UCM Mules, PSU Gorillas advance in NCAA D2 football playoffs; Baker wins NAIA opener

Central Missouri and Pittsburg State collected opening-round victories in the NCAA Division II football playoffs on their respective home fields Saturday afternoon.

If the Mules and Gorillas win again next weekend, they’d meet in the national quarterfinals the weekend after that.

But first, here’s a recap of both teams’ Saturday victories, as well as other postseason games involving the Kansas City area’s smaller-college programs:

Central Missouri 56, Henderson State 14: Thanks in large part to more ridiculous stats from MIAA Offensive Player of the Year Zach Zebrowski, the Mules wasted no time taking complete control of their playoff opener.

The Mules (11-1) scorched the Walton Stadium scoreboard (and the visiting Reddies) for a 35-0 first-quarter lead in Warrensburg. Zebrowski, son of Kansas QBs coach Jim Zebrowski, was the spark plug for the Mules — he’d finish the afternoon completing 24 of 34 passes for 467 yards and seven touchdowns, including three to Jack Pospisil.

UCM advances to plays top-seeded Harding, which received an opening-round bye, on Saturday, Nov. 25.

Pittsburg State 35, Indianapolis 14: Making their 20th appearance in the Div. II playoffs, the Gorillas (11-1) rolled to a 21-point victory at Carnie Smith Stadium in Pittsburg, Kan.

Pitt State’s only points of the opening quarter came on a safety. The hosts would slowly build their lead throughout the remainder of the afternoon, culminating with a 17-point fourth period.

Chad Dodson Jr. completed 20 of 28 passes for 282 yards and threw touchdown passes to three different receivers. He was sacked twice. Fellow Gorillas QB Ty Pennington had a 46-yard run and was PSU’s top rusher Saturday with 76 yards on eight carries.

Pitt State advances to play Grand Valley State, a 21-14 winner against Ferris State, next weekend. Indianapolis, of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, finishes its season 9-2.

Baker wins, Ottawa falls as NAIA playoffs begin

Baker and Ottawa were among the 20-team field (12 auto-qualifiers, seven at-large berths) for this year’s NAIA postseason tournament, which culminates in the 2023 championship game at Durham County Memorial Stadium in Durham, North Carolina.

Two area programs took part in opening-round games this weekend:

Baker 56, Louisiana Christian 28: In a postseason-opening battle of Wildcats at Liston Stadium in Baldwin City, Kan., Baker simply refused to lose. After trailing 21-14 at halftime, the host Wildcats (9-2) scored 21 points in the final three minutes to advance to the next round of the NAIA FCS playoffs.

The Baker defense forced six turnovers, including a pick-six to finish the game. Senior running back Rashaan Graves, from Grandview, Mo. and Shawnee Mission East, rushed for 149 yards and three touchdowns.

Louisiana Christian (9-2) was making its all-time playoff debut, while Baker, which finished in a three-way tie for the Heart of America South Division title, is moving on in its 20th postseason football appearance.

Dordt (Iowa) 35, Ottawa 7: The Braves scored the first points of the NAIA FCS first-round game at Open Space Park in Sioux Center, Iowa, on a 73-yard touchdown run by Wynton Ruth.

But it was all Dordt (9-2) from there. While Ottawa (6-6) struggled in the red zone, the Defenders had no such trouble: Brendan Pieper rushed for four touchdowns and 110 yards on 20 carries, with a longest gain of 22 yards.

Ruth was the Braves’ top gainer offensively, finishing with 130 yards on 16 carries. Ottawa was playing in the postseason for the first time since 2014, 10th time overall, while Dordt’s making its first appearance.

FCS playoffs selection show is Sunday

The Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) playoff bracket will be announced on Sunday at 11:30 p.m. Central Time on ESPNU.

Eight first-round games will be played next Saturday, Nov. 25, at campus sites across the country. Same with Round 2, with games scheduled for Dec. 2.

The Round 2 winners advance to the tournament’s Dec. 8-9 quarterfinals, with semifinals set for Dec. 15-16 and the championship game slated for Jan. 7 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.