Top-ranked Northwest Missouri State made a trip to Kansas City on Saturday, playing Central Missouri in the 2016 Fall Classic at Arrowhead Stadium.
The Bearcats hope it isn’t their last. The defending Division II national champions ran their winning streak to 20 games with a 42-17 victory over the No. 15 Mules in front of an announced crowd of 15,349.
“If you can make the playoffs, if you’re lucky enough to do that, I certainly think (playing at Arrowhead) helps you out,” Northwest Missouri coach Adam Dorrel said.
Northwest Missouri’s dominance over the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association in recent years has been thorough. The Bearcats, 5-0 overall and in the MIAA, have won 35 of their last 36 conference games, dating back to 2013.
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Central Missouri, 3-2 overall and 3-2 in the MIAA, tied the game with 5 minutes left in the second quarter, but that was as close as it got. Clayton Wilson hauled in a 4-yard touchdown pass with 39 seconds left in the first half, and the Bearcats never looked back.
The Bearcats took control by getting physical. Phil Jackson (97 yards, two touchdowns) and Cameron Wilcox (61 yards, two touchdowns) took turns hammering the ball.
“Being able to line up and get the run game going opens up everything,” Jackson said. “Just to be able to do that is one of a kind for us.”
Dorrel didn’t mess around when it came time to run.
“When you can line up in three tight ends like that and knock people around a little bit, it’s a great feeling as a coach,” Dorrel said. “It’s the most complete game we’ve played all year, in all three phases.”
Central Missouri didn’t have the ball much in the second half, and imploded when it got close to the end zone. The Mules were 13 yards from pulling within a touchdown of the lead when Garret Fugate, who had 201 yards and two touchdowns, threw his lone interception.
Northwest Missouri went 94 yards in the ensuing drive and put the game away.
“We couldn’t slow them down, and they were just those torturous, long, numerous-play drives,” Central Missouri coach Jim Svoboda said. “They just kept converting and we couldn’t get them off the field … their third down conversion (rate) was pretty salty.”
The Northwest Missouri defense continued to do its part as well. The Bearcats allowed just 285 yards, including a paltry 77 yards after halftime.
“It was our biggest test of the season, and to come in here and play like that against this offense is real awesome, and it’s going to springboard us the rest of the season,” Bearcats senior defensive tackle Collin Bevins said. “I guess we can just build off of this and see where it takes us.”
The schedule takes the Bearcats to Central Oklahoma next week. With more performances like the one on Saturday, the schedule will lead back to the Kansas City area, Children’s Mercy Park, and a shot at a second straight national title.