It has been 20 years since Northwest Missouri State and Carson-Newman played in the 1999 DII football championship, a contest called the best Division II game in history. The four-overtime thriller was monumental, still to this day the only DII football title game to go into overtime to decide a national champion.
Northwest Missouri State stormed back from 16 down to score 30 points that left these two DII football heavyweights deadlocked, 44-44, in one of the most exciting fourth quarters in DII football history.
Here's how that crazy quarter went down.
- The Bearcats started the final period with the ball and quarterback Travis Miles began his remarkable fourth quarter, hooking up with Tony Miles — who also had a fourth quarter to remember — for a 7-yard touchdown. It was the first of three fourth-quarter touchdown passes from Travis Miles. After a 2-point conversion, Carson-Newman led 30-22 with 12:44 left.
- Carson-Newman brought its lead back to 15 on a run-heavy drive that lasted more than 5 minutes. Leonard Guyton punched it in from 10 yards out. The Bearcats trailed 37-22 and had just 7:39 to score 15 points.
- They got started on the kickoff when Tony Martin took it 81 yards to the house. The extra point made it 37-29 and now the Bearcats needed just a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie it over the next 7:25.
- Problem was the Eagles wanted nothing to do with it. Carson-Newman ran the ball eight straight times, going 76 yards in 3:51, jumping right back out to a 15-point lead. The Bearcats had 3:34 to muster up those 15 points.
- Enter Travis Miles yet again. The quarterback tossed the ball for 59 yards, including a 7-yard touchdown pass to J.R. Hill. It took just 53 seconds to get in the end zone. The Bearcats were down eight once again with a little more than 2 minutes left.
- The Eagles milked the clock. They take 1:50 off before the Bearcats stuff them on fourth down. Travis Miles had 51 seconds to get the Bearcats back in the end zone. He needed 41. Once again, Miles found J.R. Hill, this time from 34 yards out and Northwest Missouri State goes 74 yards for the touchdown. They were a 2-point conversion away from tying this wild ball game.
- In what was termed “The Catch” in Northwest Missouri State lore, Miles throws a fade route to Ryan George. He reels in the catch, dragging his left foot to barely keep it in bounds. This game was somehow tied.
And tied it would stay for three more overtimes. The two exchanged scores in the third overtime, but it was yet another Miles-to-Hill touchdown pass that ended one of the most thrilling college football games ever played with a 58-52 Northwest Missouri State victory.
It wasn't just that fourth quarter that made this game so remarkable. Here, take a look for yourself. These are some of the crazy numbers from that day.
2 — Hundred-yard rushers for Carson-Newman in the game. Antwon Oliver led all rushers with 194 yards and two touchdowns. Melvin Oates scampered for 106 yards and two scores as well.
3 — Different ways Northwest Missouri State's Tony Miles scored. He rushed for 47 yards and score, pulled in six receptions for 65 yards and a touchdown, and returned that big fourth-quarter kickoff for an 81-yard score.
13 — Tackles by Northwest Missouri State's Ryan Miller, who had an absolutely absurd day for the Bearcats' defense. He recorded the third-most tackles on the day while recovering two fumbles and intercepting one pass for 7 yards.
22 — Points Travis Hill was responsible for in that 30-point fourth-quarter comeback. He connected on three touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions.
110 — The most points scored in a DII football championship game came in this classic showdown.
120 — Receiving yards for J.R. Hill, whose second touchdown of the day tied the game and third touchdown won it for the Bearcats.
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The ramifications were plenty on that Dec. 11 day in Florence, Alabama. This was a rematch of the 1998 title game, one which Carson-Newman lost 24-6. A victory by the Eagles would put them on the DII football map as a powerhouse, finally winning a title after three trips to the championship game in four years. For Northwest Missouri State, a win would make the Bearcats repeat champions and start the most dominant stretch in DII football history.
“Nobody panicked," Northwest Missouri State legendary Hall of Fame head coach Mel Tjeerdsma said about the halftime deficit. "Our coaches and players didn’t panic, but everyone was well aware that things were going to have to change or we were going to get blown out.”
And it did change one of the wildest fourth quarters in the history of DII football. The 8,451 fans in attendance were treated to a still-unmatched four overtimes and one legendary college football game.