Pioneers open season vs. George Fox

Pioneers open season vs. George Fox

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The game: The University of Wisconsin-Platteville opens the 2017 football season against George Fox University Saturday, Sept. 2 at 1 p.m. in Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium.

The rankings: UW-Platteville is ranked 15th in the preseason d3football.com poll. George Fox is unranked.

Last year: The Pioneers were 8-2 in the regular season and earned an NCAA Division III playoff berth, the second in school history. UW-Platteville was edged 32-31 on the final play of the first-round game at St. John's, Minnesota. George Fox, from Newburg, Oregon, was 5-4 last fall.

Last meeting: UW-Platteville shut out George Fox 35-0 in the 2016 opener in Newburg. Senior Tom Kelly threw five touchdown passes, and the Pioneers racked up 27 first downs, outgaining the Bruins, 477–286. Chandler Crary led the Pioneers' defense with seven tackles, while fellow linebackers Marty McGrail and Ben Mogilevsky each made six stops. 

Streaking: UW-Platteville has won all 18 of its season openers under Coach Mike Emendorfer. The last time the Pioneers dropped their first game came during the 1998 season, a 21-14 setback at Lakeland.

Season Openers Under Mike Emendorfer
1999           W         20-17       Lakeland
2000           W         26-19       at Mount Senario
2001           W         64-0         Mount Senario
2002           W         17-6         at Olivet Nazarene
2003           W         27-24       Olivet Nazarene
2004           W         40-14       at Thiel
2005           W         26-0         Dubuque
2006           W         34-20       at Dubuque
2007           W         16-6         St. Ambrose
2008           W         21-14       at Buena Vista
2009           W         15-10       Buena Vista
2010           W         31-2         at Buena Vista
2011           W         38-3         Buena Vista
2012           W         56-13       at Buena Vista
2013           W         42-17       Buena Vista
2014           W         63-3         at Buena Vista
2015           W         49-13       Buena Vista
2016           W         35-0         at George Fox

 

The Pioneers: UW-Platteville returns 18 players from its two-deep lineup that took the field in the 2016 NCAA III playoff game in Collegeville, Minnesota. Fourteen of those 18 come from the defensive side of the ball, where end Colin Griffith, tackle Nick Killianek, linebackers Jacob Forney, Marty McGrail and Ben Mogilevsky, and backs Josh Mackie and John Hotchkiss return after starting in the playoffs. Ten of the top 13 tacklers return, including Mogilevsky, who had 74 total tackles. Killianek and Chandler Gary tied for the team lead with 4.5 sacks apiece, while Mackie led the team with five interceptions, including two against St. John's.

On offense, only center Ryan Gaul is back from the starting playoff lineup. The Pioneers lost many talented offensive starters from last year, including quarterback Tom Kelly, who threw for a school-record 37 touchdowns, and receiver Dan Arnold, who caught a Pioneer-record 16 scoring passes before signing a free agent contract with the New Orleans Saints. Even though the offense features just four players from the St. John's two-deep lineup, young players gained valuable experience last year during the eight wins, as the Pioneers had an average margin of victory of 33.25 points. Coach Mike Emendorfer cleared the bench many times during those wins. Sean Studer (664 yards) and Wyatt Thompson (642 yards) will be keys to the running game. Either Colin Schuetz or Cade Earl will be just the second freshman in program history to open the season at quarterback, joining Nick Anderson in 2009.

Both kickers and the punter return to lead the special teams. Sam Herkert made 45 PATs and five field goals last fall, and Mike Pratl made 16 PATs. Connor Foley averaged 40.7 yards per punt.

The Bruins: With a 5-4 record in 2016, George Fox recorded its first winning season since reinstating football in 2014 under Coach Chris Casey. The Bruins were third in the Northwest Conference standings and had 11 all-league selections with eight of them returning. George Fox went 5-1 down the stretch drive, with its only loss to nationally-ranked Linfield. The Bruins closed with victories over Pacific, 15-12, and Willamette, 21-7.

The Bruins feature an all-West Region lineman in Nolan Schuler. The first team all-Northwest Conference selection led a group that allowed just nine sacks last season. Senior receiver Trevor Daniels was a second-team all-Northwest pick after gaining 532 receiving yards and scoring three times. Quarterback Grant Schroeder has started the last two seasons and gained all-NWC honorable mention honors after throwing 10 TDs last fall. Running back Wesley Riddell (485 yards) and offensive lineman Nathan Corliss earned honorable mention accolades.

Linebacker Charles Riga (92 tackles) earned first team all-conference honors, while end Caleb Dalzell was a second team selection, and end Justin Kruse was honorable mention.

Odds and ends:

  • The Pioneers outscored their opponents by 266 points in their eight wins last year. Their three losses came by a combined 16 points to three top 10 teams.
  • HERO Sports featured the Pioneers' new orange and blue attire with the headline of "Call off the season, UW-Platteville has already won everything with these uniforms". Sports Illustrated's Weekend Hot Clicks called them "some of the best uniforms you've ever seen."
  • Besides new uniforms, UW-Platteville will also unveil its new sound system at Ralph E. Davis Pioneer Stadium. Lifeline Audio and Video Technologies installed the new system this summer, which includes enhanced audio, a wireless microphone for the referee and eight wireless assistive listening devices for the hearing impaired.
  • UW-Platteville was picked for third in the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, behind defending league champion UW-Whitewater, also ranked fourth in the D3football.com poll, and UW-Oshkosh, the defending national runner-up who is ranked third nationally. UW-La Crosse also received votes in the national poll.
  • Looking ahead, the Pioneers make their first-ever trip to Hampden-Sydney, Virginia on Sept. 16. The schools famously met on the basketball court in 1999, when the Pioneers won the national championship with a 76-75 double overtime win in what was Hall of Fame Coach Bo Ryan's last game on the UW-Platteville bench.
  • The Pioneers' next home game is Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. against Lakeland, the defending Northern Athletic Collegiate Conference champion and preseason league favorite.

 

D3football.com poll

Rank

School (No. 1 votes)

2016 record

Points

1

Mary Hardin-Baylor (16)

15-0

606

2

Mount Union (3)

12-2

570

3

UW-Whitewater (4)

12-1

561

4

UW-Oshkosh (2)

13-2

556

5

St. Thomas

12-1

507

6

Wheaton (Ill.)

11-2

456

7

North Central (Ill.)

11-1

452

8

John Carroll

12-2

409

9

Linfield

9-2

401

10

St. John's

10-2

392

11

Wesley

9-3

365

12

Hardin-Simmons

9-2

315

13

Johns Hopkins

11-1

261

14

Hobart

9-2

247

15

UW-Platteville

8-3

220

16

Wittenberg

10-2

204

17

Frostburg State

10-1

195

18

Stevenson

9-2

172

19

Thomas More

9-2

145

20

Delaware Valley

9-2

129

21

Alfred

12-1

104

22

Case Western Reserve

9-1

103

23

St. John Fisher

8-3

101

24

Western New England

11-1

100

25

Redlands

8-2

86

Others receiving votes: Coe 80; Wabash 71; Whitworth 44; Monmouth 40; Washington & Jefferson 39; St. Lawrence 30; Berry 24; Huntingdon 18; Franklin 13; Salisbury 12; Westminster (Pa.) 12; Ohio Northern 11; Cortland 10; Illinois Wesleyan 10; Muhlenberg 10; Washington U. 8; East Texas Baptist 7; Bridgewater State 5; Rose-Hulman 5; Albright 4; Kean 4; UW-La Crosse 4; Carthage 2; Trinity (Conn.) 2; Bethel 2; Maryville (Tenn.) 1.

The D3football.com Top 25 is voted on by a panel of 25 coaches, Sports Information Directors and media members from across the country, and is published weekly. Points are awarded on a 25-24-23-22-etc. basis.

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Preview by Paul Erickson, Director, UW-Platteville Communications, 608.342.1194, pr@uwplatt.edu.