SALEM, Va. -- Brett Elliott wanted to play football so much,
he left Utah for Division III Linfield and a chance to spend his
senior season on the field.
Elliott made his decision after being replaced as the starting
quarterback at Utah by Alex Smith, and things couldn't have worked
Already with an NCAA record 59 touchdown passes, Elliott will
attempt to complete a perfect season by leading the Wildcats (12-0)
to the Division III national championship. Linfield, of
McMinnville, Ore., will play Mary Hardin-Baylor in the 32nd Amos
Alonzo Stagg Bowl on Saturday.
"This is probably the most fun I've ever had playing
football," said Elliott, whose 59 TD passes beat the previous
record set by Willie Totten of Mississippi Valley State in 1984.
Elliott started the final six games for Utah as a sophomore in
2002, then started the first two games the following season. In
that second game, he broke his left wrist diving for the goal line
and Smith took over. Elliott never got the job back as Smith capped
a 10-2 season with a victory in the Liberty Bowl.
Elliott started looking elsewhere.
"I felt frustrated that I got hurt and the situation arose from
it, but I didn't feel slighted," he was quoted as telling The
Roanoke Times this week. "I just wanted to play again."
At Linfield, about 45 minutes from Elliott's hometown of Lake
Oswego, Ore., he's managed to do just that. He has completed 270 of
403 passes for 4,313 yards and 59 touchdowns with nine
This is the first appearance by both teams in the championship
The Wildcats advanced to the title game with a 52-0 victory over
Rowan, lead Division III in passing offense with an average of
almost 384 yards. The Crusaders (13-1), 38-35 winners against
perennial power Mount Union, rank third in rushing in Division III,
averaging 355 yards.
Two Crusaders have run for more than 1,000 yards -- Justin Bryson
with 1,843 and Freddie Rollins with 1,028 -- and a third has gained
"It's a blast because you know you're going to get the ball a
lot," Bryson said. "It's fun. It's better than being in a passing
With nearly 59 rushing attempts per game, there's plenty to go
around, and with three offensive linemen weighing at least 275
pounds, there's almost sure to be holes to burst through, Bryson
The 5-foot-8, 195-pound Bryson has run for 15 touchdowns behind
his huge line, and the 235-pound Rollins has run for 12.
The Crusaders arrived in Virginia full of confidence after
handing Mount Union its first home loss in five years. The loss was
also just the third for the Purple Raiders in 124 games.
"Everybody doubted us but ourselves," Bryson said.