Dec. 12, 2009
Bearcats Claim Third National Title
FLORENCE, Ala.-Northwest Missouri State running back LaRon Council ran for 172 yards and Jake Soy caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter to lead the Bearcats to a 30-23 win against Grand Valley State in the Division II national championship game Saturday at Braly Municipal Stadium.
It's the third championship for Northwest (14-1) and first since 1999. It also ends a string of four national runner-up finishes. The Bearcats are the only team to play in five straight championship games.
Bearcat coach Mel Tjeerdsma tied former North Alabama coach Bobby Wallace by winning his third national title. Tjeerdsma's 29 postseason victories are a Division II record.
Council had 136 yards in the first half to help stake Northwest to a 21-0 halftime lead. Grand Valley State cut the deficit to 23-20 early in the fourth quarter, but Soy's touchdown grab on 4th-and-4 with 10 minutes left helped seal the deal. The Lakers (13-2) had a final drive end near midfield in the final minute.
Soy caught nine passes for 118 yards and broke Ronnie West's MIAA single-season record for receiving yards. It was the third championship game in which one team had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver. Soy's 27 touchdowns and 1,559 yards receiving both led the nation.
Northwest quarterback Blake Bolles broke Chris Greisen's MIAA record for passing yards in a season. Bolles completed 15-of-23 passes for 198 yards. He threw 42 touchdowns this season and finished with 4,145 yards passing - both are MIAA records.
It was a Bolles pass to Council that set up the final score. Bolles scrambled out of the pocket on 3rd-and-22 before finding Council, who broke several tackles to net 18 yards. The play gave Tjeerdsma an easier decision to go for it on fourth down. Bolles laid a fade pass into Soy's hands at the 5-yard line and Soy carried his defender into the end zone for the score.
The touchdown ended a 20-2 run by the Lakers to open the second half after Grand Valley netted 127 yards of total offense in the first. The Lakers finished with 91 yards rushing after entering the game with an average of 237.
The game was almost a blowout. The Bearcats had 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard line with the 21-0 lead near the end of the first half. Previn Perry, the fullback, carried to within inches of the goal line before James Wojciehowski stole the ball away. It was the first of three turnovers by the Bearcats.
Northwest had two Myles Burnsides' interceptions negated by penalties. One erased a 70-yard return for a score by Burnsides, which would have made it 28-0 early in the third quarter.
Grand Valley capitalized on a Blake Bolles interception and scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brad Iciek to Greg Gay on the Lakers' first possession of the second half. Kyle Sunderman blocked the ensuing extra point and Ryan Jones scooped up the loose ball and returned it for a defensive two-point conversion that made it 23-6.
Iciek threw two touchdown passes and finished with 290 yards on 28-of-49 passing. He was also intercepted by Jones late in the first half - just his third pick thrown on the year. Ryan Bass caught eight passes for 111 yards, including a 33-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter, to lead Grand Valley State.
The Lakers faced 3rd-and-1 from the Bearcat 3 trailing 30-20 with five minutes left. Iciek was dropped for a loss by Sunderman and Willie Horn on third down and Grand Valley State settled for a Jay Jandasek field goal.
Northwest recovered the ensuing onside kick, but punted the ball back to the Lakers with three minutes left. Grand Valley State started from its 20 and drove to its own 44 before seeing a 4th-and-15 pass fall incomplete. A 14-yard run by Council and a knee from Bolles began the celebration.
THIRD NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP FOR NORTHWEST
This is the third NCAA Division II Football Championship Won by Northwest Missouri State. Northwest becomes just the fourth school to win three or more championships (North Dakota State (5), Grand Valley State (4), North Alabama (3), NW Missouri State (3)
NW MISSOURI WINS THIRD BATTLE WITH GRAND VALLEY
This is the third time that NW Missouri State and Grand Valley State have met in the Championship Game. Grand Valley won the first two contests in 2005 and 2006 before NW picked up the 30-23 win this season.
NW MISSOURI GETS 29TH PLAYOFF WIN
With the win Northwest Missouri State has 29 all-time playoff wins, just one behind North Dakota State's Division II record of 30. That means Northwest has the most playoff wins of any current Division II member school.
FOURTH NATIONAL TITLE FOR MIAA
The Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association got its fourth Division II Football Championship . Pittsburg State won in 1991 and NW Missouri State in 1998, 1999 and 2009.
· NW Missouri's LaRon Council rushed for 172 yards, which is the seventh highest individual total in DII Championchip Game history. It is the most by a NW back in the school's seven championship game appearances.
· NW Missouri's Jake Soy caught nine passes for 118 yards and Grand Valley State's Ryan Bass had eight catches for 111 yards. They became the 18th and 19th players to have 100 receiving yards in the Division II Championship Game. This is just the second Championship Game with two 100-yard receivers. The other was in 1980 Cal Poly-SLO (Robbie Martin 7-170) vs. Eastern Illinois (Rod Slaughter 6-122).
· The 71-yard punt by Grand Valley State's Jay Jandasek was the longest in the 37-year history of the DII Champ Game. It was just five yards short of the all-time record for any DII playoff game at 76.
· Just the third DII Championship Game where one team had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver. The others were in 1974 and 1975.
SECOND DEFENSIVE PAT
Ryan Jones of NW Missouri State returned a blocked extra point for a defensive extra point. It is just the second such play in DII Championship History. The other was in 2007 by Valdosta State's Roger King against NW Missouri State.
Northwest Missouri State head coach Mel Tjeerdsma post-game quotes
"I'm thrilled for these guys and for the Bearcats. We've worked so hard for this and we've prepared hard. This was our goal. We probably didn't look like much in week one, but these guys have come a long way. Some of the things that happened late in the first half kept us from opening it up, but that's a credit to Grand Valley. You have to give Grand Valley a lot of credit for hanging in there. It was 21-0 at half, could've been 28-0, but that's a credit to Grand Valley.
"I think we played not to lose for a while, unfortunately. We got some momentum back in the fourth quarter with that touchdown to Jake on fourth down and that was a huge play for us. That was a check and when we saw the alignment, it was our best against their best. It was a great job by our defense. We put them in a hole a few times in the third quarter and I think they wore down a little bit and Grand Valley had some big plays.
"All in all, the difference in the game probably might have been special teams. We had a couple of great returns and blocked an extra point again for two and that was huge. That gave us a least a touchdown margin at the end. It was a total team effort and that's what this football team is all about. They believe in each other. Our theme all year has been one-eleventh. We have 11 guys out there and everybody do your job and I'm thrilled for them."
Grand Valley State head coach Chuck Martin post-game quotes
"Congratulations to Northwest. They have a very, very, very talented football team and they're very well-coached. From our standpoint, obviously, the story of the game was the first half. They ran the ball with (Laron) Council and we could not tackle him. The defense in the first half from our standpoint, we were really struggling and scrambling. Offensively, we felt we had some things going and we had some good looks and they physically whipped us on some stuff and we didn't finish some blocks and we didn't execute.
"We'll be kicking ourselves for a long time looking at the first half of the game offensively because there were some things there we needed to execute a little better. If we had got it done it's maybe 21-7 or 21-14 at half.
"Very proud of our coaches at halftime. They looked defensively and made some very, very good adjustments. Got our defense back playing fast - we were just standing around in the first half. We executed better (offensively in the second half.
"The story of their season's gonna be Central Washington blocked extra point, Grand Valley State blocked extra point. Obviously that's a huge block. Instead of being 21-21 - we score three straight touchdowns and it's still 23-20. From our standpoint we would have loved to have got it even and it would have been a ton of momentum."
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