NAIA SEMIFINALS – The ST XAVIER UNIVERSITY COUGARS came into Indianapolis determined to make up for their lone regular season loss. That loss came at the hands of the MARIAN UNIVERSITY KNIGHTS who, by virtue of their win in that game became the number 1 team in the polls and the top seed in the playoffs. SXU sank to the 5 seed but after today’s sweet revenge advance to the championship game in Rome, GA on December 17th. SXU came out on top 30-27 in this post-season Instant Classic.
Meanwhile, in the other NAIA semifinal the defending champions, the CC FIGHTING SAINTS, proved as potent as ever, embarrassing the visiting GEORGETOWN (KY) TIGERS by a score of 35-3. The score was 14-3 at halftime but apparently the Fighting Saints were just toying with Georgetown like a cat playing with a mouse. The Hellions from Helena have won 6 of the past 9 NAIA football titles and the SXU Cougars will have a difficult time dethroning them. But who knows? St Xavier put itself on the national football map for good in 2006 by upsetting CC in Helena, so maybe they have a decent shot in a neutral stadium in Rome, GA.
NJCAA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
EL TORO BOWL – The EAST MISSISSIPPI LIONS won their 1st national championship in any sport yesterday in a 55-47 shootout win over the ARIZONA WESTERN COLLEGE MATADORS. The Lions began mauling the Matadors from the outset of the game and got off to a 27-0 lead that AWC trimmed to a 34-13 advantage by half-time. By the end of the “all touchdowns all the time” 3rd quarter the score stood at East Mississippi 55 Arizona Western 34. A 4th quarter rally pulled the Matadors to within 8 points, but the Lions refused to give up any more points and held on to take the title.
NCAA DIVISION 3 QUARTER-FINALS
A NUMBER ONE TAKES A FALL – Another 1 seed from the D3 playoffs got upset yesterday as the MARY HARDIN-BAYLOR CRUSADERS fell at home to the WESLEY WOLVERINES in a very tight 27-24 contest. For years now the Wolverines have been living in the shadow of Whitewater and Mt Union, often ranked at number 3 behind those 2 powerhouses. Yesterday’s victory over perennial power MHBU is a step in the right direction, but the Wesley faithful will no doubt feel this was another wasted season if they get to the semifinals just to fall in that round yet again.
MIDNIGHT FOR CINDERELLA – After pulling off monumental upsets the previous 2 Saturdays the chimes of midnight at last rang for the ST JOHN FISHER CARDINALS. The ST THOMAS TOMMIES came into this game ready to make up for last year’s quarter-final slip-up at the hands of Bethel (MN). The Cardinals never stood a chance against the focused Tommies team who put together 4 hard-hitting quarters of football to win in a 45-10 blowout.
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN? – The D3 football world came one step closer yesterday to a 7th straight year of the WHITEWATER WARHAWKS facing the MT UNION PURPLE RAIDERS in the championship game AKA the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl. The defending champion Warhawks won handily by a score of 34-14 over the SALISBURY SEA GULLS to advance to next Saturday’s semi-finals. The Purple Raiders, for whom the NFL’s Pierre Garcon played his college ball, had a tougher time of it but emerged with a 20-8 win over the storied WABASH LITTLE GIANTS.
NCAA DIVISION 2 QUARTER-FINALS
CHAMPIONS DETHRONED – The MINNESOTA- DULUTH BULLDOGS, the defending champs, were upset by D2’s own Cinderella team, the WAYNE STATE WARRIORS in a 31-25 game for the ages. This was the text-book example of the philosophy that goes “that’s why they play the games” because the Warriors weren’t given a realistic chance in this contest. Wayne State delivered a punch in the face to all the pundits who were pencilling the Bulldogs in to next Saturday’s semifinals.
STATESMANSHIP – The DELTA STATE STATESMEN spent some time ranked at number 1 this season before being upset very late in the year. Yesterday they moved closer to a return to the championship game with a 28-23 victory over the visiting NORTH GREENVILLE CRUSADERS. The Statesmen continue their campaign to win their 1st national championship since the year 2000. Last year Delta State made it to the title game but fell to Minnesota- Duluth in a very strange game.
IT’S A JUNGLE OUT THERE – The PITTSBURG (KS) STATE GORILLAS’ home stadium, the Jungle, proved to be a Land of No Return for the NORTHWEST MISSOURI BEARCATS. Gus the Gorilla’s boys clobbered the perennial D2 football power in a surprising 41-16 smackdown. The Gorillas had defeated the Bearcats in their regular season matchup and a tight contest was expected between these 2 MIAA conference rivals, but Pitt State confounded all the expectations with this blowout win. The Gorillas are playing their best football at the right time of the year, and if I was forced to predict a champion today, it would be Pitt State.
RAM TOUGH – The WINSTON- SALEM STATE RAMS ended the NEW HAVEN CHARGERS’ spectacular season by roughing them up 27-7 in this quarter- final matchup. The Rams blazed a trail where no HBCU team had ever gone before just by getting to the quarter- finals, so their advance to the semis next Saturday continues to rewrite the history books. Yesterday was the very 1st game between these 2 teams and the Rams actually trailed 7-6 at the end of the 1st quarter. A 13-7 WSSU half- time lead was expanded to 27-7 with the addition of 2 more TD’s in the final quarter.
BOWL GAME RESULTS
SALT CITY BOWL – The HUTCHINSON BLUE DRAGONS proved once again that very few teams can light up the scoreboard like they can. Hutch notched their 3rd straight bowl win yesterday by completely incinerating the hapless LACKAWANNA COLLEGE FALCONS by an unbelievable score of 70-20. The Blue Dragons end their 2011 campaign with a record of 9-3.
TOP OF THE MOUNTAINS BOWL – The EASTERN ARIZONA COLLEGE GILA MONSTERS may have one of the coolest names in sports but their post- season struggles continue. Yesterday they ran into a buzz- saw called the SNOW COLLEGE BADGERS, the defending Top of the Mountains Bowl champions. The Badgers retained the title with an authoritative 36-9 victory over the Gila Monsters. The win caps a 9-3 season for SC, while EAC ends the year at 8-4.
VALLEY OF THE SUN BOWL – The GLENDALE (AZ) GAUCHOS have 3 national championships under their belt but yesterday’s Bowl choke was a game they would no doubt like to forget. The Gauchos had a 25-6 lead over the DEAN COLLEGE BULLDOGS late in the 3rd quarter but gave up 3 late touchdowns and wound up trailing 26-25 with 2:34 left in the game. Glendale drove, but then missed a 34 yard field goal which let the Bulldogs run out the remaining 54 seconds in the game, leaving 26-25 as the final score.
HEART OF TEXAS BOWL – Last year the NAVARRO COLLEGE BULLDOGS were playing for the national championship. Yesterday they took on the NEW MEXICO MILITARY INSTITUTE BRONCOS in the Heart of Texas Bowl. The Broncos were the feel- good story of the season, being unranked in the pre- season but ending up at number 12 in the final poll. That feel- good story came to an end with yesterday’s 40-24 loss to the Bulldogs. Navarro’s closing record is 10-2, NMMI’s is 9-3. To avoid having 2 Bulldog helmets in a row, here’s the Broncos helmet instead.
PIONEER BOWL – Yesterday’s 13th edition of the Pioneer Bowl proved lucky for anyone who loves dramatic Bowl games. The JOHNSON C SMITH GOLDEN BULLS, making just their 2nd Bowl appearance in school history, scored 28 2nd half points to top the MILES GOLDEN BEARS 35-33. Miles led 10-7 at half- time, but an orgy of scoring broke out in the 3rd and 4th quarters, resulting in a Golden Bulls victory to cap their 1st winning season since 2006.
MINERAL WATER BOWL – The 46th annual Mineral Water Bowl was an Instant Classic. The MINNESOTA STATE MAVERICKS and the NORTHEASTERN STATE RIVERHAWKS traded the lead like boxers exchanging punches. At the half the Mavericks led 21-14, but the 2nd half wound up being a defensive struggle with the Riverhawks’ “O”, which had consisted mostly of quick big plays, being shut out while the Mavs were able to add one more TD for a final score of 28-14.
THE MISSISSIPPI BOWL AND THE CITIZEN’S BANK BOWL WILL BE PLAYED TODAY (SUNDAY). I’LL UPDATE THE OUTCOMES LATER IN THE DAY.
*** UPDATE – CITIZEN’S BANK BOWL – Butler (KS) Grizzlies over the Trinity Valley Cardinals in a 21-17 slug-fest.
***UPDATE – MISSISSIPPI BOWL – MS Gulf Coast Bulldogs over the Blinn College Buccaneers 46-17. The Buccaneers actually led 10-7 at one point but had 6 turnovers the rest of the way, with the Bulldogs capitalizing on 4 of them for TD’s.