The Northwest Missouri State Bearcats, ranked #2 in Division II football, beat #1 ranked and previously undefeated Central Washington 21-20 to advance to the semifinals in the D-II playoffs.
The Bearcats were down 14-7 at the half, but got two touchdown passes from Blake Bolles to go up 21-14. Central Washington drove down on their final drive of the game and score a touchdown with six seconds to play, but had their extra point blocked.
Bolles passed for 295 yards. Sophomore receiver Jake Soy had 11 catches for 136 yards. Central Washington scored on their opening drive and after the Bearcats were forced to punt, Cent. Wash. got picked off and NWMS took it back the other way for a touchdown to make it 7-7. After Central Washington regained the lead, the Bearcats had a chance to tie the game in the first half and were stopped on a 4th and goal from the one.
Following the contest, Bearcats’ Head Coach Mel Tjeerdsma made it clear his team had to pick things up a notch if it was to come out on top.
“We felt like we weren’t playing aggressive football,” said Tjeerdsma. “We were playing more not to lose than playing to win and I thought our first two drives in the second half said a lot about that.”
Pick it up they did – the culmination of that effort being the winning block of a PAT by Tyler Roach.
“Tyler’s (Roach) blocked four this season,” said Tjeerdsma. “That was a picture of the other three. That wasn’t an accident. These guys are good at it. It’s not scheme, it’s effort. That’s all it is. It was a great effort on their part.”
And, the coqach has no doubt this is one of the great games his team has won.
“Right now it’s the best. It’s been an unbelievable run and we’ve had some great games. What made this so special is that some of our kids really stepped up at halftime and it wasn’t necessarily our seniors, but some juniors stepped and said we’re going to get this thing done and we’re a team and we’re a family and we care about each other and that’s about it. I’m just proud at the way they responded.”
The Bearcats will play in the D-II national semi-finals next weekend against California (Pennsylvania), which defeated West Liberty on Saturday. The site of the game has yet to be determined.