Heavyweights, Saginaw Valley State (6-0) and Grand Valley State (6-0) face off in a crucial contest

Oct. 14, 2005


By Brad Dopke

Special to CSTV.com from College Sports Report



SHOWDOWN IN THE GREAT LAKES



Well, it won't be high noon at the O.K. Corral, but the Saturday night gathering at Lubbers Stadium just might go down in history. That is when the pair of heavyweights, Saginaw Valley State (6-0) and Grand Valley State (6-0) face off in a crucial contest to see who gets to sit in the GLIAC driver's seat.



Saginaw enters the fray ranked fourth in the most recent AFCA coach's poll while Grand Valley continues to hold onto the top spot.



Although both teams field sizzling offenses that average over 900 yards of offense combined, it is defense that most likely will rule the day.



John DiGiorgio continues to spearhead the Saginaw defense, as the senior linebacker has amassed 69 tackles (40 solo) on the season to date. SVSU has also gotten steady play from its defensive linemen, with Danny Fodrocy and Josh Miller combining for 18 tackles for loss thus far as well.



On offense, look for a pair of quarterbacks to continue mistake-free leadership for both clubs. Although still a junior, GVSU's Cullen Finnerty is not new to big games, and has the added benefit of getting to hand off to Toledo transfer Astin Martin. On the flipside, sophomore Chris Dougherty leads SVSU, and has tossed eleven touchdowns to just one interception on the year.



Prediction: SVSU has been knocking off better opposition steadily and comfortably. GVSU has yet to show that it is deserving of its top national ranking. Look for Saginaw to prove the AFCA poll wrong and post a 24-21 win.



GLIAC DEJA VU



That isn't the only showdown in the GLIAC, as Michigan Tech starts Saturday's play with a visit to powerful Northwood. Tech is coming off a tough loss to Wayne State (MI) while Northwood has rattled off six straight wins since a season-opening 9-7 loss to Saginaw Valley State.



Daryl Graham has emerged as the main threat for Michigan Tech as the sophomore running back has rushed for 727 yards and eight touchdowns on the season. That tally is especially impressive when combined with junior Lee Marana's 718 yards and seven scores.



Northwood is equally impressive in running the ball, for the Timberwolves average just under 300 yards per game on the ground.



Prediction: As good as Tech is at running the ball, it is going to have its hands full against Northwood's stout defense. Northwood gives up less than a hundred yards on the ground, which will prove to be the difference, as the Timberwolves will pick up a 20-10 win over Tech's Huskies.



SCHEDULE STIFFENING IN THE NCC



One of the surprises this season has been the incredible play put forth by South Dakota. Tops in the Division in total offense (613 ypg) and rushing offense (316 ypg), the Coyotes have had to turn to its improving defense more often in recent weeks.



At home in the friendly confines of the Dakotadome, USD needed a spark from its defense to open up what was a close contest before cruising to a 35-14 win over Minnesota State. Now things look to get even tougher as the Coyotes hit the road to face St. Cloud State. A far cry from a one-win Minnesota State, SCSU has six wins on the season and is currently ranked 12th in D-II by the AFCA.



Cloud rebounded from a road loss to powerful North Dakota by taking care of Augustana with relative ease, 34-7. Now senior running back Matt Birkel will look to add to his 933 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns against a USD defense that allows only 100 yards a game on the ground. Also of note is how well the Huskies have played at home, winning their three games by a combined 107-14.



Prediction: Mother Nature might be the only thing that can stop the Coyotes. So, it's good news for South Dakota fans that it looks to be gorgeous weather. Although USD won't meet its averages on offense or defense, the Coyotes will claw their way past Cloud to post another win and march toward a year-end showdown against North Dakota. South Dakota survives St. Cloud's balance, 35-31.



HARLON HILL SPOTLIGHT



Sticking with the NCC showdown, one has to begin a list of Harlon Hill candidates for the top player in Division II with South Dakota quarterback Wes Beschorner.



Beschorner has completed 74 percent of his passes, throwing for 1993 yards and 25 touchdowns on just 100 completions. Equally impressive is that he's tossed just three interceptions on the year while also adding 321 yards and six scores rushing.



With Beschorner at the controls, USD not only leads the Division in yardage with 613 yards per game, but also in scoring with an average of over 54 points per game.