Sept. 17, 2010
Grozinger transitions to center
By David Boyce
Game Day: No. 7 Northwest Missouri State (0-1) at Nebraska-Omaha (0-2)
Saturday, 6:20 p.m. (Al Caniglia Field in Omaha)
Last two meetings: Northwest won 42-0 in Omaha in 2008 and 37-27 in Maryville in 2009
Northwest has won 37 consecutive MIAA contests dating back to 2005 (MIAA record is 41)
Northwest has not lost back-to-back games during the regular season since 2001 (10-0 after losses since the start of the 2002 season)
Northwest has won 14 of its last 15 true road games (Abilene Christian, 2009)
The Bearcats are 14-2 in MIAA openers under coach Mel Tjeerdsma (1994, 2003). Both losses came at home in Maryville.
Northwest is 7-4 against Nebraska-Omaha under Tjeerdsma including a 2-4 mark at Al Caniglia FieldNorthwest game notes (.pdf)
By the time the 2009 regular season ended, the Northwest Missouri State coaching staff realized that offensive lineman Brett Grozinger needed to move from his left guard position.
It wasn't performance related. Coach Mel Tjeerdsma said Grozinger was having a very good season.
"We saw a bad leg," Tjeerdsma said.
Grozinger suffered a MCL injury to a knee and missed the first two games of the playoffs. He played some in the semifinals against California (Pa.), and saw significant action at center in the national championship game.
"He was playing great at guard," Tjeerdsma said. "That's where he really likes to play.
"We made a decision while he was rehabbing that when we got him back on the field that he wasn't going to be mobile enough to go back at guard. So we just moved him to center."
And that's where Grozinger will start 6:20 p.m. Saturday when the Bearcats play their second game of the season at Nebraska-Omaha.
Both teams enter the matchup hungry for a victory. Northwest lost its season-opener to Texas A&M-Kingsville and had to wait 16 days to play again.
UNO has lost its first two games and definitely wants to avoid dropping to 0-3.
"I have noticed a sense of urgency," Grozinger said. "We are beatable, obviously. We lost. We need to realize that UNO, at 0-2, doesn't mean anything. They are a good team. They played two good teams so we need to treat them as though they are the best team out there."
Grozinger, like the rest of his teammates, is just ready to get out on the field and play again.
He's adapted to being a center this season. Actually, the position is not too foreign to him. Grozinger came to Northwest as a long snapper. He knows the importance of getting the ball to the quarterback in a timely fashion and easy to handle.
With the emergence of Rod Williams, the best thing for the 2010 Bearcats was for Grozinger to play center. Williams now starts at left guard.
"He's a very good player and we need him on the field," Grozinger said. "I will play wherever we need me to play to help this team succeed."
Tjeerdsma echoed those sentiments.
"Rod had a really good spring and a good summer," Tjeerdsma said. "He's worked himself into position to where he needs to play. He's one of our five best offensive linemen. He's not a center and Brett can be one so that's how we made the decision."
One of Northwest's philosophies regarding the offensive line is to allow each player to learn the different positions on the line. It helps them move to different spots when needed.
"Our offense is good that you could play left guard or right guard and nothing changes," Grozinger said. "You are interchangeable and it doesn't matter where you are at."
Obviously, the responsibilities at center are different from left or right guard.
"There are a lot of things. He makes our line calls, which is really critical for us," Tjeerdsma said. "They have to recognize the fronts. If they are wrong on that, then our whole blocking scheme is wrong. That's the most important thing.
"And just the tempo of the game falls on the center's shoulders. If he's slow getting up there and getting set it just slows everything down.
"We really preach to our centers that they got to be the first one up there set and ready to go. They are the center point of your offense so everybody knows where to go."
No matter where he is at, Grozinger likes being on the front line. He said he likes the physicality of it. Every offensive play he is hitting somebody.
"We never are noticed until something goes wrong and that's fine," he said. "We block for a good quarterback and we want him to stay on his feet and not be pressured."
The Bearcats are now entering the weekly routine of a football season. They no longer have to wait over two weeks between games.
The next couple of months basically boil down to class, practice, study and game on Saturday.
"I've been ready for it," Grozinger said. "I wish we picked up another game.
"You get in a rhythm. You always have something that you have to schedule things around."
Sometimes the schedule is very tight. For instance, on Tuesday, Grozinger was present at the weekly media luncheon at the Student Union. He showed up at noon. He had less than an hour to eat, listen to the fall coaches talk about their season and then do several interviews before rushing off to his 1 p.m. class.
Grozinger was headed to his senior seminar class.
"It's basically a class designed for seniors before they send you out into the workforce," Grozinger said. "It helps you prepare a resume, a cover letter and get some experience communicating, written and orally."
Before senior seminar, Grozinger was communicating quite well what it takes to play center for the Bearcats.
"It's less physically demanding than left guard," he said. "You don't have to pull as much. But you have to communicate more. You have to tell everyone where to go. You have to snap the ball on time and make sure it gets snapped."
Grozinger has proven he's got that covered.
David Boyce spent more than 20 years covering high school and small college athletics at the Kansas City Star newspaper in Missouri. He's covered six of Northwest Missouri State's seven national championship football games and recently served as a guest columnist for the MIAA.
Boyce was named KIAAA Sportswriter of the Year in 1994. He covered boxing at the Star from 1991-2004 including Tommy Morrison and worked both championship fights between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis. His 1997 exclusive story on Morrison becoming HIV positive was named an Associated Press Sports Editor top 10 feature for papers serving more than 150,000.
Boyce was born in New York City and was raised in Kansas City, Kan. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1988 with a degree in journalism. He is currently one of three official scorers for the Kansas City Royals and is a contributing writer for the Royals Gameday magazine.
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