Dec. 10, 2005
Northwest Falls 21-17 to Grand Valley in NCAA Championship Game
FLORENCE, Ala. - No. 21 Northwest Missouri State football had its season come to a close in the 21-17 loss to No. 1 Grand Valley State in the NCAA Division II National Championship this afternoon at Braly Municipal Stadium with 6,837 fans in attendance. With one second remaining and the ball resting on the Grand Valley 22-yard line, senior quarterback Josh Lamberson hit redshirt freshman Rapheal Robinson at the four but time ran out as several GVSU defenders held Robinson from the goal line.
Northwest ends with a 11-4 overall record while Grand Valley remains a perfect 13-0. The Championship is the third for Grand Valley.
"First off, congratulations to Grand Valley - they are a great football team," said head coach Mel Tjeerdsma. "They played an excellent game. They did the things and executed the things they had to do to win the football game. With that being said, I can't tell you how proud I am of this football team. I felt like we were going to win the game until we didn't get in the end zone."
After Grand Valley took the lead 21-17 on a 35-yard screen pass, Northwest had 4:15 left to attempt a second straight come-back win. Lamberson, who set a NCAA Championship record for most completed passes (33) and attempts (49), hit three different receivers to put the ball at the Northwest 40. Senior fullback Mitch Herring hauled in a five-yard completion and moved the chains to the 17-yard line. After a spike to stop the clock, Lamberson seemed to connect with sophomore E.J. Falkner in the back of the end zone but Falkner was unable to drag his feet inbounds. Lamberson was sacked on the next play before Robinson came up just short.
Both offenses moved the ball efficiently in the early going. Northwest took the opening drive 70 yards in 13 plays capped by a 30-yard toss from Lamberson to junior tight end Mike Peterson. Grand Valley countered as Cullen Finnerty rushed from five yards out, and after the successful PAT, the score was tied 7-7 with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
Sophomore Xavier Omon picked up his ninth career postseason rushing touchdown, tops on the Northwest career list, late in the first. His two-yard plunge put Northwest up 14-7 at the half.
After allowing the first quarter score, the Northwest defense proved to be stingy. Spanning the middle two quarters, Grand Valley went three-and-out four times with another drive covering just 20 yards on five plays. The Lakers converted their first third-down play midway through the third quarter on a third-and-seven.
Instant replay came into effect for the first time in the Championships near the 9:00 mark in the third. A Lamberson pass was initially ruled an interception in Grand Valley territory but instant replay overturned the ruling. The overruling did not affect the game much as Northwest punted on the ensuing play.
Finnerty collected his second rushing score of the day with a three-yard run late in the third. That keeper knotted the score at 14-14 going into the fourth. On the first play in the final stanza, freshman placekicker Tommy Frevert hit his 11th field goal of the season from 35 yards to give the advantage back to Northwest at 17-14. Frevert took over seventh place on the Northwest season list for field goals made.
GVSU's Scott Greene lined up from 34 yards out on the next possession but his field goal attempt hooked right. Northwest was unable to sustain a drive and gave the ball right back to Grand Valley with 8:57 remaining. On the ensuing drive, Finnerty found a wide open Brandon Langston in the left flat for the winning score. That play covered 35 yards at the 4:25 mark.
Peterson became the 10th player in Championship history to go over 100 receiving yards as he posted a personal-best 150 yards on nine catches. His total was fifth-best ever behind the 270 done by Grand Valley State's David Kircus in 2002.
Lamberson tied a school record with his completions and his 326 passing yards is the third highest of his career. He set school season records for passing yards (3,766) and completions (324). Omon added to his school-record rushing total of 1,643 yards with 63 on 13 carries this afternoon. With his five catches for 42 yards, senior Andre Rector now owns 97 season catches for 1,297 yards which are both high marks at Northwest.
A trio of Northwest defenders had seven tackles including juniors Ben Harness, Quinten Womack and sophomore Chris Termini. Senior Dave Tollefson, who finishes with a school-record 12.5 sacks, compiled six tackles including two for-a-loss.
Grand Valley's Finnerty was 12-of-19 for 172 yards and one touchdown. Running back Astin Martin came away with 72 yards on 18 carries.
Northwest had four more first downs (20-16) and held a 380-337 yards advantage. There were a mere four penalties during the game.
NOTES: Northwest drops to 16-8 all-time in NCAA Division II playoff history including 2-1 in the National Championship game … In the all-time series, Northwest is 1-1 against Grand Valley State … Northwest is 1-3 all-time when playing No. 1 teams … The Bearcats converted their first seven third-down opportunities and two fourth-down plays in the game … Josh Lamberson ends his career having thrown at least one touchdown in 26 straight games …. The 326 passing yards was the sixth 300-yard game of Lamberson's career … The Grand Valley defense entered the contest allowing just 88.3 rushing yards and 11.8 points per game - Northwest had 76 rushing yards and 14 points by halftime … Northwest was flagged for more yardage for the first 13 games of the season but it has been the opposite the last two games … The zero combined turnovers was the first time that notable occurred in Championship history … The four-point margin of victory tied for the seventh closest game in Championship history … Lamberson ends his Northwest career tops in completions (575), total offense (8,064) and completion percentage (65.9) … The Bearcats were a perfect four-of-four on fourth-down conversions today.
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