The DII football bowl season is upon us. All four bowls were canceled in 2020 but three of the four were back in action on Saturday, Dec. 4. DII football’s longest running bowl — the Mineral Water Bowl — was canceled once again in 2021 with hopes of a return in 2022.
Here are the final scores from the Live United, Heritage and American Crossroads Bowls as well as what you need to know for each matchup.
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Farmers Bank and Trust Live United Bowl — Southeastern Oklahoma State 37, Emporia State 34
What happened: A thrilling back-and-forth battle that ended with a Savage Storm game-winning field goal with six seconds left.
What we said: The eighth annual Live United Bowl from Texarkana, Arkansas, pits the top finisher from the Great American Conference that doesn't make the DII football championship against an at-large team from either the MIAA or LSC. Last time this game was played, Missouri Western defeated Henderson State 35-14 (2019).
Emporia State improved from a 4-7 team in 2019 to a 6-5 team this year. The Hornets are bowling for a seventh time in program history, holding an all-time 4-2 record in bowl play. Quarterback Braden Gleason had a strong 2021 campaign for the Hornets, passing for 3,084 yards, 27 touchdowns and just eight interceptions to a wide array of receivers. Ten Hornets caught touchdowns passes from Gleason this season.
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Southeastern Oklahoma State was one of the best stories of the 2021 season. A mere 1-10 in 2019, the Savage Storm — led by GAC coach of the year Tyler Fenwick — had victories against GAC heavyweights Harding and Ouachita Baptist and were in the playoff hunt to the final quarter of the season, finishing 8-3 for a seven-game improvement. Daulton Hatley will try to lead the Storm’s attack through the air against a Hornets’ team that allowed 272 yards per game and 21 touchdowns to quarterbacks this season. This is Southeastern Oklahoma State’s first trip to the postseason since 2014, which was also the Live United Bowl.
Fun Town RV Heritage Bowl — Oklahoma Baptist 24, Texas Permian Basin 21
What happened: Bisons quarterback — and 2021 Harlon Hill nominee — Preston Haire totaled 224 yards and two scores as UTPB fell just short of a comeback behind a 14-0 fourth quarter.
What we said: Established in 2017 as the Corsicana Bowl, this annual event in Texas features a pair of schools from the Lone Star Conference, MIAA or GAC. Eastern New Mexico defeated Southern Arkansas in 2019 the last time the game was played.
This year, Oklahoma Baptist will represent the GAC, making its first postseason appearance as a DII football institution. The Bison reeled off their second consecutive 7-4 season in 2021 and are led by Harlon Hill Trophy nominee Preston Haire. The quarterback was one of the best in DII, throwing for 3,175 yards and 40 touchdowns while rushing for 418 yards and two more scores in 2021.
On the other side will be the Falcons of Texas Permian Basin. UTPB was perfect in the spring 2020 schedule last season, going 5-0 — and that momentum rolled over into 2021 when it won its first two games. The Falcons finished 5-5 on the season and, like its opponent, will be making the first bowl appearance in program history. Keep an eye on MJ Link. The wide receiver set the program record with eight touchdowns this season and even threw for a score this year.
America Crossroads Bowl — Truman State 34, Hillsdale 17
The newest member of the DII football bowl season, the America Crossroads Bowl debuted in 2019. Truman returns to the game after winning the inaugural bowl, defeating Ohio Dominican 21-7 last time out.
What happened: DII football's leading rusher had himself a day. Truman's Corey Schrader had 219 yards on the ground to go with three scores in Truman's 34-17 victory over Hillsdale. The big day gave Schrader over 2,000 yards rushing on the season.
What we said: Truman had a great season, finishing 8-3. Of course, the Bulldogs also have one of the most exciting players in DII football. Running back Cody Schrader led the division with 1,855 yards rushing in 2021 while scoring 22 times on the ground. The Harlon Hill candidate ran for 173 yards and a score when Truman defeated Hillsdale 38-24 on Sept. 18 earlier this season. When defenses focus on Schrader, quarterback Nolan Hair shows he’s very capable, throwing for three touchdowns in that first Hillsdale matchup.
The Chargers opened the season with three-straight losses but rebounded to finish 6-5 on the season. Remarkably, despite the slow start, Hillsdale defeated both Findlay and Tiffin — the two teams that faced in what would be the G-MAC championship game — down the stretch, showing that it can hang with the best. Truman will want to focus on the ground attack — once the Chargers figured it out, they led the G-MAC with 20 interceptions which was second in all of DII.