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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]


PLU wins NCAA Division III football championship with 42-13 victory over favored Rowan

NCAA Division III football championship
Photo: Brian Hoffman
See more championship images at www.ncaaphotos.com

A videotape, featuring the game and several clips from other events of the contest, is available from the PLU Bookstore for $19.95. www.plu.edu/~bkst

By Nick Dawson

A five-game national playoff run that started in Salem, Ore., ended on Dec. 18 at the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl in Salem, Va., with Pacific Lutheran University beating Rowan (N.J), 42-13, in the NCAA Division III national football championship game.

The Lutes became the first team to win the Division III title while playing every playoff game on the road. PLU had been seeded seventh and last in the West Region and, in all likelihood, would not have made the playoffs had the bracket not expanded this year from 16 to 28 teams.

On the way to the title game, the Lutes picked up road victories over Willamette (Ore.), 28-24, Wartburg (Iowa), 49-14, Saint John's (Minn.), 19-9, and Trinity (Texas), 49-28. The Lutes' final victory came approximately 2,500 miles from home on an absolutely perfect 54-degree, sunny day. The grass field was in great shape for late December, and an appreciative crowd of 4,101-including PLU President Loren J. Anderson-and perhaps millions more watching on ESPN2, saw the Lutes dominate the Profs from the outset.

Despite entering the game as a decided underdog, PLU took control early and kept the momentum. After the Lute offense was forced to punt on its first possession, the "Big Play" defense came up with a momentum-changing play. On Rowan's initial play from scrimmage, PLU senior linebacker Tim Lax '99 hit Rowan running back Jason Frabasile in the backfield, forcing a fumble that was recovered by Lute sophomore safety Jonathan Carlson '02. On the next play, junior quarterback Chad Johnson '01 hit junior end Todd McDevitt '01 on a post pattern for 31 yards and a touchdown.

NCAA Division III football championship
Photo: Brian Hoffman
See more championship images at www.ncaaphotos.com
Rowan tied the score with 2:10 left in the first quarter, but the Lutes responded with 28 unanswered points to open up a 35-7 lead. At the halftime break, PLU held a 27-7 lead and had accumulated 277 yards of offense to just 140 for the Profs.
It got worse for Rowan on the Profs' first play from scrimmage in the third period when PLU senior defensive end Luke Jacobson '99 forced a fumble that was recovered at the Rowan 13-yard line by junior linebacker Luke Gearhard '01. Three plays later, Johnson connected with McDevitt on the pair's second scoring pass, this from 13 yards out.

When Anthony Hicks '00 ran 20 yards for a touchdown with 2:18 left in the game, the Lutes had put the finishing touches on their incredible journey through the NCAA Division III playoffs.

Hicks' two touchdowns gave him 11, establishing a new Division III playoff record. The PLU defense set a Stagg Bowl record by shutting down Rowan's running game to minus 63 yards on 20 carries.

The Lutes outgained Rowan, 396-201, including 120 rushing yards against the top-ranked rushing defense in Division III football. Hicks gained 73 yards on 22 carries and also had four catches for 78 yards. Johnson, the team's quarterback and the grandson of head coach Frosty Westering, completed 18-of-28 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns.

When all was said and done, the PLU football team truly had earned the title, "Road Warriors." The 1999 Lutes played away from home 10 times in 14 games.

Hicks, a two-time Northwest Conference Offensive Player of the Year, finished with 1,633 rushing yards, breaking the old school record of 1,226, set by Jeff Rohr in 1983. Hicks also established a new PLU record by scoring 27 touchdowns and 164 total points. Chad Barnett set the former records of 20 touchdowns and 122 points in 1993.

Hicks wasn't the only record setter this season. PLU established a new single-season rushing yardage record with 3,092 yards, breaking the old mark of 2,754 yards set in 1985. The 1999 Lutes also set single-season records for games (14) and wins (13) in a season.

Here's a question for you PLU sports nuts

What PLU fall sports team won its Northwest Conference championship?

If you guessed the national championship football team, you were wrong. The football team finished second in the conference standings. In fact, the PLU volleyball team won its first-ever Northwest Conference title.

Under the direction of head Coach Kevin Aoki '84, and sparked by the play of all-conference setter Ingrid Lindeblad '00, the Lutes won 20 of their 26 matches to tie a school record. PLU advanced to the regional semifinals before being ousted from the national tournament.

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