An undefeated team that beats its opponents by an 46-16 average score doesn’t often find itself in stressful conditions.
But as it begins the NCAA Division II playoffs Saturday, Northwest Missouri State believes it can handle any situation.
“When adversity hits, this is a team that will pull together,” quarterback Trevor Adams said. “This isn’t a finger-pointing team.”
Northwest, 11-0, faces Minnesota-Duluth, 11-1, in a noon kickoff at Bearcat Stadium in a battle between programs with championship pedigree. The winner advances to the national quarterfinals.
Since 2005, the Bearcats have appeared in five national championship games, winning the title in 2009.
Minnesota-Duluth was the NCAA champion in 2008 and 2010.
They have a recent common opponent in Emporia State. The Bulldogs opened NCAA play last week with a 55-13 over the Hornets while the Bearcats had a bye. On Nov. 9, the Bearcats won at Emporia 48-21.
Northwest trailed the Hornets 7-6 early, the only deficit for the Bearcats in their last four games. They also were behind Central Missouri 17-0 in the first quarter and trailed Pittsburg State 15-8 at halftime.
“We always look to get off to a good start, but we’ve been behind before and handled it well,” Adams said.NAIA playoffs
It’s been 20 years since Baker advanced this far in the NAIA football playoffs.
The Wildcats, 11-1, take on Morningside (Iowa) in a quarterfinal at 1 p.m. Saturday at Emil Liston Stadium in Baldwin City, Kan. The last time Baker got this far was 1993.
The game matches strength against strength: Baker’s defense against Morningside’s offense.
The Wildcats’ scoring defense of 17.6 points ranks eighth nationally. The Mustangs lead the nation in scoring at 50.5 points per game.
Both strengths were reflected in opening-round victories. Baker defeated Sterling 10-7 and Morningside ran away from Rocky Mountain 40-21.
• Also in the NAIA quarterfinals, Missouri Valley, which shared the Heart of America Athletic Conference title with Baker and Benedictine, visits Carroll, Mont.
Tabor, which beat Benedictine 14-13 last week, travels to Grand View (Iowa).