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UNA Falls in Championship Game to Northwest Missouri State

KANSAS CITY, Kan. –  The University of North Alabama’s bid to win the 2016 NCAA Division II Football National Championship came up short on a snow-covered field at Children’s Mercy Park as Northwest Missouri State pulled off a 29-3 win over the Lions.

The game was played with sub-zero wind chills at kickoff and heavy snow beginning late in the first half and continuing throughout the remainder of the game.

The Lions gave up three turnovers and had a high-snap in the kicking game result in a safety. The 29 points was the most allowed this season by UNA since its season-opening game against Jacksonville State.

UNA quarterback Jacob Tucker was 15-of-41 passing for 179 yards. Julius Jones had four catches for 82 yards.

After a scoreless first quarter, North Alabama had the game’s first scoring opportunity when the Lions moved to the Northwest six-yard line on a 20-yard pass from Jacob Tucker to Ryan Harper. Tucker was picked off in the end zone two plays later by Jack Young at the 13:56 mark of the second quarter.

North Alabama’s Philbert Martial picked off a Kyle Zimmerman pass later in the half at the Lions’ 20 but UNA couldn’t move the ball out of its own end of the field.

Northwest Missouri State mounted the game’s first scoring drive with 4:51 left in the half and moved the ball to the UNA seven-yard line in seven plays. Randy Schmidt then threw a shovel-pass to Jordan Grove for seven yards and the touchdown. Simon Mathiesen added the extra-point and Northwest led 7-0 with 58 second remaining in the half.

With less than a minute remaining, North Alabama was able to move from its own 36-yard line to the NWMSU five with a first-and-goal. Key plays included a 29-yard pass from Tucker to Julius Jones and a 15-yard Tucker run. After two incompletions and a one-yard run, UNA called on Kevin Henke who booted a 21-yard field goal with four seconds left in the half to make it 7-3.

After an exchange of turnovers to start the second half, Northwest recovered a second UNA fumble at the Lions 40-yard line and was able to put together a seven-play, 40-yard drive to the end zone. Phil Jackson scored on a two-yard run with 5:57 left in the third and Mathiesen’s kick made it 14-3.

With 8:05 left in the game, a snap sailed over punter Jeb Millender’s head and resulted in a safety, pushing the Bearcats’ lead to 16-3.

Following the free kick, Northwest drove for a touchdown The drive covered 41 yards in a four plays and resulted in a 13-yard TD pass from Kyle Zimmerman to Shane Williams. The try-for-two failed. It was just the second TD allowed by UNA all season in the fourth quarter.

Northwest added another score with 57 seconds left on a 10-yard run by Phil Jackson to make the final count 29-3.

UNA finishes its season at 11-2. The title appearance was the program's fifth all-time appearance and first since 1995.