10 Impressions from Week 12 of the sub-FBS season

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It doesn’t get any better than college football in November, and Week 13 did not disappoint. The WAC title was decided in a winner-take-all game at Abilene Christian. The playoffs began in NCAA Division III this week and provided an outstanding game in San Antonio. Elsewhere, the results were mixed, with some teams having a great week while others were less than impressive. Let’s dive into the final impressions of the 2022 season.

1. It got WACky

You can expect me to use the term WACky whenever I get the chance. It’s just too easy for a writer that struggles with creativity. But this isn’t about me. Instead, this is about the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks, who won its first WAC title in program history Saturday.

The credit for this victory goes to the defense, who held ACU to zero rushing yards in the first half and only allowed a 2.8-yard average in the game. However, it wasn’t easy for the ‘Jacks. They had a field goal and an extra point attempt blocked and took their first lead of the game with 2:43 remaining in regulation. 

But the ‘Jacks don’t care how it happened. All that matters is that they are 2022 WAC champions. The celebration on the field following the game was fitting for a team that needed to exhale. Colby Carthel and staff will surely use this WAC title during recruiting. So don’t be surprised if we’re talking about repeat champions next year.

2. Home sweet home

Trinity won its first home playoff game since 2011 with a thrilling 14-7 victory over Hardin-Simmons. The Tigers trailed at the half 7-0 before the offense caught fire, gaining 227 yards in the second half. A 38-yard TD pass from Tucker Horn to Ryan Merrifield with 2:16 remaining gave Trinity its first lead of the game.

HSU’s offense drove 65 yards and was set up at the Trinity 10-yard line with 25 seconds remaining in regulation. Following a one-yard run and an incomplete pass, the Cowboys final pass attempt was intercepted by Casey Hampton with time expired.

3. Guess who’s rolling at the right time?

If it’s playoff time in Division III, then it’s Mary Hardin-Baylor’s time to shine. The Cru rolled over a good Huntingdon team 54-0 to set up a showdown against Trinity next Saturday in San Antonio.

The UMHB offense gained 289 yards rushing and four touchdowns with 8.3 yards per attempt and 362 passing yards and four touchdowns. Meanwhile, the Cru defense held a solid passing attack to 16-of-34 for 144 yards with an interception. Next week at Trinity is going to be a must-see game.

4. It just stalled

Prairie View A&M held a 7-0 lead at the half over Mississippi Valley State and only needed to finish the game with a win to earn the SWAC West Division title. Then it all fell apart in the second half. The Panthers only gained 76 total yards in the second half and lost to the Delta Devils 27-7.

The good news is the Panthers still have a chance at claiming the West Division title and meeting Jackson State in the SWAC title game. However, PVAMU’s fate is now in the hands of Southern. The Jaguars will be the West champions if they defeat Grambling next Saturday. Conversely, a loss will send PVAMU to the title game.

5. Lions are still rising

Texas A&M-Commerce experienced the same fate many others have in their first year of transition to FCS. The Lions started strong, winning three of its first four games against FCS competition. However, four consecutive losses to end the season will leave a sour taste in the mouth of the Lions.

No matter how you look at this season, it was a successful year for A&M-Commerce. The Lions played a stronger schedule than most teams in their first year of transition, including one game against an opponent transitioning to FBS. A lack of scholarship player depth showed toward the end of the season, but the Lions will be just fine.

6. Departing with a whimper

For a team with the storied tradition of Sam Houston, the Bearkats finish to the season was not expected. Granted, SHSU is redshirting many of its scholarship players, but consecutive losses to ACU and Southern Utah seemed unfathomable three weeks ago.

The cause of the slide to end the season seems to lie with the youth of the players the Bearkats counted on for contributions. The young guys will learn you can’t take a week off at this level. Every team has talented players, and K.C. Keeler will use the end of the season as motivation for next season.

7. The X-Factor 

It’s no secret that Xavier Gipson is one of the best receivers in the country. His ability to flat dominate whenever he chooses makes him one of the greatest. Trae Self completed 26 passes for 397 yards and two touchdowns. 

Eleven of the passes mentioned above, along with 213 yards and one touchdown, were to Gipson. ACU was being physical and providing excellent coverage throughout the game, but Gipson would find a way to get a sliver of space, and that’s all he needed. I would love to watch him one more season, but I hope this man heads to the NFL so the rest of the football world will see his greatness.

8. An impressive feat

Three years is a long time. It’s so long that my mind keeps telling me that Tarleton is in its fourth year of transition. But, in reality, it’s only the end of year three. The most challenging task during the transition has fallen on the shoulders of Todd Whitten.

But the coach has a unique ability to inspire his players to give their best effort regardless of nothing to play for but pride. The Texans beat Houston Christian 49-7 Saturday and secured their third consecutive winning season while transitioning to FCS. That feat alone should earn a lengthy contract extension.

9. Hardware coming home to Kilgore

The Kilgore Rangers had a formidable task on the road Saturday against the defending national champions, New Mexico Military Institute. But the Rangers got hot at the right time and dominated NMMI 39-12 to bring home their 16th SWJCFC title. The Rangers last won the title in 2018.

Unfortunately, Kilgore will not earn a spot in the NJCAA semifinals, but the Rangers will have one more game. Kilgore is likely to appear in the Heart of Texas Bowl at Memorial Stadium in Commerce. The game is slated to begin at 1 p.m. on Dec. 3.

10. Just waiting on the watch party

UIW knew they needed to make a statement to the FCS playoff committee. Statement made. Lindsey Scott Jr. threw for 382 yards and five touchdowns, while Marcus Cooper rushed for 257 yards and three touchdowns in a 66-7 thrashing of Northwestern State. 

One position group hasn’t received much love on the offense this year. These guys are always forgotten about until you need them. Yet, the Cardinals offensive line is dominant. There’s no other word to describe a group able to pave the way for 413 rushing yards while allowing only one sack on 38 pass attempts.

The only thing left for UIW is the watch party Sunday morning to see where they slot in the playoffs.

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