Dec. 19, 2009
Game Statistics | Click Here
Game Notes & Trends | Click Here
Championship Information | Click Here
ROME, Ga. - Placekicker Braden Wieking hit three field goals and helped lead No. 1 University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) to its fourth national title after a 25-22 win against No. 3 Lindenwood University (Mo.) in the Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship from Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga. In front of 5,000 fans, the game showcased the nation's top two offenses and ended with five lead changes.
The Cougars (15-0) have now won back-to-back titles and have their third ring in four tries. The win is their 29th straight win on the year, which is a school record.
"Winning a championship never gets old," said Sioux Falls head coach Kalen DeBoer, who wrapped up his fifth season with a 67-3 record. "Today was an unbelievable day for our program. These guys on the field poured their hearts out.
"We have a ton of respect for this Lindenwood team today. We knew that they were going to bring it and you could see the reason why they got here. That's a tribute to our guys and how they handled the ups and downs. Championships are won by how guys handle adversity and that is what we did today."
With both teams scoring over 700 points each this year, they got off to slow starts offensively. Lindenwood gained just one first down in the first quarter and 17 total yards. Despite 142 yards in the first 15 minutes, Sioux Falls netted just five points. However, these two teams just needed the first quarter to warm up.
Wieking hit his first 40-yard field-goal in the game, this one coming from 41 yards out to give USF a 3-0 advantage with :54 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
On Lindenwood's first play on the ensuing possession, quarterback Philip Staback committed a miscue deep in his own territory. Standing in the shot gun in his end zone, Staback let the ball slip through his hands on the snap. He was able to pounce on the ball for a safety. That helped Sioux Falls to a 5-0 lead just seconds later.
Just three minutes into the second period, Wieking connected on a 37-yarder to hand the Cougars an 8-0 edge. At that point, Lindenwood was searching for some offense and they got it from a reliable source.
Staback, who has passed for over 3,300 yards this season and 34 touchdowns, hit Matt Bramow for a 19-yard touchdown strike with 7:30 to go in the second. That catch was Bramow's 11th touchdown catch of the year, which tied him for the single-season Lindenwood record. At that point, Lindenwood got to within a 8-7 score.
After holding Sioux Falls to its only three-and-out of the day, the Lindenwood offense heated up with Bramow catching a ball from nine-yards out from Staback. That snare set a school record with 4:14 showing on the clock before the half. At that point, Lindenwood led 14-8.
Sioux Falls threatened with under a minute remaining in the quarter. Facing a fourth-down-and-one and the Lindenwood six-yard line, Sioux Falls quarterback Lorenzo Brown was stuffed by Lindenwood's Logen Wright. That stop preserved a 14-8 halftime Lindenwood lead.
Sioux Falls trailed at the half for the first time this year.
The deficit for Sioux Falls didn't last long. Sophomore Adam Lopez returned the second-half kickoff 91 yards for a score. That return was his second of the year and the first in Championship action since 2006. Sioux Falls grabbed a 15-14 lead at that point and seemingly took momentum.
In keeping with the theme of the second half, Lindenwood's Denodus O'Bryant found the end zone on a 45-yard run at the 11:39 mark of the third quarter. Staback ran in the two-point conversion to cap a 6 play-63 yard drive and the Lions led 22-15.
The next time Lopez got his hands on the ball for Sioux Falls, he ran it back 61-yards on the kickoff to give the Cougars excellent field position at the Lindenwood 26. Three plays later, running back Ryan Lowmiller put Sioux Falls in a 22-22 deadlock after a 2-yard rushing score at the 9:45 mark of the third.
From there, both teams went to work on defense.
With Sioux Falls threatening, Lindenwood linebacker Dan Carlisle stepped in front of a pass from Brown and picked it off in the end zone. That play negated a 13-play drive for Sioux Falls near the end of the third quarter. That was Brown's second interception that he threw in the game and first time all year he tossed two picks.
However, the Sioux Falls defense and running game came through when it counted. Overall, Lindenwood gained just 233 yards of offense, well below its season average of 512 yards of offense. On the ground, Sioux Falls finished with 178 yards and Lowmiller had a big chunk of that (115 yards).
The score remained tied until the Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game, Wieking, nailed a 42-yarder with 9:50 left in the game. That game-winner was Wieking's third field goal of the day and, for him, was hard to describe emotionally.
"Just being here with these guys and knowing that I can contribute for these 20 seniors means a lot to me," said Wieking. "It's an emotion that is hard to explain (on kicking the game-winner) and I am proud to be around a great bunch of guys."
Sioux Falls finished with 376 yards of offense and controlled the clock for nearly 41 minutes. However, the two costly turnovers by Brown inside the red zone were costly.
Staback went 16-of-26 for 144 yards and two touchdowns for the Lions. O'Bryant rushed for 60 yards on just six attempts but the yardage gave him enough to finish his season with exactly 1,000 rushing yards.
For Sioux Falls, Brown passed for 198 yards going 15-for-24 with no touchdowns and two interceptions. On top of Lowmiller's rushing, Brown had 41 net yards on 19 carries.
Defensively, Dominic Studzinski had a team-high of seven tackles (five solo) to go along with 2.0 sacks. For his efforts, Studzinski was named the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game.
Lindenwood was led on the defensive side by Brandon Gould and Parks Peterson, who each tallied eight tackles apiece.