MARYVILLE, Missouri – The Northwest Missouri State University football team lit up its postseason record book in a 63-7 NCAA Division II second-round playoff victory over the Lindenwood Lions on Saturday at Bearcat Stadium.
The Bearcats gashed the Lions for 413 yards on the ground in the largest postseason victory in Northwest history, 63-7. The 63 points is also a Northwest postseason record for a single game.
Entering into the day the Bearcats were set for success, Lindenwood was coming in as the No. 104 rush defense in the country, allowing 175 yards per game. Northwest as a run-heavy team with the No. 23 rush offense in the country, knew it was its time to shine. The Bearcats went out and proceeded to rush for eight touchdowns – another Northwest postseason record.
Seven players contributed to this rushing milestone, with Isaiah Strayhorn rushing for a career-high 178 yards and two scores and Braden Wright rushing for 116 yards and three scores. Justin Rankin tallied two scores and 73 yards as he averaged 9.1 yards per carry. Northwest averaged 8.4 yards per carry in the game.
This historic victory began with the Bearcats scoring on the opening drive of the game for the third straight week. Rankin found plenty of daylight to score on a 39-yard run and just like that, the onslaught had started only 3:30 into the first quarter.
In a game where the rushing attack blistered and dominated the Lions defense, the touchdowns came quickly for both Rankin and Wright to begin the game. Wright captured his first score at the 6:56 mark of the first quarter. This touchdown came after the Bearcats recovered a muffed punt on their own 33. Wright took advantage with a QB power play from 7-yards out that gave them a 14-0 lead.
Rankin and Wright alternated scores as Rankin took it in from two yards out with 13:05 left in the second. Then Wright scored on a 15-yard scramble at 8:48 in the second to make the score 28-0.
Although those two started the scoring trends, Strayhorn got his fair share of the spotlight when he opened up his scoring endeavors with 2:00 left in the half. Strayhorn found the outside and pushed his way to an 18-yard touchdown to put Northwest up 35-0 at the break.
In a 35-0 halftime lead, it was easy to highlight the Bearcats’s offensive power that plagued the Lindenwood defense, but that mark was there also because of a stout Bearcat defense. Going into the break, the Lions offense had only mustered two rushing yards and 138 passing yards. For a team that averages 309.1 yards passing per game, this was significant.
One of the most biggest factors that allowed the defense to be so successful was their ability to force turnovers. The Bearcats forced and recovered two fumbles on the day to go along with four interceptions. Three of those interceptions came from Blake Bayer, including one 20-yard pick-six to make the score 56-7 early in the fourth. Bayer is the sixth Northwest player to have three interceptions in a game and he is first to accomplish the feat in the postseason.
Before Bayer could make his impact on the final score, the Bearcats continued their rushing rampage with the two-headed rushing monster of Wright and Strayhorn. Wright opened the second half scoring at the 10:39 mark in the third. He found a seam and juked out a defender in the open field before sprinting to a comfortable 40-yard touchdown run to make it 42-0.
Strayhorn found his second score with 10:39 to play in the third as he sprinted to the outside for a 35-yard touchdown.
Lindenwood finally dented the scoreboard at 4:41 when they scored on a 21-yard pass from Cade Brister to tight end Erik Henneman, but that was the only breath of life during the entirety of the game.
Bayer’s third pick of the day turned into instant offense as he returned the interception 23 yards for a touchdown with 2:29 left in the third quarter to give Northwest a 56-7 lead.
After Bayer scored his pick-six, Mike Hohensee finished the scoring early in the fourth with a quick and easy one-yard rush to make the score 63-7.
The Northwest defense made their stance known while the offense enjoyed their success. Lindenwood finished the day with only 205 yards passing and 21 yards rushing. With the help of the offense and the defense, the Bearcats eclipsed their previous largest margin of victory in a playoff game at 47 points (54-7 vs. Humboldt State (Nov. 28, 2015).
The Bearcats move onto the Super Region 3 title game as they head to Big Rapids, Michigan, next Saturday to take on the No. 1 seed Ferris State. It will be a rematch of last year’s second matchup where the Bulldogs scored a 27-21 win over the Bearcats on Nov. 24, 2018.
NOTES: Northwest becomes the fourth NCAA school to record 50 postseason victories joining Mount Union (104), North Dakota State (62) and Wisconsin-Whitewater (52) … Northwest improves to 50-17 all-time in the Div. II playoffs … Northwest has won 24 straight home playoff games at Bearcat Stadium … Northwest is 31-3 all-time at home in the playoffs … it’s the 13th time in school history that Northwest has reached 12 or more wins in a season … this was Strayhorn’s second postseason game over 100 yards, as he rushed for 171 yards last year against Grand Valley State … Northwest eclipsed its previous postseason scoring mark of 59 points vs. St. Cloud State in 2013 … Strayhorn led all rushers with 178 yards on 16 carries for an average of 11.1 yards per carry … Wright finished with 152 yards passing and 116 yards rushing as well as two rushing touchdowns … Jacob Gassman led Northwest with five tackles … Elijah Green (1.0), Noah Williams (1.0), Mike Ehlke (0.5) and Jackson Barnes (0.5) each recorded a sack … Williams added his first career interception in the second half to go along with a sack … Alec Tatum caught a team-high five passes for 57 yards … Imoni Donadelle tallied four catches for 39 yards … Northwest posted a season-high 29 first downs
Bearcat Postseason Records Set
Largest Margin of Victory – 56 (previous mark of 47 set vs. Humboldt State – Nov. 28, 2015)
Most Points Scored – 63 (previous mark of 59 set vs. St. Cloud State – Dec. 7, 2013)
Most Rushing Yards – 413 (previous mark of 356 at Grand Valley State – Nov. 17, 2018)
Most Rushing Touchdowns – 8 (previous mark of 7 set vs. St. Cloud State – Dec. 7, 2013)
Most Touchdowns – 9 (previous mark of 8 set three times)