SIOUX CITY (KTIV) - Two GPAC rivals will meet on the gridiron tomorrow with more than just bragging rights on the line. Top ranked Morningside will host #6 Northwestern in the NAIA semifinals. The winner advances to the national title game in Grambling, Louisiana.
Morningside trailed 21-9 at halftime in the quarterfinals against Baker, but dominated in the second half to come away with a 45-29 victory. The two-time defending champions are in the semifinals for the fourth straight season. Morningside beat Northwestern 45-31 in the first game of the season way back in September. The Mustangs have beaten the Red Raiders seven straight times and hold a 19-10 record all time against Northwestern. Even though Morningside won the regular season matchup, it was seven months ago and the Mustangs know that both teams have gotten better since that matchup.
"I think the biggest difference going into this game is I think both defenses were young earlier in the year," said Morningside head coach Steve Ryan. "And I think both defenses, ours and theirs, are significantly improved and I think that'll be the biggest difference going into this game. Northwestern has their attention. They're a dynamic football team and that's enough to keep their attention on this game."
For Northwestern, the Red Raiders are into the semifinals after a 27-24 win over 2nd ranked Grand View. The Red Raiders come in with an 11-1 record, their only loss coming to Morningside in week one. This is Northwestern's first semifinal appearance in 21 years. The Raiders are looking to reach the title game for the first time since 1984. Northwestern feels like they're playing their best football going into this game.
"It's almost like a whole new season," said Northwestern Head Coach Matt McCarty. "Our defense, the personnel that we have on the field and just the experience in some of our young players is big for us going into this week. And offensively I think we're healthy at this point too and I think we have our best team on the field right now."
Morningside and Northwestern will kickoff tomorrow at 1:00pm at Elwood Olsen Stadium.