GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (Michigan News Source) – Two storied programs will face each other in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs on Saturday in Allendale. Grand Valley State, the number one team in the nation with a first-round bye, will take on Northwest Missouri State. The two programs combined have won 10 national championships with NW Missouri winning six including the last two in 2021 and 2022.

“Northwest Missouri State is making their 20th straight playoff appearance and is a lot like us with a strong team and history. They played better towards the last half of their season and they are always led by their defense. Their defense is always really, really strong,” says head coach Matt Mitchell.

GVSU earned the first-round bye after winning the GLIAC Championship and posting an 11-0 record. They will have home field advantage throughout the playoffs that they have earned.

Mitchell says, “We are happy with the number one seed and hosting throughout the course of the regional play and I think that is key as we get to sleep in our own beds and be in front of our fans.”

It is the 10th time in school history that GVSU has finished with an undefeated season as they make their 21st appearance in the NCAA Division II playoffs. The GLIAC championship is their 18th overall as the program tries to work toward their fifth national championship.

To do so, they will have to knock off two-time defending champion NW Missouri State. The Bearcats come to Allendale after a 47-17 drubbing of Ouachita Baptist University in  Arkansas. NW Missouri won an NCAA Division II best 53rd playoff victory and was their 15th playoff road victory.

NW Missouri State posted 499 yards of total offense with 322 yards passing. Kashan Griffin had 109 yards receiving on five catches for a touchdown while Cole Hembrough had the other touchdown. Mike Hohensee was 23-of-30 in the pocket with no interceptions and no sacks.

OBU was averaging 42 points a game and was held to just 17 and just 265 yards of offense, 200 yards shy of what they average per game. The defense forced five sacks, one fumble, and one interception the dominating first round game.

“We are going to see one of the top defenses in NCAA Division II. They are really dominate against the run,” says Mitchell. “They have found their footing on offense as they scored 47 points last week and they have continued to improve as the season has gone on. We are going to be playing a team with a  lot of expectations and a lot of confidence coming to Lubbers Stadium.”

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GVSU is no slouch, though, when it comes to these two categories having the number one defense in the nation and are number five in scoring offense. The defense is allowing just 10.27 points per game as the offense scored 41.7 points. Abe Swanson leads the defense with 73 tackles and Christian McCarroll has 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks. GVSU’s offense is spread over several players as Tariq Reid has 851 yards rushing and Cade Peterson 456 yards. Reid has posted 17 touchdowns as Peterson has seven. Peterson also has a 162.07 passer rating with 2,076 yards and 16 touchdowns. His top two receivers have been Jaylon Tillman with 496 yards and Cody Tierney at 468 yards.

These two teams have met six times in the playoffs and NW Missouri State leads the series, 4-2. The last time they played came in 2018 in Allendale as GVSU fell, 42-17. The Lakers only two wins came in 2005 and 2006 in the national championship over the Bearcats winning 17-14 in ’06 and 21-17 in ’05. Game time is set for 1:00 p.m. at Lubbers Stadium.