DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – (Box Score) No. 8 Southern Oregon earned its first-ever national championship by winning the 59th annual NAIA Football National Championship, 55-31, over No. 7 Marian (Ind.) Friday night at Municipal Stadium. The Raiders are the fourth-straight team to win the banner in their first appearance.
“I told the boys – we’re going to win a national championship – but they’re going to be men of character, strength and honor,” said Southern Oregon head coach Craig Howard. “They’re all going to have a diploma that will open doors and they’re going to have a national championship ring. They bought into the plan and executed the plan.”
Like he has the entire season, quarterback Austin Dodge led the way for Southern Oregon. The senior completed 21-of-39 attempts (53.8 percent) for 429 yards and three touchdowns. Dodge, who was named the NAIA Football Championship Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game one day after receiving the Rawlings-NAIA Football Player of the Year Award, ends his career with at least one touchdown pass in 44-of-47 career games at Southern Oregon. He eclipsed 400 yards passing for the third-straight game and 20th time of his career.
“Our offense is a fast-paced attack and Austin Dodge controls that thing,” said Howard. “He scans the field and reads the coverage’s as well as anybody. I believe he has a lot of football left to play. I thought our players did a fantastic job handling the pressure of the national championship game. This national championship game will change Southern Oregon forever.”
Brothers Ryan and Matt Retzlaff led a Southern Oregon receiving corps that ended the game with four individuals with at least 64 yards receiving. Ryan Retzlaff had five catches for 117 yards, including a 9-yard touchdown reception early in the fourth quarter, while Matt Retzlaff had five catches for 107 yards.
Defensively, the Raiders forced eight Marian turnovers, including three interceptions by Jaylenn Hart and two picks from Julius Rucker. Rucker was named the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game after also picking up four tackles (three solo).
Southern Oregon seized the momentum early, racing out to a 10-0 lead only four minutes into the first quarter. Aldrick Rosas capped a five-play, 44-yard drive with a season-long 48-yard field goal on the game’s opening possession, before Rucker took a tipped pass 54 yards to pay dirt a few minutes later. The interception return for a touchdown is the first in the championship since 2003.
Marian lit up the scoreboard on its next drive, when quarterback Hayden Northern linked up with Anthony Jones Jr. for a 22-yard touchdown strike. The touchdown pass was the first of a season-high four on the afternoon for Northern.
Southern Oregon controlled the remainder of the first half, outscoring Marian 28-7 en route to a 38-10 lead at the break.
All four touchdowns during Southern Oregon’s run were credited to running back Melvin Mason. The quartet of scores was highlighted by a 64-yard pass reception on the Raiders first possession of the second quarter. Mason ended the contest with 17 carries for 56 yards and one catch for 64.
Despite the halftime deficit, Marian rebounded with a strong third quarter. The Knights scored touchdowns on back-to-back possessions to cut the Southern Oregon lead to 38-23. Northern connected with Jones in the corner of the end zone for the first score. The second saw wide receiver Kirshawn Hogan break three tackles en route to a 32-yard touchdown reception, which came on the heels of a Southern Oregon fumble.
However, the effort proved to be not enough, as Southern Oregon scored 17 fourth-quarter points while Marian tabbed only seven.
Northern ended the game with a Marian program record 495 yards passing and four touchdowns. He completed 35-of-55 passes and was intercepted six times. Northern is the first quarterback in championship game history to tally 50-plus attempts dating back to 1997.
Jones was another bright spot for the Knights’ offense. The junior set the new program single-game standard with 234 yards receiving on 17 catches. Jones also scored three touchdowns.
“Obviously we’re disappointed, but I do want to extend congratulations to Southern Oregon,” said Marian head coach Mark Henninger. “They’re a great football team. They’ve got a lot of big-play guys and they were able to make a lot of big plays. We had some issues defensively with big plays and things like that. I am very proud of our guys, very proud of our team and very proud of our school.”
Overall, Marian outgained Southern Oregon, 571-495. Both teams were held to less than 100 yards rushing – 76 yards by Marian and 66 from Southern Oregon.
2014 NAIA Football National Championship Awards
Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game – Austin Dodge, Southern Oregon
Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game – Julius Rucker, Southern Oregon
2014 NAIA Football National Championship Quotes
• Obviously we’re disappointed but I do want to extend congratulations to Southern Oregon. They’re a great football team. They got a lot of big play guys and they were able to make a lot of big plays. We had some issues defensively with big plays and things like that. I am very proud of our guys, very proud of our team, very proud of our school.
• It’s big. We probably left 21 points on the field. When you play against an offense as explosive as Southern Oregon’s, the more you get behind the harder it is because when we think we can stop them eventually they’ve got enough play-makers that can make a play.
On Austin Dodge – SOU Quarterback
• If he gets a chance to set his feet, he can basically make any throw he wants to. There’s no question he’s a great player.
• We made one or two tweaks but it was just a matter of us playing better. It was a matter of us making adjustments, playing better and just tackling. It wasn’t necessarily a schematic thing but just our guys playing better fundamentally.
Anthony Jones, Jr.
75-yard TD catch
• The whole team was saying it’s not over, we can play ball too. They’re a high-powered offense but so are we and that’s how our whole team feels.
On Southern Oregon’s defense
• Their defense came out and played the whole game. We knew with their offense coming out and putting points on the board, we had to go out and put up points as well. Their defense played pretty well today, obviously the outcome is not what we wanted.
• I went in there on a mission to build a team of character. I told the boys we’re going to win a national championship but they’re going to be men of character, strength and honor, they’re going to have a diploma that will open doors and they’re going to have a national championship ring. I was able to surround myself with coaches who love these players. These guys are the epitome of student-athletes. They bought into the plan and executed the plan.
• 8 takeaways was the difference in the game.
• Our offense is a fast-paced offense and Austin Dodge controls that thing. He scans the field and reads the coverages as well as anybody and I believe he has a lot of football left to play.
• It’s an exciting offense and fun to play in.
• We want to start fast and finish strong.
• This national championship game will change Southern Oregon forever.
• I thought our players did a fantastic job handling the pressure of a national championship game.
• It’s impressive what these guys do week-in and week-out.
• We really enjoy the game of football.
• We’re a spread, no-huddle offense that operates at ludicrous speed with pinpoint precision. We like to go fast.
• Coach has preached to us, “The longer we play, the better we get.”
• The offense stuck behind the defense, the defense stuck behind the offense.
On defense and turnovers
• Defense wins championships and we caused 8 turnovers and got our offense on the field.
On 4th quarter TD
• I feel like it was great boost for our team. Everybody is going to feed off the energy from that and it really lifted the team.
2014 NAIA Football National Championship Game Notes
• The 24-point margin of victory for Southern Oregon is the most in a title game since 1995 – Central State (Ohio) was a 37-7 winner over Northeastern State (Okla.). Prior to this year, the average margin of victory was 6.8 points during a six-year span (2008-13).
• The Raiders become the fourth-straight program to win a title in its first championship appearance – Saint Xavier in 2011, Marian in 2012 and Grand View in 2013 are the other three.
• Southern Oregon snaps a streak of three-consecutive national champions coming out of the Mid-States Football Association – Saint Xavier (Ill.) (2011), Marian (2012) and Grand View (Iowa) (2013)
• Marian and Southern Oregon entered the playoffs as the No. 7 and No. 8 teams in the final regular season edition of the NAIA Football Coaches’ Top 25 Poll, marking the first time since 2004 that at least one top-five program was not represented in the banner game.
• The lower ranked programs have won eight of the last nine national championships.
• Southern Oregon boasts an 8-4 all-time FCS record in five appearances. Prior to 2014, the Raiders had never advanced beyond the quarterfinals.
• The Raiders are now 3-0 against Mid-States Football Association opponents in the playoffs – McKendree (Ill.) (54-10 in 2001) and St. Ambrose (Iowa) (45-28 in 2012)
• With 55 points today, the Raiders have not been held to less than 31 points in any games this season and have accumulated more than 600 yards of total offense in six contests, including 643 yards in their FCS semifinal win against Saint Xavier.
• Quarterback Austin Dodge captains the offense. The senior Vancouver, Wash., native has rewritten the NAIA career record book this season, including setting the new association standard in career completions (1,253), passing yards (17,261), touchdown passes (154) and touchdowns responsible for (161). The three-time Frontier Conference Player of the Year leads the NAIA in passing yards per game (369.9), total offense (5,312), total offense per game (379.4) and total passing (5,178). Dodge has thrown for better than 300 yards in 13-of-15 games this year. He has thrown 52 touchdowns, compared to 11 interceptions.
• An unsung hero on the Southern Oregon offense is running back Melvin Mason. The sophomore has run for 1013 yards and a team-best 17 rushing touchdowns this season.
• Southern Oregon is 6-2 against ranked teams this season.
• Quarterback Austin Dodge threw a touchdown pass for the 44th time in 47 career games. The last time he was held without a touchdown pass was Sept. 24, 2011.
• The loss for Marian snaps a streak of seven-straight playoff victories, including the national title game win in 2012. Prior to today, Marian’s last loss came in the semifinals of the 2011 FCS to Saint Xavier, 30-27. The Knights missed the playoffs in 2013.
• The Knights entered Friday as one of the NAIA’s best defenses, ranking among the top 10 nationally in rushing defense per game (78), sacks (37), scoring defense per game (17.8) and total defense per game (289.9). Marian has held 7-of-13 opponents to 14 points-or-less this season, including allowing only three points and six points against No. 10 Georgetown (Ky.) and No. 2 Grand View (Iowa) in FCS play. The 55 points allowed was the second most on the year (65 points vs Saint Xavier on Sept. 6, 2014).
• Running back Tevin Lake has been a cornerstone for the Marian offense the past four years. With 68 rushing yards tonight, the four-year starter moved up to No. 5 on the NAIA career rushing charts with 5,445. He has run for more than 1,000 yards in every season at Marian ending the 2014 campaign with 1,389 this year.
• Marian falls to 7-2 against ranked opponents this season. The program’s other Top 25 loss came against then-No. 16 Saint Xavier, 65-38, in its season opener on Sept. 6.
• Marian now stands 0-2 all-time against Frontier Conference opponents in the playoffs. The Knights fell to Carroll (Mont.), 38-6, in the quarterfinals in 2010.