2012 NAIA Football Championship Series Quarterfinals Preview
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - (Complete Schedule) The 2012 NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) Quarterfinals will take place on Saturday with four of the top-five teams in the final regular-season NAIA Football Coaches' Top 25 Poll still in the hunt for a national title. Second-ranked Missouri Valley and No. 3 Morningside (Iowa) are the lone remaining undefeated teams at 11-0, while Mid-States Football Association Mideast Division powers Saint Xavier (Ill.) and Marian (Ind.) round out the host-group.
Saturday's winners will advance to play in the FCS Semifinals on Dec. 1. The semifinal pairings will be announced Saturday evening on www.NAIA.org.
Since 2000, the home team in the FCS quarterfinals are 35-12 overall, including a 3-1 showing a year ago. Defending national champion Saint Xavier, who defeated Mid-America Nazarene (Kan.), 29-14, en route to the program's first-ever national title, was the lone road team to win last season.
Saint Francis (Ind.) enters the weekend as the most experienced team amongst the quarterfinalists with 10 all-time appearances. The Cougars are 6-4 in those contests with their last victory coming against Cumberlands (Ky.), 31-20, in 2008. Second behind Saint Francis in experience is Morningside (Iowa), who is making its seventh appearance in the round of eight in the last nine years. The Mustangs own a 1-5 all-time quarterfinal record and are currently winless in their last five trips.
Bethel (Tenn.), Cumberlands and Southern Oregon are searching for their first quarterfinals victory. The three teams are a combined 0-6 with Southern Oregon owning half of those appearances.
All four FCS quarterfinal games will mark the first postseason meeting between the two teams, however Marian and Saint Francis have met a qualifier-high six times in the regular season with the Cougars boasting a 4-2 series record.
The Rome-Floyd County Convention and Visitors Bureau will host the 57th annual Russell Athletic-NAIA Football Championship on Dec. 13. For the fifth-consecutive season, the game will kickoff at Barron Stadium in Rome, Ga. The event will be televised live and in high definition on CBS Sports Television with kickoff scheduled for 6:30 p.m. EST.
2012 NAIA Football Championship Series Quarterfinal Game Notes
Game 1 - Bethel (Tenn.) (9-3) at Missouri Valley (11-0)
Gregg-Mitchell Field | Marshall, Mo. | 1 p.m. CST
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• Missouri Valley looks to extend its already NAIA leading 11-game win streak to 12, when the Vikings host Bethel (Tenn.) on Saturday. Missouri Valley reached the quarterfinal round with a 56-21 win against Ottawa (Kan.), while Bethel posted arguably the largest upset in recent FCS history when the Wildcats defeated top-ranked Georgetown (Ky.), 45-44.
• The Vikings are 2-3 all-time in quarterfinal contests with victories coming against Northwestern (Iowa) in 2006 and Ohio Dominican in 2007. Prior to the 2006 and 2007 season, Missouri Valley had not reached a the quarterfinals since 1989.
• Missouri Valley, who has won three Heart of America Athletic Conference (HAAC) championships under the direction of head coach Paul Troth, boasts one of the nation's top defenses. The Vikings rank in the top five in total defense per game (242.1), scoring defense per game (13.1), total sacks (36.0), pass defense per game (141.4), opponent third down conversion percentage (27.6) and pass defense efficiency (89.2).
• In the first round against Ottawa, the Missouri Valley defense held the Braves to season lows in total offense (228 yards) and rushing offense (50 yards). Additionally, the Vikings held Ottawa's dual-threat quarterback Shame Gimzo to only 183 yards of total offense, 109.6 yards below his season average entering the contest.
• Offensively, Zavier Steward leads a strong Viking ground attack with 804 yards on 123 carries this season. However, against Ottawa it was LaNorris Dukes who rose to the occasion, carrying the ball 15 times for 105 yards and a career-high four touchdowns. The performance is Dukes' fifth multi-touchdown game of the season and first 100-yard performance. He currently boasts 568 yards on 110 carries this season.
• Bethel made history last Saturday when the Wildcats defeated top-ranked and unbeaten Georgetown, 45-44. The victory marks the first time the top-ranked team in the final regular-season NAIA Football Coaches' Top 25 Poll has fallen in the first round of the FCS, dating back to 1999. Trailing 44-39 with 30 seconds remaining, Bethel kickoff return specialist Jahron Reynolds bolted 92 yards for the Wildcats' third-straight non-offensive touchdown. The Wildcats two-point conversion attempt failed, however the defense held strong as Georgetown's final two pass attempts fell incomplete.
• The Wildcats enter Saturday with a 0-2 record in quarterfinal contests with both losses coming to Saint Francis (Ind.) (2006 and 2007). The two losses were by a combined 10 points.
• Bethel has forced 17 turnovers (3.4 turnovers per game average) over its last five games, including a six against Georgetown.
• Bethel showcases one of the nation's most formidable kickoff return specialists in Reynolds. Reynolds, who was named NAIA National Football Special Teams Player of the Week on Oct. 29, leads the NAIA with 843 kickoff return yards this season, while ranking 12th in punt return yards (212). He owns two returns for touchdowns this season, including a season-high 97-yard return against Cumberland (Tenn.) on Oct. 27.
• Offensively, Bethel is led by running backs Cordarious Mann and Raquis Hale. With a game-high 102 yards rushing against Georgetown, Mann eclipsed the 1,000-yard plateau for the third-straight season. He now boasts 1,049 yards on 183 carries. Hale is second with 893 yards on 123 attempts.
• Defensively, Adam Funk leads the team with 92 total tackles (53 solo), including six tackles-for-loss and two sacks. Against Georgetown, Funk tallied 13 total stops.
Game 2 - Southern Oregon (9-2) at Morningside (Iowa) (11-0)
Elwood Olsen Stadium | Sioux City, Iowa | 12 p.m. CST
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• Morningside (Iowa) - the only other unbeaten team remaining at 11-0 - will host its second-straight Frontier Conference opponent when the Mustangs welcome Southern Oregon to Sioux City. Morningside reached its seventh quarterfinals in the last nine seasons with a 40-35 shootout victory over Montana Tech, while Southern Oregon improved to 4-0 in FCS first round games with a 45-28 win at St. Ambrose (Iowa).
• Morningside owns a 1-5 record in the FCS quarterfinals with its lone victory coming against Evangel (Mo.), 54-21, in 2005.
• The Mustangs are 0-1 against Frontier Conference opponents in the FCS quarterfinals, losing to perennial powerhouse Carroll (Mont.), 27-26, in 2007. The Fighting Saints went on to win the national championship that season.
• Morningside quarterback Joel Nixon, who guides the Mustangs' third ranked offense (491.9 yards per game), received FCS First Round Offensive Player of the Game honors after passing for 156 yards and running for a season-best 116 yards against Montana Tech. Nixon is second in the NAIA with 3,565 yards of total offense this season, including the nation's seventh-best passing total with 2,933.
• Wide receiver Joel McCabe is Nixon's favorite target with 63 receptions for 1,034 yards and 15 touchdowns, including three catches for 64 yards and a score against Montana Tech. McCabe is one of only seven NAIA receivers with more than 1,000-yards receiving this season.
• Despite surrendering season highs in points (35), total yards (522) and rushing yards (184), Morningside's defense continues to lead the NAIA in rushing defense per game (56.1) and scoring defense per game (8.4), while ranking third in total defense per game (254.4).
• Southern Oregon, who was one of only two road teams to claim FCS first round victories, scored 28 unanswered fourth quarter points en route to its ninth-straight game with at least 45 points and 540 yards of total offense.
• Southern Oregon is 0-3 all-time in quarterfinal contests, including back-to-back losses against Carroll (Mont.) in 2001 and 2002.
• When the Raiders travel to Sioux City it will mark the first quarterfinal game for Southern Oregon against a team located east of Colorado.
• Southern Oregon boasts the NAIA's most dynamic offense, leading the nation in third down conversion (51.7), total passing offense (4,941), passing offense per game (449.2), first downs per game (30.1), total offense per game (647.0), scoring offense (589) and scoring offense per game (53.5).
• Quarterback Austin Dodge continued his strong play last week against St. Ambrose with 307 yards passing and three touchdowns. Dodge, who leads the NAIA in passing (4,632) and total offense (4,733), has thrown at least two touchdown passes in every game this season, including six games of five-or-more.
• Often forgotten due to the stellar play of Dodge has been the Raiders' consistent ground attack led by running back Manny Barragan. Barragan quietly ranks ninth in the NAIA in total rushing with 1,238 yards this season, including back-to-back season-high 192-yard efforts against Montana Tech and St. Ambrose. He has eclipsed the 100-yard mark in five of the Raiders last six contests.
• Linebacker Kalii Robinson leads the defense with 102 tackles, including 7.5 tackles-for-loss.
Game 3 - Cumberlands (Ky.) (10-1) at Saint Xavier (Ill.) (10-1)
Bruce R. Deaton Memorial Field | Chicago, Ill. | 1 p.m. CST
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• Defending national champion Saint Xavier (Ill.) hosts its second-straight playoff contest on Saturday against Cumberlands (Ky.). The Cougars kept their quest of becoming the fourth team since the NAIA went to one division in1997 to win back-to-back national titles alive with a 31-0 shutout victory over William Penn (Iowa). Cumberlands (Ky.) qualified for the quarterfinals after wiping out MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), 42-24.
• The game is the second-ever playoff meeting between Saint Xavier and Cumberlands. The Cougars claimed victory in the first go-around, 66-19, in a 2010 first round contest.
• Saint Xavier is just one-of-two teams remaining in the 2012 field with an all-time winning record in quarterfinal play at 4-1. The Cougars last loss came against former-NAIA member Sioux Falls (S.D.), 49-7, in 2007.
• Saint Xavier has outscored its opponents 121-45 in its last three FCS quarterfinal appearances - all victories.
• The Cougars are 3-0 all-time in the FCS against teams currently playing in the Mid-South Conference.
• In the first round against William Penn, Saint Xavier showcased a dominant effort on both sides of the ball, posting more than 400 yards of total offense for the third-straight game, while the defense held the NAIA's best running team to a season-low 100 yards on the ground. Quarterback Jimmy Coy highlighted the offense with 336 yards passing and two touchdowns.
• With his performance, Coy surpassed the 7,000 career passing yards mark and has thrown for 75 touchdowns in just two seasons. He currently ranks sixth in the nation in both passing yards per game (275.1) and total yards per game (294.3). In six career playoff games, Coy is completing 64 percent (130-of-203) of his passes for 1,470 yards and 13 touchdowns. Arguably more important has been Coy's ability to protect the ball in key games, tossing just three picks in his FCS career.
• Wide receiver Corey Wennmacher posted his third career 100-yard receiving performance with seven catches for 109 yards against William Penn. Wennmacher is third on the team with 418 receiving yards this season. Shane Zackery, who was among 15 recipients of the 2012 National Football Foundation's National Scholar-Athlete Award earlier this fall, paces the team with 64 catches, 933 yards and 13 touchdowns.
• Cumberlands lost its lone previous quarterfinal appearance against Saint Francis (Ind.), 31-20, in 2008.
• The Patriots are powered by the NAIA's top rushing offense, averaging 344.5 yards per game (3,790 total rushing yards). Running back Terrance Cobb paces the NAIA in rushing (1,817 yards) and scoring (150), while ranking third in all purpose yards (1,995). Cobb posted his seventh-straight 165-plus yard performance in the FCS first round with 177 yards and four touchdowns on 35 carries. He has also scored 19 touchdowns during that seven-game stretch.
• Cumberlands ranks second only to Southern Oregon in scoring offense per game, averaging 47.2 points per contest.
• Defensively, the Patriots are 14th in rushing defense (105.4 per game) and 23rd in scoring defense (20.5 points per game). Weston Hazelhurst leads the way with 98 tackles, 23.5 tackles-for-loss and 8.5 sacks.
Game 4 - Saint Francis (Ind.) (9-2) at Marian (Ind.) (9-1)
St. Vincent Health Field | Indianapolis, Ind. | 1 p.m. EST
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• Marian (Ind.) hosts Mid-States Football Association Mideast Division rival Saint Francis (Ind.) in the 2012 NAIA Football Championship Series Quarterfinals on Saturday. The contest is the fifth all-time NAIA playoff football game played at St. Vincent Health Field in Indianapolis, Ind.
• The contest is the first-ever playoff meeting between the two programs, however the two sides have met six times during the regular season. Saint Francis holds a 4-2 advantage in the all-time series, although Marian has won the last two, including a 45-38 decision on Oct. 13.
• The Knights are hosting their fifth-straight FCS contest and hold a 3-1 record in those games. Marian's loss came in the 2011 semifinals against eventual national champion Saint Xavier (Ill.)
• Marian is 1-1 in two previous trips to the FCS quarterfinals with a victory against St. Francis (Ill.), 49-7, last season. The Knights' loss came one year prior against Carroll (Mont.), 38-6.
• In the first round against Northwestern (Iowa), Marian improved to 3-0 all-time in FCS first round games with a 42-32 victory. Quarterback Adam Wiese headlined the contest with a 2012 FCS first round-high 473 yards passing and four touchdowns. He also ran for 20 yards en route to a game-high 493 total yards on the afternoon. Wiese's favorite target was Anthony Jones, who recorded seven catches for 151 yards, including a 49-yard touchdown reception to seal the game with 3:48 remaining in the fourth quarter.
• In addition to Wiese, Marian features one of the NAIA's most talented running backs in Tevin Lake. Lake is third in rushing yards per game (134.8) and owns six 100-plus rushing yard games this season. Against Northwestern, he carried the ball 23 times for 86 yards (second lowest output of the season) and one touchdown.
• Defensively, the Knights rank amongst the top 10 in total defense per game (269.7), opponent first downs (155), rushing defense per game (95.0) and scoring defense per game (15.8). Marian has held its opponent under 10 points in 5-of-11 games this season.
• Saint Francis (Ind.) claimed its 20th all-time FCS victory with a 22-17 win against Baker (Kan.). Despite some struggles on offense, the Cougar defense shined, forcing four Baker turnovers that led to 13 points. Brody Kalbaugh led the team with 18 tackles (six solo).
• Saint Francis boasts a 6-4 all-time record in the FCS quarterfinals. However the Cougars have lost in their last two appearances. Saint Francis' last quarterfinal win came in 2008 against Cumberlands (Ky.), 31-20.
• The Cougars rank ninth in scoring defense per game (15.9) and 16th in total defense (295.5). Kalbaugh leads the team with 93 total tackles this season, while Taylor Brown is second with 90.
• Offensively, Saint Francis ranks in the top 15 in third down conversion (50.3), first downs per game (22.8), scoring offense per game (34.9) and total scoring offense (384). Running back Antoin Campbell leads the offense with 1,188 yards rushing and 11 touchdowns on 227 carries. Against Baker, Campbell ran for 95 yards on 27 attempts, just five yards short of his seventh 100-yard performance of the season.
• The Cougars are coached by the NAIA's all-time coaching wins leader Kevin Donley, who owns 263 victories entering this weekend.