Nov. 10, 2011
The playoffs start now for Bearcats
By David Boyce
Northwest Missouri State football players walked off the field last week at Missouri Western discouraged by a three-point loss and wondering if its seven-year run of making the NCAA Division II playoffs were over.
Before the game, the Bearcats were ranked third and the Griffons were seventh in Super Region 4. Only the top six teams advance.
“AD (Coach Adam Dorrel) said it would be close,” senior offensive lineman Cody Johnson said.
At 8-2 overall, the Bearcats were on the bubble. The bubble didn’t burst on Northwest when the rankings came out earlier this week. Northwest dropped to sixth, meaning the Bearcats still control their playoff destiny.
“We got lucky,” Johnson said. “We did not play very well last Saturday. We feel like we got new life. The playoffs start this week for us.”
Northwest heads into its final regular season game at 1 p.m. Saturday at home against Emporia State with plenty to play for.
The Bearcats definitely can’t lose if they want to make the playoffs. In addition, it is the last home game for the seniors.
“We need to go out and play as hard as we can and control what we can control and see where the cards fall,” Johnson said.
“All we can control is Saturday. It’s a big game for us. We know one thing: it is going to be the last game for us seniors.”
Johnson, though, is not looking back at all the great things this senior class has accomplished. He is not even looking back to last week or last month to the two losses, each by a mere three points.
“That’s all in the past,” Johnson said. “It happened. We can only look to this week. There is no reason to look back at it. We did not play well in those games. You have to give credit to Mo. West and Pitt State. But that wasn’t Bearcat football. We have to jump on Emporia early, and we need to play physical and play Bearcat football.”
For Northwest, Saturday’s contest against Emporia State is not a walk-through game in which the Bearcats only have to show up to get a win.
The Hornets have won three straight games.
“Emporia State is a hot team right now,” Johnson said. “They have a lot to play for. They are playing for a winning record and a bowl game. They have some good skilled players. They play physical. It’s a playoff game for us.”
Johnson said it is good for the younger players to get into playoff mode before the playoffs actually start.
“It was good to see the younger guys really step up in practice,” Johnson said. “This is their first experience of playoff ball. We emphasized it the last couple of days that in playoff ball you got to raise your level. It was encouraging to see all the younger guys go hard and make plays Tuesday in practice.
“It feels good to have our backs against the wall. Every year we have been the top hunted. This year we have been under the radar. It’s a chance to prove some people wrong.”
Mostly, though, the Bearcats want to show that they are still a NCAA Division II playoff team.
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