MARYVILLE, Mo. — Since earning a spot in the Super Region 3 bracket, Lindenwood set out on a mission to prove the validity of its postseason berth.
While the Lions did so with a win at second-seeded Ouachita Baptist in their NCAA Division II Playoffs opener, Saturday was a different story.
No. 3-seeded Northwest Missouri State ran all over its former conference foe to the tune of 413 yards and eight scores on the ground, advancing to the Super Region 3 Championship with a 63-7 win at Bearcat Stadium.
“We won a football game last week, but none of the offensive guys are gonna go hang their points on, ‘Oh, wow, we scored seven points and still won.’ We were ready to get back out there,” said Northwest sophomore quarterback Braden Wright after rushing for 116 yards and three gouchdowns. “A big point of it is getting our run game going this week. We had a high rushing yard goal.”
Braden Wright then turned and asked head coach Rich Wright if the team met its rushing goal.
“You had 230 yards at halftime,” Rich Wright said in response, drawing a laugh from his signal-caller.
“Once you get your run game going, that opens up everything for the offense,” Braden Wright said. “It was really good to see and be apart of today.”
The Bearcats (12-1) carried the ball 49 times at an 8 yards-per-carry average, running for three touchdowns of 35 yards or more.
Isaiah Strayhorn stole the show, rushing 16 times for 178 yards and two scores. He also initiated a new choreographed team celebration after Justin Rankin’s opening touchdown rush of the game where the Bearcats.
“Shoutout to Lamar Jackson. We stole that from Lamar Jackson and the Ravens,” Strayhorn said. “I don’t know a name for it, but it was fun.”
One week after scoring just seven points in a win against Harding, the Bearcats set a program postseason records for points and margin of victory, setting the tone from the get-go.
Rankin rushed in from 39 yards out on the game’s opening drive to equal last week’s point total.
“I know the offense was itching to get back on the field after our first-round playoff game,” Rich Wright said. “They opted to kick it off to us, and I was challenging the offensive kids to make a response on that, and they did.”
Braden Wright’s first rushing score of the day gave the Bearcats a 14-0 lead, capitalizing on a muffed punt in Lindenwood (9-4) territory.
The Bearcats held strong on fourth down near the red zone and opened the second quarter with Rankin’s second touchdown. A fumble forced by Trey Washington resulted in a 15-yard scamper by Braden Wright and a 28-0 lead.
Strayhorn found the end zone late in the half after the first of three interception grabs by Blake Bayer, sending the Bearcats to the locker room with a 35-0 lead.
“That’s the beauty of our offense — It’s a balanced attack on whether or not who’s carrying the ball,” Braden Wright said. “We’ve got at times four guys on the field that you don’t know who could be getting the ball to run it, not just a pass play. There’s a lot of ways we try to attack the defense through the run game. Today we made the most of it.”
Bayer opened the second half by picking-off Cade Brister, paving the way for a 40-yard Braden Wright touchdown. Strayhorn ran in from 35 yards out for a 49-0 lead just two minutes later.
“One of the big hallmarks is that when the weather gets cold, you’ve gotta win at the line of scrimmage,” Rich Wright said. “That’s something we take a lot of pride in offensively and defensively. If you can do that, you’ve got a good chance of winning football games.”
Bayer’s third interception of the day went for a touchdown and brought the lead to 55-7, becoming the first Bearcat with three interceptions in a postseason game.
Mike Hohensee finished the scoring with a 1-yard rush on the fourth.
Brister finished with just 205 yards on 27-of-53 passing with four interceptions in fall. Lindenwood ran for just 21 yards on 19 carries.
Northwest finished with 589 yards of total offense and was 9 of 14 on third downs.
The Bearcats will travel to top-seeded Ferris State at 1 p.m. Saturday for the Super Region 3 Final in Big Rapids, Michigan.