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Wayne Cavadi | NCAA.com | January 14, 2020

West Florida wins the 2019 DII football championship in a record-setting 48-40 thriller

Watch all 6 touchdown passes from West Florida's Austin Reed in DII football championship

West Florida captured its first national championship, defeating Minnesota State 48-40 in an exciting game that rewrote the DII football championship record books from McKinney, Texas. The two teams went back and forth with the Argonauts able to hold off Minnesota State’s ferocious comeback inside the red zone.

2019 CHAMPIONSHIP: Interactive bracket | Printable bracket | Selection show

Redshirt-freshman quarterback Austin Reed came into the championship game on fire for the Argonauts. Reed had thrown for 1,122 yards, 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions in his first four tournament games, each against a top-25 team. It was more of the same Saturday in Texas.

Reed came out firing, and by the time the first half ended, he had set the DII football championship single-game record with 399 yards passing, shattering the old mark of 361 set by Curt Anes of Grand Valley State in 2002. He finished with 523 yards passing and six touchdowns, also a championship-game record.

One of his top targets, Tate Lehtio, set the championship game reception record, reeling in 13 passes for 139 yards and one of Reed’s touchdowns. His counterpart, Quinten Randolph, reeled in 10 receptions for 254 yards — just 16 yards shy of the championship record — and three touchdowns, which also tied the championship-game mark.

DII BOWL RESULTS: Schedule, scores from the four DII bowl games

The first quarter opened with two possessions by each team, and they both scored with relative ease. Those 28 combined points? You guessed it: a championship game record. But then the West Florida defense settled in, forcing Nate Gunn — Minnesota State’s sure-handed running back — to fumble twice and pretty much taking him out of the game by building a big lead and forcing the Mavericks to pass.

Minnesota State’s defense tightened up late in the game, scoring on a botched West Florida punt and forcing turnovers to keep the Mavericks in the game. The Mavericks never relented as Shane Zylstra led a big drive to bring Minnesota State within one score. Zylstra — DII football's leading receiver — finished with 145 yards and a touchdown. Justin Arnold, who caught five-straight passes on the Mavericks' final drive, finished with 154 yards, tying Lehtio's record with 13 receptions. 

DII CHAMPIONSHIP THRILLERS: Remembering the wild 44-point fourth quarter in the 1999 DII title game

The Argos have now been to two championship games in their four-year existence as a DII football program. They fell short in 2017, but made sure it didn’t happen in 2019. West Florida is your DII football national champions.

Be sure to scroll down for a round-by-round recap of how West Florida pulled off the 2019 national championship. 

DII football championship: How West Florida won the 2019 title

Final | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 40
Head coach Pete Shinnick has transformed West Florida into a DII football powerhouse seemingly overnight. He had the Argos in the championship game in just its second year of existence, and by Year 4, his Argos are a national champion. A simply fantastic game from the record-setting start to the thrilling finish that ended inside the red zone. Congratulations to the 2019 DII football national champion West Florida Argonauts on a dream run to the title. 

Final | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 40
Game stats: 

DII football championship game final stats.

0:44 | Q4 | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 40
Schlichte throws incomplete to Zylstra. Barring a turnover, West Florida will be your 2019 national champions. 

0:50 | Q4 | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 40
Here we go. Fourth and nine for the Mavericks. They used their final timeout. Here is the ballgame. 

1:40 | Q4 | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 40
Schlichte and his roommate Justin Arnold have hooked up four times in a row and the Mavs are in West Florida territory!

2:30 | Q4 | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 40
WOW! Minnesota State holds West Florida. The Argos drop back to pass and the reliable Lehtio drops a third-down pass. Mavericks will take over on their 20 after a booming punt goes out of the end zone. 

4:03 | Q4 | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 40
Shane Zylstra has had a remarkable day for Minnesota State. He's had 10 receptions for 138 yards and seemingly every catch has been a big one. He's such a big target, and very reliable, which makes it clear why he was the DII football leader in receiving yards. The big man grabs his 11th reception for a touchdown, to give the Mavericks hope. Arnold reels in the two-point conversion and we have a one-score game!

9:52 | Q4 | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 32
The Mavericks settle for a field goal and make it a two score game. Let's not forget the Mavericks have had three turnovers here late, so they are clearly putting faith in that D to do it again. Under 10 to go in the 2019 DII football season. 

14:39 | Q4 | West Florida 48, Minnesota State 29
Reed just misses his seventh touchdown pass on two separate occasions, but Austin Williams makes it a three-score game. Interesting note: West Florida has -5 yards rushing.

End of Q3 | West Florida 45, Minnesota State 29
The final 15 minutes of the season are upon us. Some sloppy play at the end of the quarter by both teams stunted the scoring. West Florida has the ball to open the fourth. Reed has 500 yards passing and six touchdowns with no interceptions on a record-setting day for the Argos offense. There is still enough time for this Minnesota State offense to figure things out, but they'll have to start now. 

3:48 | Q3 | West Florida 45, Minnesota State 29
What a wild turn of events. West Florida's Dawson Hamlin boots a school-record 64-yard punt which is nullified by a penalty. He then botches the snap on the re-kick and turns it over to the Mavericks who score a defensive touchdown. Then Ryan Schlichte finds Jalen Sample for the two-point conversion. The Mavericks can't execute on the ensuing onside kick and West Florida takes over. 

8:12 | Q3 | West Florida 45, Minnesota State 21
Another record goes down. Reed connects with Lehtio from eight yards out for his sixth touchdown pass, a championship game record. The DII football tournament game record (meaning from any other round) is seven done twice by Keith Null of West Texas A&M in 2008 and Cody Haffly of Wingate in 2010. The drive was set up by a muffed punt by Minnesota State's Justin Arnold. 

13:00 | Q3 | West Florida 38, Minnesota State 21
Nate Gunn fumbles for the second time today, this time inside the ten yard line. To put it into perspective, Gunn fumbled four times all year. West Florida's defense has been very impressive. 

15:00 | Q3 | West Florida 38, Minnesota State 21
Minnesota State gets the ball first coming out in the second half. In case you're just joining us, Austin Reed has already set the DII football championship game record with a 399-yard first half. His top target Quinten Randolph has 241 yards receiving on some insane catches. We'll see what the Mavericks can do right now!

Halftime | West Florida 38, Minnesota State 21
A quick look at the halftime stats:

DII football championship game halftime stats.

Halftime | West Florida 38, Minnesota State 21
Reed finds Randolph for their third touchdown of the day. Reed now has 399 yards — a championship game record — and Randolph has 241 yards — 29 yards shy of the record. What a first half. 

0:56 | Q2 | West Florida 31, Minnesota State 21
West Florida makes the first big defensive stand of the game, holding the Mavericks Nate Gunn out of the end zone on 4th and goal. Instead of trying to run out the clock, Reed goes long and finds Ashley for 38 yards on the first play out of the end zone. 

5:31 | Q2 | West Florida 31, Minnesota State 21
WHAT?!? We can keep talking about Reed, but Randolph is making some insane catches. He has two on that drive, one of 38 and then a 34-yard reception in traffic for a touchdown. Reed is 18-for-26 for 300 yards and four touchdowns on the day. The record is seven touchdown passes if you're wondering. 

6:21 | Q2 | West Florida 24, Minnesota State 21
Here's something that has been said 31 times this year. Nate Gunn rushes one in for a touchdown. A huge 3rd and goal from the six, and Gunn converts for his 10th touchdown of the tournament. Shane Zylstra set the single-season program record for receptions with 71, breaking current Minnesota Vikings Adam Thielen and Chad Ellman's mark of 70 (CORRECTION: This was mistweeted. Thielen's record was 74, and Zylstra still broke that with his 75th catch later in the game.)

Want to know more about Thielen's time in Mankato? Tap or click on the link below:
Adam Thielen’s DII football college career: What you need to know

10:58 | Q2 | West Florida 24, Minnesota State 14
Austin Williams converts a 31-yard field goal to give the Argos a double-digit lead. The Agros drive was set up by a Nate Gunn fumble. West Florida almost had a touchdown on a beautiful diving catch by Ashley, but after replay, it was overturned as he bobbled the ball going to the ground. 

13:19 | Q2 | West Florida 21, Minnesota State 14
The Mavericks have no answer for Reed. He finds Randolph for 37-yards to the two yard line and one play later, finds Randolph again for the score. Reed's third touchdown pass of the day.

0:53 | Q1 | West Florida 14, Minnesota State 14
Hope you have some popcorn, because we are enjoying quite the show. The Mavericks JD Ekowa finds Gloudemans for 49-yards down the sideline, setting up Nate Gunn for his 30th touchdown of the season. We're tied. 

Four drives, four scores. And there are three quarters left. 

3:38 | Q1 | West Florida 14, Minnesota State 7
Reed is in a world of his own right now. And by right now, we mean the entire tournament. He leads the Argos on a five-play, 69-yard drive, connecting with Ka'Ron Ashley on the 12-yard touchdown, his second TD pass of the day and 12th of the DII football championship. A huge 49-yard pass to Quinten Randolph on third and 25 kept the drive alive. 

6:09 | Q1 | West Florida 7, Minnesota State 7
Cue the fireworks. I expected a high-scoring affair and we are off to the races. Minnesota State counters on a drive just over three minutes long as Ryan Schlichte hits Justin Arnold for a pretty 38-yard touchdown pass. 

9:22 | Q1 | West Florida 7, Minnesota State 0
Austin Reed is at it again. He leads a very efficient drive down the field going 7-for-9 for 64 yards. He found Tate Lehtio four times for 36 yards and then throws a dart to Kevin Grant from five yards out for the first score of the DII football championship.  

15:00 | Q1 | West Florida 0, Minnesota State 0
A battle of road warriors begins. The Mavericks extended their DII-longest 20-game road winning streak last week, going on the road and dominating Slippery Rock 58-15. West Florida has won four-straight tournament road games against four DII football top 25 teams, the last three undefeated. 

West Florida will receive. 

Pregame | 2:55 p.m. ET
We are ready for championship football! West Florida and Minnesota State are taking the field.

Saturday, Dec. 21 | Pregame | 2:30 p.m. ET
We're 30 minutes away from kickoff. Here are all the links you'll need for today's game.

Friday, Dec. 20 | Championship game preview
Yesterday, right here on NCAA.com, we previewed everything you need to know about Minnesota State and West Florida for tomorrow's game — and even provided a prediction about how the game will unfold. Did you know:

  • West Florida's redshirt-freshman quarterback Austin Reed has thrown 1,122 yards, 10 touchdowns and just three interceptions in his first DII football championship run (four games total).
  • Minnesota State's superstar running back Nate Gunn has eight touchdowns through three tournament games.
  • Both schools have been national runners-up in the previous five years with Minnesota State reaching the title game in 2014 and West Florida in 2017.

There are are a whole bunch more facts, key stats, and big-time players you need to watch, so be sure to check it out by tapping or clicking on the link below:

West Florida vs. Minnesota State: Preview, prediction for the 2019 DII football championship

Friday, Dec. 20 | Pregame
The teams arrived in McKinney yesterday. Both Minnesota State and West Florida met on the podium for pregame press conferences which can be seen on the official NCAA DII Facebook page

The 2019 DII football championship: What to read

Consider this your crash course, a DII football championship 101 if you would.

2019 DII FOOTBALL: Top stories | Subscribe to the newsletter | D2 hub

2019 DII football semifinals: What you may have missed

West Florida does it again. For the third straight week, the Argos went on the road and took down an undefeated team. They have now taken down the 2018 national champions, the 2018 national runners-up, and ended the longest current home winning streak last week at Lenoir-Rhyne.

The Argos were led by redshirt freshman Austin Reed, who has been playing well beyond his years all tournament. He threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came in the decisive 18-point fourth-quarter comeback. Wide receiver Tate Lehtio had a huge day, reeling in 118 yards and two of his touchdowns.

Now West Florida will play yet another undefeated team. Minnesota State showed why it is the top-scoring offense in DII football with a complete victory on the road in snowy conditions against Slippery Rock. Harlon Hill candidate Nate Gunn had three scores for the Mavericks in their 58-15 victory.

Minnesota State wins DII semifinal in the snow

Here's how the two got to Texas.

No. 4 West Florida 28, No. 1 Ferris State 14

  • End of first quarter | West Florida 7, Ferris State 7: The upset kings were back at it early as redshirt-freshman quarterback Austin Reed struck first on a 34-yard touchdown pass. Ferris State tied it up late in the final minute on a Tyler Minor run.
  • End of first half | West Florida 7, Ferris State 7: Neither team could get anything going as we remain tied at the half. West Florida's Tate Lehtio is having a huge game, already with 100 yards and a touchdown.
  • End of third quarter | Ferris State 14, West Florida 10: The two teams exchanged scores, the Bulldogs on a Dion Earls touchdown and the Argos with a field goal.
  • Final | West Florida 28, Ferris State 14: Austin Reed leads the Argos to 18 unanswered points with a pair of touchdowns to his favorite targets Lehtio and Quinten Randolph. West Florida is heading to its second title game in two years.

No. 3 Minnesota State 58, No. 2 Slippery Rock 15

  • End of first quarter | Minnesota State 16, Slippery Rock 8: Nate Gunn punches in two touchdowns, while Roland Rivers III find Henry Litwin for The Rock's score. Harlon Hill finalists on display early.
  • End of first half| Minnesota State 30, Slippery Rock 8: Mavericks have opened up a big lead on a Shane Zylstra touchdown reception and a Justin Arnold run. Rivers III suffered a weird thumb injury, but is still in the game.
  • End of third quarter| Minnesota State 51, Slippery Rock 15: Slippery Rock got on the board, but it's been all Mavericks in the second half. A 21-point third quarter highlighted by a pair of 70-yard scores and Gunn's third score of the day puts Minnesota State well ahead.
  • Final | Minnesota State 58, Slippery Rock 15: Zylstra finished with 152 yards and two touchdowns while five Mavericks combined to rush for a score, with Gunn leading them all with three. Minnesota State heads back to the finals for the first time since 2015.

Want everything you need to know about Saturday's games in one helpful spot? Check out the semifinals preview in the link below:

The hottest storylines in the 2019 DII football semifinals

2019 DII football quarterfinals: How we got to the semifinals

  • Slippery Rock and Notre Dame (OH) featured two Harlon Hill candidates that may very well be the frontrunners for the DII football Heisman Trophy. They certainly delivered. Roland Rivers III passed for 436 yards and combined for eight touchdowns while Jaleel McLaughlin ran for 126 yards and two touchdowns, while adding a 96-yard kickoff return in a wild 65-59 win for The Rock.

BIG STATS: 7 crazy numbers from Slippery Rock's 65-59 victory

  • West Florida can now add a No. 2 seed to its upset resume for the 2019 postseason. One week after taking down Valdosta State in the final seconds, the Argos went into Hickory, North Carolina and defeated Lenoir-Rhyne 43-38. It was the first time in 15 games that the Bears lost at home and the second time in the past three years West Florida has made it to the semifinals.
  • After a quiet first half in which only three points were scored, Ferris State dropped 22 en route to a 25-3 victory over Northwest Missouri State. Marvin Campbell rumbled for 149 yards and a touchdown as the Bulldogs are back in the semifinals for the third time in four years. 
  • Nate Gunn had himself a day (again). The Minnesota State running back reeled off 173 yards and three scores to lead the Mavericks to a 42-21 victory over Texas A&M-Commerce. 

Here are the scores from Saturday:

2019 DII football championship: Second-round recap 

Get a field-level view of West Florida's game-clinching drive in huge DII upset

West Florida snapped Valdosta State's 25-game winning streak. Elsewhere in second-round action, Texas A&M-Commerce soundly upset third-seeded Colorado School of Mines, 23-3. The 2019 DII football championship tournament hasn't gone as expected, to say the least.

DII UPSET: How West Florida ousted Valdosta State from the tournament

2019 DII football championship first round recap

The first round showed why the DII football championship is one of the best tournaments in all of college sports. 

Anything can happen.

Some incredible upsets and fantastic finishes went down. Here are the highlights.

  • Lindenwood went into Cliff Harris Stadium and took down No. 2-seeded Ouachita Baptist 41-38, getting the go-ahead field goal with just over a minute left. It was a back and forth battle all day long, but in the end, the Lions defeated their third top-25 team of the season. Lindenwood will be heading to one of the winningest teams in DII football history and try to make Northwest Missouri State its next top-25 victim.
  • Not to be outdone, Texas A&M-Commerce traveled to Tarleton State — owners of the best home record in DII football — and upset the No. 2-seeded Texans in a rematch from earlier in the season. Quarterback Miklo Smalls led the Lions through the air (197 yards passing) and on the ground (126 yards rushing), but it was the defense that deserves the credit here. The Lions held one of DII football's best offenses to 16 points and 330 total yards in the upset. 
  • You could barely catch your breath with the three games played at noon. All three came down to the final minutes of play. Indiana (Pa) took the lead over Shepherd with 1:40 left, but Tyson Bagent led the Rams right back down to field connecting with Devin Phelps for the 31-27 win with just 11 ticks on the clock. Notre Dame jumped out to a big lead but was able to hold off West Chester's 17-point second half and win 31-24. Tiffin's star running back Ja'Quan Hardy gave the Dragons the late lead with 1:26 remaining, but Collin DiGalbo found big tight end Jack Pilkerton for the six-yard touchdown and 33-31 lead with 44 seconds left on the clock and inevitably the win. 
  • Carson-Newman and West Florida did their best to shake things up in Super Region Two. Both teams went on the road and pulled off impressive wins. The Eagles defense struggled to maintain dual-threat Ja'Rome Johnson but stepped up when it needed to in a 17-9 win. West Florida, our team to watch in this part of the bracket, dominated Wingate. Quarterback Austin Reed and Quentin Randolph hooked up for two more scores in the 38-17 win after connecting three times a week ago.

Saturday, Nov. 23 | First round (all times Eastern)

NCAA.org The 2019 DII football championship bracket.

Click here to enlarge the full bracket. 

DII football championship: History

Valdosta State defeated Ferris State in a thrilling championship game last year to win its fourth national championship in program history. The Blazers enter the 2019 DII football championship as the No. 1 seed in Super Region Two with an undefeated record.

The Blazers are looking to match Northwest Missouri State's incredible 2015 and 2016 run when the Bearcats won back-to-back seasons without losing a game. The complete history of the DII football championship game is below. 

YEAR CHAMPION COACH SCORE RUNNER-UP SITE
2018 Valdosta State Kerwin Bell 49-47 Ferris State McKinney, Tex.
2017 Texas A&M-Commerce Colby Carthel 37-27 West Florida Kansas City, Kan.
2016 Northwest Missouri State Adam Dorrel 29-3 North Alabama Kansas City, Kan.
2015 Northwest Missouri State Adam Dorrel 34-7 Shepherd Kansas City, Kan.
2014 Colorado State-Pueblo John Wristen 13-0 Minnesota State-Mankato Kansas City, Kan.
2013 Northwest Missouri State Adam Dorrel 43-28 Lenoir-Rhyne Florence, Ala.
2012 Valdosta State David Dean 35-7 Winston-Salem State Florence, Ala.
2011 Pittsburg State Tim Beck 35-21 Wayne State (Mich.) Florence, Ala.
2010 Minnesota-Duluth Bob Nielson 20-17 Delta State Florence, Ala.
2009 Northwest Missouri State Mel Tjeersdma 30-23 Grand Valley State Florence, Ala.
2008 Minnesota-Duluth Bob Nielson 21-14 Northwest Missouri State Florence, Ala.
2007 Valdosta State David Dean 25-20 Northwest Missouri State Florence, Ala.
2006 Grand Valley State Chuck Martin 17-14 Northwest Missouri State Florence, Ala.
2005 Grand Valley State Chuck Martin 21-17 Northwest Missouri State Florence, Ala.
2004 Valdosta State Christ Hatcher 36-31 Pittsburg State Florence, Ala.
2003 Grand Valley State Brian Kelly 10-3 North Dakota Florence, Ala.
2002 Grand Valley State Brian Kelly 31-24 Valdosta State Florence, Ala.
2001 North Dakota Dale Lennon 17-14 Grand Valley State Florence, Ala.
2000 Delta State Steve Campbell 63-34 Bloomsburg Florence, Ala.
1999 Northwest Missouri State Mel Tjeersdma 58-52 (4ot) Carson-Newman Florence, Ala.
1998 Northwest Missouri State Mel Tjeersdma 24-6 Carson-Newman Florence, Ala.
1997 Northern Colorado Joe Glenn 51-0 New Haven Florence, Ala.
1996 Northern Colorado Joe Glenn 23-14 Carson-Newman Florence, Ala.
1995 North Alabama Bobby Wallace 27-7 Pittsburg State Florence, Ala.
1994 North Alabama Bobby Wallace 16-10 Texas A&M-Kingsville Florence, Ala.
1993 North Alabama Bobby Wallace 41-34 Indiana (Pa.) Florence, Ala.
1992 Jacksonville State Bill Burgess 17-13 Pittsburg State Florence, Ala.
1991 Pittsburg State Chuck Broyles 23-6 Jacksonville State Florence, Ala.
1990 North Dakota State Rocky Hager 51-11 Indiana (Pa.) Florence, Ala.
1989 *Mississippi College John Williams 3-0 Jacksonville State Florence, Ala.
1988 North Dakota State Rocky Hager 35-21 Portland State Florence, Ala.
1987 Troy Rick Rhoades 31-17 Portland State Florence, Ala.
1986 North Dakota State Earle Solomonson 27-7 South Dakota Florence, Ala.
1985 North Dakota State Earle Solomonson 35-7 North Alabama McAllen, Texas
1984 Troy Chan Gailey 18-17 North Dakota State McAllen, Texas
1983 North Dakota State Don Morton 41-21 Central State (Ohio) McAllen, Texas
1982 Texas State Jim Wacker 34-9 UC Davis McAllen, Texas
1981 Texas State Jim Wacker 42-13 North Dakota State McAllen, Texas
1980 Cal Poly Joe Harper 21-13 Eastern Illinois Albuquerque, N.M.
1979 Delaware Tubby Raymond 38-21 Youngstown State Albuquerque, N.M.
1978 Eastern Illinois Darrell Mudra 10-9 Delaware Longview, Texas
1977 Lehigh John Whitehead 33-0 Jacksonville State Wichita Falls, Texas
1976 Montana State Sonny Holland 24-13 Akron Wichita Falls, Texas
1975 Northern Michigan Gil Krueger 16-14 Western Kentucky Sacramento, Calif.
1974 Central Michigan Roy Kramer 54-14 Delaware Sacramento, Calif.
1973 Louisiana Tech Maxie Lambright 34-0 Western Kentucky Sacramento, Calif.

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