Northwest Missouri State Football enters 2014 at number 4 in our rankings. Check out our Top 25 Season Preview for more on the top college teams to watch this fall. Can’t find your team in the Top 25? View our full rankings to see where every team stands.
Last Season: 15-0 (10-0) Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association
The 2013 season had to be a relief for Northwest Missouri State fans. The Bearcats hadn’t won a D2 title in almost four years! That’s just not how things are done in Maryville. Since 1998, the Bearcats have played a part in eight of sixteen D2 title games, and won it four times: ‘98, ‘99, ‘09, and now ‘13.
NW MO State went undefeated last season, and better than that – they were hardly challenged. Only two Bearcat victories were decided by less than ten points: a four-pointer over Central Missouri in week two – 28-24, and a nine-point win over Pittsburg State at Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium week seven – 24-15. A win’s a win though, no matter the score, and Northwest Missouri State got one in each of the 15 games they played last season, including the D2 National Championship game against Lenoir-Rhyne. Oh so satisfying.
Cody Carlson OG – First team Daktronics D2 All-American
Trevor Adams QB – 208/287 (72.5%), 30 TDs, 6 INTs
Billy Creason RB – 166 carries, 817 yards, 14 TDs, 36 catches, 311 yards, 9 TDs
Clint Utter WR – 44 catches, 763 yards, 9 TDs
Brandon Dixon DB – First team Daktronics D2 All-American 36 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 12 pass defenses, 1 FR, 1 blocked kick
What to Watch For
Getting Defensive – Thirteen players were credited with at least 10 starts for the Bearcats’ defense last season, and ten of them will be back in 2014. Among them is defensive end/one man wrecking-crew Matt Longacre. Named the Daktronics Football D2 Defensive Player of the Year by the Collegiate Sports Information Directors of America, and an American Football Coaches Association All-American, Longacre had 60 tackles, 20.5 TFL, 12 sacks, and 5 FFs last season as a sophomore. He was an animal. All of the Bearcat’s top eight tacklers from a season ago will be back, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the number 11 scoring defense from last year (17.3 ppg/allowed) jump into the top ten, even with the loss of shutdown corner Brandon Dixon.
Offensive Changes – Three starting offensive linemen are gone. Trevor Adams, last year’s starting quarterback, is gone. Billy Creason, last year’s top running back, is gone. Clint Utter, last year’s second leading wide receiver, is gone. So you’re going to see some changes in the Bearcat starting lineup, but a lot of the “new players” should be pretty familiar. The coaching staff did a great job distributing the load last season, so new starting QB Brady Bolles got plenty of time in relief of Adams last season since so many games ended in blowouts. He threw the ball 118 times in 2014 – quite a few more than almost any other backup in the division (barring injury).
There’s no reason to think this Northwest Missouri State team is going away – in fact, they could even improve. Scary thought for the rest of D2. The reason they’ve fallen to fourth in our rankings after they won the D2 title is that our rankings are based on historical performance and conference strength. All three teams ranked above (and several ranked in the top ten) come from the brutally-tough Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Northwest Missouri State’s conference just isn’t as strong. This doesn’t mean they won’t move up by season’s end, it’s just a starting position.
The defense that finished ninth in yards allowed and 11th in scoring will certainly improve as they welcome back almost every starter from last season, including Daktronics D2 Defensive Player of the Year Matt Longacre. On the other side of the ball, the offense scored the fifth-most points of any team in D2 and had a better passing efficiency than all but one team last season. They’ll have to restructure a bit with new players coming in but all signs point to the Bearcats’ extending their 15-game winning streak.