Nov. 6, 2010
Adolf's clutch kick gives Northwest MIAA title
WARRENSBURG, Mo.-Sophomore placekicker Todd Adolf produced strong emotions from his grandfather, Wayne Westphal, as time expired.
Westphal pointed to his eyes and the tears that dropped as he watched Adolf's 45-yard, game-winning field goal sail through the uprights in Northwest Missouri State's thrilling 17-16 victory over Central Missouri.
A MIAA-record crowd of 13,096 filled Walton Stadium on a gorgeous Saturday afternoon and witnessed the latest installment in the Bearcats' incredible 45-game conference winning streak.
Adolf entered Bearcat lore and will forever be remembered as the unlikely hero who kept the streak going.
In the second quarter, Adolf missed an easy 26-yard field goal. He wanted another chance.
"If we would have lost by a couple of points, I would have been pretty crushed," he said.
Adding to the intrigue was the fact that Adolf had never made a game-winning field goal at any level.
So when he rushed onto the field as the clock ticked down from 6 seconds, 5, 4..., it seemed nearly unthinkable he would nail a career-best 45-yard field goal.
"I didn't have a whole lot of time to think about it," Adolf said. "My whole family was here. I was happy they were able to see it. It's a dream come true."
The ending couldn't have been better for Westphal, who recalled days when Adolf was a bat boy for his baseball team.
"Tears were coming down my face," Westphal said after he saw the field goal.
The winning boot pushed Northwest's record to 8-1 overall and 8-0 with sole possession of first place in the MIAA. Central ended its regular season at 9-2 overall and 8-1 in the MIAA.
Central, though, will likely make its second-ever appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs. Still, that didn't take the sting out of the final outcome that left thousands of Mule fans simply stunned.
"We had an opportunity in every phase of the game to put them away," said Central coach Jim Svoboda. "We won a game like that this year.
"It's no accident they pulled it off. It's obvious they practiced it. Those kids knew what they were doing."
Northwest coach Mel Tjeerdsma said, yes, his heart went out to Svoboda, who was his offensive coordinator for his 1998 and '99 national championship teams.
"But you still want to win," Tjeerdsma said.
The way both teams went at it for 3 hours, it was clearly evident that was the attitude of everybody involved in this classic MIAA contest.
Emotions went off the charts in Bearcat nation when the game ended.
Shouts of "unbelievable" came from Northwest coaches in the press box. Players rushed Adolf. Fans stayed on the field for over 30 minutes talking about what just happened.
"For my senior year, this was the best one I've ever had," said Northwest senior cornerback Ryan Jones. "I'm speechless right now. I don't know what to say.
"The national championship game last year was No. 1, but this was No. 1 for all the MIAA games I've played in."
Jones was one of many Bearcats who made significant plays to keep Northwest within two points and a chance to win.
With just under 11 minutes left, Anthony Stewart caught a screen pass and raced 71 yards down the sidelines. He looked like he was going to score. Jones tackled him at the 9.
The Mules got to the 6 and missed a 23-yard field goal.
The play that looked like it was going to end Northwest's conference winning streak came with just over 3 minutes left and with Central facing 4th and 2 at Northwest's 46.
Punter Matt Jordan faked his punt and scampered 12 yards for the first down. A personal foul against Northwest was tacked on and the Mules had the ball at the 17. They eventually tried and missed a 25-yard field goal.
Northwest got the ball on the 20 and had 1:52 left and no timeouts to work its magic.
"We just wanted to take what the defense gave us," Northwest quarterback Blake Bolles said. "We just had to hit the underneath stuff and we slowly had to work our way down field. We had a little trick play."
The Bearcats' trick play worked to perfection. Bolles threw the ball to tight end Josh Baker, who then flipped it to Tyler Shaw for a 30-yard gain that put the ball on Central's 37.
"In those situations there are very few things you can draw up," Baker said. "That's a limited play that isn't going to work for us all the time. It happened for us today. My main job was to get open and pitch it and that's what I did."
The last offensive play on third down was an 8-yard reception by Jake Soy that put the ball on Central's 29 with 18 seconds left.
The Bearcats had no choice but to run out its field goal team.
"It's crazy," said Baker, who is in his only season with the Bearcats. "It is great to be with a group of guys who know we are going to win.
"We know it doesn't come easy. That's why we work the entire offseason. I really believe we work harder than any program in Division II. It's not really luck. It's almost destiny because we work so hard for it."
Unlike the previous two weeks in which the offense carried the Bearcats, it was the defense which came up big time after time. Five times Central got inside Northwest's 15 and only once did it score a touchdown.
"This is tremendous," said Northwest senior free safety Aldwin Foster-Rettig. "The defense held them. We treat each other like a band of brothers. We trust each other and have each other's back. As long as we have that, we can handle any job."
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