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Minnesota Duluth upsets Grand Valley State in NCAA quarterfinal

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Kiel Fechtelkotter needed only one good hand to snag the biggest interception in the Minnesota Duluth football program's history.

ALLENDALE, Mich. -- Kiel Fechtelkotter needed only one good hand to snag the biggest interception in the Minnesota Duluth football program's history.

Fechtelkotter's heroics sealed a 19-13 double-overtime playoff victory over Grand Valley State (11-1) on Saturday afternoon in front of 3,548 mostly stunned spectators at Lubbers Stadium, sending the Bulldogs (13-0) to the NCAA Division II semifinals next week against California (Pa.) University. The site and time for that game will be determined today.

No. 6-ranked UMD led for much of the game, and clung to a six-point lead in the second overtime against No. 1 Grand Valley and needed a stop from its defense to pull off the upset against the heavily favored Lakers. After UMD scored a touchdown in the second overtime but had the extra-point attempt blocked, Grand Valley needed a touchdown and extra point to win.

But Fechtelkotter, a sophomore linebacker from Lake Nebagamon, sporting a cast on his hand because of an injury, dropped back into pass coverage as Grand Valley quarterback Brad Iciek locked in on tight end Jonn Mathews.

"I saw the quarterback, read his eyes, just made a quick break and he threw it right at me," Fechtelkotter said. "Knowing I have a club [hand], I practiced [catching the ball] before, and right when it hit my hands I knew that I was holding onto that ball."

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Fechtelkotter's teammates and coaches immediately stormed the field and celebrated the Bulldogs' biggest victory of the season and their history. About 200 UMD fans who made the 600-plus mile trip also joined in the revelry.

"It has to be the biggest win in the school's history," said UMD quarterback Ted Schlafke, who was 14-of-26 passing for 160 yards, with two touchdown passes and three interceptions. "We have never been this far in the playoffs before. It was great how everyone came together with a little adversity there at the end. But we were still able to pull it out in overtime, and I think that says a lot about our guys."

Running back Isaac Odim said the Bulldogs understood the significance of playing and winning a playoff game on the home field of a team that had won four of the past six Division II titles.

"Everyone came into this game a little more hungry than every other game, because we did know that it was Grand Valley and we knew that not many people gave us a chance to win this game," Odim said.

The Bulldogs' stingy defense put them in position for the victory by harassing Iciek early and often and keeping the Lakers receivers in check. Iciek finished the game by completing only 13 of 46 pass attempts for 160 yards and one TD pass. He also tossed three interceptions and was sacked once.

"I was more frustrated with myself than anything else," Iciek said. "We ran the right plays, the receivers were in the right spots; it was just a matter of not putting everything together. They did a pretty good job of disguising where they were bringing the pressure from."

Touchdowns were in short supply throughout the game, as Grand Valley took a 3-0 first-quarter lead on a 28-yard field goal from Todd Carter, who missed three of his four other attempts in the game. UMD answered seconds into the second quarter when Schlafke connected with Odim on a 16-yard touchdown pass. Carter then added another field goal and UMD held a 7-6 halftime lead.

"Our defense was consistent throughout the day. They bent a little bit, but had a hard time breaking," UMD coach Bob Nielson said. "We batted some balls down and got some pressure on the quarterback. I think that was the difference in the football game, that we were able to disrupt their passing game a little bit and make them a little inconsistent like they did to us."

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The Bulldogs opened up their lead to 13-6 in the third quarter after Schlafke hit D.J. Winfield for a 34-yard scoring strike. But David Nadeau's extra-point attempt was blocked. Both sides battled to a stalemate before Grand Valley tied the game with 1:06 left in the fourth quarter on a 7-yard pass from Iciek to Mathews, setting up the overtime drama in the first playoff OT game played at Grand Valley State.

Grand Valley's first overtime possession ended with a 37-yard field-goal attempt missing wide left. UMD's first play wasn't successful either, as Schlafke's pass was intercepted.

UMD opened the second overtime session with the ball and put it primarily on Odim's shoulders, who finished the game with 130 yards rushing on 21 attempts. Schlafke hit Odim for a 13-yard pass pickup to get the drive going. Odim then finished off the drive with a 10-yard scamper and a 2-yard plunge into the end zone, putting UMD up 19-13. Nadeau's point-after attempt, again, was blocked, giving Grand Valley hope of putting the game away with a TD and extra point.

Two plays later, however, Fechtelkotter's interception dashed those hopes.

"It's a very tough loss," Grand Valley coach Chuck Martin said. "It's tough in a lot of respects -- obviously for our seniors, first of all, because they've had a whale of a career at 51-2. You hate to see them go out anyways, let alone losing in overtime. But give credit to Duluth. Going in, we knew they were well-coached and physical, and they were well-coached and physical [Saturday]. They were the better team [Saturday], they deserved to win. They made the plays necessary to win the football game."

But despite his heroic moment, Fechtelkotter downplayed his significance and emphasized his role in a defensive scheme that often held Grand Valley to a standstill.

"As a defense we played well together, and knowing I did end the last play -- it's not a big deal to me," he said. "It's more important that the defense itself has been what [has] carried us throughout the season."

Minnesota Duluth 0-7-6-0-0-6--19

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Grand Valley State 3-3-0-7-0-0--13

First Quarter

GVS -- Todd Carter 28 field goal, 2:57

Second Quarter

UMD -- Isaac Odim 16 pass from Ted Schlafke (David Nadeau kick), 14:54

GVS -- Todd Carter 36 field goal, 11:08

Third Quarter

UMD -- D.J. Winfield 34 pass from Schlafke (kick blocked), 1:56

Fourth Quarter

GVS -- John Mathews 7 pass from Brad Iciek (Carter kick), 1:06

Second Overtime

UMD -- Odim 2 run (kick blocked)

A -- 3,548

UMD GVS

First downs 17 18

Rushes-yards 42-110 30-109

Passing 160 160

Comp-Att-Int 14-26-3 13-46-3

Returns-Yards 3-63 3-51

Punts-Avg. 6-25.8 5-33.4

Fumbles-Lost 3-0 2-0

Penalties-Yards 7-50 7-58

Time of Possession 33:01 26:59

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING -- UMD, Odim 21-124, Brad Foss 7-8, Winfield 1-2, Alex Miller 1-(-1), Team 1-(-1), Schlafke 11-(-22). GVS, Blake Smolen 27-128, P.T. Gates 1-4, Iciek 2-(-23).

PASSING -- UMD, Schlafke 14-26-2-160. GVS, Iciek 13-46-1-160.

RECEIVING -- UMD, Winfield 6-92, Odim 3-40, Pauley 3-12, Foss 2-9, Tony Doherty 1-7. GVS, Mathews 6-129, Smolen 4-18, Gates 3-13.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Rick Lubbers has been in his role since 2014 and at the News Tribune since 2005. Previous stops include the Superior Telegram (1999-2005) and Budgeteer News (1997-1999). Prior to that, he worked at the St. Cloud Times and Annandale Advocate in Minnesota, and the Greenville Daily News and Grand Rapids Press in Michigan. He received his journalism degree at Central Michigan University.
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