The Division II coaches All-America team announced earlier this week included Northwest Missouri State defensive end Matt Longacre, and deservedly so. His three sacks in last weekend’s national semifinal gave him 11 1/2 for the season, and he’s been outstanding all year.
But for the nation’s fifth-highest scoring team, one that takes a 14-0 record into Saturday’s NCAA title game against Lenoir-Rhyne (N.C.) in Florence, Ala., no offensive players made the cut.
Heck, no Northwest wide receiver or running back made first- or second-team all-conference.
There’s a reason. The Bearcats are the ultimate committee team when it comes to production.
Leading rusher Robert Burton has gained 775 yards, and he hasn’t started a game. Burton is one of four Bearcats who have rushed for at least 376 yards.
Only once this season has a Northwest player topped 100 yards rushing in a game. There have been four 100-yard receiving games.
Among wide receivers, Reuben Thomas tops Northwest Missouri with 61 receptions. Clint Utter leads the team with nine touchdown catches. Bryce Young’s 20.6-yard per catch average paces the Bearcats. In all, seven players have at least 20 receptions.
“We have several guys that when the ball comes their way you know they’re going to make the play,” wide receiver Jason Jozalites said. “It’s a humbling experience to be part of this group.”
Even at quarterback, Trevor Adams is the starter and having a terrific season with 27 touchdowns passes and six interceptions, which made him MIAA offensive player of the year. But Brady Bolles, a better runner, also takes snaps and has 11 rushing touchdowns.
From a player perspective, “the more the merrier” means opportunities for everybody, and not a dependency on one or two stars.
“When your number is called, you have to make the play,” said Young, a junior from Chillicothe, Mo. “If you don’t, somebody else will.”
Young turned in a huge play in last weekend’s 27-13 victory over Grand Valley State, turning a drag route into a 30-yard gain to set up the game-clinching touchdown on a 43-yard strike from Adams to Thomas.
To coach Adam Dorrel, spreading the wealth makes Northwest a challenge to scout.
“First, it makes you a really good offense,” Dorrel said.
The Bearcats average 280 passing yards and 205 rushing yards per game, and, as Dorrel said, take things a step further by balancing the individual attempts.
“If (opponents) are honest with you, they’ll tell you it’s hard to defend,” Dorrel said. “It limits our tendencies.”
And has worked ideally for the Bearcats, even if that means they come up dry on the honors teams.