Until last Saturday, Westminster College in Fulton, Mo., was best known as the site of Winston Churchill's 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech. Now, Westminster also will be known as the home of the NCAA's most prolific wide receiver.
Scott Pingel, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound senior, broke Jerry Rice's record of 301 career receptions on the first series of the Blue Jays' opener against Illinois College in Jacksonville, Ill.
"I'm hoping to use this record to put our team on the map and maybe make the playoffs from here," Pingel said. Westminster was 9-1 last season but did not make the Division III playoffs.
Pingel isn't stopping with that one record. He needs one touchdown reception to break the career record of 55 set by Chris Bisaillon of Division III Illinois Wesleyan from 1989 to '92. Pingel also needs 123 yards to break the career record of 4,697 set just last season by Scott Hvistendahl of Division III Augsburg (Minn.).
Since Pingel is averaging 147.5 yards receiving and 1.74 touchdowns per game over his career, it's likely he will break both of those records Saturday against Central Methodist College.
Pingel was a quarterback at St. Vincent High in Perryville, Mo., and spent one semester each at a junior college and the University of Missouri before landing at Westminster as a walk-on in 1996, the year the school revived its football program. The Blue Jays already had enough quarterbacks, so Pingel volunteered to play wide receiver.
He was an all-American by his sophomore year and a finalist for the Gagliardi Trophy and Melberger Award (the Division III most valuable player awards) as a junior, when he grabbed 130 catches for 2,157 yards and 26 touchdowns.
Pingel credits his success to an offense that is almost entirely reliant on the pass and his experience as a quarterback, saying that "it's just like having two quarterbacks out there." He also credits Westminster quarterback Justin Peery, who has been directing Westminster's run-and-shoot offense during Pingel's three-year tenure at the school.
"A lot of [my success] goes to Justin Peery. . . . He's the smartest guy I've ever played with," Pingel said. "We've both been four-year starters, so we know what's going on in every play. He needs to get more [publicity] than what he's been getting."
Pingel's 4.7-second 40-yard dash time won't impress many NFL scouts. But he said he was honored just to be mentioned in the same breath as an NFL great such as Rice. "I consider [Rice] the best ever, and the record is getting a lot of publicity because it was Jerry Rice's," Pingel said. "I hope I don't disrespect him by breaking the record. . . . If he was in an offense like ours for four years, his record would be untouchable."
Five schools -- Kentucky, Syracuse, Oregon, UCLA and Central Florida -- kicked off their seasons last week with new quarterbacks, after last year's starters were taken early in the NFL draft. A quick rundown of how each replacement fared:
Dusty Bonner -- Kentucky: Bonner, a sophomore replacing No. 1 pick Tim Couch, threw for 446 yards and three touchdowns but had two costly interceptions and was sacked eight times in the Wildcats' 56-28 loss to Louisville. He had one interception returned 56 yards for a touchdown and another returned 63 yards to set up a score, and had 10 straight incompletions in the third quarter.
Troy Nunes, Madei Williams, Dee Brown -- Syracuse: Syracuse Coach Paul Pasqualoni, having to replace No. 2 pick Donovan McNabb, used three quarterbacks in the Orangemen's 35-12 win over Toledo. Nunes started, completing 9 of 13 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown. Williams completed one pass and fumbled three times, with one resulting in a safety. Brown, a running back, spent some time under center as an option threat once the game was safely in hand.
A.J. Feeley -- Oregon: In his first game as No. 3 pick Akili Smith's replacement, Feeley threw for a touchdown on his first snap, but the Ducks fell to Michigan State, 27-20. Feeley finished with 343 yards passing and two touchdowns.
Drew Bennett -- UCLA: Bennett, who backed up No. 12 pick Cade McNown for two years, started slowly and was replaced by backup Cory Paus in the first quarter, but he returned to complete 8 of 16 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown as the Bruins beat Boise State, 38-7. Bennett will get the start Saturday against Ohio State.
Vic Penn -- Central Florida: Penn, a junior college transfer replacing Daunte Culpepper, had a tough time in a 47-13 loss to Purdue, completing 24 of 45 passes for one touchdown. He was sacked four times and fumbled once.
Up for Grabs
The wildest ending last weekend took place in Colgate's 28-21 win over Maine Saturday in Hamilton, N.Y.
Maine was driving for the winning score with 48 seconds left in regulation. Quarterback Brian Scott passed to Dwayne Wilmot on the left sideline, and the ball went off Wilmot's fingertips and appeared to hit the ground as an incomplete pass. But the officials ruled the play a fumble, and Colgate's Brandon Tinson scooped the ball up and rambled 66 yards untouched for the winning score.
But that wasn't Maine's only problem in the fourth quarter. The Black Bears intercepted Colgate quarterback Ryan Vena three times in the final four minutes and still lost. Maine also tied the game at 21 with about four minutes left on another controversial call: Vena threw an apparent incompletion after having a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage, but officials ruled Colgate center Kevin Bolis caught the deflection and then fumbled it. Maine cornerback Mike Harvey eventually covered the ball in the end zone for the game-tying score.
Surprisingly, Virginia Tech didn't block any punts in its 47-0 win over James Madison last weekend. The Hokies blocked eight last season and have the most blocked kicks of any team this decade. Virginia Tech hosts Alabama-Birmingham, which blocked two Missouri punts in a 31-28 loss Saturday. Not to be outdone, Missouri's Justin Smith blocked a punt that resulted in a touchdown against the Blazers.