Dec. 8, 2007
Bearcats Heading Back to 'Bama with 34-16 Victory
MARYVILLE, Mo.-It wasn't for a national championship, but it felt just as nice.
Northwest Missouri State beat top-ranked Grand Valley State 34-16 in front of more than 7,000 cold and raucous fans Saturday at Bearcat Stadium. The Bearcats ended the Lakers 40-game winning streak and will compete for the national championship for the third straight season. Northwest was the national runner-up to Grand Valley in 2005 and 2006.
Northwest trailed 13-10 at halftime, but got 204 yards rushing and three total touchdowns from running back Xavier Omon in the second half. Omon carried 31 times for 292 yards and three scores in the game. He also scored on an 11-yard reception from quarterback Joel Osborn early in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats scored three touchdowns and a field goal on their first four second-half possessions.
Omon's 98-yard touchdown run with nine minutes remaining was the game's final score and the exclamation point the Bearcats. The length of the run was for a new program and MIAA record.
Omon broke 7,000 yards rushing in his career (7,010), just the second back in Division II history to reach the mark. Along the way he passed Emporia State's Brian Shay and Pittsburg State's Germaine Race to be the all-time leading rusher in the MIAA. He's Division II's leading rusher this season with 2,274 yards.
Northwest forced a three-and-out on Grand Valley's first possession of the second half, and then marched 69 yards on 10 plays for a score and the lead. Omon carried six times on the drive and capped it with an 8-yard touchdown.
The teams exchanged field goals before the Lakers committed their first and only turnover of the game. Quarterback Brad Iciek, under pressure, threw a jump ball, which Ryan Jones intercepted 22 yards downfield and returned 50 yards to the Grand Valley 15.
Facing 3rd-and-6 from the 11 two plays later, Osborn scrambled and found Omon in the flat. Omon made one Laker miss, then tip-toed the sideline before diving for the pylon and the score. It was Omon's first touchdown reception of the season and it gave Northwest a 27-16 lead.
A 62-yard punt by Justin Trumble pinned the Bearcats on the 2 when their drive started with 9:14 remaining. Omon took it to the house on the next play. Brant Gregg took out a linebacker and Omon beat the safety after driving through a large hole in the middle of the line. Omon was untouched on the play.
Trumble, in his first start as the placekicker for Grand Valley, made field goals of 27-, 32- and 32-yards in the game, but missed a 33-yarder with seven minutes remaining after the holder mishandled the snap. Trumble had a 71-yard punt on the game's final play. He averaged 47.8 yards on five punts.
Osborn completed 20-of-25 passes for 238 yards and a score. He fired a 24-yard bullet to Caleb Obert on fourth-and-16 from the Grand Valley 32-yard line on the second to last play of the third quarter. It was Obert's fourth reception of the season and it set up a 22-yard field goal by Tommy Frevert for a 20-16 lead.
Iciek was 23-for-42 for 273 yards for Grand Valley. He found running back James Berezik wide open out of the back field for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:20 left in the first half. The score gave Grand Valley a 13-7 lead.
Osborn drove the Bearcats to the 13-yard line, setting up Frevert's 30-yard field goal just before halftime. Osborn was 6-for-6 on the drive for 64 yards. He had a 25-yard gain to Kendall Wright on the first play of the drive and an 8-yarder to Wright on the last play prior to the field goal.
Northwest's defense limited Grand Valley to 130 yards and three points in the second half. Myles Burnsides had a team-high eight tackles and Caleb Dohrman recorded his team-leading seventh sack of the season.
Grand Valley needed 10 plays or more on all four of its scoring drives. The Lakers ran three offensive plays on six of their other seven drives and eight plays before missing the field goal.
Grand Valley came into Saturday's game averaging 250 yards rushing, but mustered 101 against Northwest. Berezik led the Lakers with 49 yards.
Northwest advances to face Valdosta State, which beat California (Pa.) 28-24 in the other semifinal game Saturday. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Game time from Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala., will be 11 a.m. CST. ESPN2 will broadcast the game live.
- Mel Tjeerdsma has a NCAA Division II record 22 postseason victories.
- Xavier Omon reached 2,000 season yards on the second carry tonight - he's the sixth player in MIAA history to reach 2,000 yards in a season.
- Xavier Omon has scored at least one rushing touchdown in his last 17 games (since Nov. 25, 2006).
- Has scored two or more rushing touchdowns in seven straight games.
- Xavier Omon has rushed for 100 or more yards in 16 of the last 17 games.
- Xavier Omon's 292 rushing yards are the most allowed by Grand Valley by a single player this season.
- Xavier Omon scored his first receiving touchdown of the season with 11:05 remaining in the game.
- Jared Erspamer recorded three quarterback hurries, a career-high.
- Kendall Wright's 36-yard punt return in the first quarter is his career best in a postseason contest.
- Previous: 34, Midwestern (Texas) State, Nov. 25, 2006.
- Northwest is 5-0 when Joel Osborn passes for 200 or more yards this season.
- Joel Osborn was 13-of-16 in the first half for 154 yards - ended the night 20-of-25 for 238 yards and a touchdown.
- Sheldon Cook ran back four kick returns, tying a career-high.
- Xavier Omon's 98-yard touchdown rush sets a new Northwest and MIAA record.
- Tied the NCAA Division II postseason record.
- Omon's touchdown came in at No. 4 in ESPN's Top 10 Plays from Dec. 8.
- Xavier Omon has rushed for 200 or more yards in five games this season.
- Xavier Omon set the MIAA career rushing record with a 44-yard rush in the fourth quarter. He ended the night with 7,010.
- He stands second in NCAA Division II records (behind Chadron State's Danny Woodhead: 7,962).
- Xavier Omon has rushed for 708 yards in three postseason games. He needs 14 to surpass Pittsburg State's Ronald Moore, whose 721 yards in 1992 holds the record.
- Omon leads NCAA Division II with 2,274 rushing yards this season.
- That mark is second in MIAA season records.
- That mark is fourth in NCAA Division II records.
- Caleb Dohrman notched his seventh sack of the season - moves into a tie for ninth in Northwest season records.
- Northwest has won 17 straight games at home (since 2005).
- First game for Grand Valley State in Bearcat Stadium.
- Northwest is 2-2 against Grand Valley State all-time.
- The Northwest win snaps Grand Valley State's 40-game win streak (NCAA Division II record).
- Last Laker lost occurred in 2004 quarterfinals when Grand Valley State lost at North Dakota (Nov. 27, 2004).
- First time since Oct. 13, 2007 that Grand Valley State allowed a single player to rush for multiple touchdowns.
- First time this season Grand Valley State has scored three field goals this season.
- Northwest is 119-9 when leading after the third quarter under Tjeerdsma.
- Northwest has made seven interceptions during the 2007 playoffs, returning them for 251 yards.
- Twelve different players have made interceptions for Northwest in 2007.
- The 251 yards is a Northwest postseason record.
- The 34 points scored are the most scored against Grand Valley State in the series.
- Previous: 26, Sept. 15, 1984 at Grand Valley State.
- Northwest is 5-0 in semifinal games.
- Northwest held Grand Valley State to 101 rushing yards - the Lakers averaged 252.8 yards entering tonight.
- The Bearcats have not allowed a 100-yard rusher in the last five games.
- Northwest is outrushing opponents 1,598-336 in seven home games.
- The MIAA will be represented in the national championship game for the fourth straight season. Pittsburg State advanced in 2004 while Northwest advanced in 2005-07.
- Northwest notched a season-high seven quarterback hurries.
Northwest head coach Mel Tjeerdsma post-game quotes:
On those that worked on the stadium to make it ready for the game:
"First of all before I talk about the game I want to say thank you to the people who did all of the work to get our stadium to look the way it did after five inches of snow. If you were here you would appreciate it. Every bleacher seat was clean and the stadium was great. That's what makes us a great program; we've got people who support us like that. Thank you to our fans who came out tonight, an hour and a half before the game and we have 1,000 students in the stands already.
On the win tonight:
"I'm glad number two plays for us and not anyone else. We had tremendous effort on both sides of the ball tonight. It took a little while to get going. I thought our offense struggled a little bit; one of the keys for our offense was the drive right before the half. We went 70 yards in a little over two minutes and ended up getting a field goal out of that, which doesn't seem like a whole lot but it gave us some momentum. We talked about it at halftime that we have to force the issue with them and if you notice in the second half we got up on the line and got right after it. I think our guys really responded to that and I think that all helped our defense as well. The biggest adjustment was that we got pressure on the quarterback."
On what this win means to him:
"Well, we've only played three times and they've beat us twice. They're an awfully good football team. Right before the half I said I wish they'd make a mistake. We had to go to the third quarter until they finally turned the ball over once. I'm proud of the kids and that they rose to the occasion. This team has struggled some during the season, it hasn't all been a smooth season but we're playing well when it counts and we're playing a little better each week and we have one week to go."
On Coach Martin coming to the Northwest huddle to tell the team he was going to run the clock out so that no one would get hurt in the final minutes:
"I'm glad he said it. That was probably a wise decision at that choice. I've never had it happen before, but I respect him for it and I appreciate it. It was a good chance for us to get out of there without anyone getting hurt and them being able to get out of here and go home."
On the play of the offensive and defensive lines:
"I think we played with more confidence as the game went on. It's hard to be real confident with them if you watch film like we've watched film. They're a good football team and they're really good upfront. Our guys as the game went on started playing better and we started realizing that we're alright and we're going to win this thing."
Grand Valley head coach Chuck Martin post-game quotes:
"Obviously I'm very disappointed in the outcome of the football game. We just got beat. They out-played us on both sides of the ball. We had some opportunities; obviously the three field goals hurt us. When you play good teams you've got to get seven points out of that situation. If we could have cashed in in the red zone and put seven on the board, maybe we could have had a two score lead or little wider margin then we would have had a little bit more momentum going into the second half.
"They (Northwest Bearcats) are a class act and I love competing against them and unfortunately we didn't love competing against them tonight. We didn't get the job done."
On Northwest running back Xavier Omon:
"I thought we did a heck of a job on Omon in the first half. Obviously he shook lose and made a great run for their lone touchdown. Obviously Omon is a good player and everybody is going to write about him because he had a monstrous game again, but they have a lot of good besides Xavier Omon. Not to take away from Omon because anyone that ever listened to me talk at all; I believe he is the best player in the country in Division II. I certainly think he might have proved that tonight"
On some of the miscues tonight:
"Well with the false starts, it's so hard to go on a silent count because of the crowd. If you play Division I football you go on a silent count every weekend when you are on the road. So for us, that's not an excuse, we shouldn't have false starts, but to me that's uncharacteristic. Certainly the crowd has an impact there.
"They have pretty good players and they are in there just grinding away and battling and we got called for a couple holding penalties. Brad made a mistake on the interception. He plays quarterback for 60 minutes against a pretty good defense, you are probably going to make a mistake and they made the play when you make the mistake."
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