In Wayne's World, Party Time will end, and it's going to be Excellent
by, 12-14-2011 at 06:46 PM (8101 Views)
There. I said it. Pitt State will bring Wayne State's miracle run to an end and bring home a national championship.
Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to travel to Florence to see Northwest Missouri knock off Grand Valley in the title game. I took a little bit of joy in that game, not only because an MIAA team took home the crown in my first year with D2Football.com, but because as a Saginaw Valley graduate, there is nothing I hate more than Grand Valley football.
Wayne State is also a member of the GLIAC, a conference rival of Saginaw's, but I harbor no ill will toward the Warriors. In fact, I've been pulling for them ever since my Cardinals got knocked out in the first round of the playoffs.
I won't be in Florence this weekend to watch the Gorillas take home their crown, but rest assured, I'll be watching Saturday at 10 a.m. CST on ESPN2 and will be just as happy to see Tim Beck and company hoist the championship trophy.
Now, even though you know my prediction, I sincerely hope you continue reading, because I think this is game lends itself toward a darn good conversation.
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Stack these two teams up against one another, as I did here, and it's pretty simple. Pittsburg State is the glaring favorite in this game.
Even with Wayne State's set of really good running backs, Pittsburg scores more, puts up more yards on the ground, through the air and (obviously given the previous two) overall and defensively, gives up fewer yards, points, third down conversions and plays better red zone defense.
But my dear MIAA fans, I urge you not to completely overlook this Wayne State Road Warriors team. Just because I've picked them to lose does NOT mean I don't think they CAN win.
All this talk about Pitt State being the dominant program, no newcomer to the big game, familiar with Florence, can all go out the window. Wayne State has already beaten a very good 10-1 Kearney team, knocked off the defending national champions and disposed of the undefeated and top-seed in Super Region I, and done it all on the road.
There is no intimidating this team. They will be playing with nothing to lose, much like they have all postseason. Heck, nobody, including their coach, even thought they'd be in the playoffs, and here they sit just one more upset victory away from a national title.
So how the heck did they get here? Looking at their statistics, they scream mediocraty, but last I checked, they don't play football games on paper.
Wayne State, in the playoffs particularly, has been an a team of opportunity. They've turned turnovers into points time and time again, scoring nine touchdowns on turnovers or turnovers on downs.
Now, let's go back to last week against Delta State. Remember that little problem Pitt State had with putting the ball on the ground. If that happens against Wayne, we might see a different outcome.
The numbers on Wayne State quarterback Micky Mohner aren't going to blow anybody away. He is only completing a tad under 12 passes a game for about 183 yards a contest. His 25-to-8 touchdown-to-interception ratio is mighty impressive though.
Wide receiver Troy Burrell, fifth in the country in yards per game, is the top target. He accounts for over 48 percent of Mohner's completions (86 of 179) and just under 60 percent of his passing yards (1,620 of 2,740).
I don't see this as all that different from Pittsburg. Both teams have below-average passing attacks, highlighted by a good (not great) passing quarterback and a play-making receiver. Burrell has been a bit more consistent that Pitt's John Brown, who is playing as good as anyone has all season right now, but has only become a major player in the Pitt offense the last month or so (his 182-yard, two touchdown game in the Fall Classic was the only of Pittsburg's first eight games in which he went over 100 yards or scored more than one touchdown).
When it comes to rushing the ball, I'm honestly surprised Wayne doesn't rank higher. At 33rd in the country, they rack up 199.87 yards a game and are led by two backs who each have more than 1,300 yards on the season.
Sophomore Toney Davis is your big bruising back while senior Josh Renel is more of a speedster. Both should see plenty of action Saturday and don't be surprised if the guy with the hot hand (or feet) ends up in the end zone a few times.
The Warriors' rushing attack is much different than Pitt, who's sixth-ranked ground game shares their yards between Dickey (1097) and running backs Briceton Wilson (823) and Jason Spradling (465). Jeff Seybold and Soloman Watkins have even pitched in 273 and 223 yards, respectively.
The rushing has been there all season long for the Gorillas, whose ground game has been kept out of the end zone only in their loss to Washburn, while for Wayne State, they're getting things done despite putting up lower rushing numbers.
That was helped last week by the Warriors losing Davis to an injury. No official word has come down on his status for Saturday, but Renel told me this week he expects Davis to be ready to go.
As far as how Wayne has conintued to win with a smaller output from their backs, it goes back to the opportunities I was talking about earlier, and their defense.
Defensively, the Warriors are led by cornerback Jeremy Jones, an AFCA All-American who has picked off nine passes and totaled 84 tackles on the season. It should be fun to watch him go head-to-head with Brown as the two battle to make plays.
Wayne has a decent defensive line as well, and they're only giving up 119 yards on the ground each game, so Dickey, Wilson and company are in for a test if they want to continue running the ball down their opponent's throat.
But if you ask me, this game is going to come down to the dominant Pittsburg State defensive line that we've seen so far in this postseason. Gus Toca, Spencer Worthington and the rest of the group have been downright nasty, and I don't see that changing this week. Throw in Nate Dreiling, who is playing about as good as he's ever played, and he's damn good, and this Pitt defense is going to be too much for Wayne State to handle.
I think Wayne finds ways to hang in this game, and they might even make it interesting toward the end, especially if the Gorillas cough the ball up like they did last week, but I think Dickey and Brown make the plays necessary to get them past the Warriors.
Prediction: Pittsburg State 33 Wayne State 28
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