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Bruiser
2008-12-15, 06:29
Plenty of 'D' in Duluth

Bulldogs force six fumbles and four turnovers to claim their first football championship


By Jeff McIntyre
Assistant Sports Editor


FLORENCE - Four weeks ago, Minnesota Duluth had zero playoff wins to its credit.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs walked off the field at Braly Stadium as Division II national champions.

The Bulldogs completed their remarkable turnaround season with another blue-collar performance, taking advantage of four Northwest Missouri State turnovers to claim a 21-14 victory..

The win completed a perfect season for the Bulldogs (15-0), who were 4-6 last season.

"I guess all I can say is wow," UMD coach Bob Nielson said. "I told our team before the game that all we are is a bunch of guys that like playing football. And they went out there today and found a way to beat an outstanding team.

"We were able to create some turnovers and scored when we had opportunities. The kind of win that we had today really speaks to the character of our football team."

Senior quarterback Ted Schlafke threw two touchdown passes to help the Bulldogs take a 21-0 lead early in the fourth quarter. An interception return for a touchdown got the Bearcats back in the game, but Duluth recovered a late onside kick and held on for the win.

"I know it sounds pretty cliche, but it really came down to everyone believing," Schlafke said. "Everyone believed in the coaches and in each other. The way we feed off of each other - I've just never seen it before. The coaches and everyone around us said all year that we played as well together as any team they had seen. I don't think there is a better example of that than how we won it today."

For Northwest Missouri State (13-2), it was another heartbreaking loss in the title game. The Bearcats have now lost four-straight title games.

"It's disappointing for this year, not because it has been four years in a row," Northwest Missouri State coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. "The four years in a row is not a big deal, except that I have to answer questions about it. For our kids, this year is what it was all about."

After a scoreless first quarter, the Bearcats appeared to be driving for the first points early in the second quarter. They reached the Duluth 14 before a Kendall Wright fumble was recovered by Jim Kunz.

The Bearcats drove to the Duluth 12 later in the quarter, but quarterback Joel Osborn was sacked for an 11-yard loss on third down, and Tommy Frevert's 42-yard field goal sailed wide left.

Minnesota Duluth got the ball at its 25 with just 1:17 to go in the half. The Bulldogs made two first downs, and Schlafke hit Tony Doherty on a deep route along the right sideline.

Doherty made the catch, faked off a defender and rolled over a Bearcats defender and into the end zone to give Duluth a 7-0 halftime lead.

"To be honest, I thought about just running out the clock before the half," Nielson said.

"But Ted looked at me, and I couldn't tell him to do that. We were able to make a first down and get some field position to set up the big play. It was a huge momentum shift and really gave us a burst of confidence for the second half."

The Bearcats took the second half kickoff and quickly moved past midfield. The drive suddenly ended when Osborn was intercepted by Cole Strilzuk, who returned it 42 yards to the Northwest Missouri State 31.

Eight plays later, Schlafke scrambled to his right, stopped just short of the line of scrimmage and hit Isaac Odim in the front corner of the end zone for a 5-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 14-0.

Osborn capped a 54-yard scoring drive with a 4-yard run to make it 21-0 with 13:44 remaining.

Aldwin Foster-Rettig gave the Bearcats some hope when he picked off Schlafke and returned the interception 44 yards for a touchdown to cut the margin to 21-7.

Northwest Missouri State added a 1-yard scoring pass from Osborn to Raphael Robinson to make it 21-14 with 1:39 remaining. But after a wild scramble on the ensuing onside kick, the Bulldogs were awarded possession and ran out the clock to give Minnesota Duluth the championship.

The Bearcats finished with 295 yards of total offense to 273 for the Bulldogs. The four turnovers, however, were the difference.

"I don't know how to explain it," Osborn said. "They did a really good job defensively. Every time we started to get in any kind of rhythm, we turned the ball over, and turnovers will kill you."

Schlafke said the win gives the Bulldogs a new level of respect, even on their own campus.

"I guess we're not just a hockey school anymore," he said with a smile.

Gotta be tough for NW Missouri to lose that game four years in a row. Coach Tjeerdsma is a good man.

Bruiser
2008-12-15, 06:38
Here's a link to photos of the game:

http://www.timesdaily.com/apps/pbcs.dll/gallery?Site=FT&Date=20081213&Category=PHOTOS&ArtNo=121309997&Ref=PH&Profile=1164&Params=Itemnr=1&template=gallery

chappy
2008-12-15, 17:39
Bruiser, a little off topic as it doesn't relate to DII directly but why does Mt. Union not move up a division and for that matter Wisconsin-Whitewater too.

For the third straight year these two teams will meet in the Div III Championship game.

Since 2000: Mt. Union has won 5 division III titles and appeared in the championship game in 2 of the other 3 years, has an overall 124-4 record, captured 17 straight conference titles... ( 9 Div III titles since 1993).

Bruiser
2008-12-16, 14:07
Bruiser, a little off topic as it doesn't relate to DII directly but why does Mt. Union not move up a division and for that matter Wisconsin-Whitewater too.

For the third straight year these two teams will meet in the Div III Championship game.

Since 2000: Mt. Union has won 5 division III titles and appeared in the championship game in 2 of the other 3 years, has an overall 124-4 record, captured 17 straight conference titles... ( 9 Div III titles since 1993).

Good question. In my opinion institutional oversight and control over athletics runs right thru the respective college president's office. Most Div III schools are private colleges and there's a stigma between 'scholarship' athletics and the 'non-scholarship' athletics of Division III. Athletics are deamed part of the overall educational experience and there just may be no desire to move into the scholarship arena. Mount Union has definitely found there niche and a system for continued success, so they may be thinking why mess it up.

In Whitewater's case, they are a part of the university of Wisconsin system, and there is a whole league of state schools playing D-III athletics, so they may have no contol over that.

In reality, Div III is a very uneven playing field. There are definitely the haves and the have-nots. There was some talk a couple of years ago of actually splitting into a Div IV.