Northwest Missouri State won their fourth Division II championship on Saturday afternoon, defeating Lenoir-Rhyne 43-28 in Florence, Ala. The Bearcats jumped out to an early 17-0 lead and stifled the normally potent LRU rushing attack to ensure the victory.
Northwest Missouri State is located in Maryville, Mo. and boasts an enrollment of just over 6,800. Unlike their opponents in this game, the Bearcats' have a rich championship pedigree at the D2 level. This was their eighth title game appearance, and they have three national titles, including one in 2009. Lenoir-Rhyne, for those of you who may not know, is a small liberal arts college located in Hickory, N.C. with an enrollment of only 1,860. This is the Bears' first appearance in the D2 title game, but they do have an NAIA title to their credit from the 1960 season.
Trevor Adams opened the scoring for Northwest Missouri with a 29 yard touchdown pass to Rueben Thomas, and a field goal and a Billy Creason touchdown run made it 17-0 within the first 10 minutes of the game. Lenoir-Rhyne was completely incapacitated on offense, and didn't show many signs that they were capable of a comeback.
However, that wouldn't last forever. The Bears did struggle for long stretches, but managed to set the new NCAA record for most rushing yards in a season for all divisions, breaking the previous record of 5,320 by Pittsburgh State. Chris Robinson was the one who got Lenoir-Rhyne on the board just before the end of the first quarter, and a sure beatdown suddenly looked much more competitive. That momentum wouldn't last long though, as they had a punt blocked in their own end zone for a safety in the second quarter, and that really destroyed any mojo they had working at the time.
The second half was much like the first. Adams hit Thomas for another touchdown pass and Creason got back into the end zone to maintain a comfortable three score lead for the majority of the second half. Lenoir-Rhyne's option offense was not equipped to overcome a large deficit like this, and despite two passing touchdowns on the day, they just weren't good enough in the air to come back.