Originally written on Crystal Ball Run  |  Last updated 11/18/14

Right around 12 hours after the Division III National Championship game ends in Salem, VA the Division II National Championship game will begin in Florence, AL. Wayne State continues to be the Cinderella story of these playoffs going from a lowly sixth seed in Super Region 3 to the National Championship. It’s simply one of the most impressive feats a team can accomplish. In an almost polar opposite situation, Pittsburgh State has been considered an elite team this entire year and it is not at all surprising that they are in this game.

Quarterbacks:

Pittsburgh State

The always dangerous Zac Dickey will lead the Gorillas into Florence to play for the National Championship. Dickey’s dual threat ability will make him a very dangerous player to a Wayne State defense that likes to play downhill with its LB’s and whose defensive line is probably its poorest unit of all. Dickey is a 1,000-2,000 yard player after eclipsing 2,000 passing yards last weekend v. Delta State. Dickey is the embodiment of what it means to win by any means necessary. He is a QB who can and will do anything and everything within his power to win this game.

Wayne State

Through four playoff games Wayne State has yet to attempt over 22 passes in any game. They lean very heavily on the running game to make their offense go. They have a rather accomplished QB in Mickey Mohner who has been good all season but seems to have gone a bit cold in the postseason. Mohner is completing only 55% of his passes this postseason (56% season average) throwing for 495 yards, 4 TD’s, and 2 INT’s (25 TD’s and 8 INT’s on the year). His TD to INT ratio has jumped from a 4.5:1 during the regular season to 2:1 for the postseason.

Running Backs:

Pittsburgh State

While Dickey is the Gorilla’s leading rusher they do feature a nice one two punch combination at the RB spot with Briceton Wilson and Jason Spradling. Combined these two backs have run for 1,288 yards and 10 TD’s this season. Both backs average over 4.5 yards per carry and help to keep defenses off balance in regards to who is going to be getting the ball. This uncertainty becomes even more dangerous when Pitt State runs the option as either Dickey or the back is a danger to make a big play with the ball in their hands.

Wayne State

Wayne State features a two headed monster at RB with Toney Davis and Josh Renel. Combined the two backs have run for over 1,700 yards and scored 34 TD’s on the year. Davis has been more of the feature back this postseason getting the majority of the carries and having a 326 yard effort v. St. Cloud State in the opening round of the playoffs.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends:

Pittsburgh State

Much like Wayne State Pittsburgh State has one absolutely dominant WR and behind is a mixed crew of good but not great depth players. John Brown has been the definition of a big play threat this year by averaging 19.9 yards per catch this year. He has more than double the amount of yards of the number 2 WR (1,117 to 544) and four times as many TD’s (12 to 3). Behind Brown is senior Jon Thomas who has reliable hands and is somebody that Dickey trusts to run good routes and get open past the sticks.

Wayne State

Troy Burrell was the #1 WR in the GLIAC this year with over 1,600 yards and 15 TD’s. He has been close to unstoppable this year in terms of preventing him from producing. He has gone over 100 yards in eight of his 16 games thus far. Behind Burrell the cupboard is a bit barren in terms of talented depth. RB Josh Renel is third on the team in receiving yard with 228 and ranks 2nd in receptions with 24. If Pittsburgh State is able to somehow slow down Burrell than Wayne State is going to be in a lot of trouble.

Offensive Line:

Pittsburgh State

Pittsburgh State will bring a more slender and athletic OL when compared to Wayne State’s OL. That’s not to say it’s less effective though. This is an OL that allows for the Gorilla’s to gain over 263 yards per game on the ground and allows only 0.62 sacks per game. Now that sack number is a bit artificial due to the fact that the Gorillas just don’t throw that much.

Wayne State

Led by OT Joe Long the Warrior OL has become a dominant force this season. They average 199.87 yards per game on the ground and are only allowing 0.93 sacks per game this season. They are big OL with every member being over 6’2, 280 lbs. Four of their five starters are 6’4 or taller and weigh over 290 lbs. This provides an interesting challenge for a Pittsburgh State defensive line that doesn’t necessarily over power people.

Defensive Line:

Pittsburgh State

Junior Gus Toca will need to continue his great season in Florence if they hope to contain a very dangerous Wayne State rushing attack. Toca has 19 TFL this season to go along with 10 sacks. He has been a beast off the edge and has been very hard to contain without committing a TE or RB to help chip him. You also can’t forget about Spencer Worthington on the other side who isn’t quite the playmaker that Toca is but he Is very good and consistent DE who is tough against the run.

Wayne State

The defensive line for Wayne State is going to present its own set of issues for the Warriors simply because it’s just not that good. The Warriors rely on playmakers in their back seven to make plays while the guys up front do more to occupy space and maintain gap control than make plays. The top sack guy on the DL is Chris Pyant and he actually ranks 6th on the team in sacks. It gets a little better when you look at tackles for loss and see Jon Robinson emerge as the third leading tackler behind the line of scrimmage with 9.5. Robinson,  Pyant, and the rest of this defensive front will need to step their game up if they are going to stop this very dangerous rushing attack.

Linebackers:

Pittsburgh State

The player to watch on this defense is LB Nate Dreiling, he is a do everything LB who has made plays both against the run and the pass. Dreiling made 17 tackles behind the line of scrimmage this season and also picked off eight passes while dropping back into pass coverage. Dreiling has good athleticism from the LB position, showing off good range and he is almost always around the ball and in on the play. The scariest apart about Dreiling is that he is only a Sophomore and already this good.

Wayne State

Ed Viverette and Nores Fraid lead the way for a Wayne State LB group that excels at attacking the gaps and making plays all over the field. Nores and Viverette lead the team in sacks with 7.5 each and Viverette also leads the defense in tackles for loss with 15 on the year. This defensive scheme has the LB’s running down hill at ball carriers. This defense averages just over three sacks per game with almost all of that pressure coming from the LB group. Pittsburgh State will have to be aware of this and be prepared for blitzes to come from many different angles.

Defensive Backs:

Pittsburgh State

DB Paul Jones is the leading tackler amongst this DB group that is solid at every position but not elite at any one position. Jones has 51 tackles on the year and has a done good job coming up into the box and getting into the backfield where has made eight stops for loss. Jones has also picked off two passes, returning both for touchdowns. CB Elijah Olabode and FS Jason Peete will also be helping out in coverage on Burrell. They have combined for six INT’s themselves this year.

Wayne State

The best player on Wayne State is by far their defensive back Jeremy Jones, Jones has nine INT’s the year to go along with 92 tackles, 12.5 TFL, five and a half sacks and four pass breakups. Jones ability to play almost anywhere on the field and play almost any role is quite impressive for any player at any level. Look for Jones to possibly be asked to guard John Brown one on one if Brown begins to exert his dominance over the Warrior secondary.

Prediction:

It hard to pick against Pittsburgh State and the overwhelming favorites in this game but that’s what I’m going to do. I (along with everyone else) has picked against Wayne State in at least one game this postseason but despite that they still find a way to win. I’m tired of getting burned by them, I’ll take the Warriors.

For all his FCS, DII and DIII reporting, be sure to follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewCElder.

For all his FCS, DII and DIII reporting, be sure to follow Matt on Twitter @MatthewCElder.
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