NW Missouri State beats Grand Valley State 27-13

Reuben Thomas caught seven passes for 143 yards and two

touchdowns to elevate Northwest Missouri State to a 27-13 victory

over Grand Valley State in an NCAA Division II semifinal on

Saturday.

The Bearcats (14-0) advanced to their eighth national

championship game in program history and will face Lenoir-Rhyne in

the first meeting between the two programs.

Following a two-turnover first half, the Bearcats mounted two

lengthy scoring drives to separate from the Lakers. Trevor Adams

found Thomas down the seam for a 43-yard touchdown midway through

the fourth quarter that delivered the game’s decisive blow.

Adams also hit Thomas for a 28-yard touchdown early in the third

quarter to give Northwest a 20-6 lead.

Grand Valley (12-3) struck back with Heath Parling’s

high-arching 4-yard touchdown strike to tight end Jamie Potts to

cut Northwest’s lead to 20-13 with 2 seconds remaining in the third

stanza.

The Lakers forced a Bearcats punt from the Grand Valley 43-yard

line but couldn’t convert a potential game-tying drive after

Northwest Missouri defensive tackle Bryant Hummel’s third-down sack

of Parling.

Following the Lakers’ final punt, Thomas broke free and gave

Northwest Missouri a 3-2 all-time advantage in the momentous

series.

Thomas was a one-time Utah State commit before failing to

complete enough classes in time for the 2011 season. He spent the

past two years out of football, waiting for a chance to continue

his career and made his opportunity as junior walk-on pay off

handsomely for Northwest against Grand Valley – the Bearcats’ most

fearsome playoff nemesis over the past decade.

Saturday represented the fifth meeting between Northwest,

champions of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association,

and Grand Valley (fourth place in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate

Athletic Conference). Each game had come in either a national

semifinal or a championship game.

Official reviews came into play often in a sloppy first half.

After Grand Valley free safety Erik Thompson swung momentum by

recovering Adams’ fumbled snap as Northwest looked to be attempting

a 1-yard quarterback sneak for a score, the Lakers marched deep

into Bearcats territory thanks to two reviews.

Initially, officials ruled Parling’s third-and-long pass to

Potts incomplete, but replays confirmed Potts’ right foot came down

inbounds for a 29-yard gain. Five plays later, Jamie Pitts juggled

an 18-yard pass as he tumbled out of bounds, but a second replay

review upheld the questionable grab to move the Lakers to the

Bearcats 31.

Grand Valley couldn’t capitalize, however. The Lakers ran on

third-and-7 and picked up just 1 yard. Joel Schipper, who made two

field goals earlier to give Grand Valley a 6-0 first-quarter lead,

missed a 34-yard try and gave Northwest another opportunity.

After quickly motoring downfield, the Bearcats committed their

third turnover of the half when Grand Valley cornerback Reggie

Williams stripped Korey Jackson while attempting to stretch for

additional yardage. Officials overturned the close call despite the

ball appearing to move just prior to Jackson’s knee touching the

turf.

Simon Mathiesen kicked a 19-yard field goal to close the sloppy

period with Northwest up 10-6.

The national championship game kicks off at 11 a.m., Dec. 21, at

Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala.