With four more college football divisions gearing up to play their championship games, let's hope they can all be as dramatic as the 57th Russell Athletic - NAIA Football National Championship played last night in Rome, Ga. Marian (Ind.) overcame a 20-10 deficit entering the fourth quarter to defeat Morningside (Iowa), 30-27 in overtime.
"We have guys who don't quit," said Marian head coach Ted Karras, Jr said after the game. "They're true believers, and a lot of them were pioneers. We only started football literally six years ago. We recruit guys who are hungry - hungry to play and hungry to get their degree - who have a never-say-die attitude. These are quality guys, who get their business done - on and off the field."
Down by 10 entering the final frame, Tevin Lake pulled Marian within three after barreling in from four yards out with 7:33 to go. The Knights then took the lead when Adam Wiese hit Nathan Jones for a 61-yard scoring strike with 2:46 to go, giving Marian a 24-20 lead.
Morningside fired right back, however. After converting a do-or-die 4th and 15, Joel Nixon found Kyle Shuck wide open in the end zone to put the Mustangs ahead 27-24 with 1:04 to play. Morningside scored too quickly, however, as Marian had just enough time to allow Mike Josifovski to nail a 35-yard field goal as time expired to send the NAIA National Championship to its first overtime.
The Marian defense held Morningside scoreless in the first possession of overtime, allowing Josifovski, who hit a 51-yard field goal to win Marian's semifinal game on Dec. 3, to kick the title-clinching 26-yard field goal. Josifovski was named the Outstanding Offesnsive Player of the Game for his heroics.
"When you sign up for this job, they warn you about these moments," Josifovski said after the game. "These are the moments you want to hold onto and take advantage of. Fortunately for me, I have a great team and a great coaching staff around me."