Northwest Missouri State quarterbacks Joel Osborn and Blake Bolles combined to pass for 316 yards and score four touchdowns to the lead the third-ranked Bearcats to a 45-36 win against second-ranked Abilene Christian in an NCAA quarterfinal game Saturday at Shotwell Stadium.
Northwest (12-1) advances to face North Alabama, a 55-34 winner over Delta State, next Saturday. The site for that contest will be announced Sunday. The Bearcats are 5-0 in the national semifinal round of the NCAA playoffs.
Northwest avenged its lone loss of the season by holding Abilene Christian to its lowest scoring output of the year and its second-lowest total yards. The Wildcats (11-1) were leading the nation in both categories entering Saturday’s contest.
The Bearcats trailed briefly in the first quarter, but held leads of 15 points in both the second and fourth quarters. A 32-yard field goal by Tommy Frevert gave the Bearcats a 45-34 lead with 3:21 remaining. Northwest took a safety on the final play of the game.
Osborn was 19-of-28 for 247 yards and two touchdowns. He threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Abe Qaoud to cap the opening drive of the game and connected with Nick Rhodes on a 21-yard strike near the end of the first half. Northwest led 28-20 at the break.
Bolles quarterbacked two drives, both of which resulted in touchdowns. He finished a seven-play, 58-yard touchdown drive in the first quarter with a 2-yard pass to Greg Applegate. He capped an 11-play, 98-yard drive with a 14-yard run to give Northwest a 42-27 lead with 14:42 remaining.
Bolles replaced Osborn on 4 th -and-3 near midfield during the Bearcats’ opening drive of the second half and threw an 11-yard pass to Raphael Robinson for the first down. Osborn reentered and LaRon Council later scored from five yards out to give Northwest a 35-27 lead.
Council carried 21 times for 78 yards and two scores. He also went for 29 yards on a screen pass on 3 rd -and-24 in the fourth quarter which led to Frevert’s field goal.
The Bearcat defense got interceptions from Chris LeFlore and E.J. Hawkins and forced three consecutive 3-and-outs in the first half. Two of the 3-and-outs led to Northwest touchdowns, LeFlore’s interception led to the 98-yard touchdown drive and Hawkins’ pick sealed the win on the Wildcats’ final possession.
Abilene Christian quarterback Billy Malone’s two touchdown passes tied a season-low and he completed less than half his passes for the first time since 2006. Bernard Scott rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns in his final collegiate contest.
Northwest lost 24 yards trying to run out the clock and finished one yard shy of the Wildcats’ in terms of total yardage, 455-454. Each team had two sacks.
Willie Horn posted six tackles to lead Northwest. Fred Thompson had 11 stops for Abilene Christian.