Nov. 22, 2008

Courtesy of Minnesota Duluth

Ted Schlafke launched his memorable college career three years ago against Chadron State College. He wasn't about to end it against those same Eagles.

The University of Minnesota Duluth senior quarterback had a hand in all three touchdowns, helping spark the No. 6 Bulldogs to a 20-10 victory over No. 12 Chadron State in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs Saturday afternoon at James S. Malosky Stadium. The win was UMD's first ever in three lifetime NCAA playoff games and its 13th straight victory overall dating back to last year. The Bulldogs, who were hosting their first postseason football game ever, moved to 12-0 on the season and will advance to next Saturday's quarterfinal matchup at Grand Valley State University.

UMD, which had been averaging 46.2 points per game in 2008, was unable to establish consistent offensive rhythm against the Eagles' tough defense, which used a solid pass rush to prevent Schlafke from getting comfortable in the pocket. UMD failed to score in the opening 15 minutes of play for the first time this fall after racking up an NCAA II-best 164 first-quarter points.

"I didn't throw the ball great all day," said Schlafke, who completed ten of 25 passes for a season-low 137 yards with no interceptions. "It might have been an off day for me."

Schlafke's six-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter put the Bulldogs ahead 7-0, a lead UMD would take into halftime. The Bulldogs went up 20-0 on a pair of third-quarter touchdowns -- a 15-yard strike from Schlafke (his 100th as collegian) to sophomore wide out Noah Pauley and Schlafke's 3-yard scoring run. Chadron State (11-2), the three-time defending Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion, got on the scoreboard when Trevor Hyatt blocked UMD's extra point attempt and returned it for two points. The Eagles would score on the ensuing possession to cut the gap to 20-10, but could get no closer as the UMD defense tightened up and did not allow any fourth-quarter points.

The Bulldogs again used a physical running attack to wear the Eagles down and control the clock, owning a 38:26-21:34 advantage in time of possession. Sophomore running back Isaac Odim turned in another stellar performance, rushing 25 times for 192 yards, both career highs. The Bulldogs rolled up 251 yards on the ground while holding Eagles to just eight yards on 17 attempts.

"We knew coming in that they had a good defensive scheme. They move guys around and do a lot of blitzing," said Odim, who topped the 100-yard mark for the fifth straight game and sixth time this season. "Our preparation paid off."

UMD's defense matched the offensive unit stride for stride. The Eagles' offense was held to 70 first-half yards, and just 178 for the game. Strong safety Jim Johnson, one of 12 Bulldogs seniors who made their final collegiate home appearances Saturday, led the way with nine tackles, including two for a loss, while sophomore linebacker Robbie Aurich was credited with seven stops, 2.5 for a loss and 1.5 sacks.

"Don't look past what our defense did today. They were a dominating force in the game," said UMD head coach Bob Nielson, who also guided the Bulldogs to the NCAA II playoffs in 2002. "We've got to have more production from our passing game than we had today. We didn't do a real good job in the red zone, and that had been a real strength for our team."

Schlafke and six other Bulldogs played in UMD's last playoff outing -- a first round loss at the University of North Dakota in 2005 -- but the 2008 NSIC Offensive Player of the Year and Harlon Hill Trophy top 8 finalist feels this year's team has the ability to do something special as it begins to prepare for Saturday's clash with perennial NCAA II power Grand Valley State.

"The difference between this team and [the 2005 Bulldogs]," said Schlafke, "is that we're not just happy to be here."