Northwest, UMD clash of titans
The past two programs to win the Division II national title will clash in a semifinal contest as they battle for an opportunity to play for another NCAA trophy.
Northwest, the defending NCAA champion, has reeled off 12 consecutive wins since opening the season with a loss to Texas A&M-Kingsville. The Bearcats will be looking to advance to their sixth consecutive Division II Championship Game. They are 7-0 in the semifinals of the NCAA playoffs, and have won eight consecutive postseason road games. Northwest is 32-11 all-time in NCAA postseason play.
UMD, the 2008 NCAA champion, is the only unbeaten Division II team in the nation at 13-0 as the Bulldogs play host to an NCAA semifinal game for the first time in their 78-year program history. The Bulldogs are 7-3 all-time in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
Northwest quarterback Blake Bolles is one of three finalists for the Harlon Hill Award, given annually to the best player in Division II football. The senior is the first Bearcat in school history to be named a finalist for the award. Bolles boasts a career 163.0 passing efficiency rating -- one of the best in Division II history -- and has thrown for an all-time program record 8,527 yards and 78 touchdowns. He runs an offense that is putting up 432 yards, and 35.92 points per game.
Minnesota Duluth will pose a challenge for the Bearcats’ stellar offense, as the Bulldogs are giving up just 12.31 points per game, which leads the nation. UMD is ranked 17th or better in all defensive statistical categories, and has also posted 0.92 turnover margin, which ranks 20th in Division II. The Bulldogs are also a force offensively, and enter the contest ranked third in scoring (42.92 ppg) and 15th in total offense (449.0 ypg).
The two schools have met just twice, and the series is tied at 1-1. The last time they met was in the 2008 NCAA Championship Game, which Duluth won 21-14.