The nation’s top running game will go up against the nation’s top run defense when Morningside hosts Marian of Indiana in the semifinals of the NAIA playoffs on Saturday. It is a rematch of the 2012 national championship game won by Marian. “There is a rematch factor, but there are hardly any of the players who played in the game that are still on the field, so things are very different,” Morningside coach Steve Ryan says.
He says they have changed by becoming more of a running team. The Mustangs averaged 366 yards on the ground per game and take on a Marian defense that gives up only 66 on the ground per game. “I don’t know if there is a weak spot in their defense, all of their guys hustle, all of their guys play hard…so it’s hard to find gaps and openings to run,” according to Ryan.
Ryan says a key for the Mustangs will be converting in the red zone and scoring touchdowns instead of field goals. He says they have also had some problems with turning the ball over inside the 20.
This is the third straight year that Morningside has reached the semifinal round. A year ago they lost to eventual national champion Grand View, and Ryan says the cold and everything else doesn’t bother you when you are still playing this time of year.