Dec. 11, 2008
Bearcats, Bulldogs Compete For Nation's Top Prize
MARYVILLE, Mo.-Division II football's top prize is on the line Saturday as third-ranked Northwest Missouri State (13-1) takes on sixth-ranked and unbeaten Minnesota Duluth (14-0) for the national title. Kickoff from Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala., is noon CST.
The game will be broadcast live on ESPN2 with Pam Ward and Ray Bentley calling the action. Westwood One is producing the national radio broadcast, which will start at 11:30 a.m., CST, on WHB (810 AM) in Kansas City.
Northwest is the second team in Division II history to play in four consecutive championship games, but the Bearcats haven't won the grand prize since earning back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999. Northwest has 13 playoff wins the last four seasons, more than all but seven DII programs have in their history of postseason play.
At the other end of the spectrum are the Bulldogs, who earned their first playoff victory three weeks ago. Minnesota Duluth was 4-6 last year as a member of the now defunct North Central Conference. The Bulldogs dominated the newly arranged Northern Sun Conference this season and have a chance to become the third DII team to finish 15-0.
For those who think experience may play a factor Saturday, keep this in mind - Northwest won its first title in its first try against Carson-Newman, a traditional power which had played for the title two years prior.
Minnesota Duluth has won 15 games in a row dating back to last season. They've trailed in one game this year, Grand Valley State, and that lasted for three minutes, three seconds. Three teams have scored more than 13 points against the Bulldog defense and six failed to score more than seven.
Northwest, meanwhile, has won 13 in a row and avenged its season-opening loss two weeks ago at Abilene Christian. The Bearcats' resume includes five wins against top 10 teams. They've averaged more than 45 points in their last five games.
Both teams lead their respective conferences in scoring offense and defense and total offense and defense. Northwest passes for 50 more yards than Duluth on average, but the Bulldogs make up the difference in their ground game. Both teams have running backs near 1,600 yards on the season and quarterbacks close to 3,000 yards passing.
Like Northwest's semifinal opponent, Minnesota Duluth has feasted on opponent miscues. The Bulldogs have forced 40 turnovers in 14 games and their 28 interceptions are second to North Alabama's 32.
The Bearcats have turned the ball over five times in their last eight games and just twice during the playoffs. Starting quarterback Joel Osborn has played seven games and thrown 182 passes since his last interception.
Bulldog quarterback Ted Schlafke has thrown 33 touchdowns against eight picks this season. He also has seven rushing touchdowns and 471 yards rushing.
The featured backs are Northwest's LaRon Council and Minnesota Duluth's Isaac Odim, who have combined for 3,200 yards and 60 rushing touchdowns this season. Council, who scored four times against North Alabama, needs three touchdowns to tie the NCAA single-season record of 39.
The similarities of the two teams continue at the safety position where the Bearcats' Myles Burnsides and Aldwin Foster-Rettig are countered by Bulldog seniors Tyler Yelk and Jim Johnson. All four players rank either second or third on their respective teams in tackles. Burnsides and Foster-Rettig combine for six interceptions. Yelk and Johnson combine for seven.
Earlier this week, Burnsides became the first Northwest player to earn national player of the year honors. Burnsides was named the Ron Lenz National Defensive Player of the Year by CoSIDA.
Northwest and Minnesota Duluth share one common opponent this season. The Bulldogs beat Missouri Western 47-18 in week two. Northwest beat Missouri Western 42-35 in week three.
The only other meeting between the two schools was in the 2002 playoffs where the Bearcats scored in the final minute to earn a 45-41 win. The teams combined for more than 1,000 yards of offense in that game. Jamaica Rector had 217 yards receiving and scored two touchdowns to lead Northwest.
The Bearcat's 2008 senior class is 50-8 in their four seasons. They're the second class in DII history to play in four national championship games, joining North Dakota State's senior class of 1986.
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