Dec. 13, 2008
Mistakes Costly in Fourth Championship Loss
FLORENCE, Ala.-Northwest had committed two turnovers in three playoff games, but four against Minnesota Duluth proved too many in a 21-14 Bulldog win in the NCAA Division II National Championship game Saturday at Braly Municipal Stadium.
Northwest lost two of its six fumbles, threw two interceptions and was sacked six times in finishing national runner-up for the fourth year in a row.
Minnesota Duluth earned its first title in its first championship game and became the third Division II team to finish a season 15-0. The Bulldogs trailed for three minutes and three seconds all season.
Quarterback Ted Schlafke threw two touchdowns, one to Isaac Odim, who also ran for a score. Minnesota Duluth scored in each of the final three quarters.
Northwest (13-2) had two chances to take the lead in the second quarter. Northwest had 1st-and-10 from the 15-yard line, but Kendall Wright's fumble ended the drive. The Bearcats later had 1st-and-10 from the 12, but a fumbled snap from center on first down and an 11-yard loss on a fumble on third down led to a missed 42-yard field goal.
With 1:17 remaining in the half, and following the missed field goal, Minnesota Duluth marched 75 yards on six plays and took the lead on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Schlafke to Tony Doherty. The Bulldogs had mustered 15 yards in the quarter leading up to the drive.
Northwest marched past midfield on its opening possession of the second half, but Joel Osborn was picked off by Cole Strilzuk, who returned the ball 42 yards to the Northwest 31. Facing 3rd-and-goal from the 5, Schlafke bought some time with his feet and found Odim on the right side of the end zone to make it 14-0.
Blake Bolles quarterbacked the ensuing Northwest drive and again the Bearcats marched past midfield. Tight end Greg Applegate's fumble following an 11-yard reception was Northwest's fourth turnover of the game.
A 4-yard run by Odim made it 21-0 early in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats made it 21-7 on a 44-yard interception return by Aldwin Foster-Rettig with eight minutes remaining. Foster-Rettig had a 31-yard interception return for a score in last year's championship game against Valdosta State.
Osborn's 1-yard pass to Raphael Robinson made it 21-14 with 1:39 remaining, but Luke Schalekamp recovered the ensuing onside kick for the Bulldogs to end the game.
LaRon Council carried 19 times for a game-high 99 yards, but was kept out of the end zone for the first time all season. Council finished with 1,739 yards rushing - the third-most in program history. His 36 touchdowns led the nation.
Willie Horn and Tyler Roach set career highs with 13 and 10 tackles, respectively, for Northwest. Horn's 13 stops were the most by any Bearcat this season.
Northwest outgained Minnesota Duluth 295-273 and held the Bulldogs to 6-of-15 on third down. Minnesota Duluth had two turnovers, allowed one sack and committed one penalty.
Osborn completed 17-of-28 passes for 182 yards and lost for just the third time as a starter (19-3). He ends his career with 5,501 yards passing - the seventh-most in program history - and with 39 touchdowns.
• Division II's 36th Football Championship
• Attendance - 6,219
• Northwest's six championship game appearances are the second-most in DII history
• Northwest is 1-1 all-time against Minnesota Duluth
• First time Northwest was shutout in the first half since 2003 (L, 0-20 at SDSU)
• Joel Osborn's string of passes without an interception ended at 190
• Kendall Wright finished his career with 64 postseason catches, the second-most in program history
• Ryan Jones ended Duluth's opening drive with his first interception of the season
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