Northwestern and Morningside face road tests in the quarterfinal round of the NAIA football playoffs.
Northwestern takes an 11-1 record and the nation’s #6 ranking into the contest against unbeaten and fifth-ranked Missouri Valley. Northwestern coach Orv Otten says the team that establishes a ground game will have the nest chance. “There are two very fine defenses that are in this ballgame,” Otten says, suggesting something’s got to give. “You need to be able to run the ball to win championships.”
Northwestern will try to be balanced against the Missouri Valley defense. “We’ve got a lot of versatility; we’ve got a lot of different receivers who have caught the ball,” Otten says. “We feel like we can spread it around a bit…and try to challenge them that way.”
Morningside visits #2 Sioux Falls and will be looking to avenge a 24-0 regular season loss. Mustang coach Steve Ryan says his team cannot afford to make mistakes. “The thing that got it going for them was we had some special teams miscues,” Ryan says. “Just in general, our offense needs to be able to drive the football and get the ball in the end zone and just give our defense a chance to get off the field and last time we played them we really struggled on offense.”
Ryan says the Sioux Falls offense is versatile. “Our defense did a good job against the run early in the game,” he says. “But there are so many things they can do, you can only hope to contain them for so long.”