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CHAMPIONSHIP BOUND! Northwestern rolls over Indiana Wesleyan in NAIA semifinals

ORANGE CITY, IA (Dakota News Now) — The third-ranked Northwestern College football team (12-1, 9-1 GPAC) will make its second trip to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) (FCS) Football Championship Season (FCS) national championship game in three seasons, with a 38-7 win over Indiana Wesleyan University (11-2, 7-0 MSFA) on a cold December day at De Valois Stadium. Jalyn Gramstad combined for 252 yards and four total touchdowns, moving to second all-time in the single-season rushing touchdown list (22).

“Our defense made some big stops trying to stifle momentum.[Fryar]’s interception in the end zone was really a turning point,” said the head coach Matt McCarty. “Once again, the defense played great defense in all four quarters. Our defense is something we can hang our hat on constantly.”

The hot starting streak continued for the Red Raiders today as Northwestern scored 17 points to start the game against the Wildcats in the first quarter. It didn’t take Northwestern long on the cold Orange City day for Gramstad (Sun., Lester, Iowa) to lead the Raiders for 65 yards down the field in six games, with the last three games being passes of 10, 5, and 27 yards . The touchdown was a 27-yard smack Michael Storey (Sr., Spencer, Iowa).

“We’ve had great starts because we’ve had great weeks of practice,” McCarty noted. “We have a very focused and hungry group of guys and are doing a great job of setting the tone early.”

Later in the quarter, Gramstad recorded his first rushing result of the day with a 15-yard scamper to complete a 2-play 29-yard drive after a botched wildcat punt spotted the ball on IWU 29. El Stader (Jr., Cedar Grove, Wisconsin) would put a three on the board late in the first quarter to level it at 17-0. Additionally, the Red Raider defense continued phenomenal play, forcing punts on the first three IWU drives, all three-and-offs. The Wildcats were only able to muster three yards in the first 15 minutes of the game.

In the second quarter, both defenses strengthened as neither offensive could put points on the board. Northwestern forced a turnover on downs and Parker Fryar (So., Waukee, Iowa) had the biggest swing game of the game, stopping a solid Wildcat drive with his end zone interception. The Raiders would take the 17-0 lead into the dressing room.

“Parker’s a guy. He’s relentless and pops up all over the defense,” McCarty commented on the 2022 GPAC Defensive Player of the Year. “His end zone interception was the game’s turning point and dashed the hopes they had after a solid drive to that point .”

A nicely done wrong running game on the left Blake Anderson (Sr., Oakland, Neb.) all by himself in the end zone, and Gramstad wouldn’t miss and connected on the 18-yard touchdown pass. Gramstad would pick up his second rushing touchdown of the day with just over a minute remaining in the quarter, giving the runner-up sole possession of the second rushing touchdown in a season (22).

“Jalyn has done an excellent job of keeping our offense moving. He’s so elusive when he’s in charge of football and turning negative plays into big plays!”

Senior quarterback Blake Fryar (Waukee, Iowa) would get some snaps in the fourth quarter. Konner McQuillan (Jr., Leavenworth, Kan.) would find the end zone from two yards out for his only result of the day, making it 38-0 for the Red Raiders with seven minutes remaining. Indiana Wesleyan would avoid the shutout with a touchdown on her next drive for the final score of 38-7.

GAME NOTES:

  • NWC hasn’t lagged behind this season since Jalyn Gramstad was brought on as starting quarterback (October 1 vs. Mount Marty).
  • The trip to the national championship game is the second in three years and the fifth in program history.
  • With two rushing touchdowns today, Gramstad moves to second all-time in the single-season record book for rushing touchdowns (22).
  • The Raiders give Indiana Wesleyan their first NAIA game loss this season.
  • Northwestern put up 373 yards of offense and held the ball for 41 minutes of play.
  • Gramstad threw for 160 yards (13-for-21), along with his two touchdown passes and no interceptions.
  • He also led the team with 92 rushing yards (15 att.) followed by 68 yards out Konner McQuillan (19 att.).
  • Michael Storey had six catches for a team-high 87 yards and a touchdown grab.
  • NWC limited IWU to just nine first downs and 182 yards of offense that day, and averaged 347.7 yards of offense per game.
  • Even more impressive was that the third down defense remained unbreakable as the Wildcats failed to achieve a third down conversion (0-for-9).
  • Parker Fryar recorded his second-most tackles in a game this season (13) to lead all tacklers.
  • He had 16 at Morningside and against Concordia (Neb.).
  • Fryar also had the only forced Raider turnover that day and recorded his second interception of the season.
  • The Raider defense had four sacks that day, led by 1.5 out Korbyn Gramstad.
  • Additionally, NWC had seven tackles to lose, led by 1.5 from Fryar and Gramstad.
  • Ben Kingery forced a wildcat fumble and had one of the team’s five pass breakups.
  • Kingery and Cody Moser both had quarterback rush.
  • El Stader scored his fourth field goal of the season and his first in the 20–29 yard range (1 for 2).

Next: The Red Raiders reach the national championship game of the NAIA Football Championship Series (FCS) for the second time in three years. Northwestern meets the Keizer University (Fla.) Seahawks on Dec. 17 in Durham, North Carolina (10-3, 6-0 SUN).

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