Morningside advanced to their first-ever NAIA Football Championship with a 47-19 win over fourth-ranked St. Xavier (IL) on Saturday at Olsen Stadium. St. Xavier (11-2) is the defending NAIA champion.
The third-ranked Mustangs got 335 yards passing and four touchdowns from senior quarterback Joel Nixon in improving to 13-0 on the season. Nixon was named the offensive player of the game, completing 22 of 34 passes without an interception. Nixon also ran for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Morningside also outgained the Cougars, 141-60 on the ground while winning the time of possession category 36:44 to 23:16.
Morningside led 27-16 at the half but scored two quick touchdowns in the third quarter by Fred Jones and Kyle Schuck to put the game out of reach. Schuck, a junior from Cherokee, Iowa, had eight receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns. The Mustang defense also held St. Xavier to three points in the second half and senior Jared Goforth had two interceptions. Goforth was named the defensive player of the game.
"I cannot say enough about the way our defense played, especially in the second half," said Morningside head coach Steve Ryan. "They're a fantastic football team and it just took everything we had. We talked all week about playing every play. Our guys played every play."
"That is the reason I came to Morningside. I came to Morningside for this game right here," said Nixon. "We came kept out composure throughout the game. They're a great ball team and we came out and played our best game of the year. We're going to Rome and we're going to give it our best there, you better believe it."
"We've lost in the quarters. We lost last year in the first round. We've had a bunch of alumni telling us, 'we hope we can get there'. They want us to, too. It was a battle and we're so happy to be there. It's going to be awesome," said Goforth.
For the fifth-consecutive season, the championship game will kickoff at Barron Stadium in Rome, Georgia. The event will be televised live and in high definition on CBS Sports Television with kickoff scheduled for 5:30 p.m. CST.
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