ROME, Ga. – This time the University of Sioux Falls players got to slide across a rain-soaked field in celebration.
Cougars quarterback Lorenzo Brown threw a touchdown pass and ran for 129 yards as Sioux Falls defeated Carroll College 23-7 in the rain to win the NAIA championship Saturday.
The title was the South Dakota school’s third and avenged a 17-9 loss to Carroll in the championship game last year on a wet day in Savannah, Tenn.
Carroll, located in Helena, Mont., had won 28 consecutive games and five of the past six NAIA championships. Sioux Falls won titles in 1996 and 2006.
“It was an awful, awful feeling last year watching them celebrate,” Sioux Falls senior linebacker Tyler Newman said. “To get to do it ourselves by sliding across the field this year was a great, great feeling. … We wanted revenge on Carroll real bad.”
“It feels a lot better to have won,” said Cougars coach Kalen DeBoer. “I’m proud of these guys.”
Brown, a junior college transfer, led a mistake-free offense, and the defense forced four turnovers along with blocking a punt for a touchdown.
Brown connected with Jon Ryan on a 54-yard touchdown pass with 7:04 left in the game to put Sioux Falls (14-0) ahead 17-7. Carroll (13-1) came back with a 39-yard touchdown pass from Matt Ritter to Travis Brown with 6:15 remaining. But Drew DeGroot picked up a Ritter fumble and returned it 30 yards for the clinching touchdown with 2:44 left.
“You have to win the turnover battle to win the game and we didn’t do it,” said Carroll senior linebacker Owen Koeppen, the NAIA player of the year.
Sioux Falls’ Matt Lindren kicked a 24-yard field goal with 3:15 left in the first quarter and the Cougars went up 10-0 with 13:12 remaining before halftime when Kyle Cummings blocked a Saints punt and Joe Moen ran it in from 10 yards out.
Brown was honored as the offensive player of the game and Cummings, a junior linebacker, won the defensive award.
“Lorenzo had a great game,” Carroll coach Mike Van Diest said. “He was the difference.”
The NAIA championship game was played in Rome, located 75 miles northwest of Atlanta, for the first time and drew a sellout of 6,500 at Barron Stadium despite the rainy weather.
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