Northwest Missouri State won its sixth game in a row – third straight against a ranked team – with its 20-13 victory against 17th-ranked Central Missouri Saturday at Walton Stadium.
It was the fifth-ranked Bearcats (6-1, 5-0 MIAA) fifth consecutive win against the Mules (5-2, 3-2 MIAA) and 24th straight win in conference play. Northwest holds a one-game lead against Pittsburg State in the MIAA standings and a two-game lead against everyone else with four weeks remaining.
LaRon Council rushed for a career-high 188 yards, aided mainly by an MIAA-record 99-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Council broke a tackle near the line-of-scrimmage, was caught at midfield but shed the oncoming tackler, and was corralled again while crossing the goal line for the score.
The run broke the 98-yard carry by Northwest’s Xavier Omon in the Division II semifinal game against Grand Valley State.
The Bearcats led 10-3 at the half and 13-10 heading into the fourth quarter. But the first play of the final stanza was a 35-yard touchdown pass from Northwest quarterback Joel Osborn to Nick Rhodes that gave the Bearcats a 20-10 lead.
Central Missouri responded with a 15-play, 52-yard drive that ended with Mark Starks’ 33-yard field goal. The drive soaked up more than seven minutes of the fourth-quarter clock.
The Mules had first-and-goal at the 10, but Josh Lorenson’s third sack of the game forced Central to settle for three. Lorenson and teammate Sean Paddock combined for 14 tackles including five sacks.
Central had two chances to score the game-tying touchdown. The first came after a Northwest fumble with seven minutes left. The Mules completed one fourth down before seeing their drive stall on downs at the Northwest 34-yard line.
The Mules got the ball back with no timeouts and 1:32 remaining. Eric Czerniewski completed two passes to Edgar Givens to reach the Northwest 46-yard line, but his fourth-down heave moments later sailed incomplete.
Czerniewski, the leading passer in the MIAA heading into the game, finished 16-of-42 for 246 yards. He was intercepted twice in first half after tossing one pick in his first six games.
The Bearcats missed an opportunity to take a 14-3 lead right before halftime. Northwest had first-and-goal inside the 1 before a false start backed the team five yards.
Tommy Frevert made two 25-yard field goals, his first 3-pointers of the season. Frevert is alone in second place in Northwest annuals with 34 career field goals.
Northwest held Central running back Glenn Milner to 12 carries for 37 yards and one catch for 11. Milner was the Mules’ leading receiver heading into the contest. He’d been averaging 138 yards combined in the run and pass game.
Council was the leading rusher in conference play heading into Saturday’s game. He’s rushed for more than 100 yards five times in his last six games and totaled 18 touchdowns.
Osborn passed for 136 yards in the second half and finished 14-of-22 for 191. Greg Applegate, who had a one-handed catch that set up the Bearcats’ second-quarter field goal, caught two passes for 45 yards.