W&J eyes perfect season, home-field advantatge
At 9-0, Washington & Jefferson again is in position to enjoy a postseason experience. Once in the playoff field, the Presidents are hoping to stay a little longer than their previous trips have lasted in the NCAA Division III playoffs.
W&J is coming off a 43-14 victory over NAIA Malone on Saturday, as quarterback Brian Dawson threw four touchdown passes and finished with 336 yards passing.
Only Mt. Union and Widener are ranked higher than W&J in NCAA Division III.
The Presidents' previous Division III playoff experiences have resulted in early exits, with the most recent time occurring last season when they dropped a high-scoring affair to Bridgewater (Va.) in the first round, 59-42.
"It doesn't matter to me where we're rated," W&J coach John Banaszak said. "If we win Saturday, we'll be one of the top teams in the country."
W&J, which has wrapped up another Presidents' Athletic Conference championship, closes the regular season at home against Buffalo State before awaiting word from a Division III playoff committee regarding its first-round opponent.
A victory would ensure home-field advantage for the Presidents.
The only other district team with a chance of qualifying for the Division III playoffs is Carnegie Mellon, which improved to 7-1 by squeaking past Grove City, 17-14, as Ricardo Clarke rushed for 114 yards.
The Tartans, who play at Rhodes in their season finale, suffered their only loss to University Athletic Association champion Washington (Mo.).
Despite developing into a wildly successful program under coach Rich Lackner, observers routinely question Carnegie Mellon's schedule strength.
But CMU would finish 8-1 with a victory this weekend.
Meanwhile, W&J displayed another balanced attack against Malone. Three of Dawson's four touchdown passes went to wide receiver Todd Fry, whose speed and acrobatic catches have terrorized opponents all season.
Running back Joey Nichols turned in another 100-plus yard rushing effort.
"This team has gone about its business in a professional manner," Banaszak said. "They have met every challenge they've faced so far, and they have another challenge Saturday. They have a challenge to finish the regular season undefeated."