NAIA Football Weekly Report – No. 1
The 2014 NAIA Football Landscape
• Eight teams opened the NAIA season on August 23:
o Montana Western def. Montana Tech, 38-6
o Waldorf (Iowa) def. Mayville State (N.D.), 48-0
o Eastern Oregon def. Menlo (Calif.), 45-27
o Evangel (Mo.) def. Arizona Christian, 40-16
• This week marks the first full week of football action in the NAIA. Defending national champion Grand View (Iowa) begins its quest to become the 20th program in NAIA history to win multiple national titles on Saturday against NCAA Division I Drake (Iowa). The Vikings defeated the Bulldogs, 21-16, in last year’s matchup.
• The Vikings return a number of key individuals, including arguably their two most dynamic offensive players in quarterback Derek Fulton and wider receiver Brady Roland. Last season, Fulton ranked among the top 10 nationally in total offense (4,158), total passing (3,451), pass efficiency (157.9) and total offense per game (297). The then-sophomore received the 2013 Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game award after throwing for four touchdowns and running for another in Grand View’s 35-23 win over Cumberlands (Ky.). Roland led the team and ranked second nationally in receptions (83) and receiving yards (1,336). He also led all Viking pass-catchers with 14 touchdowns.
• Perennial powerhouses No. 2 Carroll (Mont.) and No. 3 Morningside (Iowa) enter 2014 poised and ready to make another run at the national title. The Fighting Saints, who fell to Cumberlands in overtime in the semifinals of the 2013 Football Championship Series, return three key All-Americans in Dustin Rinker, Sean Blomquist and James Dowgin. Rinker, a senior running back, led the NAIA with 1,960 rushing yards a year ago, while Blomquist and Dowgin captained a defense that ranked third in scoring defense per game (16.2), fourth in sacks (43.5) and ninth in rushing defense (117.4) in 2013. Blomquist was the team leader with 124 tackles (91 solo) and Dowgin paced the squad with seven interceptions. Carroll opens the season on Sept. 5 at No. 22 Southern Oregon.
• Morningside is the three-time reigning Great Plains Athletic Conference champion and has made 10-straight appearances in the NAIA Football Championship Series. The Mustangs own a record of 101-21 since the start of 2004 and have advanced to at least the quarterfinals of the postseason eight times in the last 10 years. Offensively, Morningside returns a pair of key cogs in quarterback Ryan Kasdorf and running back Brandon Wegher. Despite missing the Mustangs’ final game against Grand View due to injury, Kasdorf ended the year ranked seventh in the NAIA in total passing (3,335) and total offense (3,869), including a season-best 449 yards of total offense against Nebraska Wesleyan on Sept. 14. Wegher concluded 2013 with 1,205 rushing yards on 208 carries, including nine touchdowns. Linebacker Zac Schleuger is Morningside’s top returner on defense. The junior tallied a team-high 104 tackles (40 solo), including 15 tackles for loss. The Mustangs kick off the 2014 regular season on Sept. 6 against Valley City State (N.D.)
• Four new programs will make their NAIA varsity debut this season: Arizona Christian, College of Idaho, Missouri Baptist and Southeastern (Fla.). Arizona Christian lost its program opener against Evangel, 40-16, on August 23. Missouri Baptist is the next newcomer to hit the field, as the Spartans travel to NCAA Division I Southeast Missouri State on Thursday. College of Idaho and Southeastern both start the year on the road on Sept. 6. The Yotes, who field a team for the first time since the program was discontinued following the 1977 season, travels to NCAA Division III Pacific (Ore.), while Southeastern travels to No. 10 Faulkner (Ala.).
• Arizona Christian’s Gabriel Jordan posted what could prove to be the play of the year in the NAIA, when the freshman wide receiver returned a punt 100 yards – 108 yards unofficially – for a touchdown. The play received national attention, including being featured on ESPN SportsCenter’s Top 10. To access the video, click here.
• Benedictine (Kan.) head coach Larry Wilcox enters the season four wins shy of career victory No. 250. Wilcox, who is a four-time Heart of America Athletic Conference Coach of the Year and currently ranks second among active NAIA coaches in victories, has been at the helm of the Raven football program since the fall of 1979. Benedictine opens the season Saturday against Briar Cliff (Iowa).
• Valley City State’s Dennis McCulloch boasts a 97-75 career mark with the Vikings, three wins shy of No. 100. McCulloch and the rest of the Vikings open the year Saturday against Jamestown (N.D.).
• The Sun Conference (TSC) and the North Star Athletic Association (NSAA) officially join the NAIA as affiliated leagues for the sport of football this season. Both leagues will each receive one automatic berth into the 2014 NAIA Football Championship Series as long as the league champion is ranked among the top 20 in the final NAIA Football Coaches’ Top 25 Poll.
o The Sun Conference – Ave Maria (Fla.), Edward Waters (Fla.), Point (Ga.), Southeastern, Warner (Fla.) and Webber International (Fla.)
o North Star Athletic Association – Dakota State (S.D.), Dickinson State (N.D.), Jamestown (N.D.), Mayville State (N.D.), Presentation (S.D.), Valley City State (N.D.) and Waldorf (Iowa)
• Eight ranked teams are in action this week:
o Thursday – No. 18 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) at Campbellsville (Ky.)
o Saturday – No. 1 Grand View (Iowa) at Drake (Iowa)
o Saturday – No. 9 Rocky Mountain (Mont.) at Dickinson State (N.D.)
o Saturday – No. 10 Faulkner (Ala.) at Webber International (Fla.)
o Saturday – No. 11 Benedictine (Kan.) at Briar Cliff (Iowa)
o Saturday – Bacone (Okla.) at No. 13 Northwestern (Iowa)
o Saturday – Mayville State (N.D.) at No. 21 Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.)
o Saturday – No. 22 Southern Oregon at Menlo (Calif.)
• For the first time since 2008, the NAIA Football National Championship will have a new home, as the game moves to Daytona Beach Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, Fla. The state of Florida previously held the football championship from 1957 – 1960 in St. Petersburg. Since 1960, the event has been held in 19 different states, including the past six years in Rome, Ga. Municipal Stadium, which was built in 1988 and has recently undergone a $900,000 renovation project, is the home field of NCAA Division I Bethune-Cookman (Fla.), while also serving several local high schools. For more information on the 2014 national championship, click here.
• For a complete list of NAIA football statistical leaders, click here.
• For more information on NAIA football, click here.