* NAIA CHAMPIONSHIP *
THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE ROME FOR THE HOLIDAYS – Okay, this is the last year I’ll be able to use that lame title since next year the NAIA title game moves to Daytona, FL. The last NAIA Championship Game in Rome, GA was a clash between 2 undefeated teams – the GRAND VIEW UNIVERSITY VIKINGS and the UNIVERSITY OF THE CUMBERLANDS PATRIOTS. The game was all Grand View at first and early in the 2nd Quarter a 3rd Viking Touchdown gave Grand View a 21-3 lead but that only served to galvanize the Patriots. Clamping down defensively and settling down offensively Cumberlands returned to their successful ground game and eventually climbed back to within 21-17. That remained the score at the Half and the hard-hitting 3rd Quarter ended with still no change in the 21-17 tally.
Special teams play let the Patriots down and proved to be the difference in the game. As in the 1st Half UC mishandled a punt that led to 7 points for the Vikings, so early in the 4th Quarter Grand View stretched its lead to 28-17. The hard-fighting Pats eventually notched another Touchdown of their own but failed on the 2-point conversion leaving the score at 28-23. With 4:52 left in the game the Vikings went up 35-23 and Cumberlands stumbled and bumbled their way through the remaining time with no additional points of their own. Congratulations to the Grand View University Vikings for winning the National Championship in just their program’s 6th year of existence!
* NCAA DIVISION 2 CHAMPIONSHIP *
FAREWELL TO FLORENCE – Early in the 1st Quarter of this final D2 title game to be played in Florence, AL the NORTHWEST MISSOURI STATE BEARCATS went for it on FOURTH and SEVEN from midfield – and got a Touchdown on the play! That pretty much served as a microcosm of the entire game that followed. The Bearcats, playing in their program’s 8th Championship Game, showed their postseason experience every step of the way against the LENOIR-RHYNE UNIVERSITY BEARS, who were playing in their 1st ever title tilt.
A 17-7 lead after the 1st Quarter became a 22-7 Halftime advantage and at one point in the 4th the Bearcats led by a score of 43-21 before Lenoir-Rhyne managed a garbage-time Touchdown to make the final score 43-28. Congratulations to Northwest Missouri State on their 4th National Championship and on their perfect FIFTEEN and O season!
* NCAA DIVISION 3 CHAMPIONSHIP *
STAGG BOWL: DECEMBER 20th – The Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl is the name of the D3 Championship Game. For the 8th time in the last 9 years the title clash was played between the UW-WHITEWATER WARHAWKS and the UNIVERSITY OF MOUNT UNION PURPLE RAIDERS. The Warhawks came in boasting the best defense in the nation and their archrivals from Alliance, OH boasting the best offense in the nation. Whitewater led 14-7 after one Quarter and 21-14 at Halftime, setting up what looked to be another classic finish from these two familiar foes. Not so.
The Warhawks completely dominated the 2nd Half, moving through the Purple Raiders’ defense at will and shutting out the Mt Union offense, helped by 7 turnovers. By the end of the 3rd Quarter Whitewater led 31-14 and added 21 more points – including a pick-6 – in the 4th for a 52-14 win. The Warhawks won their 5th National Championship and simultaneously handed the Purple Raider dynasty its worst loss in FORTY YEARS! Congratulations to UW-Whitewater!