Dec. 15, 2007
Late Touchdown Tops Northwest
FLORENCE, Ala.-Michael Terry scored from 1-yard out in the final 30 seconds to give Valdosta State a 25-20 win against Northwest Missouri State in the Division II National Championship game Saturday at Braly Municipal Stadium. It's the second championship for the Blazers, who defeated Pittsburg State to win the title in 2004.
Northwest (12-2) became the fourth program to appear in three consecutive championship games, but were denied a ring for the third straight year. The Bearcats' three championship losses were by three, four and now five points.
Xavier Omon scored in his 18th consecutive game, but was held to 63 yards on 27 carries by the Blazers - his lowest rushing total of the season. He finishes his career with 7,073 yards and 98 touchdowns. He's the second leading rusher in Division II history.
Joel Osborn completed 18 of his 28 passes for 150 yards including one touchdown. That touchdown went to Mike Peterson, who led Northwest with 89 yards on six receptions.
The Blazers (13-1), who had trailed in the second half of all three playoff games leading up to the championship, dug themselves a 14-3 hole in this one. Valdosta scored on its first possession of the second half and took its first lead, 17-14, early in the fourth.
The lead was short-lived, but the Blazers had one last comeback in them. Terry's score completed an eight-play, 37-yard drive and took the clock down to 22 seconds. An interception in the final seconds sealed the win.
Quarterback Willie Copeland was 29 of 44 for 257 yards and a score for Valdosta. Cedric Jones caught 10 passes for a game-high 95 yards.
Other than their lone touchdown drive in the second half, the Bearcats had two three-and-outs and had its three other drives stalled by penalty. The killer was a hold after Omon had broke free for a first down with five minutes remaining. The penalty backed the Bearcats up to their 11-yard line. A punt, and Terry's go-ahead score, followed.
Valdosta kicker Zac Williams' 35-yard field goal was the only score of the first quarter and it came on the Blazers' opening possession. Northwest had gone 12 straight games without surrendering a point on its opponents first drive of the game.
The Bearcats' first score came early in the second quarter and was recorded by coordinator Scott Bostwick's defense. Tommy Miller tipped a Willie Copeland pass and Aldwin Foster-Rettig intercepted and raced 31 yards down the right sideline to give Northwest its first lead. It was Foster-Rettig's second interception this season - both were returned for touchdowns.
The offense struck just before the half. Michael Stadler pinned the Blazers on their own 3-yard line and the Bearcat defense forced a three-and-out. Northwest took over on its own 47 with 52 seconds remaining.
Osborn started the drive with a 7-yard completion to Omon. He then hit Mike Peterson for three straight passes, including a 37-yarder down to the 3. A fake handoff to Omon left Peterson all alone in the end zone and Osborn hit him in the chest to extend the lead to 14-3. Osborn was 4 of 4 and accounted for all 53 yards on the drive.
Northwest went 3-and-out on its first possession of the second half. A short punt into a stiff wind gave the Blazers field position at the Northwest 44-yard line.
Valdosta needed six plays and less than two minutes to cut the lead to 14-10. Copeland scrambled on first-and-goal from the 7 and found Clay Callaway wide open in the back of the end zone. It was the third touchdown reception for Callaway on the year.
The Blazers took their first lead of the game early in the fourth when Copeland connected with Zach Parker for a 14-yard score. Copeland was 5 of 7 for 55 yards on the drive.
It took less than a minute for the Bearcats to answer.
Sheldon Cook returned the ensuing kick 34 yards into Valdosta territory. Osborn connected with Caleb Obert for 33 yards down to the 15. Kendall Wright carried on a reverse down to the 2 and Omon surged ahead on the next play for a score and a 20-17 lead.
Maurice Leggett blocked the extra point and sent it into the hands of Roger King, who raced to the other end and recorded the first defensive extra point in Division II championship history. The score made it 20-19 Northwest with less than 13 minutes remaining.
The Bearcats had regained the lead, but the momentum had quickly shifted. Northwest failed to gain a first down the rest of the way, swinging field position back to the Blazers leading up to the winning score.
Matt Robertson and Jared Erspamer had 15 and 12 tackles, respectively, to lead all players. The duo became the first players to record 100 tackles in a season for Northwest since 1999. Myles Burnsides added eight stops for the Bearcats.
Northwest head coach Mel Tjeerdsma Post-Game Quotes:
"I don't know if words can describe the disappointment that I feel for these guys. They've done a great job and we've had a great run. They got beat by a very good football team.
"You have to give Valdosta State a lot of credit. They made some plays when they had to. I felt like their defense did a great job all day. They really shut down our running game for the most part, something that nobody else has been able to do for quite some time. They did a great job at that. We had a couple of critical holding penalties in the second half that really killed us. Those are the kinds of things that when you play in the National Championship Game, you can't make those kind of mistakes."
On the play of his defense…
"I thought, defensively, we did a pretty good job. We kept everything in front of us. We didn't let them get big plays. We got a turnover or two there. The blocked extra point was a huge momentum turner when it was returned for two points as it was there."
On where the program goes from here…
"We have to go back home and get start getting ready for another season. I thank all our seniors for a great job they have done for us. These guys have played in more playoff games than any other group - 15 playoff games - and I appreciate that."
Valdosta State head coach David Dean Post-Game Quotes:
"Obviously, I'm very proud of our kids. We had a four-game playoff run and in every game we played we were either behind at the half or tied at the half. Our kids never panicked - you never felt like they were out of the game.
"It's just a resilient group. I told them last night before we broke up for the last time in a team meeting, they single-handedly brought together an entire community in Valdosta."
On the defensive conversion…
"It was really going to be a momentum-changer, but then we lost a little bit of cool and lost our discipline a little bit. We actually had cut it to one and was going to get good field position, but the 15-yard penalty cost us a lot of yardage.
"But that was huge. We had just taken the lead and 2 or 3 plays later they're back in the end zone and they're fixing to seize the momentum. Somehow … we found a way to knock that momentum off their back."
Northwest Individual Notes:
• Matt Robertson made the first tackle of the game, becoming the first Bearcat to reach 100 tackles in a season since 1999
• Jared Erspamer also recorded his 100th tackle of the season in the first quarter.
• Michael Stadler's first punt was a career-long 70 yards for a touchback. It was also the longest in championship history. Stadler later pinned Blazers at the 3-yard line in his 20th punt inside the 20 this season.
• Robertson's sack in the first quarter was his 3.5 this season. It was also his second sack in as many games.
• Xavier Omon broke the record for rushing yards during the playoffs on his fourth carry of the game. Omon needed 14 yards to break Pittsburg State's Ronald Moore's record of 708 yards set in 1992. Omon finished with 771 yards in four postseason games.
• Both of Aldwin Foster-Rettig intereceptions this season were returned for touchdowns. His 31-yard interception return in the second quarter gave Northwest a 7-3 lead.
• Foster-Rettig's interception return for a touchdown was the first in a championship game since 2004 and the fourth in championship history. It was the third-longest return in championship history.
• Ike Urum-Eke was credited with half-a-sack in the second quarter. He finished with 2.5 sacks in four postseason games.
• Mike Peterson recorded his fifth receiving touchdown this season and his second career touchdown in a championship game. It was Peterson's 17th career touchdown reception, good for sixth all-time in program history.
• Sheldon Cook's 34-yard kickoff return in the fourth quarter is the longest of his career.
• Xavier Omon scored a touchdown in his 18th consecutive game. Omon scored in 47 of his 54 career games played at Northwest.
Northwest Team Notes:
• Northwest won the coin toss and differed; Valdosta chose to receive
• The temperature was 60 degrees at kickoff - the third warmest temperature in championship history
• Northwest joins Grand Valley State (2001-03), North Alabama (1993-95) and North Dakota State (1983-86) as the only programs to appear in three consecutive championship games.
• Valdosta scored three points on its opening possession, the first opening-drive points given up by the Bearcats since their season opener against UNO (field goal).
• Northwest intercepted its 16th pass of the season and had its fourth pick returned for a score.
• Northwest recorded two sacks or more in 12 of 14 games this season (11-1). The Bearcats had four against Valdosta.
• Northwest outscored its opponents 157-43 in the first quarter and 322-124 in the first half this season.
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