Minnesota Duluth notches first Division II football title
When the Division II football postseason began, Minnesota Duluth’s grand total of victories in playoffs stood at zero.
That history was erased over the last four weeks as the Bulldogs were the last team standing in this year’s bracket after downing Northwest Missouri State, 21-14, in the championship game in Braly Municipal Stadium December 13.
Defense was the big reason Minnesota Duluth walked away with the trophy. The Bulldogs forced four turnovers (two interceptions, two fumble recoveries) to cap a 15-0 season – quite a turnaround for the Bulldogs, who were 4-6 in 2007.
“We were able to create some turnovers and score when we had opportunities,” Minnesota Duluth coach Bob Nielson told the assembled media. “All I can say is ‘Wow’ 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 and found a way to beat an outstanding team.”
The loss marked the fourth straight year Northwest Missouri State finished as national runners-up. The four championship-game losses have all been by single digits (a total of 19 points).
“It's disappointing for this year, not because it has been four years in a row,” said Northwest Missouri State coach Mel Tjeerdsma, whose team finished 13-2. “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.”
The game was scoreless in the second quarter when Northwest Missouri State appeared poised to put the first points on the board after driving to the Minnesota Duluth 14-yard line. The Bulldogs forced Kendall Wright to fumble, and it was recovered by Jim Kunz.
Later, Northwest Missouri drove to the Bulldogs’ 12-yard line, but that drive ended with a missed 42-yard field goal.
Minnesota Duluth quarterback Ted Schalfke made sure his team didn’t blow its best chance to score when he hit Tony Doherty with a 38-yard scoring pass 14 seconds before the intermission. The Bulldogs covered 75 yards in six plays in just 1:03.
“To be honest, I thought about just running out the clock before the half,” Nielson said.
“That touchdown just before halftime was a big momentum builder for us,” said Schlafke, who threw a school-record 36 touchdowns this season. “We managed the clock pretty well, and the touchdown was on a route we actually haven’t thrown all year.”
Schlafke threw his second touchdown pass of game when he hit running back Isaac Odim from five yards out to give Minnesota Duluth a 14-0 lead with 6:32 left in the third quarter.
Odim gave the Bulldogs a 21-0 lead by scoring on a four-yard run with 13:44 remaining in the game.
Northwest Missouri State’s defense then made a statement when Aldwin Foster-Rettig returned an interception 44 yards to cut the deficit to 21-7. Bearcats quarterback Joel Osborn hit Raphael Robinson with a 1-yard scoring pass with 1:39 left setting up the ensuing onside kick. Luke Schalekamp recovered for Minnesota Duluth to secure the win.
Northwest Missouri finished with 295 yards of total offense to 273 for the Bulldogs. However, the four turnovers were a big factor in the outcome.
“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 that will kill you.”
Schlafke said the win gives the Bulldogs a new level of respect on their own campus.
“I guess we’re not just a hockey school anymore,” he said.
Minn. Duluth 21, Northwest Mo. St. 14
Minn. Duluth 0 7 7 7 -- 21
Northwest Mo. St. 0 0 0 14 -- 14
MD – Tony Doherty 38 pass from Ted Schlafke (David Nadeau kick), :14.
MD – Isaac Odim 5 pass from Schlafke (Nadeau kick), 6:32.
MD – Odim 4 run (Nadeau kick), 13:44.
NMS – Aldwin Foster-Rettig 44 interception return (Tommy Frevert kick), 8:04.
NMS – Raphael Robinson 1 pass from Joel Osborn (Frevert kick), 1:39.
First downs 17 19
Rushes-yards 43-145 32-106
Passing 128 189
Comp.-Att.-Int. 14-23-2 18-30-2
Return yards 75 86
Punts-Avg. 6-39.0 4-48.5
Fumbles-lost 0-0 6-2
Penalties-yards 1-12 3-30
Time of possession 34:18 25:42
Rushing: MD – Isaac Odim 21-69, Brad Foss 9-37, Ted Schalfke 8-24, D.J. Winfield 3-13, Noah Pauley 1-5; NMS – LaRon Council19-99, Blake Bolles 4-26, Kendall Wright 1-1, Team 1-minus 2, Joel Osborn 7-minus 18.
Passing: MD – Ted Schalfke 14-22-2-128, D.J. Winfield 0-1-0-0; NMS – Joel Osborn 17-28-1-182, Blake Bolles 1-2-0-7.
Receiving: MD – Tony Doherty 4-61, D.J. Winfield 3-22, Isaac Odim 3-19, Luke Schalekamp 2-15, Noah Pauley 2-11; NMS – Abe Qaoud 5-36, Nick Rhodes 4-61, Josh Gannon 2-36, Kendall Wright 2-20, Greg Applegate 2-12, Brian Shannon 1-15, LaRon Council 1-8, Raphael Robinson 1-1.
© 2010 The National Collegiate Athletic Association