ORANGE CITY, Iowa (Northwestern Athletics) – For the second straight season – and second time in the 2021 calendar year – the No. 4-ranked Northwestern College football team (12-1, 9-1 GPAC) will compete in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Football Championship Series (FCS) Semifinal round, behind 164 receiving yards from Cade Moser (Sr., Rock Valley, Iowa/Rock Valley Community) and a 25-20 victory over No. 7-ranked Marian (9-3, 5-1 MSFA) Saturday afternoon at De Valois Stadium.

In a game heavily affected by the wind with gusts anywhere from 25- to 30-mph, the Raiders were able to prevail thanks, once again, to timely interceptions to stymie Marian momentum swings and walk out with the victory. Tyson Kooima (Sr., Hull, Iowa/Western Christian) threw for 227 yards on 16-for-28 passing with one touchdown toss.

“I am proud of the work our staff and team have put in to get back to the semifinals,” noted head coach Matt McCarty. “These kids care about one another and compete hard for each other!”

After a quick three-and-out by the Raiders to begin the game, Marian’s first possession resulted with them being the first to put points on the board. A 10-play, 49-yard drive resulted in a Knight 19-yard field goal, as the Raider defense stood firm when they had to, preventing an early Marian touchdown.

The Raiders would drive their next possession but would be stymied, losing the ball on downs but just four plays later a Jalyn Gramstad (So., Lester, Iowa/West Lyon) interception would set up the Northwestern offense inside Marian territory. Logan Meyer (So., Alvord, Iowa/West Lyon) would punch it in for his first score of the day to make it 6-3 Northwestern with 1:42 to play in the opening quarter. 

The second quarter proved to be the most action-packed quarter of the day as a combined 20 points would be scored, as the Raiders scored 13 of the 20 points. Marian would cap off a 13-play, 67-yard drive to retake the lead 10-6 with 11 minutes to play in the half. Not to be outdone, as Moser would pick up his 20th touchdown reception of the season from Kooima on a 17-yard connection to take the 13-10 lead. Two field goals of 25- and 21-yards from Eli Stader (So., Cedar Grove, Wis./Oostburg) would give Northwestern their 19-10 halftime lead.

The third quarter saw Marian carry all the momentum, as their 9-play 75-yard drive would cut the Raider lead to 19-17 heading into the fourth quarter, but Northwestern would have the wind on their side in the final quarter of play.

The fourth quarter began with Marian driving inside the red zone after a lost fumble by the Raider offense, but again the Northwestern defense would hold firm and force the Knights to settle for a field goal and taking the 20-19 lead.

Getting the ball back with 13:35 to play, Kooima would lead what would lead a 7-play, 68-yard drive. After the first play of the drive lost three yards, Kooima would not be bothered as he found Moser streaking down the sideline in front of the Raider sideline, dropping a perfect over the shoulder ball for a 38-yard reception into Marian territory. Meyer would punch it in again for his second score of the game, proving to be the game-winning score with 10:13 on the clock.

“Cade is an outstanding playmaker,” said McCarty. “We knew we would have to lean on him today and he came through with some big catches.”

The Raider would really step up in the next two Marian possessions, forcing back-to-back three-and-outs. The Knights would get the ball back via punt with 2:34 left starting on their own 9-yard line for the final chance to score. Northwestern would force a fourth down & 10 at the Marian 26, but Bundalo would find Johnny William over the middle for a 32-yard reception to the Northwestern 42 and a fresh set of downs.

With momentum seemingly on their side all of the sudden, it would immediately be snatched back by Jaden Snyder (R-So., Larchwood, Iowa/West Lyon) who would make a phenomenal break on the ball, picking off his seventh pass of the season to seal the Raider victory with a minute left. “Jaden has played with great confidence back there,” noted McCarty. “He made a great break and sealed the win for us.”

On the afternoon, the Raider offense put up 330 yards of offense behind the 227 passing yards of Kooima. Kooima also led the team in rushing yards (58) and carries (15). Moser snagged nine of Kooima’s 16 completions, as he was named Offensive Player of the Game.

The Northwestern Defense was able to stymie the potent Marian passing game on the day, holding quarterback Zach Bundalo to 10-for-26 passing with 167 yards, two interceptions, and no touchdowns. This game’s Defensive Player of the Game was awarded to defensive end Brett Moser (Sr., Rock Valley, Iowa/Rock Valley Community) as he was a menace all game long, picking up two sacks and breaking up one pass to end a Knight drive. As a team, the pass defense was ferocious with three quarterback hurries and six pass break-ups.

Tanner Oleson (Sr., Larchwood, Iowa/West Lyon) led the team with 13 tackles on the afternoon, followed by Parker Fryar (So., Waukee, Iowa/Van Meter) with 10. Olseon also recorded 1.5 tackles for loss. Lorenzo Jones (R-So., Orlando, Fla./Edgewater) had two major pass break-ups, having the tough assignment of guarding the Knight’s leading receiver Ben Stevens.

Stader was 2-for-2 on field goals this season, improving his mark on the season to 63.2% (12-for-19). Snyder had five punts today with one 50+ yard boot (51 yards) and two inside the 20-yard line.

Up Next: The Raiders will await the new pairings to be released by the NAIA tomorrow, Sunday, November 28