The ST XAVIER UNIVERSITY COUGARS dethroned the defending NAIA college football champions the CC FIGHTING SAINTS in a 24- 20 game for the ages. I throw the term “Instant Classic” around with giddy abandon here at Balladeer’s Blog, but there’s no denying the fact that this game lived up to that label. Both teams played focused, virtually mistake- free football that the attendees in Rome, GA will be telling their grandchildren about. The Cougars lost to the Fighting Saints in the semi- finals last season but got over the CC hump this December with the team’s 1st national championship.
CC came into the game as the ruling dynasty of NAIA football, having won 6 of the last 9 championships, and after the way the Hellions from Helena dismembered the GEORGETOWN (KY) TIGERS in the semis many were expecting the Fighting Saints to walk away with another title this year. Chicagoland’s Cougars had other ideas, however, and Tom “The Linchpin” Lynch got the scoring started with a field goal to put SXU up 3- zip. By the end of the 1st quarter the Cougars were definitely making the CC faithful worried by expanding their lead to 10-0.
After trailing 17-7 at one point in the 2nd quarter, the Fighting Saints pulled to within 3 by halftime, making their fans confident that they might have a happier ending in this game than Montanans had from the Grizzlies vs Bearkats game in 1AA (FCS if you’re spineless). However, the Cougar defense held up as well as they could and the offense added 7 more points, with the result that by the 4th quarter the score was SXU 24 CC 20. The Fighting Saints were driving from inside the Cougar 10, facing a 4th and goal with less than 2 minutes left in the game when the St Xavier D came up big and prevented their opponents from scoring. The Cougars ran out the remaining time in the game and emerged as the new football champions of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
The PITTSBURG (KS) STATE GORILLAS won their 2nd NCAA Division 2 football championship yesterday with a 35-21 victory over the Cinderella team, the WAYNE STATE WARRIORS. Special teams for both squads made massive conributions to the game, with the Warriors returning the opening kickoff for a touchdown to put Wayne State up 7-0. In the 2nd quarter, with the Gorillas trailing 14-13 Pitt State blocked a Warrior attempt at a field goal and returned it for 6 points the other way. Aries Herrion of the Gorillas made history with this 1st ever blocked field goal returned for a touchdown in any D2 title game.
Pitt State then held the Warriors to a 3 and out followed by a drive for another touchdown, giving them a 27-14 halftime lead. The Gorillas’ 27 points were the most in the 1st half for a D2 championship game since 2000, the year the DELTA STATE STATESMEN won the title. The 3rd quarter was a defensive struggle, with neither team able to muster any more points. The 4th quarter started out the same way, but after a drive that ate up nearly a full 7 minutes of clock time Wayne State found the endzone to make it a 27-21 contest with just 5:11 left in the game.
The Gorillas responded with a touchdown drive of their own, followed by a ballsy – and successful – 2 point conversion to go up 35-14 with only 2:34 to go. The feisty Warriors then put together a drive that took them to the Pitt State 34, but a chuck into the endzone resulted in a Gorilla interception that allowed them to kill the remaining clock. Gus the Gorilla’s boys notched their 1st national championship since 1991.