In mid October, Humboldt State went on the road and played at Midwestern State, one of the top teams in NCAA Division II.
The Lumberjacks wound up losing the game in which they trailed only 14-10 at halftime. But they returned to Arcata, Calif., confident in their ability to play with anyone in the country.
At 5-1 on Oct. 17, Humboldt State remained in good position to make its first football playoff appearance since 1968.
“The outcome wasn’t what we wanted, but we knew we could play with that team or any other team,” said Humboldt State junior wide receiver Chase Krivashei. “It was definitely a confidence booster.”
The Lumberjacks won their final four games by an average of 37.8 points and finished the regular season 9-1.
On Sunday, Humboldt State not only earned a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs as a No. 4 seed in Super Regional Three, the Lumberjacks received a home game.
Humboldt State will take on Augustana (S.D.), 9-2, at 1 p.m. PT, at Redwood Bowl in Arcata, Calif.
“That is huge, especially if anybody has been to our area,” Krivashei said. “Football is huge around here. On Saturday, a lot of places close down. It is a small town, a football town. It is really awesome we can host a playoff game. We are going to get a big number in attendance. Hopefully, we can get a win for them.”
Over the last two years, the Lumberjacks have been very successful at home. They went 4-0 at Redwood Bowl this season and 5-0 last season.
The 2014 season was actually one of the driving forces for this season. Humboldt State went 8-2 and narrowly missed the playoffs.
“It was a big motivation for us because we felt like we did have a good team and we could have made an impact in the playoffs with an 8-2 record,” Krivashei said.
“With the returners, we got together and knew that we could have a huge year. We pushed the guys, worked hard and we got some solid transfers and incoming freshmen. We got the goal in their minds and we worked for it.”
It made Sunday afternoon an exciting time for the Lumberjacks, especially when they saw their name on the bracket.
“It is amazing,” Krivashei said. “That has been our goal. It is a pretty amazing feeling that we can accomplish something great here and make history.
“Now that we are in the playoffs, our goal isn’t just to make the playoffs, it is to do some damage in the playoffs and earn some respect in NCAA Division II.”
One of the nice aspects of the Division II playoffs is the matchups between teams from different parts of the country who have never faced each other.
Humboldt State, which plays in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference, will take on one of the top teams in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. Augustana was one of three teams from the NSIC South Division who made the playoffs.
Almost as soon as Humboldt State learned its opponent, Krivashei said the coaches left to find film and begin preparation for Saturday’s game.
“It has been so much fun,” Krivashei said of preparation. “You play the same team every single year. You know what to expect going into the week. You watch them all year against other teams.
“Being able to play a team like this, out of conference, who we never played, is extremely exciting. They come out with a whole new style of football. Our whole staff is excited to get this opportunity.”
Krivashei, who has caught 12 touchdown passes and has 657 receiving yards, said it is difficult to describe the style of play of the Lumberjacks because he is part of the action and doesn’t think about it.
“We like to play fast and physical,” he said. “We play solid defense.
“Most people don’t know about us. We are all the way over here. Sometimes we feel like that is against us. There are not many teams out here.”
Humboldt State hopes to become a little more known in Division II football. A good performance against Augustana will open a few more eyes and a win will certainly garner the Lumberjacks more attention.
Total offense: Augustana, 477.1; Humboldt State, 493.2
Total defense: Augustana, 421.5; Humboldt State, 335.2
Points scored: Augustana, 42.1; Humboldt State, 44.5
Points allowed: Augustana, 24.8; Humboldt State, 17.3
Defending champions CSU-Pueblo returns to Division II playoffs
A quick look at the 28-team NCAA Division II football playoffs reveals that Colorado State-Pueblo, the defending national champions, has a tough path back to the title game.
The ThunderWolves, 10-1, earned the No. 4 seed in Super Regional Four. They open at home game against the University of Indianapolis, which is 10-0. Kickoff is noon MT Saturday in Pueblo, Colo.
“It is a great feeling to be back in the playoffs,” said CSU-Pueblo senior offensive lineman Zach Martinez. “We get another chance to do what we like to do. We are taking it one week at a time and getting ready to play.”
The one week at a time is the wise approach instead of trying to figure out future matchups. Super Regional Four has three undefeated teams in it. The No. 1 seed, Midwestern State, is 10-1 and its loss came against No. 7 seed Texas A&M-Commerce.
The second seed, Ferris State, was guided to a perfect regular season by reigning Harlon Hill Trophy winner, Jason Vander Laan, who has passed for 2,239 and 22 touchdowns and rushed for 1,319 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Finally, the No. 6 seed, Grand Valley State, has won four national titles since 2002 and is making its 17th trip to the Division II playoffs.
That is a lot for any football player in Super Regional Four to digest. So why think about it?
“We are just worried about Indianapolis,” Martinez said.
The ThunderWolves have handled the pressure of being the defending national champions well. Their only loss was 31-30 at West Texas A&M in the second week of the season. Their next closest game was a 10-point victory the following week. Since then, CSU-Pueblo has beaten each opponent by at least 20 points.
“I think we have played well,” Martinez said. “We have done what we have always done. We just got down to business and focused on one team at a time and trying to work on going 1-0 every week.
“We are getting on a roll. We are starting to understand what we have to do to win.”
Total offense: UIndy, 444.8; CSU-Pueblo, 453.5
Total defense: UIndy, 345.3; CSU-Pueblo, 302.6
Points scored: UIndy, 35.3; CSU-Pueblo, 41.5
Points allowed: UIndy, 20.4; CSU-Pueblo, 14.5