Courtesy of Bryan Boettcher of Northwest Missouri State.
Northwest Missouri State beat top-ranked Grand Valley State 34-16 in front of more than 7,000 cold and raucous fans Saturday at Bearcat Stadium. The Bearcats ended the Lakers 40-game winning streak and will compete for the national championship for the third straight season. Northwest was the national runner-up to Grand Valley in 2005 and 2006.
Northwest trailed 13-10 at halftime, but got 204 yards rushing and three total touchdowns from running back Xavier Omon in the second half. Omon carried 31 times for 292 yards and three scores in the game. He also scored on an 11-yard reception from quarterback Joel Osborn early in the fourth quarter. The Bearcats scored three touchdowns and a field on their first four second-half possessions.
Omon’s 98-yard touchdown run with nine minutes remaining was the game’s final score and the exclamation point the Bearcats. The length of the run was for a new program and MIAA record.
Omon broke 7,000 yards rushing in his career (7,010), just the second back in Division II history to reach the mark. Along the way he passed Emporia State’s Brian Shay and Pittsburg State’s Germaine Race to be the all-time leading rusher in the MIAA. He’s Division II’s leading rusher this season with 2,274 yards.
Northwest forced a three-and-out on Grand Valley’s first possession of the second half, and then marched 69 yards on 10 plays for a score and the lead. Omon carried six times on the drive and capped it with an 8-yard touchdown.
The teams exchanged field goals before the Lakers committed their first and only turnover of the game. Quarterback Brad Iciek, under pressure, threw a jump ball, which Ryan Jones intercepted 22 yards downfield and returned 50 yards to the Grand Valley 15.
Facing 3 rd -and-6 from the 11 two plays later, Osborn scrambled and found Omon in the flat. Omon made one Laker miss, then tip-toed the sideline before diving for the pylon and the score. It was Omon’s first touchdown reception of the season and it gave Northwest a 27-16 lead.
A 62-yard punt by Justin Trumble pinned the Bearcats on the 2 when their drive started with 9:14 remaining. Omon took it to the house on the next play. Brant Gregg took out a linebacker and Omon beat the safety after driving through a large hole in the middle of the line. Omon was untouched on the play.
Trumble, in his first start as the placekicker for Grand Valley, made field goals of 27-, 32- and 32-yards in the game, but missed a 33-yarder with seven minutes remaining after the holder mishandled the snap. Trumble had a 71-yard punt on the game’s final play. He averaged 47.8 yards on five punts.
Osborn completed 20-of-25 passes for 238 yards and a score. He fired a 24-yard bullet to Caleb Obert on fourth-and-16 from the Grand Valley 32-yard line on the second to last play of the third quarter. It was Obert’s fourth reception of the season and it set up a 22-yard field goal by Tommy Frevert for a 20-16 lead.
Iciek was 23-for-42 for 273 yards for Grand Valley. He found running back James Berezik wide open out of the back field for a 20-yard touchdown with 1:20 left in the first half. The score gave Grand Valley a 13-7 lead.
Osborn drove the Bearcats down to the 13-yard line, setting up Frevert’s 30-yard field just before halftime. Osborn was 6-of-6 on the drive for 64 yards. He had a 25-yard gain to Kendall Wright on the first play of the drive. An 8-yard pass to Wright set up the field goal.
The Northwest defense limited Grand Valley to 130 yards and three points in the second half. Myles Burnsides had a team-high eight tackles and Caleb Dohrman recorded his team-leading seventh sack of the season.
Grand Valley needed 10 plays or more on all four of its scoring drives. The Lakers ran three offensive plays on six of their other seven drives and eight plays before missing the field goal.
Grand Valley came into Saturday’s game averaging 250 yards rushing. The Lakers gained 101 yards against Northwest. Berezik led the Lakers with 49 yards.
Northwest advances to face Valdosta State, which beat California (Pa.) 28-24 in the other semifinal game Saturday. It will be the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Game time from Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala., will be 11 p.m. CST. ESPN2 will broadcast the game live.