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2013 Football Championship Series First Round Preview

November 21, 2013
By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – (Complete Schedule) Sixteen teams kick off action in the 2013 NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) on Saturday with eight games in the first round. All games will be hosted at campus sites with four teams – Cumberlands (Ky.), Missouri Valley, Morningside (Iowa) and Saint Francis (Ind.) – hosting for the second-straight year. Saturday’s winners will advance to the quarterfinals, which will play out on Nov. 30. Quarterfinal pairings will be announced mid-morning Sunday on www.naia.org.

Since 2000, the home teams in the first round boast a 78-26 record overall. Last year, the home clubs went 6-2. The last group to go unbeaten in first round play was in 2009 (8-0).

Cumberlands, who has held the No. 1 spot in the NAIA Football Coaches’ Top 25 Poll for two-consecutive weeks, hosts a playoff game for the third time in program history when it welcomes No. 16 St. Ambrose (Iowa) (7-3) to Williamsburg, Ky., on Saturday at 12 p.m. EST. This is the first meeting in FCS history between two sides that have made a combined 20 appearances (including 2013) in the event – Cumberlands (7) and St. Ambrose (13). Cumberlands and St. Ambrose have met twice in the regular-season with the Bees winning both contests – 41-3 in 1992 and 24-6 in 1993.

The Patriots are one of the NAIA’s last remaining unbeaten teams at 10-0 due in large part to the NAIA’s top rushing offense, averaging 357.1 yards per game. Cumberlands also ranks third in the NAIA in scoring offense per game at 47.5. Quarterback Adam Craig leads seven Patriots with at least 300 yards rushing this season with 761 yards on 129 attempts. He also paces the team in rushing touchdowns with 16 and passing yards with 1,018.

Second-ranked Grand View is the NAIA’s other unbeaten team (10-0). The Vikings are making their second appearance in the FCS – first coming in 2011 – and are hosting for the first time. Grand View, the Mid-States Football Association Midwest League champion will face off with Ottawa (Kan.) (8-3) at 1 p.m. CST in Des Moines, Iowa. Grand View is searching for its first FCS victory, while the Braves – 1-7 all-time in the FCS – look to reach the quarterfinals for the first time since 2009.

Grand View boasted arguably the toughest schedule this season, which featured five ranked teams and one NCAA Division I FCS opponent. The Vikings are led by a potent defense that lists among the top 10 nationally in eight statistical categories, including rushing defense per game (77.8), sacks (38), total defense per game (266.6) and scoring defense per game (15.5). Linebacker Jason Gladfelder is the focal point of the unit. He leads the team in tackles (58), tackles for loss (18) and sacks (11.5), while tied for second in interceptions (2).

Six-time national champion Carroll (Mont.) – the most decorated among the qualifiers with 39 victories and 21 appearances – returns to the field after a one-year hiatus. The Fighting Saints are 15-5 in first round games, including a string of 12-straight victories. Carroll’s last first-round loss came against Frontier Conference rival Montana Tech, 49-28, in 1996. The Fighting Saints earned their most recent national title in 2010 with a 10-7 victory against former NAIA-member Sioux Falls (S.D.). Carroll is scheduled to host familiar foe Georgetown (Ky.) in the first round. The two teams have split their previous four FCS meetings with Carroll winning the most recent matchup, 35-3, in 2011.

Georgetown owns the second-most wins among the qualifiers with 24 in 18 previous appearances. The Tigers are 9-9 in first round games and are looking to avenge an early exit last season at the hands of Bethel (Tenn.).

Newcomer Sterling (Kan.) opens FCS play at perennial playoff team Baker (Kan.) at 1 p.m. CST in Baldwin City, Kan. The Warriors (9-2), who were picked to finish seventh in the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) Coaches’ Preseason Poll, received an automatic berth after winning their first-ever KCAC championship. Sterling is riding a seven-game winning streak, highlighted by wins against fellow FCS qualifiers Ottawa and Tabor (Kan.).

Correspondingly, Baker – making its 13th all-time appearance – is riding an eight-game winning streak and received the automatic berth out of the Heart of America Athletic Conference after finishing the season 10-1 and sharing the conference title with Missouri Valley and Benedictine (Kan.). The program’s 10 victories this season are the most since 1983. Saturday will mark the first time Baker has hosted a playoff game since 1993 when it welcomed Doane (Neb.) in the NAIA Division II Football National Championship.

Sterling and Baker have met 11 previous times in the regular season with the last coming in 1970. The Wildcats are 10-1 all-time against the Warriors, however, Sterling won the most recent meeting, 14-0.

Defending national runner-up Morningside enjoys a first round home game for the sixth-consecutive year, as Rocky Mountain (Mont.) comes to Sioux City, Iowa, at 12 p.m. CST. Overall, the Mustangs closed the regular season at 9-1 after knocking off Doane, 51-13, on Nov. 16 to claim their third-straight Great Plains Athletic Conference title. Morningside, who enters its 10th all-time FCS, showcases the NAIA’s top scoring offense, averaging 51.5 points per game. In their nine wins this season, the Mustangs were dominant with a 39.3-point average margin of victory, including a 67-0 win over crosstown rival Briar Cliff (Iowa) on Oct. 26.

Rocky Mountain, picked to finish fourth in the Frontier Conference Coaches’ Preseason Poll, ended the season 8-3 overall with two of its three losses coming against Carroll by seven points-or-less. The Battlin’ Bears, who are appearing in their first FCS since 1999 (third all-time), boast one of the nation’s best passing attacks, ranking third in total pass offense (3,820) and pass offense per game (347.3). Quarterback Bryce Baker has thrown for a career-high 3,559 yards – third-best in the NAIA this season – and 29 touchdowns. He has thrown for at least four scores in five-straight games.

One of the NAIA’s most seasoned playoff teams welcomes the 2013 event’s newcomers, when Saint Francis hosts Faulkner (Ala.) in Fort Wayne, Ind., at 12 p.m. EST. The Cougars are entering their 14th all-time FCS and own a 20-13 record, including an 11-2 mark in the first round. Additionally, Saint Francis has won 11-straight first round games.

The Cougars’ 10th-ranked passing offense (284.8 yards per game) has had three quarterbacks under center this season with David Yoder taking a bulk of the snaps. Yoder, who is completing 62.3 percent (129-of-207) of his passes this season, leads the team with 1,505 passing yards and 14 touchdowns.

Faulkner has won six-straight en route to a 9-2 record and a share of the Mid-South Conference West Division title. The Eagles own the NAIA’s best passing attack (421.1 yards per game), led by quarterback Josh Hollingsworth. Hollingsworth enters the FCS ranked second in the nation in passing yards per game (380.0) and total offense per game (375.4). He has thrown for a career-best 4,180 yards this season, including a season-high 554-yard effort in Faulkner’s season finale against Kentucky Christian on Nov. 16. The senior has spent three years as the starter for the Eagles and has tallied 11,345 yards passing and 109 touchdowns in 32 games.

Saturday will mark the second FCS meeting between Missouri Valley and Northwestern (Iowa). The Vikings won the previous meeting, 33-26, in Marshall, Mo., in 2006. Missouri Valley is hosting its third-straight first round game and owns a 9-10 all-time record in the event. Northwestern is making its 17th trip and joins Carroll and Georgetown as the only teams among the qualifiers with national championship titles. The Red Raiders’ last national crown came in 1983 when they defeated former member Pacific Lutheran (Wash.), 25-21, in the Division II title game.

Missouri Valley enters the FCS with the nation’s best defense, leading the NAIA in rushing defense per game (67.4), total defense per game (219.1), scoring defense per game (11.4), opponent third down conversion (23.5 percent) and opponent first downs (134). Defensive lineman Ty Phillips is the anchor for the unit and leads the team with 22 tackles for loss, including eight sacks.

Northwestern is 7-8 all-time in FCS road games with its last win coming in 2000. The Red Raiders are led by quarterback Davis Bloemendaal, who ended the year with 2,501 yards passing and 28 touchdowns. Another key cog is running back Theo Bartman. Bartman has run for more than 100 yards three times this season, including a 123-yard and four-touchdown effort against then-No. 1 Morningside on Nov. 9.

The eighth and final game of the 2013 FCS features Tabor, who is making its fourth all-time postseason appearance, at Benedictine (Kan.). Kickoff in this contest is scheduled for 1 p.m. CST in Atchison, Kan. The Ravens are hosting a playoff game for the first time since 2000 when they lost to Northwestern, 27-26. Benedictine has appeared in the FCS 12 times, but has experienced limited success with only a 4-11 record.

Quarterback Bill Noonan has been a key player for a Benedictine offense that ranks seventh in the NAIA in scoring offense. Noonan has thrown for 2,762 yards in 11 games this season, including a season-high 473 yards against then-No. 23 Peru State (Neb.) on Sept. 28. Tailback Cameron Fore leads the ground attack for the Ravens with 1,342 yards (6.3 yards per rush) and 25 touchdowns. He has eclipsed 100-yards six times this season.

Tabor finished the season 9-2, including a 23-20 win against Ottawa in its regular-season finale. The Bluejays are spearheaded by running back James Monroe, who ranks third in total rushing with 1,674 yards this season. Monroe became the program’s all-time leading rusher with a 113-yard effort against Bethel (Kan.) on Nov. 9, surpassing retired NFL All-Pro Rolland “Bay” Lawrence (3,008). He currently rests with 3,828 career yards rushing.

For the sixth-consecutive season, the Rome-Floyd County Convention and Visitors Bureau will host the 58th annual Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship on Dec. 21 at Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga. The event will kick off at 4:30 p.m. EST.

2013 Football Championship Series Pairings (all times local)
Game 1: St. Ambrose (Iowa) (7-3) at Cumberlands (Ky.) (10-0)^
Game 2: Ottawa (Kan.) (8-3) at Grand View (Iowa) (10-0)
Game 3: Georgetown (Ky.) (7-3)^ at Carroll (Mont.) (10-1)
Game 4: Sterling (Kan.) (9-2) at Baker (Kan.) (10-1)
Game 5: Rocky Mountain (Mont.) (8-3) at Morningside (Iowa) (9-1)^
Game 6: Faulkner (Ala.) (9-2) at Saint Francis (Ind.) (8-2)^
Game 7: Northwestern (Iowa) (8-2) at Missouri Valley (8-2)^
Game 8: Tabor (Kan.) (9-2) at Benedictine (Kan.) (10-1)

^ hosted 2012 FCS First Round

2013 Football Championship Series Quick Facts
• Perennial powerhouse Carroll (Mont.) has the most experience among the Football Championship Series (FCS) qualifiers with 21 appearances and a field-best six national championships. The Fighting Saints last title came in 2010 when they defeated former-member Sioux Falls (S.D.), 10-7. Carroll, who also boasts 39 all-time FCS wins, is 15-5 all-time in the first round, including a streak of 12-straight wins.
• Eight teams have made at least 10 FCS appearances (including this year): Carroll (21), Georgetown (Ky.) (19), Northwestern (Iowa) (17), Saint Francis (Ind.) (14), Baker (Kan.) (13), Benedictine (Kan.) (12), Missouri Valley (11) and Morningside (Iowa) (10)
• There are nine repeat programs from the 2012 FCS First Round – Baker, Cumberlands (Ky.), Georgetown, Missouri Valley, Morningside, Northwestern, Ottawa (Kan.), Saint Francis and St. Ambrose
• There are two new teams appearing in their first-ever Football Championship Series: Faulkner (Ala.) and Sterling (Kan.). Last year, there were no newcomers.
• Three teams have won at least one national championship: Carroll (6), Georgetown (3) and Northwestern (2).
• Defending national champion Marian (Ind.) is the first team to miss the playoffs the year following its national crown since former-member Findlay (Ohio) – 1997 national champion with a 14-7 win over former-member Willamette (Ore.) – in 1998.
• Carroll boasts a 2013 FCS qualifier-best 12-game First Round winning streak, followed by Saint Francis’ 11-game streak.
• St. Ambrose’s 13 appearances are the most among the field for a team that has never appeared in the title game. The Fighting Bees, who lost in the first round last season, have never advanced past the quarterfinals.
• Morningside holds the longest active streak of postseason appearances with 10.
• Baker, Carroll, Georgetown, Northwestern and Saint Francis are this year’s qualifiers with at least 10 wins all-time in the Football Championship Series.
• Grand View is searching for its first FCS win in its second appearance.
• The Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) and Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) land the most squads in the 16-team field. The HAAC is represented by Baker, Benedictine and Missouri Valley. Qualifying out of the KCAC are Ottawa, Sterling and Tabor (Kan.).
• Two teams enter the FCS with an undefeated record, Cumberlands and Grand View, which ties the 2011 FCS as the lowest amount of unbeaten teams since 2002.