"As long as you go out there, do your own part; your 1/11th, then we will have a chance to win this game." – Adam Dorrel, NW Missouri Football Coach
After 15 grueling weeks of competition, and 15 straight wins, Northwest Missouri State is your 2016 D2 Football Champion. The Bearcats took down the Lions of UNA by a score of 29-3 to raise the sixth championship trophy in program history, surpassing the previous record of five North Dakota State won while playing as a D2 member.
The win was arguably their toughest of the season, as the elements were a major factor. Snow blanketed the field and continued to fall throughout, and the wind picked up as the game went along.
There were mistakes on both sides. But NWMSU managed to capitalize where North Alabama could not. After taking a 7-3 lead into halftime, the Bearcats got the ball back to start the second half and started by moving the ball straight down field. However, a fumble on the 40-yard line gave it away.
The next three drives ended in turnovers as well. Then, UNA's Jacob Tucker fumbled the ball away and put the Bearcats in position to extend the lead to 14-3, which they did.
Everytime the Lions had the ball, the 'Cats stuffed them with their great defense. Watching the game through the ESPN feed, it was easy to see that while the snow diminished some of their quickness, the Bearcats were not affected in the mental aspect, still playing smart all day long.
Photo: NW Missouri Bearcats Facebook
"Our defense is the reason we won the game." running back Phil Jackson said following the game.
They limited UNA to 22 rushing yards and 201 yards overall, and gave their offense short fields to work with all day. The offense took advantage, and drove the necessary yardage in spurts of 30-50 yards, rather than long drives that start with touchbacks.
The first touchdown of the game was scored by Jordan Grove on a short shovel pass from backup QB Randy Schmidt, who enters in at times in varying packages. During the week, it was unknown whether Schmidt might have actually been the starter, as starting quarterback Kyle Zimmerman was injured against Ferris State.
"Randy Schmidt, at quarterback, just like last week, was able to come in and pick up yards," NW defensive back Jack Young explained on the backup rising into a starring role. "As a dual threat, his running and passing, he brings something else to our team."
Randy Schmidt (12) (Photo: NW Missouri Bearcats Facebook)
During the season, head coach Adam Dorrel was never concerned with getting a sixth title, but instead leaving a legacy his players could be proud of when they looked back on the year, and their careers.
"I've told the guys, that I really don't care about the championships when thinking about their individual success. I want them to set the legacy they want to leave, and I hope to guide them towards that," Dorrel said to HERO earlier this year.
After the game, Dorrel resigned to reportedly become the head coach at Abilene Christian, a former D2 member who moved to the FCS in 2013. No official announcement has been made, but it is expected to come Monday the 19th.
Though the change will strike at the heartstrings of players and NW Missouri faithful, this will not be the first time the Bearcats underwent a coaching change following a string of championships. Legendary coach Mel Tjeersdma called it a career just one year after their 2009 title, opening the door for Dorrel.
No announcement, or rumblings of that matter, have come out yet on who could next lead the Bearcats. Consideringtheir tradition of keeping the job in-house, a few candidates are likely to be the coordinators that Dorrel employed, assuming they do not follow him to Abilene.
For now , Marvylle, Missouri can once again proclaim themselves "Titletown" — home to the greatest program in D2 history. The 2016 title joins titles in 2015, 2013, 2009, 1999, and 1998. This one has to be considered amongst the best, as the Bearcats participated in their own snow bowl to extend their winning streak to 30 games — the longest in the NCAA.
"I think the last two weeks have been monumental wins in the history of Northwest Missouri State," Coach Dorrel said following the game yesterday, talking of the national championship and the semifinals against Ferris State. "I thought we played to win today."