INDIANAPOLIS - For the third consecutive season, the Marian University football team earned a berth in the NAIA Football Championship Series quarterfinals after the No. 5 Knights picked up a 42-32 victory over No. 12 Northwestern College on Saturday afternoon at St.Vincent Health Field.
The Knights moved to 9-1 on the season, while the Red Raiders closed the 2012 campaign with a 9-3 overall record.
Senior Adam Wiese
earned NAIA FCS Most Outstanding Offensive Player after he set a school record with 479 yards passing and tied his school record of four touchdown passes in leading the Knights' offense. Wiese went 30-of-41 for the 479 yards and hit 10 different receivers on the day.
Not to be outdone, sophomore Tevin Lake
had another outstanding day for the Knights. The All-MSFA Mideast first team selection notched 78 yards rushing on 24 carries and scored a touchdown, but, more impressively, caught six passes for 126 yards, a career high, and had a touchdown reception. Freshman Anthony Jones Jr.
had a career day for the Knights after he caught a career-high eight passes for 159 yards and also had a touchdown. Wiese also hit senior Brandon Sherman
and junior Grant Melcher
with TD passes on the afternoon.
The Knights finished with the second-most yards of total offense in school history as they tallied 627 yards, including 528 yards passing. MU gained the second-highest total yards (310) in the first half in a game in school history. MU also forced the Red Raiders into three interceptions on the afternoon.
MU got the scoring started when Wiese hit Sherman with a nine-yard touchdown pass with 6:48 remaining in the first quarter to cap a 10-play, 79-yard drive. NWC answered on the ensuing kickoff with a 99-yard touchdown return to tie the score with 6:32 to go in the first.
The Knights scored two straight touchdowns to take a 21-7 lead just under 11 minutes into the second frame. Wiese hit sophomore Anthony Freeman
with a 33-yard touchdown pass before hitting Lake with a 29-yard TD pass to stake MU the lead. The Red Raiders got one back when Bloemendaal hit Brice Byker with an 18-yard touchdown pass to cut it back to 21-14 with just 1:35 left in the half.
The third quarter was all Red Raiders until late. Mike O'Brien made it 21-16 with a 36-yard field goal for Northwestern before Brandon Smith scored on a one-yard touchdown run to give NWC its first lead at 24-21 with 2:53 remaining in the third. Lake was not to be denied as he capped a six-play, 70-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown run to re-gain the lead for the Knights at 28-24 with 10 seconds left in the third.
The Knights pushed the lead to 35-24 when Wiese hit Melcher with a six-yard touchdown pass with 6:50 to go in the game. Junior Clifford Brown
made it 42-24 with 3:48 remaining when he hit Jones Jr. with a 49-yard touchdown pass to put the game out of reach. Northwestern cut it back 10 with 2:02 to go when the Raiders went 75 yards in 11 plays and only took 1:46 off the clock. Theo Bartman capped the drive with a five-yard TD reception to make it 42-32.
Northwestern went for an on-side kick on the ensuing kickoff, but senior Nathan Jones
fell on the loose ball and gave the Knights the ball with NWC only having one timeout. MU was able to run out the clock and earn their third straight NAIA FCS first round victory.
Junior Billy Baker
earned NAIA FCS Most Outstanding Defensive Player honors after he had 11 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. Redshirt freshman Ryan Hartnett
notched a game-high 14 tackles (two solo) and had a tackle for loss, while senior Stephen Rogers
added 13 tackles (two solo) and had an interception. Junior Seth Vondersaar
also had 12 tackles and a sack, while senior Dan Brunke
added 11 tackles, two sacks and three tackles for loss. Junior Taylor Maxey
and sophomore Demetri Oliver
each had an interception for the Knights.
The Knights will await their fate after the completion of Saturday's first round contests.