Oct. 24, 2009

Courtesy of Northwest Missouri State

MARYVILLE, Mo.—LaRon Council’s 1-yard leap into the end zone in overtime gave fourth-ranked Northwest Missouri State a 22-19 win against 16th-ranked Washburn on homecoming Saturday at Bearcat Stadium.

The win coupled by Missouri Western’s 35-34 loss to Missouri Southern gives the Bearcats (8-1, 7-0 MIAA) at least a share of their 23rd MIAA championship. Northwest has won the last four MIAA titles and has won 35 consecutive games in conference play.

In a contest between the two highest scoring teams in the nation, it was Washburn’s 13-7 halftime lead that stood until the final minutes of the fourth quarter. Michael Stadler’s punt was downed at the 1-yard line and the Ichabods had to fall on a fumble in the end zone for a safety on the next play. The ensuing free kick left Northwest 72 yards from its end zone with 3:33 remaining.

Blake Bolles completed eight straight passes, including an 8-yard strike to Brian Shannon that moved the chains on a 3rd-and-8 from the Ichabod 29-yard line. A 19-yard pass to Soy gave Northwest 1st-and-goal from the 2 and Bolles rolled out and ran in on the next play to give Northwest a 16-13 lead with 44 seconds remaining.

Washburn (6-3, 4-3) began its final possession of regulation from its own 37-yard line. Quarterback Dane Simoneau completed four passes to get to the Bearcats’ 24-yard line. Stev Ivanisevic nailed a 41-yarder as time expired to send the game into overtime.

Washburn took first possession and posted three points on a 32-yarder from Ivanisevic, his fourth of the game, which tied his own program record. Ivanisevic connected from 22, 47, 41 and 32 yards.

Council carried seven of eight times on the Bearcats’ game-winning drive and converted two 3rd-and-1’s. He finished with a game-high 81 yards rushing on 23 carries and caught a career-high 10 passes for 58 yards.

Bolles set a program record with 37 completions on 50 attempts. He passed for a career-best 367 yards, the seventh-highest total in program history. In addition to his 2-yard run, he threw a 28-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Shaw, which gave Northwest a 7-6 lead in the second quarter.

Bolles was named the Don Black Award winner in a postgame ceremony as the annual homecoming Most Valuable Player. Joel Osborn (2008) and Jared Erspamer (2007) were on hand to present the award.

Close in the balloting were defensive standouts Ryan Jones and Roberto Davis. Jones had a team-high eight tackles, had one of two Northwest interceptions and broke up two other passes. One was a 3rd-and-1 pass play deep down the middle of the field that he got a hand on to force a Washburn punt.

Northwest hadn’t recorded a sack in its last two games, but got to Simoneau three times. Davis had two sacks in the first half and finished with four tackles, three for a loss.

Simoneau, who tossed six touchdown passes in a win against Pittsburg State last week, was kept out of the end zone Saturday. He passed for 251 yards on 20-of-38 passing.

Northwest outgained Washburn 454-332, but converted one of its first 13 drives into points. One of the Bearcats two turnovers was a Bolles interception that ended a drive that had reached the Washburn 26-yard line. A fumble by Tyler Shaw at the end of a 25-yard completion to the Ichabod 20 was the other.

Northwest also had a field goal blocked, a fake field goal attempt fail and was turned away on seven goal-to-go plays on its opening drive of the second half. The final two came on carries from the 1-yard line.

Washburn managed 125 in the second half against a team that lost both starting safeties in the first half and Jones, who went down with an injury late in the fourth quarter. All-America defensive linemen Sean Paddock missed his third straight game with a foot injury.