For the second straight year, Northwest Missouri State University won the NCAA Division II Football National Championship at Children's Mercy Park. The Bearcats defeated the University of North Alabama 29-3 on Saturday on a cold, snow-filled afternoon in Kansas City, Kansas.
Northwest Missouri entered Saturday's championship game on a 29-game winning streak and with one of the highest scoring offenses in the country. They were held at bay for most of the first half, however, by a stout North Alabama defense and the frigid conditions. It was 13 degrees at kickoff with a -4 windchill.
Adam Dorrel’s side was held at bay for 29 minutes but broke through with 58 seconds left in the second quarter. Jordan Grove took a shovel pass from Randy Schmidt and ran seven yards for the first score of the game. North Alabama answered quickly, though, with a field goal just before halftime.
The weather worsened in the second half as the wind picked up causing the snow to swirl around the stadium. The Bearcats were not to be denied, however, and put in a dominant second half performance. Phil Jackson ran for two scores as Northwest Missouri scored 22 unanswered points to cap the game.
Saturday’s national championship win was Northwest Missouri’s sixth overall and their third in the past four years. They have now won a school-best 30 straight games.
Children’s Mercy Park is scheduled to host the 2017 NCAA Division II Football Championship.
- This is the third Division II national championship game at Children’s Mercy Park.
- Combined 81 wins in the Division II football playoffs between the two programs. Northwest Missouri State has the most-ever at 46 while North Alabama is second with 35.
- This year’s postseason trip marks the 21st appearance in the Division II football playoffs for both programs.
- The MIAA has sent a school to the Division II championship game 13 times since the championship was first played in 1973. That includes nine appearances in the last 12 games dating back to 2004.
- First penalty of the game did not come until the 12:04 mark of the second quarter.
- Paid Attendance is 17th largest in Championship Game History, 3rd Highest attendance since 1996.
- The two teams combined for 19 punts to tie the Division II championship game record. There have now been three games with that number of combined punts – the 1980 game Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo vs. Eastern Illinois and the 1973 Louisiana Tech vs. Western Kentucky.
NORTHWEST MISSOURI STATE NOTES
- Cass Weitl's five tackles for a loss sets a new record for tackles for a loss in the Division II championship game. The previous record was four set by former Bearcat Collin Bevins in last years championship game.
- Chama Pierre sets a new National Championship Game Record for pass break-ups with three in the first half.
- Bearcat senior class is 54-2 over their time at Northwest Missouri State – the best winning percentage in program history for a senior class.
- Northwest gave up zero first quarter points in the playoffs this year.
- It was the ninth time NW Missouri held its opponent scoreless in the first quarter this season.
- It was the second time NW Missouri was held scoreless in the first quarter this season.
- Seven is the fewest points scored by NW Missouri in the first half this season
NORTH ALABAMA NOTES
- The LIONS are making their fifth appearance in the Division II national championship game.
- This is the third time that North Alabama and Northwest Missouri State have played in the Division II Football Playoffs but the first time the two programs have matched up in the championship game. The last game was played in Maryville, Mo., on the Northwest Missouri State campus in the 2008 FCS when the Bearcats earned a 41-7 win in the semifinals.
- FG with four seconds left in first half by the Lions marked the eighth time in 13 games that North Alabama has scored in the final two minutes of the first half.
- Gave up their first second-half touchdown since a 49-19 win over Delta State on Oct. 29..
- Saturday’s loss marks the lowest number of points scored by North Alabama since being shutout in a 5-0 loss to Valdosta State on Oct. 14, 2010 – that’s a span of 78 games where the Lions have scored more than three points.
Northwest Missouri State University Head Coach Adam Dorrel
“I’m not sure where to start. I think the last two weeks have been monumental wins in the history of Northwest Missouri State in the way we won them. In my opinion, last week in the semifinal game and this week in the championship game we beat two really strong opponents. And it wasn’t pretty, by any stretch of the imagination, but we found a way to get it done. I thought our kids were resilient in all phases – offense, defense and special teams. I thought we played to win today, and that’s very important in a game like this. Sometimes you get a little bit of a lead and you can get too conservative, and I don’t think our guys did that.
“A couple things that really stand out to me – obviously our defense played really well today, I’m super proud of them. I’m proud of our defensive coaching staff and our players. We were rolling about eight defensive linemen in there and playing a lot of guys and everybody executed today. Eddie Richey went down on the third play of the game and Chama Pierre did a great job stepping in. Flip that over to special teams, I thought our return team gave us great field position and I thought us being able to pressure the punter the entire day really helped us out. I’ve got to look at the stats, but we did get hands on two of those punts that altered the kick, I thought that was huge. And then offensively we started out a bit sluggish and then the drive right before half when Randy (Schmidt) came in – Run, Run Randy is his new nickname – to be able to do what Randy does you have to be a super athlete. He’s a former high school quarterback, I thought he really kickstarted us and took us over the top today. I thought our ability to punt the football today, Matt Thorman just did a phenomenal job of punting the ball today. I was very concerned about it on a couple of fourth-and-ones, but I told myself coming into this game that I really believed if we won the turnover battle, our defense played good and we played really good on special teams we were going to win. So I wasn’t going to do anything to hamper that. I’m just super proud of our kids, I’m proud of our football program, our community and our university. Everybody involved, our strength staff, our athletic trainers, it’s been one heck of a season.
On Bearcat fans that made the trip
“It was unbelievable how loud they were. When you’re down there on that field it just echoes, and it really helped us today. They help us all year, but the positive energy they create in a tight game like this I thought was huge. It really kept our guys going, especially on third down. We are just so proud of them and we are so thankful that they came out today.”
Summing up this season
“It’s hard to. When you get a group of guys that do what our guys continue to do, it’s not easy. I think they make it look easy at times, but when you go a whole season and have a bullseye on your back, they never caved into that pressure. It’s hard with young student-athletes to balance life and education and football. It’s so special to me that we’ve been able to do this three times, ’13, ’15 and now ’16. I’m not sure one is greater than the other, they’ve all been a little bit different. The one thing that sticks out to me about this year is the way that our 16 seniors helped develop the young guys. We had a lot of young guys that played well today, Randy and guys like that. The seniors have put a lot of attention on those guys, taking them from good to great. And it’s really helped us out.
On the mental preparations for the weather
“You walk out of our locker room and the second-to-last thing you see is a sign that says ‘No toughness, no championship.’ We talk about that all of the time and I hammered that home this week. The team that was most physically and mentally tough was going to win this game. And the last thing you see when you walk out of our locker room above our doors it says ‘Through these doors pass the toughest, hardest working, best conditioned student-athletes in college football.’ And I think our guys really believe in that. And I thought it paid huge dividends today.”
On if the conditions played more into their favor
“I certainly do think it played into our favor. One of the things growing up in Maryville, if you haven’t been there, it’s either windy or really windy. And after Thanksgiving it’s either cold or really cold. You have to build your team like that, and we try to do that. To win in the playoffs you need to be able to punt into the wind, kick into the wind, run the football up the middle, and play action. We certainly try to build our team around days like today.”
On second-half adjustments
“The only thing we did was to stop the big play and keep everything in front of you. We switched it up a bit with who was spying the quarterback. Obviously that kid was very elusive. In the first half he was kind of feeling it, so we switched it up in the second half. Those were the two biggest things that we did.”
On Kyle Zimmerman’s toughness and play at the end zone
“At first your like ‘Take it and run it out of bounds.’ Then the seam opens and you think ‘Go score.’ Then he jumps and all you can think is ‘Don’t get hurt.’ I was proud of him, he’s a super tough kid. I know I’ve said it 100 times, but to me he embodies what college football should be. He’s a great student-athlete, he’s unselfish. It’s unbelievable the senior year that he’s had. We are very proud of him.”
North Alabama University Head Coach Bobby Wallace
On conditions affecting the game plan
“Unfortunately we didn’t have anything to alter to. I was asked that question at halftime by ESPN. We just got caught in a bind. We lost a great running back last year and we tried to put a couple of guys back there back there but neither one of them would be what you would call a 1,000 yard rusher. The our offensive line, we have some injuries this year and it was just a mismatch. Their defensive line is great, it’s the best defensive line we’ve seen all year long and it might even be better then Jacksonville State’s defensive line.
“I wish that I could think of something but there was nothing more we could do accept keep trying to throw the football and get on the perimeter because we’d just be running into that wall if we tried to run straight ahead. That’s a compliment to them more so than a cut to our players, so we had to continue to try and throw it. You saw the conditions, they had trouble throwing it too as any team would. It just took away the things that we do best on offense and that’s just a fact. It was a helpless feeling because there wasn’t much else to do but throw it.”
On playing in this type of game
“I coached eight years at Temple and never saw a game like this before. Two of the three championships in the 90s was cold. The first was cold and rainy and the other one was just cold but we weren’t playing in snow. I think the vision, and both teams had to deal with that issue, but they had a pile of running game to go to. The difference was the rushing, and that was the difference in the ball game. They could run the ball with some success against a real good defense, ours, but we couldn’t run the ball at all. We contributed with our kicking game mistakes and our bad snaps and that was just the way it was.”
On this team
“To be honest with you, I know that I’m as proud of our group as they are over there with what they’ve achieved. This group of Seniors has won four conference championships, and that’s never been done in the history of the conference, and played in the national championship game. If you think that’s easy, it’s not. We replaced a starting quarterback, an all-conference running back that had started for four years and a lot of other players. We had a lot of players step up on this team. We were second in the nation in defense, Jacob Tucker was a finalist for the Harlon Hill. It was a remarkable year, it really was and I’m very proud of them.”