There was disappointment Sunday when Lycoming found out it wasn't selected for an at-large berth into the NCAA Division III football tournament. As much of the disappointment was about the teams selected for an at-large berth ahead of the Warriors as it was about not qualifying.
The Warriors, despite an 8-2 record and holding the nation's highest-scoring offense to its lowest point total of the season, was not one of the eight teams selected for an at-large berth Sunday. Middle Atlantic Conference champion Widener, which concluded an undefeated season Saturday, hosts Bridgewater State on Saturday in the first round of the tournament.
It's that same Bridgewater State team which Lycoming head coach Mike Clark was surprised to see grab an at-large bid ahead of the Warriors since Bridgewater was ranked behind Lycoming in both sets of regional rankings that were released prior to Sunday's selection show.
One area which may have benefited Bridgewater State in its selection was it was ranked 69th in the country in strength of schedule, while Lycoming was ranked 125th.
"There's a laundry list of people who probably feel the same way we do," Clark said Sunday night. "I will stand by the fact that I think our conference is as good as anybody in the east. We beat some really good people. Two weeks ago we were sixth in the region and we didn't do anything but win the last two weeks, albeit against lesser opponents. We're disappointed that we're not going, but we're disappointed who was taken before us.
"If we're not one of the 32 best teams in the country, I don't who is."
Bridgewater State was one of two teams selected as at-large teams out of the East Region. Rowan, which finished 8-2 (with one loss to Division II Merrimack College), got the other at-large bid out of the East.
It was the second consecutive season the Warriors finished 8-2 but was left out of the playoffs. It was the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons which Lycoming won 16 games over a two-year period. After losses to both Widener and Delaware Valley a year ago, Lycoming didn't expect an at-large bid and knew its season was basically done after a lop-sided win against FDU-Florham in Week 10. After Saturday's win over Misericordia, there was an air of uncertainty around the Warriors, but most players and coaches felt like they had done enough to warrant a playoff bid.
The Warriors' only in-conference loss was a five-point loss to Widener three weeks ago in which they held the Pride to its lowest point total of the season (28) and also forced seven turnovers. Lycoming's other loss came in the season opener to Brockport State, a team which won its first three games before losing three of four.
"We took arguably the No. 1 or No. 2 team in the region and turned them over seven times and lost by five," Clark said. "Obviously that doesn't matter (to the selection committee) which is really, really disappointing. We played Widener as well as anybody all year."
Clark said his one big regret of the season was a single play call which could have changed the outcome of the Warriors' homecoming game against Widener. Facing a third down with just under 2 minutes to go, clinging to a 23-21 lead and Widener out of timeouts, Clark called for a pass over the middle to get a first down and end the game. But the pass to running back Parker Showers fell incomplete, giving Widener an extra 35 seconds or so of clock to make its game-winning drive.
Chris Haupt threw a 34-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Davis with 17 seconds left for the winning score.
"To me, that's the glaring mistake that I made. It doesn't mean we would have won the game still. Who knows what would have happened in the last minute?" Clark said. "It's a basic woulda, coulda, shoulda. For the kids' sake, they deserve to have won. They don't deserve to feel the way they feel, so I point the finger at myself and say if I would have done this, we probably would have won a MAC championship and been in the playoffs."