Aug. 29, 2008
Maryville Hosts Nation's First Top-10 Matchup
MARYVILLE, Mo.-The announcement of Northwest Missouri State's 2008 season-opening opponent has kept campus buzzing since late January.
The wait is nearly over.
The third-ranked Bearcats host the eighth-ranked Wildcats of Abilene Christian University at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bearcat Stadium. It's the nation's first matchup of top 10 teams at any level of college football this season.
Of course this matchup had a great chance at taking place last December. Northwest had just doubled up West Texas A&M in its first playoff game and had received word that Abilene Christian was on its way to upsetting Chadron State (The Wildcats had a 22-point lead with nine minutes left to play).
But Chadron rallied and escaped with a 76-73 win in triple overtime. It was the most points scored by a losing team in NCAA Division II history. Instead of hosting ACU, the Bearcats traveled to Chadron for an NCAA quarterfinal showdown.
Nevertheless, the meeting between Northwest and ACU will take place Saturday and both teams have had months to reflect on their final games of 2007.
About the Offense
Northwest returns 13 starters from last year's team. Abilene Christian returns 15, including perhaps the nation's most dangerous offensive trio in quarterback Billy Malone (nearly 4,000 yards passing), running back Bernard Scott (more than 2,100 yards rushing) and wide out Johnny Knox (17 touchdown receptions). That trio was the main reason ACU led the nation with 49.2 points per game a year ago.
The Bearcats lost their premier back to the NFL, but return starters at nearly every other offensive position.
Four of five offensive linemen return including All-Americans Reid Kirby and Jeremy Davis. Raphael Robinson, who missed practically all of 2007 with an injury, rejoins Kendall Wright in the starting lineup at wide receiver. And Joel Osborn, who emerged from a two-quarterback system in 2007, is ready to take full control of the reigns in his senior year.
Juniors LaRon Council and Sheldon Cook will get first crack at filling the void left by Xavier Omon, the nation's leading rusher in 2007.
About the Defense
Both defenses have attempted to reload from last year.
The Wildcats allowed 30 points per game a year ago, although some of that can be attributed to a highly efficient offense. ACU's average scoring drive in 2007 lasted five plays and took less than two minutes.
Even so, ACU has switched from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. A majority of the teams from the Lone Star Conference feature a spread offense with multiple receivers. Head Coach Chris Thomsen hopes the changes up front will best prepare his team for conference play.
Northwest coordinator Scott Bostwick has continuously produced one of the MIAA's top defenses in his 14-year tenure and 2007 was no exception. This year, however, he'll have to replace five of his top seven players up front. Many who will start Saturday have waited patiently for their opportunity behind last year's talented group of seniors.
• Northwest has won 17 consecutive home games - the second-longest active streak in the nation. Abilene Christian hasn't won a season-opener on the road in 10 years (0-6).
• ACU's Bernard Scott averaged 166.5 yards per game last year. In 21 of Northwest's last 33 games, the opposing running back has failed to reach 60. Only three rushed for 100.
• Northwest has won 13 consecutive home openers dating back to Mel Tjeerdsma's second year with the program.
• Northwest is 7-0 against the Lone Star Conference dating back to 1994.
• The Bearcats have 20 wins against top-10 teams in the last 11 seasons.
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
firstname.lastname@example.org | 660.562.1118 | Fax: 660.562.1582
Lamkin Activity Center | 800 University Drive | Maryville, MO 64468