Dec. 6, 2008
Back To 'Bama For Fourth Year in a Row
MARYVILLE, Mo.-LaRon Council rushed for 139 yards and four touchdowns to lead third-ranked Northwest Missouri State to a 41-7 win against fifth-ranked North Alabama Saturday in a national semifinal contest at Bearcat Stadium.
The Bearcats (13-1), now 6-0 all-time in semifinal contests, will play for the national title for the fourth year in a row. Northwest will face Minnesota-Duluth (14-0) next Saturday at noon in Florence, Ala. The Bearcats have lost the last three title games by three, four and five points.
Northwest led 20-0 late in the first quarter. North Alabama (12-2) totaled 10 yards in the opening frame with no first downs and a lost fumble. The Lions also punted into a strong wind three times, none of which went further than 17 yards.
The Bearcats scored on all four first-quarter possessions. Tommy Frevert made field goals from 30 and 26 yards. Brian Shannon caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Joel Osborn and Council scored from 3 yards out.
The Lions got on the board early in the second quarter on a 1-yard plunge by Mike McLendon. It was North Alabama's longest drive of the game at 64 yards and was the only drive that netted more than 37.
Myles Burnsides intercepted his sixth pass of the season and returned it 34 yards to the 1-yard line with 1:06 remaining in the first half. Council scored on the next play and Northwest took a 27-7 lead into halftime.
The Bearcats took the opening kick of the second half and marched 45 yards in seven plays to take a 34-7 lead. Sheldon Cook's career-long, 46-yard kickoff return set up the drive. Facing 3rd-and-18 from the 19, Osborn scrambled to the 6 and lateraled to Council before being tackled. Council carried the rest of the way for his third score of the game.
The Lions failed on 4th-and-4 near midfield on the ensuing possession. Northwest ran the ball 10 straight times and made it 41-7 on a 5-yard sweep by Council, who carried eight times for 41 yards on the drive.
Lion quarterback A.J. Milwee completed 19-of-39 passes for 137 yards - his second lowest output of the season. He led North Alabama in rushing with 36 yards on 14 carries.
Milwee, a finalist for the Harlon Hill Award, was the nation's third-most efficient passer heading into the game. He'd averaged 244 yards and thrown 27 touchdowns against four interceptions prior to Saturday's game.
Northwest passed for a season-low 69 yards, but rushed for 186. The Bearcats committed no turnovers against a team that forced 44 this season.
Council has scored 36 touchdowns this season - the most in the nation. He'll enter Saturday's championship game two shy of the Bearcats' record set last year by Xavier Omon.
Northwest Missouri State Head Coach Mel Tjeerdsma Post-Game Quotes
We're thrilled to be going back. There's a different attitude this year, I really believe that. These guys have kept everything so much in perspective and we've got another game to go. I think that's all we want to think about right now.
It was a great win tonight. I think we beat an awfully good football team. We were fortunate the way it played out early. That wind was a huge advantage early. We can't take credit for winning the coin flip - they lost it. Regardless we got the wind early and that really set the tone for the game. A couple of turnovers. We didn't turn the ball over tonight and that's huge against their football team.
Our focus is on one thing and that's Minnesota-Duluth. Their 14-0 and I watched them a little bit this afternoon, obviously a very good football and they'll be two good teams playing for a national championship.
On Osborn's pitch to Council…
A.D. (Offensive Coordinator Adam Dorrel) said to me, 'what's he doing, what should I tell him?' and I said tell him to keep on winning, because he's a winner. A lot of guys you'd be upset with (the play), but Joel Osborn's a winner, I've been saying that every since we got him. He makes things happen.
On getting back to Florence for a fourth time…
I think the reason we do it is because we flush all that and start over. Those last three games are all history. This team's got their own identity. We talk about that every year in the spring. When we start, this team has to have its own identity. This is our team and whatever happened before…traditions great, guys. It means a lot when I can stand out on that field and talk to our kids and point to the press box about getting your year up there. But you still have to do it as a team each year.
On the play of Myles Burnsides…
We knew we were getting a very good football player, but he's more than that. He's so instinctive. Myles just has that ability to be in the right place at the right time. He's a guy that doesn't say anything all week. He comes in and watches a ton of film…all our kids do. They (Northwest players) worked so hard last week, watching film, getting ready for this game that those things don't surprise you. They don't take anything for granted.
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