, since Coach Kehres has been there so long, that consistency is an added bonus. At UWW, they decided they were going to take it to the next level and did so. There used to be conversations abut who would be the next big team. UWW went out did it while others watched. They derserve a ton of credit. The continued streak of Mount and UWW I believe will only make it sweeter for whichever school is able to break through, and that will be a fabulous moment for the program that commits itself to the level of excellence being modeled by Mount and UWW.

    As for the game, Mount Union cannot afford to make as many mistakes as they did on Saturday and expect to win in Virginia. Welsey could have foud themselves down two touchdowns early. McSweeney threw an early pick and the defender fumbled as he was trying to run it back. Wesley then went on to score on that drive. That was a big swing. The Mount Union teams of the past that have won the title did so by consistently making teams pay for each and every mistake they made. They found ways to strike ealy and slam the door, making it tough for opponents to get back into ballgames.

    To me Mount Union’s success on Saturday lies in being able to stop Coppage on the ground, and attempting to make UWW’s offense one-dimensional. Is this defense capable of that? I believe they are if they play their best game of the year to date. Offensively, I look forward to seeing what kind of strategy Kehres uses to try and crack the code of the UWW defense. Shutting anyone out in the semis is impressive. They obviously have got serious game.

    Best of luck to both teams. I love watching these two programs, with two great coaches, go at each other.

  17. It is way more than recruitment, it is coaching, it is system, it is working very hard both in season and out.

    I thought the podcast was very informative, but as is typical, a lot about the skill positions. I am interested in what Keith and Pat think about the battle in the trenches?

  18. Great pod cast and debate

    Every year there seems to be one team that was in the hunt to knock them off but came up short in the end – this year it was Wesley, in the past UWW had some close ones.

    I think it is good that performance standards have been raised by MUC and UWW, I think it is bad that so few programs have closed the gap. It is up to the other programs to win if they don’t want a Stagg 7, 8, 9 et al.

    Will a program be able to do it – yes. Just didn’t happen this year.

  19. Well here we are again hashing out why WW and MU are in the Stagg Bowl. Its simple, they played the best ball against each opponent they faced. Fumbles, penalties and interceptions are caused from not properly executing. On any given game it comes down to executing and stopping your opponent from executing as well. Thirty other teams had a chance to win by executing and playing the best ball except they did not execute plays as well as others did. Some teams executed on 3rd and 4th downs and if others had executed and stopped some of those 3rd and 4th down plays it would have been a different game. As for the committment, coaching, recruiting of quality players I think everyone is committed to these causes and everyone wants to win. The top two teams again are WW and MU and they will be at the top until someone executes and beats them. Congats to MU and WW for achieving the feat that everyone wants to achieve and good luck to each of you. Own to basketball for the rest of us.

  20. Part of the reason MUC is good every year is that they get hs players that are probably good enough to play for smaller D-1 schools like Akron, Kent St or Toledo. However, those athletes go to MUC becuase they want to win championships. They would rather start on a championship team instead of sitting the bench on a mid level D-1 school. Also, Ohio has some of the best high school football in the whole country.

  21. I told you guys from MUC that Wesley is the real deal. I seen it against UMHB, that McSweeny dude is the best QB in D3.

    Other teams are close to the purple powers and the gap is closing more each year. I think the playoff system if as fair as it can be sice the NCAA will not put up the money for more travel etc. one of those close teams is UMHB, we are more balanced on offense but got to get better.

    Should be a good Stagg Bowl, I predict UWW 35 MUC 17

  22. We’re talking about whether UW-Whitewater and Mount Union’s dual dominance is bad for Division III football…
    Seven years are too many! Next year (assuming MU and UWW make the playoffs and are ranked 1 & 2 again), the selection committee should take a page from their 2005 playbook and put the top three regular season ending ranked teams in the same bracket quadrant… It has happened once, so why not do it again? There is precedence! They can even play them all in Alliance OH since we mustn’t break up the streak of 55 straight home playoff games. After the top three beat themselves up, the other 29 teams should have a better chance or at least not have to travel so far. 🙂

  23. I am ready to give up on D III. What NCAA championship allows a team to play 52 consecutive NCAA playoff games at home. ( I know the championship games are played at a neutral site) Don’t you think its a recruiting advantage ? Someone must realize this is bad for D III. Pat and Keith do a good job reporting on the games but they do a terrible job promoting D III on a national basis. For the last 7 years the showcase game for D III has been monopolized by the same small fan base. Alliance, Ohio and Whitewater, Wisconsin are hardly booming population centers. How can anyone expect the interest in D III to grow when for the greater part of the decade the same two teams have payed in the showcase game. I don’t but the argument that the two best teams are playing for the championship and that’s good. It’s not. By taking one step back( Mt Union vs Whitewater in a quarter final) DIII could take three steps forward. Imagine how these game could be promoted in larger media markets if other teams were given a chance to paly in the showcase games.

  24. “Pat and Keith do a good job reporting on the games but they do a terrible job promoting D III on a national basis.”

    I’m pretty sure that first of all, we promote the other 237 teams pretty hard for 14 weeks a season, and secondly, no amount of promotion on our part is going to change who plays for the title. That’s something that has to be done by the people in uniform and on the sidelines and in the administrations.

  25. The thing is, other teams HAVE been given the chance. They just haven’t come through. If this were the BCS, you could argue they don’t get the chance, but four other teams get a crack at UWW and Mount Union every playoff season.

  26. This thread has just about dried up so I’m not sure how many will see this response. At any rate I would like to reply in part to d3fanatic’s comments. I know Pat, Keith and the rest of the staff at know what their jobs are and it is not promoting NCAA D3 Football to a wider “more popular” audience, per se. As I see it, they do what they do because they love the game and want to give us, the dedicated fans, inside info into as many of the facets of that game as they can. They are not charlatans or promoters in that sense of the word. If the NCAA were wanting to “showcase” any of the other 30 teams in the brackets I cannot imagine them asking Pat and Keith for their advice on how to do that promoting. That whole thought process runs counter to what the D3Football site is all about. (At least as I see it). Do Pat and Keith want more folks to go to their site? – oh yeah! But they want folks to come because of their insight into the stories that are ever evolving in the sport. Not because they have the solution for promoting D3 Football into some kind of cash cow for some TV producer for “showcase” games. In fact, that goes against just about everything that NCAA D3 Football is about in general. Most of the players are playing at this level because they want to be. Nobody playing has any untoward commitments because there are no scholarships – no money involved. It is as close to pure sport as I am aware of. Do those players want exposure? I would think so, but probably not at the expense of showboating – er, showcasing. They would want exposure for the recognition of a job well done and the accolades that come to the victors. I would also think that they might feel used if someone started making money off their efforts and they not get paid. I think the NCAA is doing a great job of balancing what the fans, athletes, coaches and school administrators want out of the championship brackets. But whatever you do, stop shooting the messenger,


  27. d3 fanatic, I’m afraid that it’s not much of a championsip game if the second best team is knocked out in the quarterfinals. I agree that this streak is getting ridiulous, but the Stagg Bowl is not just a “showcase game”; it’s our national championship game. The two may overlap, but it is not one and the same. If it was about showcasing flashy and entertaining teams, then the NCAA could have just pitted Monmouth and Salisbury, called it the “Stagg Bowl” and made the rest of us stay home. We humans like to rank each other, and that’s why we crown champions. If a team really wants that exposure (and I think you’re in it for the wrong reasons if that’s your motivation), you’ve got to earn it in the playoffs. I don’t care if Mount Union has played 300 home playoff games in a row, if that’s what they’ve earned, so be it (although perhaps they should have been sent on the road in 2005 [the commitee would have sent them on the road in the semis if the other one seed wouldn’t have lost, but perhaps a road quarterfinal? Ah well]). And it’s not like d3 was on ESPN every week before the purple powers got good. Saying that d3 would take “three steps forward” is a gross exaggeration.

    I understand that fans are gettin bored. I really can’t blame them. But don’t get mad at the purple powers-get mad at Wesley for turning the ball over 6 times, or at North Central for turning the ball over 3 times in the final 20 minutes in last year’s game against us (in Napersville!)

  28. d3fanatic, I agree, sort of. It is crazy for a team to get 52 straight home field advantage games. But the fact is, they get them because they don’t lose at all during the year, ever. Dominating the field during your season should get you homefield advantage. SOME homefield advantage.

    this is where I get a little frustrated. I feel you should be awarded homefield for stellar performance, through the first 3 playoff games. However, I think it is entirely unfair to even have semifinal games at a school’s homefield. Does any other sport do this? Most sports seem to draw the line at the final four for neutral grounds. Once you get deep into the playoffs and find yourself at your opponents’ homefield, with only that game to win to get to Salem and with that team having a 70-3 record over the years…it becomes a SIGNIFICANT mental advantage that translates onto the field.

    I say keep things how they are, UWW and MUC have earned their success, but move the semifinals games to neutral grounds. I think this would go a long way to evening things out, and if UWW and MUC keep performing, then they would still be earning it.

  29. The National Football League has home games in the semi-finals, I don’t see anyone complaining. If you were the NCAA, why would you want a mismatch in the final? It’s your one chance for “the world to see” your sport. The NCAA is just supposed to let “bigger market” teams in the final? C’mon man. The authors of this site do a far better job of promoting D3 on a national basis than anyone else in the world. Go ahead and give up on D3, nobody will miss you.

  30. At the end of the 2009 season, I made the remark that having the same two teams in the finals probably was not the best situation. I thought that a couple years ago, MUC and UWW dominated most of their games. Personally, I started to attend fewer UWW games in favor of better matchups in the Chicagoland area.

    Having said that, in 2011, I did not find either team to be all that invincible. Both teams had their games where they were anything but invincible (MUC vs. Baldwin Wallace and Ohio Northern; UWW vs Oshkosh and Eau Claire).

    I found watching UWW to be somewhat frustrating at times in 2011. The inability at times to stop long passe and all the personal fouls. Personally, I thought that North Central would be in a position to give them a serious challenge.

    I disagree with some of the posters that people are tired of watching the same two teams. Actually, I hear more of my friends talking about the game as after all, the last SIX games have been close, well-fought matches. It is HIGHLY doubtful that there will be a 42-14 game on Friday.

    I think that moving the game to Friday night is NOT a great idea and will depress both the crowd attending the game as well as the TV audience.

  31. Yep, it would be nice to have a different matchup in the Stagg, but these are the best teams. UWW and MUC have earned the right to play the home games. Seems like a lot of people these days want something given to them without earning it. Please stop crying about home field and the same teams playing in he Stagg.

    The only change I would like would be playing the Stagg in a larger market in a warmer climate. Best of luck to both teams! I can’t wait to see the game on Friday.

  32. Don’t get me wrong the two best teams will be playing in the Stagg Bowl. As it has been stated, they earned the right and they beat the competition. Keep in mind that both MU and WWW have gained an advantage that will continue to allow them to distance themselves from the rest of D III. In their 7 year run, they have been able to play 35 extra games. This is the equivalent to 3 and 1/2 extra seasons(based on a regular 10 game DIII schedule). This also means that they each get 35 extra weeks of practice and could play as many as 9 home games,a great recruiting advantage.(5 regular season and 4 playoffs) I am aware that WW was on the road last year for 2 playoff games. Also,its quite possible for a talented player to have 55 games worth of experience as they enter the fourth year of D III playoffs. ( 3 years X 15 games + 10 regular season games)
    One of the issues facing the majority of DIII schools is recruiting and developing players. This extra development time is a tremendous advantage, giving WW and MU time to develop talent and depth for long playoff runs. (Was not Wesley hurt last year and this year because of injuries to a receiver and defensive end) ?

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