Former Spartans, Tigers help Bulldogs, Saints make NCAA playoffs
For the fifth year in row, the University of Minnesota Duluth has secured a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs, but unlike the previous four seasons, the 2012 Bulldogs will have to take its entire postseason show on the road.
UMD drew the No. 6 seed in the Super Regional Three and a first-round date with No. 3 Missouri Western State University at noon Saturday in St. Joseph, Mo.
The Bulldogs closed out the 2012 regular season with a 10-1 overall record and finished second in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference standings (also at 10-1) after claiming the previous four league championships. Missouri Western State is also 10-1 in all games and captured the Mid-American Intercollegiate Athletic Association title outright by going 9-1. The Bulldog-Griffon winner will visit No. 1 Henderson State University (10-0) of the Great American Conference on Nov. 24.
In the other first round Super Regional Three matchup, No. 4 Northwest Missouri State University (9-2) of the MIAA will host No. 5 Harding University (9-1) of the GAC with the victor moving on to play at No. 2 Minnesota State University-Mankato (11-0) of the NSIC on Nov. 24.
The quarterfinals are scheduled for Dec. 1 at the site of the highest-seeded team while the two nationally-televised semifinal-round games will be held the following week. The NCAA II championship game kicks off at noon on Dec. 15 at Braly Municipal Stadium in Florence, Ala.
The Bulldogs have now qualified for the NCAA II playoffs on seven occasions in their 80-year history (all coming in the past 11 seasons) and have an 11-4 record to show for it.
Under direction of current head coach Bob Nielson, UMD laid claim to its first NCAA II title in any sport four years ago and repeated that feat in 2010, ending both seasons with a perfect 15-0 mark. Last fall, they advanced to the quarterfinal round of the playoffs again after posting successive triumphs over both Saginaw Valley State University (30-27in overtime in Duluth) and then-No. 1 ranked Colorado State University-Pueblo (24-21 on the road), but succumbed to Wayne State University (Mich.) 35-21 at Malosky Stadium.
The Bulldogs went 1-1 in the 2009 NCAA II postseason, upending the University Nebraska-Kearney 42-7 at home in the second round before dropping a 24-10 decision to visiting Grand Valley State University.
In 2002, Nielson directed UMD to an 11-0 mark during the 2002 regular season, but then fell 45-41 at Northwest Missouri State in the first round of the playoffs. Three years later, head coach Kyle “Bubba” Schweigert and his Bulldogs were ambushed 23-12 by the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D., in another opening-round contest.
Missouri Western State has made three previous NCAA II playoff appearances — 2006, 2010 and 2011 — going winless in all three.
UMD and Missouri Western State traded road wins in their only two lifetime meetings with the Griffons prevailing 45-27 in 2007 at Malosky Stadium and the Bulldogs doing so (47-18) one year later in St. Joseph.
Area members of the Bulldogs include former Superior Spartans’ Chris Blake and Joe Reichert and former Northwestern Tiger Ryan Miesbauer.
Saints to face Titans
The College of St. Scholastica football team will face the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh in the first round of the NCAA Division III playoffs on Saturday.
The Saints, who are making their second consecutive NCAA playoff appearance in just their fifth year as a program, earned the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference’s automatic qualifier. The Saints finished in a three-way tie for the conference title with Northwestern College and Greenville College (Ill.), but received the bid by way of a random draw.
CSS lost to national semifinalist St. Thomas last season in its first-ever playoff appearance by a score of 48-2. Saints head coach Greg Carlson is an alum of UWO, where he graduated with an undergraduate degree in physical education in 1970.
The Titans finished unbeaten during the regular season for the third time in program history, winning the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference regular season championship.
The WIAC had been dominated by UW-Whitewater for the better part of a decade until the Titans dethroned the Warhawks with a 28-13 victory in Whitewater on Oct. 20.
Oshkosh is ranked No. 5 in the D3football.com top 25 poll and will host its first postseason game at J.J. Keller Field at Titan Stadium at noon Saturday.
The winner of the Titans/Saints contest will meet the winner of the Concordia University-Chicago (Ill.)/Bethel University (Minn.) game in the second round on Nov. 24. Area members of the Saints include former Superior Spartans Mike LaValley and Jake Turkowski; and former Northwestern Tigers Michael Parkins and Steven Perry.
Members of the CSS coaching staff include Superior’s Matt Krivinchuk and Geoff Torzewski.