Dec. 5, 2009
Northwest Rolls Past Cal U to Advance to Title Game
MARYVILLE, Mo.-Northwest Missouri State running back LaRon Council ran for a career-high 216 yards and Jake Soy caught three more touchdowns to lead the second-ranked Bearcats to a 56-31 win against 22nd-ranked California (Pa.) in an NCAA semifinal contest Saturday night at Bearcat Stadium.
Northwest advances to face Grand Valley State in next Saturday's championship game in Florence, Ala. The Lakers beat Carson-Newman 41-27 in the other semifinal. The Bearcats and Lakers will meet in Florence for the third time in five years. Northwest is making a Division II-record fifth straight championship game appearance.
Council led a Bearcat ground game that compiled a season-best 306 yards and averaged 7.5 yards per carry. Council carried 13 times for 163 yards in the second half alone. He's rushed for more than 1,600 yards for the second year in a row and has totaled 21 touchdowns.
Soy caught three touchdowns in a game for the sixth time this season. He had four catches Saturday for 48 yards. Soy leads the nation with 1,441 yards receiving and his 26 touchdowns are the third highest single-season total in Division II history.
Both teams played even in the first half, but the final play of the second quarter proved to be the game-changer.
California took a knee on third down from its own 35, but Northwest coach Mel Tjeerdsma used his final timeout with seven seconds left to force the Vulcans to punt. Bearcat defensive end blocked the ensuing kick and Billy Creason scooped the loose ball at the 15-yard line and darted into the end zone.
The play gave Northwest a 21-10 lead at the break. The Vulcans went three-and-out on their first drive of the third quarter and five plays later, Creason carried in from five yards out to make it 28-10.
The Bearcats scored 28 points in the third quarter to put the Vulcans away. The rally included an 81-yard kickoff return by Jordan Simmons - the first of his career - after California had cut the lead to 28-17. Northwest led 49-24 heading into the fourth quarter.
The Vulcans totaled 482 yards against a defense that was allowing a little more than 300 yards heading into the game. Vulcan quarterback Josh Portis completed 20-of-36 passes for a season-high 367 yards and tossed three touchdowns. Terrance Moore had seven catches for 176 yards and A.J. Jackson hauled in seven more for 111 yards. Both scored touchdowns.
California running back Windell Brown carried eight times for 48 yards in the first half, but had just 12 yards on five carries in the second. Freddie Bacco, who ran for a career-high 173 yards in last week's win against West Liberty, carried seven times for 29 yards against Northwest.
Northwest quarterback Blake Bolles completed 16 passes to seven different receivers and threw for 219 yards on the night. His 41 touchdown passes this season are an MIAA record. His 3,947 yards passing this season are 129 shy of the league record set by Northwest's Chris Greisen in 1998.
• Northwest scored on its opening drive of the game for the ninth time this season
• Sean Paddock increased his program-record for career sacks to 27
• Paddock also broke the program-record with his 43rd career tackle-for-loss
• Bolles moved into second place on the school and MIAA's single-season passing yards list
• Jake Soy moved into second place on the MIAA's record list for receiving yards in a season with 1,441.
• Roberto Davis blocked his second punt of the season - both resulted in Northwest touchdowns
• Billy Creason scored two touchdowns in one game for the second time this season
• Northwest allowed only its third and fourth scores in the third quarter this season
• Northwest is 7-0 all-time in the semifinals under coach Tjeerdsma and 6-0 at home
• This is Soy's sixth game with at least three TD grabs
• Council had his seventh 100-yard rushing game this season
• QB Josh Portis broke the program-record for passing yards in a season with 3,354
• Portis has three, 300-yard passing games this season
• WR AJ Jackson has nine 100-yard receiving games this year
• Bolles' eighth game this season with at least 3 TD passes
California (Pa.) Head Coach John Luckhardt Post-Game Quotes
"We just got whooped by a better football team tonight. They're bigger and stronger up front than we are. We're pretty skilled offensively and that kept us in the game. I screwed up at the half, which put us in the hole. By going to the knee it gave them a chance to block the punt. But the only good thing I did today was call for the review on the one touchdown."
On Northwest coach Mel Tjeerdsma…
"Mel's got a hell of a team. Mel's been a friend for a long time. He deserves to win. He's won a couple already so it's not like he hasn't won it before. What ends up happening is you play so many in a row people get to doubting. He's a heck of a coach and they are a heck of a team so we wish them well, especially Mel, on Saturday against Grand Valley and we are going to go home and lick our wounds and try and get better. We got to get bigger and stronger."
On Northwest's offense…
"One of the things they have is a tremendously balanced offense and they've got weapons all over the place. They checked against our fronts and our covers and obviously they blocked us pretty doggone well. In our region we are pretty good up front. In this region, we weren't today and so we have got to get bigger and stronger - that's pretty obvious. I think what they did was they found something that was working and they just stayed with it."
Northwest Head Coach Mel Tjeerdsma Post-Game Quotes
"Well, we still know how to win semifinal games so were excited about that. It was a big win. Cal was a very good offensive team. That quarterback and the receivers that they have are probably the best we've seen all year. We did a great job offensively keeping on top of them.
"Special teams were huge tonight. That blocked punt that was a huge momentum change. Then we came out and got a stop right away and then scored. You know that's really about a two touchdown swing for us. And right after they did score we got a kickoff return for a touchdown."
On the blocked punt…
"Well it was a huge play. You know the way things were working we had two timeouts left and I told our guys that you know if we can get to that point, we're going to use them and at least make them punt. Because the first time they had punted it just didn't seem like they were that solid and we weren't even rushing that time. So we got the timeout and spent a little time with the whole group there talking about it and coach (Richard) Wright did a great job of telling them 'you can't just recover it, you have to get it into the end zone because we don't know if we're going to have any time left or not.' If the ball is on the ground we have to keep it going. That's exactly what happened. Somebody got it going and then Billy (Creason) got a good bounce and picked it up and got it in there. That's just good execution we work on that stuff all the time and those guys expect to make plays and we expect them to make plays."
On LaRon Council and Northwest's running game…
"I was surprised at how well we ran the ball. We had them on their heels. I think our tempo was real good tonight and for the most part we really had them back on their heels and I think they were concerned about our passing game and they didn't want to get beat with the passing game and they probably underestimated how well we could run the football. Our offensive line played really well tonight. I say that because you know when you look at film you may find some things but for the most part I thought they did a really good job."
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