For one night in December, Sporting Park transformed from Sporting Blue to Bearcats Green as a record-crowd witnessed Northwest Missouri State University defeat Shepherd University 34-7 in the NCAA Division II Football Championship.
Saturday’s victory at Sporting Park was the Bearcats' fifth national championship and their first since 2013. Their five football titles is tied with North Dakota State for most at the Division II level.
16,181 fans packed Sporting Park on Saturday marking the largest crowd for an NCAA Division II championship game. This was the second consecutive year Sporting Park hosted the Division II Football Championship. The home of two-time Major League Soccer champion Sporting Kansas City will also host the event in 2016 and 2017.
Northwest Missouri State jumped out to an early lead on Shepherd as the Rams fumbled their first snap of the game. Running back Jordan Grove punched the ball into the end zone from one-yard out to give the Bearcats a 7-0 lead only 47 seconds into the game. Grove finished the game with two rushing touchdowns and 104 receiving yards on five receptions.
Shepherd was unable to muster much offense on the day, tallying only seven first downs and 97 yards of total offense. Their lone score came on a 21-yard touchdown pass from Jeff Ziemba to Billy Brown in the third quarter.
The Bearcats finished the game with 462 yards of total offense and 20 first downs. Their defense was just as impressive, forcing three turnovers - including an interception returned for a touchdown in the final minute of the first half - and 10 sacks. Junior defensive tackle Collin Blevins had four sacks on his own and set a school record with 26.5 tackles for a loss in a season.
Bearcats head coach Adam Dorrel is now 62-8 in his five years in charge of the program. The former Bearcats lineman has won three Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles and two national titles since taking over his alma mater in 2011.