GAME OF THE WEEK
Minnesota State Mankato at Sioux Falls, noon Saturday: This game isn’t as glamorous as it might have been had both teams not suffered their first losses of the season on Oct. 24. Before that, MSU Mankato and Sioux Falls were Nos. 1 and 4 nationally, respectively. Now the two are in a dogfight for a postseason berth. Sioux Falls is No. 4 in Super Region Three, the Mavericks No. 6 and fellow NSIC member Augustana No. 7. The top seven teams advance to postseason. The winner Saturday should be in good shape — both will be favored to win their final regular-season game on Nov. 14 — but the loser will be fighting a number of other two-loss teams for postseason berths. Saturday’s game matches the NSIC’s highest-scoring offense (Sioux Falls at 42.7 ppg) against the league’s stingiest defense (MSU Mankato at 13.9 ppg).
WEEK 9 STORY LINES
• St. John’s can virtually wrap up a Division III playoff berth with a victory Saturday at Bethel, with the Johnnies hosting St. Olaf on Nov. 14 in the final regular-season game. But the Johnnies have not won at Bethel since 2005.
• St. Scholastica QB Kyle Stepka had only two pass attempts — both incompletions — in the season’s first three games. But an injury to starter Dakota Paulson and inconsistent play by backup Mike Mensing gave Stepka a chance to start last week. He responded with a school-record 453 passing yards and four TDs as St. Scholastica clinched a D-III postseason berth with a 48-12 victory over Westminister (Mo.).
• Unbeaten St. Thomas can clinch the MIAC’s automatic playoff berth with a victory Saturday against visiting Carleton, which is 0-6 in league play. The Tommies also can clinch a tie for the MIAC title Saturday and have the head-to-head victory over St. John’s, the only team that can still tie the Tommies atop the standings.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Jordan Roberts, RB, St. Thomas: The junior from Sheridan, Wyo., ran for 180 yards on 31 carries and a TD and caught three passes for 74 yards and a TD in a 38-14 victory over Concordia (Moorhead), which had been ranked No. 14 nationally in Division III. He has rushed for at least 100 yards in six consecutive games and has 1,105 yards and 17 TDs rushing this season.
Gunner Olszewski, DB, Bemidji State: The freshman from Alvin, Texas, tied a school record with three interceptions in a 32-7 victory over Minot State — the sixth in a row for the Beavers. He had an interception on the first play from scrimmage, setting the tone for the game. He is second in the NSIC with six interceptions, and tied for 12th in tackles with 71.
BY THE NUMBERS
297 Reception yards by St. Scholastica receiver Hunter Thompson in last Saturday’s victory over Westminster. Thompson had 10 catches for 297 yards and two TDs.
21 Rushing yardage for Concordia (Moorhead) in last week’s loss to St. Thomas. The Cobbers were playing for a chance to tie the Tommies for first place in the MIAC.
13 Consecutive victories by Minnesota Duluth over Bemidji State; the two teams meet Saturday.