FLORENCE, Ala. -- The magical post-season run
of the Wayne State football team (12-4 overall) ended in a 35-21
setback to the Pittsburg State Gorillas (13-1 overall) in the 2011
NCAA Division II National Championship game.
The Warriors finish with a school record 12 wins (2010 squad had the previous mark at 9-2).
WSU had four turnovers plus two kicks blocked, but still had a chance late in the fourth quarter to pull within one score but a first down pass into the end zone with 94 seconds remaining ended the Warriors last chance.
Senior Josh Renel (Rochester Hills, Mich./Rochester Adams) electrified the crowd of 7,276 with a 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the contest. It was just the third kickoff return for a touchdown in Division II championship game history and the second on the opening kickoff (Ronald Moore, Pitt State in 1992).
On PSU's first play from scrimmage, quarterback Zac Dickey's deep pass attempt was intercepted by redshirt freshman Gerren DuHart (Toledo, Ohio/Central Catholic). Unfortunately for WSU, two plays later quarterback Mickey Mohner (Painesville, Ohio/Harvey) was intercepted in Warrior territory (WSU 37).
Gorilla Eric Love rushed 15 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the ensuing drive.
Wayne State had another turnover on its second play of the following drive as a fumbled snap was recovered at the WSU 37.
After a 12-yard pass completion on the first down play, the Warrior defense stepped up and held PSU to a 37-yard field goal by Chase McCoy.
Another deep pass by WSU was intercepted at the PSU 21 on a third-and-16.
The Wayne State defense, and after allowing 28 yards combined on two plays, tightened up and had back-to-back tackles for loss including a sack by freshman linebacker Nores Fradi (Dearborn Hts., Mich./Dearborn).
Following the Gorilla punt, WSU drove 85 yards in 11 plays with sophomore Toney Davis (Muskegon Hts., Mich./Muskegon) scoring on a one-yard plunge on third-and-goal to give the Warriors a 14-10 lead.
McCoy connected on a 34-yard field goal attempt to make it a one-point WSU lead with 10:26 left before intermission.
Wayne State drove 68 yards but a 22-yard field goal attempt by sophomore Stefan Terleckyj (Warren, Mich./Mott) was blocked by Paul Robinson and returned 80 yards for a TD by Aries Herrion giving PSU a 20-14 lead.
After a WSU punt, Pittsburg State went 72 yards in 10 plays with Dickey completing a six-yard scoring toss to Bristan Kelley with just 15 seconds remaining in the second quarter making the halftime score 27-14.
WSU outrushed Pittsburg State 131-86 in the first half, but the Gorillas had a 128-19 advantage through the air.
Each team punted on its opening possession of the second half, before the Gorillas fourth down pass was incomplete. WSU punted on its second possession of the half.
Dickey was intercepted on PSU's next drive by sophomore safety Antwon Robinson (Southfield, Mich.), his fifth of the campaign.
Wayne State responded with a 15-play, 76-yard drive culminating in a one-yard touchdown run by Davis. The scoring play came just two plays after a fumble ruling on the field was overturned by replay.
The 15-play drive equaled WSU's longest TD drive of the season (Indianapolis game).
PSU regained its two score advantage with a five-play, 75-yard drive as Jason Spradling scored on a four-yard run with 2:38 left.
Mohner was intercepted on the ensuing drive in the end zone for a touchback.
Davis rushed for a game-high 178 yards and WSU totaled 211 yards on the ground. PSU had 187 rushing yards.
Next season, Wayne State moves into the GLIAC North Division with the addition of Malone and Walsh to the GLIAC South Division.
The Warriors will probably begin the 2012 campaign with a non-conference contest before starting GLIAC play with a match-up at Ashland.
Today's national championship game was the final collegiate appearance for 16 seniors. Two others were hurt (Greg Oberstaedt and Kenny Loney) and did not dress, while two others (Donald Brown and Myles McNichols) did not dress.
The 2011 senior class shattered the school record for wins by a class (originally 30 by the 1974-77 squads) by recording a 35-14 mark.