Before Northwest Missouri State senior place-kicker Simon Mathiesen kicks off Saturday in the Bearcats’ Homecoming game against Pittsburg State, head coach Adam Dorrel will know the spot to try field goals during the game.

“We always meet before the game after he goes out and kicks,” Dorrel said. “We have a line in the sand where we are going to kick from and where we are not. It helps me as a coach to know exactly if we are going to punt here, go for it or kick it. He knows that, too. That really helps our relationship. It helps his confidence in me and vice versa."

It takes self-confidence to become an integral part of one of the best NCAA Division II football programs in the last two decades.

Ranked No. 1 in the AFCA Top 25, Northwest Missouri State, 8-0, carries a 23-game winning streak into Saturday’s game against Pittsburg State. The game will be televised on the American Sports Network.

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Back in 2012, Mathiesen was living in Vedbaek, Denmark. He grew up playing soccer, but in his last few years of high school, he started playing football. His dream was to play wide receiver at a college in the United States.

Instead of fantasizing about it, Mathiesen took action, sending out videos of himself to Division II schools across the country.

“Getting recruited out of Denmark is not an easy task,” Mathiesen said. “I spent around $300 to $400 creating highlight tapes, sending them out to schools. I was hoping I would get a shot somewhere.

“AD (Adam Dorrel) responded. He was in Denmark a couple of years ago. We had a common thing there. I came for a visit in the spring of 2013. I came as a walk-on receiver. I liked what I saw and I came up here.”

As it turned out, Northwest coaching staff liked Mathiesen’s kicking abilities even more than his hands.

One day early in the 2013 season, Dorrel came up to him before a game and told Mathiesen he was going to kick. Mathiesen made all 10 of his field goal attempts in his freshman year. Two of them came in a 27-13 victory over Grand Valley State in the national semifinal game.

In the 2013 national championship game, Mathiesen made another field goal that gave Northwest a 10-0 lead in a game it won 43-28 against Lenoir-Rhyne.

Last season, Mathiesen made a school-record 25 field goals and this season Mathiesen has booted a career-long 47-yard field goal.

“Time has flown,” Mathiesen said. “Everything has happened so fast. Now we are here four years later. It is crazy. This has exceeded my expectations by a tremendous amount. I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here. When I came to the States, I had no idea what Northwest Missouri State was about. I could have easily ended up in a bad place, but I ended up here.”

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Mathiesen hardly knows what a loss feels like. Northwest is 48-2 with two national championships since 2013. The only loss was at Homecoming against Pittsburg State on Oct. 18, 2014 and in the first round of the playoffs at Minnesota Duluth on Nov. 22, 2014.

“I am very grateful to be here,” Mathiesen said. “It has taught me a lot of things, not only about football, but life as well. I see myself as being very fortunate to be part of this program.”

Mathiesen, who has earned a degree in business, speaks Danish, English, German and French.

“We are such a small country,” Mathiesen said. “There are only 6 million people speaking Danish in the whole world. We have to learn to speak other languages as well.”

Dorrel said Mathiesen brings a different perspective to the locker room because he grew up in Europe.

“It is just cool to hear him talk where he grew up and what he wants to do when he gets older,” Dorrel added. “He will be a Bearcat for life. It is cool we will have a Bearcat across the pond.”

2016 Statistics Pittsburg State Northwest Missouri State
Record 5-3 8-0
Points Scored 42.1 49.8
Points Allowed 36.2 15.5
Rushing Offense 163.0 217.0
Rushing Defense 170.4 71.4
Passing Offense 327.4 301.4
Passing Defense 313.2 177.4

Offense Spurs Valdosta State to five-game winning streak

Valdosta coach Kerwin Bell sees some of these impressive passing numbers quarterbacks are putting up in the Gulf South Conference and welcomes the challenge.

Bell likes Valdosta State’s secondary, saying it is six deep. One of those players is junior safety Raymond Palmer, who has four interceptions this year. One came last week in a 56-27 victory against Delta State. Palmer not only intercepted the pass, he returned it 89 yards.

Valdosta State's Raymond Bell (28) is part of a deep secondary unit for the Blazers head coach Kerwin Bell.
Valdosta State Athletics
Valdosta State's Raymond Bell (28) is part of a deep secondary unit for the Blazers head coach Kerwin Bell.

“He plays the run very well from the safety position,” Bell said. “He has been a big deal for us on defense and has done a great job back there at safety.

“We are a new coaching staff. We got a chance to watch some film from last year. He was one of the safeties we thought could help us, but we didn’t know how much. We didn’t know much about him as a player. We got into the season, he came out of nowhere. He started making plays all over the field. He is in the rotation at safety. He is playing extremely well.”

Bell feels that way about all six of the secondary players he uses in the rotation. He also likes the defensive line’s ability to stop the run.

“I tell people all the time, if we can get you to throw it, we will play with anybody in the country,” Bell said. “I believe, we have the best defensive backs in the country.”

It is almost a certainty that Valdosta State, 6-1 and ranked No. 16 in the AFCA Top 25, will see a lot of balls in the air when the Blazers play at Florida Tech, 5-2, Saturday evening.

Last week in a 45-35 loss at West Alabama, Florida Tech junior quarterback Mark Cato completed 19 of 24 passes for 502 yards. It was the first 500-yard passing performance in the program’s history. He had completions that went for 88 yards, 71 yards and 62 yards.

The game Saturday night will be fun to watch because of the battle within the game.

“If we get you in throwing situations, we feel very comfortable that we are going to make plays,” Bell said. “Our kids not only knock the ball down; they will intercept it. We are close to the lead in the nation in interceptions so far. We have 17 already. It has been a defense that has been really good for us. They get a lot of turnovers for us. That has been a key in this season.”

Only Azusa Pacific and Fairmont State have more interceptions with 18.

Coming into his first season as head coach at Valdosta State, Bell wanted to make sure the Blazers protected their home turf. They have accomplished that by going 4-0 at home with one home game left.

But the next two games are on the road. After Florida Tech, the Blazers will play at West Florida.

“We have a big challenge ahead for our football team,” Bell said. “We go on the road and see if we can win against some really good football teams. These next two weeks we will have to rise up and see what kind of football team we have to win at some good places on the road.”

2016 Statistics Valdosta State Florida Tech
Record 6-1 5-2
Points Scored 37.0 39.0
Points Allowed 26.3 19.4
Rushing Offense 119.3 198.9
Rushing Defense 140.4 81.4
Passing Offense 328.6 315.3
Passing Defense 216.1 272.4

ESPN3 Game: William Jewell at University of Indianapolis

Expect a lot of points when William Jewell travels to the University of Indianapolis for a Saturday night game that will be televised on ESPN3. A year ago, Indianapolis won 63-35 at William Jewell.

Indianapolis leads the series 3-1, but that one loss was painful for the Greyhounds. It occurred in 2014 at Indianapolis. William Jewell won 27-24, snapping the Greyhounds’ 22-game winning streak versus Great Lakes Valley Conference opponents.