Story and photo courtesy of Minnesota Duluth Athletics
It was a battle of the rush versus the pass Saturday afternoon. And the rush won.
University of Minnesota Duluth senior running back Zach Hulce and junor quarterback Chase Vogler each ran for a pair of touchdowns to lead the ground-happy Bulldogs to 30-27 overtime victory over Saginaw Valley State University in the opening round of the NCAA II playoffs at Malosky Stadium. The defending NCAA II national champions used a punishing running attack -- they rolled up 260 yards on carries -- and a couple of critical defensive stops to move on to next Saturday's second round matchup at No. 1 ranked and undefeated Colorado State University-Pueblo. Saginaw Valley (7-4-0 overall), did almost of its offensive damage through the air, amassing 344 yards compared to just 34 via the rush.
In the first-ever meeting between the two clubs, UMD (10-2) drew first blood on a nine-yard touchdown run by Vogler in the opening quarter. The Cardinals (6-4) answered with a 76-yard scoring strike from Jon Jennigns to Jeff Jannis -- the longest play from scrimmage by a Bulldog opponent this season -- to draw even.
Hulce put the Bulldogs back on top with a 10-yard scoring run nine minutes into the second quarter. UMD stretched its lead to 17-7 with four seconds to go before halftime on a clutch 40-yard field goal by three-time All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference placekicker David Nadeau.
"Big players do big things in big games, but it’s all about the team," said Hulce, who grinded out 126 yards on 27 attempts on the day for his fourth 100-yard game of 2011, "I just try to do anything I can to help us win.”
Saginaw Valley State, a member of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and the Super Region Three's No. 5 seed, took its only lead of the game at 21-17 early in the fourth quarter on Jannis' third receiving score of the day before Hulce responded with a 22-yard touchdown run. Down by three with just over a minute to play, the Cardinals strung together an impressive drive, but were ultimately forced to kick a game tying 42-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in regulation to force overtime.
After surrendering a quick first down, the Bulldog defense regrouped in overtime, holding the Cardinals to a field goal. That was enough for the UMD offense, which set itself up with first and goal from the one after a 23-yard completion from Vogler to freshman wideout Aaron Roth on the second play of overtime. Vogler punched it in on a quarterback sneak on the ensuing play, giving the Bulldogs the victory -- their 14th straight at home and third in three lifetime NCAA II playoff games -- in walk-off fashion.
"The offensive line got a good push all day," said Vogler, who owns career record of 35-3 in his three-plus season as UMD's starting quarterback, including a 6-1 mark in the playoffs. "From my point it's easy, I just take the ball and go forward."