Rematch won't decide title, but trip to title game

Chase Vogler remembers exactly where he was on Dec. 13, 2008. That was the day Minnesota Duluth beat Northwest Missouri State 21-14 for its first NCAA Division II football championship, and Vogler was on his official recruiting visit to Minnesota...

Rematch is Saturday
UMD and Northwest Missouri State, shown here in the 2008 NCAA Division II championship game, will meet again Saturday at Malosky Stadium in the NCAA semifinals. (File / Brett Groehler, UMD)

Chase Vogler remembers exactly where he was on Dec. 13, 2008.

That was the day Minnesota Duluth beat Northwest Missouri State 21-14 for its first NCAA Division II football championship, and Vogler was on his official recruiting visit to Minnesota State-Mankato. He wound up choosing UMD.

"I glanced at the TV a lot during that trip," Vogler said. "Mankato acted like they wanted UMD to win, for the conference and everything, but that couldn't have been easy for them. That's hard to recruit against."

UMD and Northwest meet in a rematch Saturday at 5 p.m. at Malosky Stadium in the national semifinals, and while most of the personnel has changed from those teams, these two share common formulas for winning with their 2008 counterparts.

UMD, which now has Vogler at quarterback, continues to control games with its power running game and stifling defense.


Northwest counters with the best passing game and defensive secondary the Bulldogs will see.

"There are a few players you recognize from two years ago, but it doesn't make any difference who the faces are, they are a very similar team," Northwest coach Mel Tjeerdsma said. "They're well coached, well disciplined, don't make mistakes, physical. The same things we saw in 2008."

UMD certainly didn't run over the Bearcats two years ago but got just enough offense to keep the chains moving. The Bulldogs rushed 43 times for 145 yards while holding the football for more than 34 of the game's 60 minutes.

UMD quarterback Ted Schlafke threw for 128 yards and two touchdowns, while the Bulldogs' defense forced four turnovers.

Northwest safety Aldwin Foster-Rettig, now a senior, sparked the Bearcats' fourth-quarter rally by returning an interception 44 yards for a touchdown, but Northwest didn't benefit from its big-game experience.

The Bearcats, of Maryville, Mo., have played in the past five title games, but they fumbled six times in their meeting against UMD, losing two.

"I think most people would say Northwest is the best program in Division II," UMD coach Bob Nielson said. "They're certainly a team we know something about and have a tremendous amount of respect for. They're a team that doesn't have a weakness, so we've got to do a lot of things right."

UMD returns only one yardage gainer from the 2008 title game, running back Brad Foss, who had 37 of the Bulldogs' 273 yards.


Foss is one of 18 seniors on UMD's roster. He is banged up after playing on a Griggs Field that has become granite-like, but he said being one of last remaining DII teams -- out of about 150 -- never gets old.

"It's almost expected for us to get here now, but just about anywhere else, you'd feel lucky just to make the playoffs," Foss said. "We might never get another opportunity like this again, so you've got to play this game like it's your last. And for the seniors, it's starting to hit home. This is our last game at Malosky Stadium."

Next week's national title game is in Florence, Ala., just as it has been every year since 1986.

Win or lose on Saturday, Northwest senior quarterback Blake Bolles will be in Florence next week as one of three finalists for the Harlon Hill Trophy that goes to the DII player of the year.

Bolles saw spot duty against the Bulldogs two years ago but has since blossomed into a professional prospect. Mobile and strong armed, the 6-foot-4, 210-pound senior has thrown for 3,705 yards this season (285 ypg), with 29 touchdowns to eight interceptions. He put up even gaudier numbers in leading the Bearcats to the 2009 national championship.

Saturday's forecast calls for morning snow, a high of 15 degrees and wind gusts to 25 mph, not considered ideal for passing teams, but Tjeerdsma said the weather won't decide the winner.

"I've been doing this for 45 years, and I know one thing: I can't control the weather," Tjeerdsma said. "If we dwell on it, then we could just as well stay in Maryville. We've worked so hard all year to get back to Florence, that if we let three or four hours of weather keep us from that goal, then we really don't deserve to go."

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
What To Read Next
Get Local