Around the NAIAtion Week 4: Chip’s Picks, Recaps and What to Expect for September 23rd.

The best game in the NAIA last week will spawn the best game in the NAIA this week. We’re moving into the season of the cream rising to the top and the top teams separating themselves from the pack.

Last weekend I had my eyes on RV Missouri Valley at No. 25 Graceland. This game had all the makings of an early season test for both squads. MoVal prevailed 49-42 by going on an 8 play, 90 yard drive in the final minutes of the game to secure the victory with 15 seconds left. MoVal jumped out to a 14-0 lead and stayed ahead of the Yellow Jackets until the 3:34 mark of the 4th quarter when Graceland knotted things at 42. Even though the Vikings gave up 42 points, they limited Graceland’s offense to 281 yards of total offense. MoVal RB Jeremiah Bryant carried the ball 23 times for 126 yards and four touchdowns for the Vikes while the Yellow Jackets were unable to move the ball on the ground, finishing with -11 yards rushing. MoVal WR Khaleel Dampier had 8 catches for 108 yards and two touchdowns to add to the Vikings offense. The games don’t get any smaller for the Vikings this week as they take on one of the best in the NAIA, No. 2 Grand View. Both squads are undefeated with something to prove.

The Vikings continue to prove why they are consistently at the top of the NAIA. Last weekend they put 24 up on Baker in the first half before setting the cruise control in the second half to finish the game with a 24-0 victory. Baker was limited to 245 total yards while turning the ball over 3 times. GVU is one of those teams that isn’t sexy on paper. No giant offensive numbers, no defensive statistic that makes you say “holy cow!” They just win. They bend but don’t break, allowing only 6.7 ppg. This week’s contest will put them on the road against MoVal, adding to the interest in the outcome.

Let’s be honest, if I would’ve told you week one that Evangel, Cumberlands and Louisiana Christian would all be 4-0 entering this week you would’ve said, “Huh, why would you make such a random prediction that no one cares about?”

Well. . .you should. No. 22 Evangel statistically has the best defense in the country, No. 19 Cumberlands has also locked it down and RV Louy Christy has a schedule in front of them where they could run the table. (Side note, I have no idea if they’ll love or hate that nickname, but I can only spell check ‘Louisiana’ so many times before I feel like a 3rd grader.)

Evangel is only giving up 4.7ppg and 151.3 ypg in their inaugural season in the KCAC. Perhaps the change of schedule is proving a bit advantageous for EU. They’ll take on Ottawa (Kan.) this week at home to see if they can push it to 5-0. I’m not saying this is a team that’s going to change the way we look at NAIA defenses, but I am saying this is an unlikely preseason pick that we could see repping the conference in the NAIA Championship Series.

Cumberlands pulled out a 20-19 victory over Reinhardt. UC kicked a field goal with 2:07 remaining to go up 20-17 before taking a safety with 26 seconds left to eek out the victory. Darius James ran for 135 yards and a touchdown for the Patriots in the victory.

Louisiana Christian put up 546 yards of offense in their 35-22 win over Langston with 331 yards on the ground. Devin Briscoe ran for 156 while Daylon Charles chipped in 104. LC is putting up over 40 points per game and should continue their winning ways this week against Wayland Baptist.

Sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good and the jury is still out on the latter for No. 10 Carroll College. The Saints squeaked out another road victory over Rocky Mountain 21-20 last weekend. All of the Saints three wins this year have come down to the final minutes and this early in the season it’s tough to say if that’s luck or skill. CC put up 417 yards of total offense and limited Rocky to 247 in the win. CC QB Jack Prka led the way with 407 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Most importantly, he threw no interceptions. The Saints will host Arizona Christian this week.

No. 4 Indiana Wesleyan improved to 3-0 with a 16-15 victory over No. 18 Saint Xavier who fell to 1-2. IWU squeaked out victories each of the last two weeks, winning by a total of three points. IWU RB Dederrian Williams was a workhorse this week carrying the ball 32 times for 121 yards and a touchdown. SXU has been a product of a tough early schedule. They still have time to rally this year and potentially make it to the postseason but that will need to involve winning every remaining game on the schedule. This week Indiana Wesleyan will host Roosevelt in a tough matchup at home. The Lakers are 2-1 with their only loss coming to DIII No. 1 North Central (Ill)

Statistically Speaking

I like to feature some of the top performers in the NAIA every week, but in the first three weeks of the season that’s always tough because the numbers get a little bit skewed due to the lack of data. With that said, I think we’re in a place now to see who some of the top performers in the NAIA are. . .

Bethel (Kan.) QB DJ Ciers is just one of those guys I like to keep my eye on. He’s averaging just under 100 yards per game passing with 7 TDs, but the name of his game is on the ground. Ciers has rushed for over 100 yards in every game this season to average 152.5 yards per game. He’s also found the endzone 10 times on the ground. He’s definitely the engine in this Threshing machine.

Graceland WR Gerald Monroe leads the NAIA in receptions, receiving yards, YPG and receiving touchdowns. Against Doane and Benedictine, Monroe found the endzone 4 times in each game. Last week he was limited to just one TD while hauling in 10 catches for 156 yards. He also has one TD pass on the season.

Valley City State DL Riley Gerhardt leads the NAIA in sacks this season with six. Last week Gerhardt broke Valley City State’s tackles-for-loss career record in their 14-6 defensive battle victory at Dakota State (S.D.).  He collected three quarterback sacks of 17 yards loss, giving him 49.5 career tackles-for-loss.

No. 1 Northwestern is averaging 511 ypg. It’s a nearly even split on their offense with 257 on the ground and 254 through the air.

Campellsville leads the NAIA in passing with 370 ypg while Friends University (Kan.) leads the NAIA in rushing with 451 ypg and 24 TDs. The Falcons throw for just 46 ypg at this point. They play Bethel (Kan.) October 28th, another leading rusher in the NAIA. That game might take 65 minutes.

The NAIA’s longest losing streak is currently in Livonia, Mich. Madonna University has lost 21 straight games. Unfortunately, it goes deeper than that. Their only win was a forfeit by Trinity International in 2021. Since the inception of this program, they have not scored more points than their opponent for a victory. It won’t get any easier this week against Saint Xavier.

Top Games this Week

No. 7 College of Idaho at No. 15 Montana Tech * 4:00 PM – This is a huge matchup in the Frontier Conference. Tech’s only blemish was an opening loss to Carroll College before shocking many people with their win over DII Central Washington. COI is 3-0 after getting by Montana Western last weekend 37-35. This will be a great game and I see Tech pulling off the upset. MTech 27 COI 24

No. 12 Georgetown (Ky.) at RV Reinhardt 12:00 PM – Reinhardt is 1-2 with both of their losses coming by a total of four points. They get the Tigers at home which will prove to be the first true test of the season. Reinhardt needs to bounce back but I think the Tigers prove to be too much. GT 31 Reinhardt 21

No. 2 Grand View at RV Missouri Valley 2:00 PM – This is the biggest game in the NAIA this week, bar none. Both teams are undefeated and have something to prove. GV is out to prove they’re an elite NAIA program this season while Missouri Valley is out to prove to the naysayers they belong in the conversation and apparently the Top 25 for starters. Regardless of any forecast, it’ll be a beautiful day for football in Marshall, Mo. Grand View 24 MoVal 20.

No. 25 Graceland at Baker 2:00 PM: It’s the bounce back game of the week. Both teams are coming off losses to very good programs. Who shows up ready to play? I like Graceland’s offense to be the difference in this one. GU 31 Baker 17.

Midland at No. 3 Morningside (Iowa) * 2:00 PM – Midland was undefeated before slipping in the final minutes last week against Dakota Wesleyan. The Warriors can prove they belong in the conversation this week with a strong performance against Morningside. With that said, the ‘Stangs are still on a different level. Morningside 35 Midland 17.

No. 23 St Thomas University at No. 13 Texas Wesleyan 1:00 PM – St. Thomas is the early season road warriors of the NAIA. With a close loss at Carroll College under their belt I think they’ll come out guns blazing in Fort Worth against TWU. STU is 1-2 and needs a win badly to stay in the mix. The Rams are undefeated with a path in front of them to the postseason. This is my upset special of the week. STU 24 TWU 23.

The Rest of the Slate

Arizona Christian at Carroll (MT) * 4:00 PM
Arkansas Baptist College at Oklahoma Panhandle State 7:00 PM
Avila (MO) at McPherson * 2:00 PM
Clarke (IA) at MidAmerica Nazarene 1:00 PM
College of Idaho at Montana Tech * 4:00 PM
Culver-Stockton (MO) at Benedictine 2:00 PM
Dakota Wesleyan (SD) at Concordia (Neb.) * 2:00 PM
Dickinson State (ND) at Waldorf * 2:00 PM
Doane (NE) at Jamestown (N.D.) * 2:00 PM
Fort Lauderdale at Ave Maria 7:00 PM
Georgetown (Ky.) at Reinhardt 12:00 PM
Graceland at Baker 2:00 PM
Grand View at Missouri Valley 2:00 PM
Hastings at Briar Cliff (IA) * 7:00 PM
John Melvin at Florida Memorial (FL) 1:00 PM
Kansas Wesleyan at Bethel (KS) 7:00 PM
Langston (Okla.) at Texas College * 7:00 PM
Lawrence Tech at Olivet Nazarene * 1:00 PM
Lindsey Wilson at Bluefield (VA) 2:30 PM
Madonna at Saint Xavier 1:00 PM
Mayville State at Valley City State * 3:00 PM
Midland at Morningside (Iowa) * 2:00 PM
North American at University of The Incarnate World 7:00 PM
Northwestern at Mount Marty * 8:00 PM
Ottawa at Evangel (MO) * 7:00 PM
OUAZ at SAGU * 12:00 PM
Peru State at Missouri Baptist 1:00 PM
Rocky Mountain at Eastern Oregon * 4:00 PM
Roosevelt at Indiana Wesleyan 12:00 PM
Saint Francis (Ind.) at St. Ambrose 2:00 PM
Saint Mary at Bethany (KS) * 8:00 PM
Siena Heights at Judson 2:00 PM
Southeastern (Fla.) at Faulkner (AL) 2:30 PM
Southern Oregon at Montana Western * 4:00 PM
St Thomas University at Texas Wesleyan 1:00 PM
St. Andrews at Davidson College 6:00 PM
St. Francis (Ill.) at Taylor 1:00 PM
Sterling at Southwestern * 7:00 PM
Thomas at Bethel (TN) 2:00 PM
Union at Campbellsville (KY) 2:01 PM
Warner (FL) at Kentucky Christian 12:00 PM
Wayland Baptist (TX) at Louisiana Christian * 7:00 PM
William Penn (Iowa) at Central Methodist 3:00 PM

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