Nov. 27, 2010

Courtesy of Minnesota Duluth Athletics

Finding a way to win is what makes championship teams championship teams.

The University of Minnesota Duluth earned its third NCAA Division II quarterfinal berth in as many years by pulling out a 20-17 overtime victory over St. Cloud State University Saturday afternooon in a manner which could hardly be viewed as ordinary. The Bulldogs, one of just two unbeaten NCAA II clubs remaining in the country, got a 19-yard field goal by David Nadeau as time expired in regulation to force the extra session and a 24-yarder from their junior placekicker on their first possession of overtime. UMD sealed the victory, its seventh straight against the Huskies and 39th in its last 41 games overall, four plays later when Tyler Aldrige's three-point attempt sailed wide left.

The No. 1-ranked and three-time defending NSIC champion Bulldogs improve to 12-0 on the year and will host league rival Augustana College next Saturday in the NCAA II Super Region 3 finals. St. Cloud State, which is also a member of the NSIC, finished with a 10-3 mark with two of those losses coming at the hands of UMD (including a 40-17 decision one month ago in Duluth).

"This was one of those character wins," said UMD head coach Bob Nielson. "We kept on battling and found a way to win. We didn't start the game well on either side of the football, and maybe were a little out of sync -- perhaps because we made it out on the field to practice once all week. Buty right now, we are excited about the chance to keep playing."

The Bulldogs could have found themselves in a deep hole early, but thanks to some costly penalties in the red zone by the Huskies and a couple of missed fields, trailed just 7-0 after the first quarter. Sophomore quarterback Chase Vogler raced 31 yards for a touchdown with 3:25 to go in the half to draw draw UMD even and senior running back Brian Hanson gave the Bulldogs its last lead of regulation (14-7) at the 3:55 mark of the third quarter when he scored on a 13-yard run. Hanson's touchdown, his personal-high sixth of the season, capped off four-play, 44-yard drive which was set up by junior Cody Eich's block of a Husky punt. St. Cloud State went up 17-14 in the fourth quarter on a 40-yard field goal by Aldridge and a two-yard run from quarterback Phillip Klaphake and appeared to have sealed its third NCAA II playoff win ever after Marvin Matthews intercepted junior wide out D.J. Winfield's option pass in the Bulldog endzone with just 1:50 to play. The Huskies, however, went three and out and, following a partially blocked punt, UMD proceeded to march 38 yards in 48 seconds before Nadeau's clutch kick.

"That defensive stand was huge for us," said junior outside linebacker Derrick Zappa, one of three Bulldogs who was credited with a team-best nine total tackles. "We really wanted to get the ball back into our offense's hands, so we just stacked the box and prevented them from getting that game-ending first down."

UMD, which came into the afternoon averaging a NCAA II-leading 46.1 points per game, outgained its longtime intrastate rivals in total offense by a 359-264 margin, but amassed 227 yards on the ground to just 88 for St. Cloud State. Vogler rushed for a career-high 109 yards on 18 carries and also completed 12 of 16 passes for another 132 yards while throwing just his second interception in 167 attempts this season.

"Give them credit -- St. Cloud State's defense played exceptionally well," said Vogler, who is 23-1 in his 24 career starts with the Bulldogs. "They pretty much shut down our running attack for most of the game. We had to make some adjustments and do what it took to win. Today it worked for us."