Mary Hardin-Baylor (14-0) vs. Wisconsin-Oshkosh (13-1)
- Start Time: 6:00 PM CST. Friday, December 16
- Location: Salem Stadium, Salem, Virginia
- TV: ESPNU
- Streaming: WatchESPN
- Live Stats: Here.
I know what you are saying. “Where is Mount Union and Wisconsin-Whitewater?” To be honest, that is one of the biggest stories heading into the 2016 Division III national title game. One of those two programs has played in every national title game dating back to the 2005 season and all but one championship game in the 2000s. Just to put it into perspective, those two programs have a combined 18 national titles while the rest of Division III has a total of 25. Nearly 42% of all D-III national titles is not bad at all.
The kings have been defeated and we have two teams ready to compete for their first Division III title in school history. Mary Hardin-Baylor has been to the title game once before, ironically in the last title game that did not involved Mount Union or Wisconsin-Whitewater. This will be Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s first trip to the championship game.
Who to watch on Mary Hardin-Baylor’s offense:
Markeith Miller, Running Back: The sophomore is the key to the Crusaders attack with nearly 1,500 yards rushing on only 203 carries. He has not been used as a workhorse with only 14.5 yards per carry, but he is averaging over seven yards per carry with 20 touchdowns. Let me repeat, he is only a sophomore.
Blake Jackson, Quarterback: The senior signal caller is not the type of quarterback that will go out and put up 400 yards passing in a game. He knows how to use the threat of is scrambling/running ability to put defenses in bad spots and hit big passes. Despite attempting only 331 passes on the year, he has 35 touchdown passes, good for a touchdown on every 9.5 pass attempts. Jackson is also the second leading rusher on the team with 785 yards. There is a reason UMHB averages nearly 50 points per game.
TJ Josey, Wide Receiver: The sophomore receiver is one of the most explosive players in the country with a yards per catch average just over 20. Josey does a great job of knowing where to be versus a multitude of coverages, coming from starting his college career at quarterback. Oshkosh will have their hands full attempting to slow down Josey.
Broaderick Jenkins, Guard: The senior guard was named to the D-III Second Team All-American squad for the second straight year and is the heart and soul of the Crusaders in the trenches. The 6-0, 275 pound road grater is one of the best blockers in the nation with Miller and Jenkins running behind him on a regular basis.
Who to watch on Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s offense:
Running Back tandem of Dylan Hecker and Devon Lizenmeyer: While UHMB has a more spread attack when running the ball, it is all about getting the ball to this duo of talented running backs. Combined, they rush for just over 160 yards per game and have found the endzone 26 times. Hecker has been on a roll in the playoffs with over 33% of his season rushing total coming in the last three games. Lizenmeyer is more of a traditional back, while Hecker will line up in Wildcat formations at times to put both backs on the field at the same time.
Dom Todarello, Wide Receiver: While the Titans are not especially dangerous in the air, Todarello finds different ways to make plays. He has a team-high 40 catches, but is most dangerous when returning punts. The sophomore averages 14.3 yards per return and took one 87 yards for a touchdown this season. He could completely flip the field in Oshkosh’s favor with a dynamic return. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Todarello ended up in the backfield as a running back in the championship game.
Who to watch on UMHB’s defense:
Teldrick Smith, Defensive End: The senior defensive end has put together one of the best seasons in Crusader history. He is sitting at 22.5 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks with the national title game to go. He is a disruptive force that is almost unblockable at times. Think of him as the Von Miller of the Mary Hardin-Baylor defense.
Baylor Mullins, Defensive Back/Punter: This is D-III football so is there a huge surprise that the team’s second leading tackler is also the punter? Mullins is one of the most versatile players in this game with the ability to flip the field with a timely interception or a 60 yard punt.
Who to watch on UWO’s defense:
That linebacker trio: While many teams have linebackers dotted all over the top tacklers list, the Titans have three linebackers that also know how to disrupt in the backfield. Seniors Reese Dziedzic, Steve Forner, and Branden Lloyd have a combined 26 tackles for loss and 9.5 sacks. How well UMHB handles blocking assignments versus these explosive linebackers will determine how the game goes. Dziedzic was named to the 2016 D-III Second Team All-American squad.
Johnny Eagan, Defensive Back: The senior just has a knack for making plays. In similar fashion to UMHB’s Mullins, Eagan will find pretty much any reason to stay on the field. He is an excellent defensive back with a team-high eight interceptions to go along with being the primary punt returner. Eagan has two catches for 107 yards and two touchdowns as well.
How Mary Hardin-Baylor wins:
Keep scoring non-offensive touchdowns. While UHMB has one of the highest scoring averages in the nation, they find a way to score in a variety of ways. Return man Bryce Wilkerson has two punt return TDs and a kick return TD. The Crusaders have three fumble return touchdowns, five pick-sixes, four punt return touchdowns, and two kick return touchdowns. That is 14 non-offensive touchdowns for those that failed math class.
How Wisconsin-Oshkosh wins:
Rely on an unbelievable defense and don’t be afraid to be in a low-scoring game like last week. They hung around in the first half versus John Carroll and found just enough offense to pull out the win. A little more pressure on the quarterback is essential as this week they are not facing a true freshman signal caller. Force UMHB to pass the ball to receivers other than Josey.
The story of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is very interesting and a win in the national title game would make for a storybook ending, but I have a hard time thinking anyone can beat the Crusaders after last season, Expect this game to be a back and forth affair that will go down to the final minutes.
Mary Hardin-Baylor 26, Wisconsin-Oshkosh 21