Nov. 13, 2010
Final stand gives Northwest outright title
By David Boyce
KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ Arrowhead Stadium became even more special for Northwest Missouri State sophomore running back Jordan Simmons.
Simmons, a graduate of Lee's Summit North, put Pittsburg State in a hole early in the game and kept the Gorillas there late in the third quarter.
"It felt good to come home and have the type of game that I did," said Simmons who scored on touchdown plays of 54 and 58 yards.
The Bearcats needed Simmons' two long touchdown plays to beat Pittsburg State 22-16 Saturday afternoon in front of 16,504 fans and completed their fifth straight undefeated season in conference.
"We were rattled a couple of times that cost us, but we were able to overcome it some," Pittsburg State coach Tim Beck said. "But I also told our football team after the game that we are not in it just to say good job because we played good today.
"Our kids laid it on the line, but we have to do better than that to finish it."
Late in the game the Gorillas definitely gave the Bearcats a major scare. They moved the ball to Northwest's 12 with 24 seconds left. Northwest stiffened on defense and didn't allow Pittsburg State to gain another yard.
"Northwest made a couple of nice defensive plays at the end," Beck said. "They knocked a couple of balls down. They are able to make those plays whether it is offensively, defensively or kicking the field goal at the end of the game. They are able to make those plays right now and we are not."
For the third time in four weeks, Northwest was able to pull out a victory in the closing minute.
"It was typical of the types of games we've had this year," Northwest coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. "We are pretty beat up. That really affected the things we wanted to do.
"Pitt. State did a great job of running the football, which we knew they were going to do. They controlled the clock a lot and kept our offense off the field. Offensively, we had some big plays. We had some big play opportunities that we missed on.
"We were able to get enough to get it done."
Next for Northwest is its annual date in the NCAA Division II playoffs. The Bearcats, 9-1 overall and 9-0 in the MIAA, will learn their fate at 2 p.m. Sunday when the pairings are announced.
"It will be really exciting," said Northwest senior quarterback Blake Bolles. "Everybody is looking forward to it. This is when the season starts. We've done our part. We won the conference again. That's great. We are going to enjoy that win tonight.
"But tomorrow, as soon as we figure out who we are going to play and when we play them, we are going to be ready to go."
One thing is certain: Northwest will know how to handle a close game in which the offense is sputtering some.
For most of the game against Pittsburg State, the Gorillas bottled up Northwest's offense, except for two times when Simmons broke free.
The first one could have broken the Gorillas before the game could really settle in.
Faced with fourth and 2 at its 46 on the first drive of the game, the Bearcats decided to go for it instead of punting. Simmons took the pitch and raced 54 yards down the sidelines for a touchdown.
"On the run I was surprised," Simmons said. "The hole was wide open and I just took it to the house."
The score gave Northwest a quick 7-0 lead with 12:36 left in the first quarter.
To the Gorillas' credit, they answered the early blow with a 9 minute, 46 second drive that resulted in a 22-yard field goal by Jake Craig.
Pittsburg State played well on defense the rest of the first half, limiting the Bearcats to two field goals by Todd Adolf.
Northwest held a 13-3 lead late in the third quarter when Simmons hurt the Gorillas again. He caught a 58-yard touchdown pass from Bolles that gave Northwest a 20-3 lead with 1:07 left in the third quarter.
The Bearcats, though, lacked the killer instinct to completely put Pittsburg State away.
"It gets a little frustrating that we are not able to put points on the board like we did last year," Bolles said. "I feel like the opportunities are still there. I'm missing guys who are wide open, and we had a few drops today. Otherwise, it is a completely different ball game."
The missed opportunities gave the Gorillas hope and they took advantage of it. Early in the fourth quarter they marched 80 yards in 11 plays and scored a touchdown.
The only good thing for the Bearcats was blocking the extra point and returning it for a two-point conversion that gave Northwest a 22-9 lead.
But with nothing to lose, Pittsburg State went for the onside kick, recovered it and marched down field for a another score The extra point pulled the Gorillas to within six at 22-16.
Pittsburg State got the ball two more times and was able to move it deep into Northwest's territory in its last possession.
All game, the Gorillas were able to move the ball on the ground. They finished with 292 yards rushing and dominated the time of possession, holding the ball 37:28 compared to 22:32 for Northwest.
"It was very frustrating because as a defense we pride ourselves in stopping the run," Northwest senior linebacker Willie Horn said. "Today, we just didn't do that and that's not Bearcat defense and what we are about."
Selection Show Gathering:
Fans who reside in Maryville can watch the football selection show on the big screen at Carson's Sports Grill located at 310 N. Main St.
For more information, please contact:
Media Relations Department, Northwest Athletics
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