FLORENCE, AL – A dream match-up for any championship in any sport: Number 1 versus Number 2 with both teams undefeated. Add to this the fact the NCAA Division II Football Championship was a rematch of the 2005 finale, with the top-ranked defending national champion Grand Valley State Lakers taking on the Northwest Missouri State Bearcats. Lakers versus Bearcats – Part 2, from Braley Municipal Stadium in Florence, Alabama.
Northwest Missouri State Head Coach Mel Tjeerdsma had said his team was on a mission this year, hoping to avenge last year’s heartbreaking defeat. But, alas, Tjeersma’s heart was to be broken again. Final score: Lakers 17, Bearcats 14.
The Bearcats failed to take advantage of scoring opportunities against a Grand Valley State team known for its tough defense. One thing can be pointed to as the reason for the Bearcats’ inability to put points on the board: turnovers. Northwest Missouri State turned over the ball four times on three interceptions and a fumble. The fumble came in the 4th quarter as the Bearcats were heading toward paydirt with a chance to take the lead.
Following the game, Tjeerdsma pointed to the turnovers as the main cuplrit in the loss, but refused to put the blame on quarterback Josh Mathews, saying the junior signal caller played a great game – save for the interceptions.
The Bearcats lost 21-17 last year, falling just 4 yards short of end zone paydirt as time expired with evening settling in on the campus of the University of North Alabama. This year’s game, an 11 o’clock kickoff, ended in bright sunshine. Junior running back Xavier Oman, who carried the ball 26 times for 129 yards, including a 7 yard TD run, says this year’s loss was tougher to take because the Bearcats expected to be champion this year. It was, indeed, a championship-caliber season as the Bearcats finished 14-1, with this championship loss the only blemish on an otherwise perfect campaign. Sadly, for NWMSU, the Lakers were perfect this year and fully deserving of their Number One ranking coming into the game.
7,437 fans were on hand for the game. An estimated 3,000 of those fans made the trek from Missouri to Alabama. For some, it was a second straight year of a December in Dixie without capturing the NCAA Division II Championship trophy. Tjeerdsma. Oman, Mathews, and undoubtedly some of their fans hope to be back next year for another shot at completing some unfinished business.
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Northwest Missouri State Bearcats