CI Week 11 Highlights

Postseason is officially upon us at the college level as the Division II and Division III playoff brackets were announced on Sunday. Following several stellar regular seasons, the Coaches Inc. Family is well represented. Benedict College and Head Coach Chennis Berry (@coachberry77) secured the #1 seed and a first-round bye in Super Regional Two after defeating Tuskegee, 58-21, to claim the SIAC Conference Championship with a perfect 11-0 record. Also claiming a top seed were Angelo State Head Coach Jeff Girsch (@JeffGirsch) and the Rams who improved to 11-0 with a win at Midwestern State. Joining Benedict and Angelo State in the 28-team field at the Division II level are: #2 Ferris State Asst. Head Coach/QB Brian Rock (@Coach_Rock), #2 Shepherd Special Teams Coor./DB Luke Wright (@CoachLukeWright), #4 Virginia Union Assoc. Head Coach/Offensive Coor./OL Mike Morita (@CoachMorita) and #4 Ouachita Baptist Defensive Coordinator/LB Roy Thompson, Jr. (@RoyThompsonFB). At the FBS level, four more CI coaches secured bowl eligibility with wins in Week 11. Congratulations to Washington State CB Coach Ray Brown (@CoachB212), UConn Defensive Assistant Mike Ryan (@CoachMRyan), UConn OL Coach Gordie Sammis (@CoachSammis) and Eastern Michigan Special Teams Quality Control Ryan Stokes (@CoachStokes_EMU)! Congratulations also go out to North Carolina Central Defensive Coordinator/DL Courtney Coard (@CoachCoard) as the Eagles clinched a berth in the Celebration Bowl and the MEAC Championship with their win 48-14 win over Norfolk State. Keep reading for more highlights from Week 11.
Anchored by return man Janarion Grant, Winnipeg Special Teams Coordinator Paul Boudreau (@bouqb2) has built a pair of the most successful return units in the CFL. Grant ranks atop the league in punt return yards, average and touchdowns while ranking fifth in kickoff return yards. Some of Grant's biggest returns of the season have come courtesy of the BC Lions, including a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on July 9 and a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown on October 15. But in Sunday's West Division Final, an uncharacteristic mistake by Grant gifted the Lions an early lead. Moments after Winnipeg blocked a BC punt that was negated by a questionable roughing the kicker penalty, the Lions lined up to punt again. BC punter Stefan Flintoft got his second attempt off and Grant mishandled the ball deep in his own end, turning the ball right back over to the Lions. On the very next play, BC cashed in for a touchdown to take a 7-6 lead. It did not take long for Grant to find redemption. After a 44-yard field goal from Bombers kicker Marc Liegghio restored a 9-7 advantage for Winnipeg, Grant extended the lead when he fielded a punt at the Bomber 18-yard line and zig zagged his way 92 yards for a touchdown. Liegghio would go on to add two more field goals, sandwiched around a touchdown rush from QB Dakota Prukop, and that proved to be enough to carry the Bombers to a 28-20 win in the snow. With the win, Winnipeg advances to the Grey Cup where they will face Toronto with the chance to become the first three-peat CFL champions in 42 years. Congratulations and good luck to Boudreau! Now in his sixth season in Winnipeg, Boudreau's units have been instrumental in the club's first two Grey Cups. The Bombers finished the 2019 season ranked first in blocked kicks, second in kick return touchdowns, and third in both punt and kickoff return. They excelled on special teams again in 2021, finishing second in the league in opponents’ post-kickoff field position despite cycling through four kickers over the season. Boudreau joined the Bombers following a four-year stint as the assistant special teams coach for the St. Louis Rams. He also has experience coaching quarterbacks, wide receivers and running backs during 16 seasons at the college level.
In nine years as the defensive coordinator at Northern Iowa, Jeremiah Johnson (@Coach_J_Johnson) engineered one of the most consistently dominant defenses at the FCS level. The Panthers ranked in the top 20 of Scoring Defense for seven of Johnson's nine years as coordinator and were especially lethal in recent years, ranking in the top 15 for Scoring Defense, Total Defense and Turnovers Gained each year from 2019-21. On a team level, Johnson was a part of four conference championships and nine playoff appearances during his 15 total years at UNI. In January, the call came and Johnson was finally presented with the opportunity to run his show at the FBS level. The results may not be coming as quickly as Johnson would like in his first year at Kent State, but the signs of improvement are undeniable. Despite an out-of-conference schedule that included trips to Washington, Oklahoma and Georgia, the Golden Flashes are only giving up an average of 29 points per game, a 7-point improvement from 2021. The stats received a significant boost after Wednesday night's throttling of Bowling Green. The Soul Collectors, the alter ego for the Kent State defense, racked up five sacks and two interceptions while shutting down the Falcons on all six of their fourth down attempts. DL Saivon Taylor-Davis led the charge up front for the Flashes, tallying a career-high three sacks, while safety Nico Bolden held down the back end, posting a team-high 10 stops. Bowling Green did not make a dent in the scoreboard until late in the third quarter when Kent already held a commanding lead. In the fourth quarter, Kent State LB Marvin Pierre applied the finishing touch when he returned an interception 33 yards for a score to seal the 40-6 win. Congratulations to Johnson on the win as well as his recognition as one of On3 Sports' coordinators of the weekIn 2019, Johnson was named a finalist for FootballScoop FCS Coordinator of the Year after the Panthers advanced to the FCS Quarterfinals. Prior to arriving in Cedar Falls, he served as the defensive backs coach at Loras College and began his career as a graduate assistant at Wyoming.
If there was any question whether the Falcons would suffer from a hangover one week after clinching the Commander-in-Chief's Trophy, it was erased in about three minutes. That was the amount of time that it took for the Air Force defense to force a quick three-and-out and the Falcon offense to go 71 yards for a touchdown in three plays. QB Haaziq Daniels faked rolling out to his left, reverse pivoted to his right and took off untouched for a 65-yard touchdown run to start the onslaught. Despite minimal opportunities in the passing game, Air Force's receivers excelled in run blocking, consistently opening up holes in the second level for Air Force ball carriers to pick up big gains. In total, the Falcons logged six rushes of at least 13 yards, led by FB Brad Roberts' 163 yards on the ground. When a pass catching opportunity did present itself, Ari Confesor's (@CoachAC3) receivers were ready. On one of only two pass attempts by the Falcons, Daniels found WR David Cormier streaking down the middle for a 33-yard touchdown pass. It was the fourth touchdown reception of the season for Cormier, an Albuquerque native, who has made the most of his 12 receptions, averaging over 30 yards per catch. The Falcons currently sit at 7-3 and are looking to win at least nine games in a season for the third time in the last four full seasons. Congratulations to Confesor on the win and offensive proficiency! After arriving in Colorado Springs in 2019, Confesor has helped guide the Falcons to two bowl wins and a share of the MWC Mountain Division title in 2021. Confesor spent the 2018 season as the pass game coordinator and wide receivers coach at Holy Cross and previously spent eight seasons at Rhode Island, where he worked in a variety of capacities including coaching wide receivers, defensive backs, linebackers and co-coordinating special teams. From 2012-13, he served as a scouting assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs.
Pending this week's announcement of Division II bowl bids, Nebraska-Kearney may not appear in the postseason this year but it was still an incredibly successful campaign for sixth-year Head Coach Josh Lynn (@CoachJoshLynn) and the Lopers. With their 42-0 win over Northeastern State, the Lopers conclude the regular season with an 8-3 record, narrowly missing out on an at-large playoff bid by one game. If this was the last game, UNK went out in style. RB Damien Cearns got the Lopers on the board in the second quarter with a 17-yard touchdown run as the hosts took a 7-0 lead into halftime. In the second half, the floodgates opened. UNK QB T.J. Davis connected with TE Thomas Tews on a 15-yard touchdown pass to double the lead early in the third quarter and then Davis took matters into his own hands, scoring on a 73-yard run to increase the advantage to 21-0 with 6:02 left in the quarter. Davis finished the game with 174 total yards and three touchdowns, two passing and one rushing. Cearns ended up with a career-high 170 rushing yards as the Lopers outgained the Hawks by a margin of 481-227, including a 357-48 advantage on the ground. Congratulations to Lynn on the dominant win and great season! Last year, Lynn led the Lopers to a 10-3 record and an appearance in the second round of the playoffs for just the second time in program history. Since taking over in 2017, Lynn has rebuilt the Lopers from a one-win team in 2016 to a consistent winner. After winning three games in 2017, UNK won five in 2018 before adding another two wins to the tally in 2019 with seven.  A specialist at rebuilding projects, Lynn spent five seasons as the head coach at his alma mater, Eastern New Mexico, from 2012-16. The Greyhounds went 3-7 in 2012, but turned things around the following season, winning the 2013 Lone Star Conference Championship with an 8-3 record while Lynn was named a finalist for national coach of the year. In 2011, he engineered a similar turnaround in one season as the head coach at New Mexico Military Institute, as the team improved upon a 3-8 record in 2010 to go 9-2 and finish the season ranked sixth in the nation.
For Texas Southern Offensive Coordinator/QB David Marsh (@CoachDmarsh), Special Teams Coordinator/RB Larry Warner (@coachWarnerRB) and the rest of the Tigers, the wait has been worth it. Along with Head Coach Clarence McKinney, Marsh and three other current TSU assistant coaches showed up in Houston's Third Ward in 2019 facing a major rebuilding project. The rebuild was painful at first as the Tigers went 0-11 in that first year and lost both of their games in a shortened 2020 season. Last year, the Tiger faithful's patience began to be rewarded. Dynamic dual-threat QB Andrew Body arrived on campus after finishing his prep career as the third all-time leading passer in Texas high school history. Body led TSU to three wins in his freshman campaign while finishing the season with a new program record of 265.9 yards of offense per game. This season, Body has taken his game to even greater heights under Marsh's watch and the Tiger run game has made strides under Warner. On Saturday, Body accounted for 233 total yards, 190 passing and 43 rushing, plus two passing touchdowns as TSU cruised to a 41-7 win over Grambling, their first over their Louisiana rivals since 2013 and their largest margin of victory ever in the series. Complementing Body was RB LaDarius Owens, who finished with 105 yards and one touchdown on just 13 carries (8.1 ypc). Owens' score came on a one-yard rush midway through the first quarter to put TSU up 7-0. Grambling would come back to tie the game at 7-7, but Body immediately countered with both of his touchdown passes, one apiece to WR Tavaris Achane and WR A.J. Bennett, and the rout was on. With the win, the Tigers currently sit at 5-5 (4-3) and are poised to post a winning season for the first time since 2000 with a win Saturday at Alabama A&M. If TSU wins in Huntsville and Mississippi Valley upsets Prairie View, the Tigers will also clinch a berth in the SWAC Championship Game. Congratulations to Marsh and Warner on the win and breakthrough season! Marsh arrived in Houston following a two-year stint as the offensive coordinator at Campbell and previously served as an offensive graduate assistant at UCLA and Texas A&M. He also coached at the high school level in Arizona after serving in the Marine Corps for six years. Warner is in his first season at Texas Southern after two seasons as the running backs coach at Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where he helped the Golden Lions claim the SWAC West title in the 2021 spring season. He previously spent three seasons in a similar role at South Alabama, where he mentored All-American RB Tra Minter. From 2016-17, Warner coached the running backs at Central Arkansas and helped the Bears go 20-4 overall and 17-1 in Southland Conference games.
In a battle of Southern Conference heavyweights, Furman stymied the high-flying Mercer offense to claim sole possession of second place in the conference. The Bears entered Saturday boasting a league leading 40.3 points per game and averaging 463 yards per outing, led by QB Fred Payton who had recently set a new program record with 24 touchdown passes in a season. Against the Paladins, Payton managed to add two touchdowns but was largely neutralized as the Bears only gained 316 yards. Furman was especially effective in the trenches, limiting the Mercer offense to just 53 yards rushing and posting five sacks, the same number of sacks that the Bears had allowed all season. In particular, Furman DE Jack Barton had a standout game, registering three tackles, one sack, a pass breakup, and a blocked field goal. Barton's field goal block was his third of the season and came on the last play of the first half to ensure the Paladins maintained a 10-7 lead at the break. The visitors extended their lead to 23-7 before Mercer responded with a late touchdown to cut the lead to 23-13. The Bears had one more chance to mount a late rally but Furman safety Hugh Ryan broke up a pass on fourth down with under two minutes remaining to seal the victory. With the win, the Paladins have now won five consecutive road games for the first time since 1989-90. Congratulations to Furman DL Coach Kevin Lewis (@CoachKLewDL) on the win and Barton's performance! Lewis is in his fourth season at Furman and has mentored three all-conference selections in his first three seasons. He arrived in Greenville after a stint as the defensive line coach at Army and has also coached the position at William & Mary, Dartmouth and Richmond. At Richmond, Lewis mentored First Team All-American Martin Parker who helped the Spiders reach the FCS Quarterfinals before playing professionally with the NY Giants.
When Illinois Wesleyan Defensive Coordinator/LB Matt Williamson (@CoachMW_51) sits down to do his end-of-year assessment, he should be pleased by what he sees. In his first year directing the Titan defense in 2021, IWU finished sixth in the conference in Points Allowed Per Game (34.3) and Total Defense (399.8) while the team posted a 3-7 record. In 2022, the Titans posted a three-win improvement, finishing 6-4 thanks to an ever-improving defense. The Titans improved their rankings in both Points Allowed and Total Defense, giving up three fewer points per game and nearly 50 fewer yards per game. Some of the highlights from the season included giving up just 153 yards in a 38-24 win over Millikin and a 55-0 shutout win over Carthage in which the Titans logged three interceptions. On Saturday, Williamson's defense came up big once again, forcing 11 sacks and limiting Elmhurst to just one field goal over the final three quarters in a 21-17 win for the Titans. A pair of touchdown receptions by IWU WR Charlie Hamilton knotted the score at 14-14 early in the third quarter and a one-yard touchdown rush by RB Ian Kroemer gave the Titans a 21-14 lead with 11:35 to play. A Bluejay field goal pulled the hosts to within four, but IWU DL Josh Hlavacek capped a monster day with a key sack on Elmhurst's final drive to preserve the win for the Titans. For the game, Hlavacek finished with eight tackles, including 4.5 sacks, while LB Joshua Klein led the Titan defense with nine tackles, including three for loss, a pair of sacks, and a pass breakup. Congratulations to Williamson on the win and relentless pass rush! After finishing his playing career as an All-American and two-time national champion at Mount Union, Williamson began his coaching career as the defensive line coach and special teams coordinator for his alma mater, helping the Purple Raiders win the national championship in 2012, reach the national championship game on two other occasions, and compile an overall record of 43-2 in his three years on staff. Before arriving at Illinois Wesleyan, Williamson also coached at Gannon, Urbana and Seton Hill.
Valdosta State ended the season on a high note on Saturday with a 30-28 win over Shorter, the Blazers' second win over the Hawks this year. While it was a challenging year for a Valdosta team coming off of a runner-up finish in 2021 but facing a steep rebuilding project, the one constant for the Blazers was a proficient ground attack. VSU entered the weekend ranked 17th in Division II with 210 rushing yards per game and bettered that mark on Saturday, piling up 249 yards on 39 carries (6.4 ypc). RB Jamar Thompkins led the way for the Blazers, rushing for 113 yards on just 10 carries, highlighted by a 66-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Thompkins' scoring run put the hosts up 17-7 and also put him in sole possession of first place atop the school's all-time rushing leaders. He finishes his career at VSU with 4,151 rushing yards and is joined on the all-time leaderboard by teammates RB Seth McGill in 4th place (3,369) and QB Ivory Durham in 10th place (2,403). McGill and Durham capped their impressive careers with impressive finales on Saturday, combining to rush for 140 yards and one touchdown in the 30-28 win. In addition to opening up holes in the run game for Thompkins, McGill and Durham, Mike Barela's (@Coach_Barela) offensive line also maintained a clean pocket for Durham, allowing the senior to throw for 190 yards and one passing touchdown without any sacks. The Valdosta offensive line finishes the regular season ranked second in the nation after allowing just three sacks all year. Congratulations to Barela on the win over Shorter and stellar play from his offensive line! Barela completes his first season at Valdosta after a four-year stint at Colorado Mesa, including serving as co-offensive coordinator in 2021 when the Mavericks finished third in the RMAC with over 33 points per game. He arrived at CMU following a three-year stint at Incarnate Word, where he worked with First Team All-Southland Conference selection TE Cole Wick, who went on to play for the Lions and 49ers. Barela previously served on staffs at North Texas, Texas State and Sam Houston State.
Quick Hits
  • William & Mary QB Darius Wilson was named CAA Co-Offensive Player of the Week as the #8 Tribe improved to 9-1 with a 45-12 win over Villanova. Congratulations to W&M Head Coach Mike London (@CoachMikeLondon), Assoc. Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator/LB Vincent Brown (@CoachVBrown59), and OLB Coach Darryl Blackstock (@CoachBlackstock)!
  • Towson RB Devin Matthews scored on a three-yard touchdown rush with under a minute to play as the Tigers rallied to stun Stony Brook, 21-17. Congratulations to Head Coach Rob Ambrose (@Coach_Ambrose) and Special Teams Coor./Safeties Lyndon Johnson (@lyndonjohnson19)!
  • Howard RB Jarett Hunter rushed for 149 yards and accounted for three touchdowns as the Bison remained in contention for a share of the MEAC championship with a 28-14 win over South Carolina State. Congratulations to Head Coach Larry Scott (@CoachLScott70), Offensive Coordinator Lee Hull (@FBCoachHull42) and DB Coach Kyshoen Jarrett (@Ky3fOUR)!
  • Coastal Carolina clinched the Sun Belt Conference championship with a 26-23 win over Southern Miss. Congratulations to Chanticleers Co-Offensive Coordinator/RB Newland Isaac (@coachisaacFB)!
  • Louisiana-Monroe scored on defense and special teams to upset Georgia State and win its first road game since 2019. Congratulations to Warhawks DB Coach Otis Mounds (@CoachMounds)!
  • Southeast Missouri State RB Geno Hess rushed for 198 yards and three touchdowns en route to earning his fourth OVC Offensive Player of the Week award of the season following the #19 Redhawks' 31-7 win over Eastern Illinois. Congratulations to SEMO Offensive Coordinator/QB Jeromy McDowell (@CoachJMcdowell)!
  • #9 Samford blocked a critical field goal attempt in its 35-24 win over Chattanooga to seal the Bulldogs' first SoCon championship since 2013. Congratulations to Special Teams Coordinator Mike Krysl (@CoachKrysl)!
  • Morgan State held Delaware State to 81 total yards, recorded eight sacks, and scored a pair of defensive touchdowns in cruising to a 37-7 victory, its first on the road since 2018. Congratulations to Bears Asst. Head Coach/Defensive Coordinator Antone' Sewell (@CoachSewell_MSU) and Special Teams Coordinator/TE Tory Woodbury (@T_Woodbury11)!
  • On the shoulders of third-string QB Billy Levak, Westminster defeated Geneva, 49-0, and secured a berth in the Clayton Chapman Bowl versus Brockport. Congratulations to Titans Assoc. Head Coach/Co-Offensive Coor./QB David Blake (@CoachBlake 41)!
  • Texas Wesleyan defeated Lyon, 64-21, to secure a share of the SAC Championship for the first time in program history. Congratulations to Rams Senior Defensive Analyst Tony McClain (@DLineDude5)!

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