Nov. 28, 2009

Notebook: Bolles Ties Single Season TD Record

By Matt Rybaltowski
Special to

ELLENSBURG, Wash. – Garrett Rolsma crouched by the sidelines on the 30-yard line, inconsolable. He slammed a practice kicking net in frustration and placed a black plastic covering on top. The Central Washington senior kicker had used the net for the last time in his collegiate career.

Moments earlier, Rolsma could have forced overtime in Saturday’s NCAA Division II quarterfinal matchup against second-ranked Northwest Missouri State (12-1) with a last-second extra point. Instead, Bearcats senior defensive tackle Tyler Roach reached up and blocked a low kick to escape Tomlinson Stadium with a 21-20 victory.

“We triple teamed the guard, (defensive lineman) Josh Lorenson was in the middle and (defensive end) Kyle Sunderman was on the outside,” Roach said. “They tried to turn his shoulders so I could get through. They got good push on him so I just lifted my arm and blocked it.”

In a game that featured Northwest Missouri’s vaunted offensive attack versus Central Washington’s impenetrable defense, little separated the nation’s top two teams.  In the end, both coaches called it the best game they’ve played on the season .
“If you were a fan today you enjoyed that ball game,” Central Washington coach Blaine Bennett said. “Certainly, it was the number one team in the country going against the number two team in the country and it went down to the last four seconds.”

The Wildcats received the ball on their own 30 down 21-14 with 1 minute, 11 seconds left in the game. Operating out of the shotgun, Central Washington senior quarterback Cole Morgan calmly led his team down the field amidst a jubilant home crowd. On the ninth play of the drive, senior wide receiver Mike Waller withstood a vicious hit and held on to a 15-yard pass from Morgan to close the deficit to one.

An offside penalty by the Bearcats defense on the ensuing play moved the ball to the one-and-a-half yard line, but it had no effect on Bennett’s decision to kick the extra point. Rolsma holds the Central Washington career record for scoring and had a streak of 99 consecutive extra points snapped earlier this year.

“Garrett Rolsma has been fantastic all year,” Bennett said. “I would kick in that situation 100 out of 100 times, unless the weather is bad.”

Northwest Missouri State entered the game ranked second in the nation in scoring with 43.8 points per game and had not been shut out in a half since a season-opening loss to Abilene Christian. But the Bearcats were stymied by a Central Washington defense that entered with the nation’s top run defense.  The Bearcats’ only score of the half came on a 25-yard interception by sophomore linebacker Chad Kilgore.

In the second half, Central Washington began to show fatigue against Northwest Missouri’s quick-strike, no-huddle offense. The Bearcats converted their first four third downs of the second half and scored touchdowns on their first two drives of the second half to take its first lead of the day.

Northwest Missouri quarterback Blake Bolles, who finished the day an efficient 31-of-40, hit receiver Jake Soy on a 15-yard fade route to tie the game. Bolles capped the next drive with a strike to Simmons in the left corner of the end zone on a rollout.

“We came in at halftime and talked about the fact that we were stopping ourselves (with) penalties and (bad) blocking,” Bolles said. “We came out in the second half and really executed.”

Still, the Wildcats had opportunities to even the score.  Central Washington drove to the Bearcats 1-yard line on an eight-play, 38-yard drive to open the fourth quarter. Bennett opted to go for it on 4th-and-1, and the decision backfired when a pass from Morgan was broken up by linebacker Adam Vondrak.   

“We had a play to (Johnny) Spevak, where he runs a slant inside and the inside receivers run an out,” he said. “We’ve run it four or five times down there but it didn’t have a chance because the ball was batted. It’s probably the only regret I have in that game. ”

The Bearcats, who have been the national runner-up the last four seasons, advance to next week’s semifinal versus California University (PA), upset winners over West Liberty (W.V.)  Bearcats coach Mel Tjeerdsma said his team is brimming with confidence.

“This is a big step for us,” he said. “This (win) was probably the toughest challenge we’ve ever had for a playoff team.”