NCAA Division-III Football Playoffs, Round 3: Wesley vs. Hobart
Matchup: On Saturday at noon Eastern Time the Wesley Wolverines will play host to the Hobart Statesmen in the third round of the NCAA Division-III Football playoffs. This game is a matchup of the Wesley College, ranked No. 4 is the final regular season D3Football poll, against Hobart College, ranked No. 9 in that same poll.
How They Got Here:
Hobart rolled through their regular season, going 10-0 and winning the Liberty League championship. In the first round of the playoffs they beat the Ithaca Bombers, 22-15. The Statesmen never led in the contest until the final 12 seconds of the game, when QB Patrick Conlan scored from 1-yard out to give Hobart the lead. They entered the fourth quarter trailing 15-7, before scoring 15 unanswered points to win the game. Conlan struggled for much of the game, passing for 201 yards and 3 interceptions, and the Statesmen’s QB combined with Conner Hartigan for 115 total yards on the ground.
This last weekend the Statesmen defeated the Johns Hopkins Blue Jays, 24-21. Hobart led virtually the entire game, jumping out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, behind a Sean Kirshe 42-yard field goal and a 1-yard touchdown run by Bradley Burns. Hobart led 16-14 heading into half, and the score remained that way through the third quarter.
Twenty-seven seconds into the fourth quarter the Blue Jays took the lead on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Braden Anderson to Quinn Donaldson to give Johns Hopkins the 21-16 lead. The Statesmen were not to be outdone however. Conlan led the team on a 9-play, 88-yard drive with 5:28 left in the game, and retook the lead when Conlan passed to John Fasano for 14-yards and the score. The two-point conversion was good and the Statesmen led 24-21.
With 1:26 left there was enough time for Johns Hopkins to at least tie the game. In seven plays, Anderson led his team to the Hobart 8-yard line and it looked like the Blue Jays were going to grab the last second victory. On second and goal Donaldson was called for pass interference, moving the Blue Jays back to the 22-yard line. On the next play Anderson looked Donaldson’s direction again, but Jacob Stanley read the play beautifully, picking off the pass and sealing the victory.
After struggling the previous week, Conlan came up big for his team, passing for 237 yards on 19-30 with a touchdown. The defense was led by Trayvon Toney, who had 13 tackles, and Stanley and Todd Collier each had interceptions.
Wesley went 9-1 in the regular season and entered the post-season as the lone independent in the Division-III playoffs. In their first round matchup they crushed Hampden-Sydney 52-7. They made it clear that they were the better team on this afternoon by putting up 42-points in the first quarter. Brenton Barnes and Sosthene Kapepula each had interception returns for touchdowns in the opening quarter, and QB Joe Callahan threw three touchdown passes to Steve Koudossou in the first frame. Callahan finished the day with 336 yards passing and 5 TDs, and Koudossou had an NCAA record 238-yards receiving on just 4-catches.
Looking to again make an early statement against the MIT Engineers, Wesley put up 35-points in the first quarter, and went to the half up 49-0 on route to a 59-0 win. It was another pick six that was the highlight of the first quarter, this time a 42-yard return by Leroy Cheatham that made the score 14-0. Andre Connally returned a blocked punt 35-yards for the Wolverines next score to make it 21-0.
Joe Callahan had another huge day through the air, completing 21 of 26 attempts for 268 yards and 4 touchdowns. Ben Martin ran for 106 yards on just 9-carries and had a 69-yard scamper for a touchdown. Koudossou had another score to go with 70 yards receiving, and Bryce Shade added 104 yards and 2 touchdown catches.
Wesley’s defense added four more interceptions and had 8 sacks on the day. Roderick Craine recorded 3 sacks and Aamir Petrose added two more.
Hobart Offense vs. Wesley Defense
Hobart Offense: 31.6 points per game, 212.2 yards rushing per game, 179.0 yards passing per game.
Wesley Defense: 9.9 points allowed per game, 69.4 yards rushing allowed per game, 164.2 yards passing allowed per game.
Hobart is a predominantly running team. That is where they have the most amount of success. While having a quality quarterback in Conlan, they have a big offensive line, and use that to batter down and bully opponents. They do not use one back to batter teams down either. Hartigan leads the team with 864 yards rushing and 9 touchdowns, and Dominique Ellis leads in touchdowns with 10, to go along with 461 yards rushing. At 6-0, 255, Ellis is a brutal fullback, and in short yardage situations he gets the job done.
C Ali Marpet leads their offensive line, and at 6-4, 300, he clears space and makes openings. Two juniors, Levi Boyer (5-11, 300) and Emiliano Acosta (6-3, 310) also add a lot of girth and have great skill at pass blocking and making room for the Hobart backs. This is one of the most dominant lines in the post-season.
The passing game is solid but not outstanding. Elvin Souffrant led the team in yards receiving with 474 and John Fasano leads in catches with 32. Just as a point of reference, the two have combined for 63 catches, while Koudossou has 58 by himself for the Wolverines. Conlan can make plays. He has thrown for 2038 yards and 15 TDs, but a 122.64 passer efficiency rating and 54.9 percent completion rating are not outstanding by any stretch of the imagination. This is a team that needs to run to win games, and when defenses become aggressive against their rushing attack, then the Statesmen hurt them with the pass.
The Wesley defense is built around a top-flight group of linebackers, led by Sosthene Kapepula and Jordan Wescott. Both are seniors with great size and speed, and they know how to make plays. They support the run well, are able to cover backs and tight ends; they are ball-hawks in every sense of the word. The linebacker corps, in general, is just solid in all facets of the game, and they all have a wealth of experience. Matt Capetola is smart and active, and Julian Jones and Luke Maginnis fill in well when needed.
While the linebackers are getting some glory, don’t sleep on this defensive line by any means. Payton Rose is a beast at 6-3, 290, and he plays with a very high motor. The defensive tackle has 4 sacks and 4 forced fumbles this season. At defensive end, sophomore Roderick Caine has already established himself as a premium pass rusher. He is a bit undersized at 6-2, 215, but he is relentless in pursing quarterbacks, leading the team with 8.5 sacks. Aamir Petrose complements Caine well at the other end and is a great tackler.
This defense was having a solid season taking the ball away from opposing offenses, but in the playoffs they could seriously be charged with felony theft. The team had 16 interceptions and 18 fumble recoveries in the regular season, but already have 10 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries in the post-season. Three of those picks have been returned for touchdowns, and they have a blocked punt for a touchdown. It cannot also be forgotten that they have 10 sacks in the playoffs as well.
Analysis: Hobart has squeaked by on offense during the playoffs, but they are going to need a huge game from Conlan. I think this is the worst matchup the Hobart offense could have. Edge: Wesley.
Wesley Offense vs. Hobart Defense
Wesley Offense: 51.9 points per game, 191.8 yards per game rushing, 301.2 yards per game passing.
Hobart Defense: 14.6 points allowed per game, 87.6 yards rushing allowed per game, 166.1 yards passing allowed per game.
Joe Callahan is one of the elite quarterbacks in Division-III football. Nine touchdowns the last two weeks testifies to this alone. He has thrown for 3435 yards and has a completely ridiculous touchdown to interception ratio of 43-5. He is incredibly careful with the ball, and extremely accurate.
The pass attack for the Wolverines is as dangerous as it gets. They have eight players that caught at least 10 balls, and four of them caught at least 35. No one player for the Statesmen had that many. Koudossou is a threat in every way. He can take the ball deep and is a great possession receiver as well. He leads the team with 1170 yards receiving with 15 touchdowns, and has an incredible 20.2 yards per catch average.
What adds to the danger of this pass attack is that Callahan uses all of his assets. TE Kyle George has 36 receptions for 536 yard and 5 TDs, and running back Jamar Baynard has 35 catches for 568 yards and 4 touchdowns. Koudossou draws at least two defensive backs leaving plenty of room for others to operate in zone or single man coverage.
While the pass attack is the headline for Wesley, they have an outstanding ground attack as well. Baynard is a beast with the ball in his hands, rushing for 762 yards and 9 touchdowns on 176 carries. The big home run threat is fellow sophomore Ben Martin who has 602 yards on just 63 carries, a 9.6 average. Teams that focus too much on the passing game get burned by this duo.
The Hobart defense has a big challenge ahead of it, and they have the players to meet that challenge head on. This is not a defense that creates many turnovers (just 10 interceptions and 15 forced fumbles), but they tackle well and they get after the quarterback.
ILBs Trayvon Toney and Jacob Stanley move with the play as well as any duo in Division-III. With OLBs Marcus Jemison and Nolan Toran they form a solid group of four that makes plays and tackles well.
While the Statesmen have a great group of linebackers, their defensive line are the heart and soul of this squad. Led by senior Tyre Coleman, this group gets after the quarterback. Coleman leads the team with 11 sacks and has batted down 8 passes and recorded 12 quarterback hits. He is just a relentless player who has no off-switch once the play begins. Defensive tackle Troy Johnson had 5.5 sacks and holds the point of attack well. Despite only being 280 pounds and often taking on double and triple teams, he makes things happen.
A key to this game is going to be the play of the Hobart secondary, and cornerback Fajri Jackson has proven that he can cover well. At 5-8, 175 he does not have great size, but he is quick and battles well for balls. Paired with sophomore Todd Collier, these two are going to have to have the games of their lives to stop the Wesley air attack and make the Wolverines one-dimensional.
Analysis: Hobart has some quality players on defense, but there are playmakers at every position for the Wolverines. Edge: Wesley.
Outlook: Hobart has not played as well as they need to in these playoffs. While they had an impressive win against Johns Hopkins, and came back from deficits in both of their first two playoff matchups, they simply cannot afford to be behind Wesley. The Wesley Wolverines have scored 77 points in the first quarter alone in their first two playoff games. They look like a real challenger to the winner of the Mount Union-John Carroll game. Wesley wins handily, 49-10.
By Robert Pannier