WARRENSBURG, Mo — After a sluggish offensive performance against Fort Hays one week ago, the Bearcats wasted no time racking up points in a 48-21 victory over the Mules Nov. 10 to claim the programs 29th MIAA Title.
No. 19 Northwest (9-2) took the opening possession of the game 85 yards on six plays and ended the 2:02 drive with a rushing touchdown by senior running back Josh Caldwell. The drive proved to be a glance at how the game would go as Central Missouri (5-6) was unable to handle the Bearcat rushing attack.
Five of the first six plays for Northwest were rushing attempts that totaled 65 yards. Coach Rich Wright explained that the heavy dose of the ground game was something it practiced all week.
“We ran 26 snaps of inside on Tuesday, we normally run eight. We ran another 10 on Wednesday and we normally don’t run inside,” Wright said. “ It was a huge point of emphasis and we decided we were going to run the ball.”
Altogether the Bearcats rushed 55 times for 281 yards but it was Caldwell who highlighted the rushing attack. Caldwell rattled off 182 yards on 15 carries averaging 12.1 yards per carry and found the end zone three times. His big game did not stop with the rushing attack as he hauled in two receptions for 24 yards and another score.
Caldwell totaled 206 yards of offense and four scores to lead the Bearcats over the Mules. Winning his first MIAA Title was something he said was very special to him.
“At Missouri Western, I had a great experience and was put in great situations, shout out to my coaches for putting me in those situations but here (Northwest) they challenged me to be a better leader,” Caldwell said. “They challenged me to adapt the Bearcat way and we’re standing here MIAA champs.”
The offense was not the only unit that benefitted from the big day, as the defense was able to play aggressively with a big lead all game. Heading into halftime the Bearcats built a 24-0 lead and the Mules struggled to find offensive momentum.
Northwest defense held Central Missouri to 34 total yards at halftime and 187 yards in the game. The three touchdowns the Mules were able to score all came in the fourth quarter with the game well in hand.
The aggressive play by the defense led to three Mule turnovers and Northwest was able to produce touchdowns off of all three. With such a strong offensive output junior defensive lineman Spencer Phillips said the pressure was taken off of the defense.
“When the offense plays well it takes the pressure off of us (defense) so we can play loose,” Phillips said. “That’s when we can play some of our best ball for sure and that is why we are always gonna be behind the the offense.”
With a win against the Mules, the Bearcats claimed a share of the MIAA title. For the program, it is the 29th overall and the fifth in the last six seasons. With the step of conference champions under their belt, the Bearcats will wait for the NCAA Regional Playoff bracket to be announced Nov. 11 at 4 p.m.
As the seeding sat before the Central Missouri game, Northwest would be scheduled to play Grand Valley State Nov. 17 in Allendale, Michigan.