After another weekend of conference matchups, the Missouri Valley Conference continues to dominate the FCS National Polls. For just the fifth time in league history, three MVC teams are ranked in the top five: North Dakota State (1), South Dakota State (4), UNI (5) and Illinois State (11).
UNI 27 vs. ISU 10
UNI put on a show against Illinois State University in a 21-10 victory. The Panthers played their most complete game this season, making plays on both sides of the ball. The defense held the Redbirds to just 210 total yards on offense, causing four turnovers in the process. Defensive back Omar Brown’s ball-hawking skills were on full display throughout the game. Brown ended the day with two interceptions, five tackles and a tackle for loss, good enough for both MVC Defensive Player and Newcomer of the Week. The offense was led by quarterback Will McElvain, who tied his career-high with three touchdown passes on the day. UNI will look to pick up another win against Indiana State after its triumphant victory.
NDSU 56 vs. YOUNGSTOWN STATE 17
NDSU cruised past Youngstown State for the program's 30th straight victory. The Bison are now 9-0 overall and 5-0 in the MVC. They will play at home Saturday against Western Illinois University in what could be a blowout affair. While offensive linemen are a key part of any offense, they don’t always get the recognition they deserve. The Bison’s left tackle Dillon Radunz got recognized for the second time in his career, winning the MVC Offensive Lineman of the Week award for manhandling the Penguins’ defensive front from the get-go. Radunz had zero missed assignments and allowed zero pressures while playing a huge role in the offenses 251 rushing yards. Running back Kobe Johnson handled kick returns for the first time in his career and boy did he took the brass ring and run with it. He returned the ball three times for 138 yards with a groundbreaking 94-yard touchdown. His touchdown was good enough for the sixth-longest return in program history. Johnson ended up taking home the MVC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. The Bison will look to increase their winning streak to 31 this Saturday against WIU.
SOUTH DAKOTA 34 vs. WIU 38
WIU snapped its 10-game losing streak by beating South Dakota in dramatic fashion this past Saturday. Running back Clint Ratkovich ran in the go-ahead touchdown with 45 seconds left in the game, while Eric Carrera picked off the ball at the 1-yard line to seal the win for the Leathernecks. Quarterback Connor Sampson won the MVC Offensive Player of the Week award for throwing a career-high 368 passing yards and three touchdowns on the day. His career day puts him third in passing yards in the MVC this season and 14th in school history.
The Jerry Rice Award watch list was announced on Tuesday. Four MVC freshman players were nominated for quickly making a difference with their team’s success this season.
· UNI corner back Omar Brown: 52 tackles, 3 TFL, 5 INTs
· NDSU quarterback Trey Lance: 19 TDs, 0 INTs; 88 carries, 595 yards, 8 TDs
· UNI quarterback Will McElvain: 17 TDs, 3 INTs; 85 carries, 236 yards, 1 TD
· SIU running back Javon Williams Jr.: 659 yards, 13 TDs; 8 receptions, 194 yards, 2 TDs
Key Games to Watch this Weekend
WIU @ NDSU (1)
Indiana State @ UNI (5)
ISU (11) @ SDSU (4)
With the season winding down and the MVC tournament starting Nov. 13, every game is important for the teams in position to make a deep run.
LOYOLA 1 vs. MISSOURI STATE 2
For the third straight week MSU (10) is in the top 10 of the United Soccer Coaches Poll. The Bears are the only undefeated team left in Division I, with a record of 15-0-0. This is the best record in the MVC since Southern Methodist University’s 21game win streak in 2001. The team has now tied SMU for most consecutive conference victories in MVC history at 9-0. With their magical season coming to an end, the Bears brought in a stadium-record crowd at their latest game against Loyola. Matthew Bentley was named MVC Offensive Player for an outstanding three-goal week, continuing his scoring streak to seven games. Bentley leads the league in both goals (12) and points (27) this season. The No. 1-seeded Bears will play their final game Saturday afternoon at Drake, where they will look to become the first team in program history with a perfect record in regular season play.
VALPARAISO 1 vs. EVANSVILLE 0
Valpo goalkeeper Jorn-Jan de Beld won the MVC Defensive Player of the Week award, leading the team to its first shutout of the season. This was an outstanding showing for the young goalie, playing all 90 minutes with three key saves in goal in the team’s victory over Evansville. The Crusaders will play their final regular-season game this Saturday against Loyola.
Arch Madness: The MVC announced a four-year extension with the Enterprise Center in St. Louis to host the league's men's basketball tournament. 2020 will mark the 30th anniversary of their partnership, with the tournament becoming a staple in the St. Louis area. The arena was recently renovated as well, with new locker rooms and restrooms, improved cooling and heating systems, new lighting and a 40x40 video board. Let's hope the Redbirds can come out on top this year for the first time since 1998 and their first championship in the Enterprise Center.
VALPARAISO 79 vs. TOLEDO 77
Valpo basketball is back and in full swing after a victory over Toledo to open up the season. While outside expectations are pretty low for the program this year, the team truly believes they have what it takes to win. The Crusaders finished 15-18 last season (7-11 in the MVC), beating Indiana State in the opening round of the State Farm MVC Tournament. With the team losing five key players this past offseason, coach Matt Lottich will look to his young guard Javon Freeman-Liberty and senior Ryan Fazekas to take that leadership role and teach the other players to be selfless. Freeman-Liberty was on the MVC All-Freshman and All-Defensive Team last season, averaging 11 points and 4.3 rebounds. With a new culture and energy in the building due to the young athletes, the Crusaders will look to take what they learned from their strong offseason and put it to use on the court.
Bradley’s Jake Hoffert was named Prairie Farms Bradley Athlete of the Month. The senior was voted the honor by fans (35% of the vote) for leading the Braves in two races during the month of October. Hoffert also won two MVC Male Athlete of the Week awards in October, placing 28th at Notre Dame's Joe Piane Invitational and 59th at the Nuttycombe Wisconsin Invitational. Hoffert has also put his name in the school’s record book, with an eighth best 8K PR time of 24:22.1. In November, Hoffert won the individual title at the MVC Championship, carrying the Braves to their fifth-straight team title.