Nov. 21, 2009

Courtesy Minnesota Duluth Athletics

Junior running back Isaac Odim rushed for three touchdowns and rookie quarterback Chase Vogler ran for one score and threw for another as the University of Minnesota Duluth opened its NCAA Division II national title defense Saturday afternoon by overwhelming the University of Nebraska-Kearney 42-7 in a second round playoff clash at James S. Malosky Stadium.

"We played our best game of the year and I knew we would have to," said UMD head coach Bob Nielson. "I was very pleased with the way we executed both offensively and defensively. I thought our defense was outstanding from start to finish and Chase did an exceptional job at managing the offense."

The No. 4 Bulldogs jumped out to a 28-0 halftime lead before adding a pair of third-quarter touchdowns to put the game away. Odim, one of nine finalists for the 2009 Harlon ll Trophy, eclipsed the 100-yard rushing barrier for the 12th time in 12 games this season, rolling up 102 yards on 17 carries. In the process, he became UMD's all-time rushing leader with 3,379 yards -- 51 yards more than the previous titleholder, Dave Rufledt (2001-04). Odim's backfield mate, junior Brad Foss, rushed 18 times for another 103 yards against a Loper club which had given up an average of just 83.2 yards per game on the ground heading into the day. It marked the fourth game this year that both members of the Odim-Foss tandem has run for 100 yards or more.

"We are a team which has to run the football effectively to be successful, " said Nielson. "Having two quality backs like we do is extremely important. I think Brad showed today, like he pretty much has all season, that when Isaac is not in the game, our running attack doesn't drop off much."

Vogler, the first true freshman to hold a starting quarterback role at UMD in 47 years, completed 13 of 19 passes -- including a 32-yard touchdown strike to sophomore wide receiver D.J. Winfield just before the halftime -- with no interceptions. He and the Bulldogs amassed 428 yards of total offense and held a 2:1 advantage in possession time (40:46 to 19:04) while putting the clamps on Nebraska-Kearney's 10-game winning streak.

The UMD defense, which has now allowed only five touchdown in five postseason engagements going back to last year, was paced by linebackers Robbie Aurich, the 2009 NSIC Defensive Player of the Year, and Max Phillips, both of whom were credited with a team-high five tackles. Senior cornerback Brandon Wood and his backup, junior Forest Clements, each picked off a pass for the Bulldogs, who limited the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference champion Lopers (11-2 overall) to just 63 yards of total offense through three quarters and 158 for the game.

UMD, now 11-1 on the year and 27-1 in its last 28 outings, advances to the NCAA II quarterfinals and a Nov. 28 home showdown with Grand Valley State University, a 44-27 winner over Hillsdale College Saturday, at Malosky Stadium. The Bulldogs pulled out a stunning 19-13 overtime road win over the Lakers in the quarterfinals one year ago on their way to the the school's first-ever NCAA II championship in any sport.

"We're looking forward to the rematch," said Wood. "But the bottom line is the team that loses next week goes home so they will have just as much motivation as we will."