NW Missouri St. falls short as time expires in D-II final

Updated: December 11, 2005, 2:16 AM ET
Associated Press

FLORENCE, Ala. -- Brandon Langston caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from Cullen Finnerty in the final minutes to lead Grand Valley State to a 21-17 victory over Northwest Missouri State in the Division II championship game on Saturday.

The Lakers then came up with a key defensive stop after Northwest Missouri moved to the 3-yard line as the game ended. Grand Valley won its third title in four seasons.

After a sack left the Bearcats with fourth-and-15 from the 21 with 1 second left, Josh Lamberson rolled right and hit Raphael Robinson inside the 5 on the opposite side of the field. Robinson spun, but Tommy Miller and Joe Ballard brought him down at the 3 to end the 82-yard drive.

Grand Valley (13-0) also won titles in 2002 and 2003. Northwest Missouri (11-4) was the first team to win four straight road playoff games, but lost for the first time in three championship game appearances.

Finnerty moved Grand Valley 82 yards after taking over midway through the fourth quarter. He converted three third-down plays on the drive. On third-and-4, he hit Langston on a slant pattern, and the receiver raced 35 yards for a score with 4:25 to play.

Lamberson and the Bearcats nearly pulled out a second straight game-winning drive at Braly Municipal Field. They made the championship game with Robinson's only touchdown catch of the season, a 3-yarder with 23 seconds left to beat North Alabama.

This time, he was stopped short.

Lamberson completed five consecutive passes to move the Bearcats downfield. They made it to the 17 but he was chased out of bounds by Rory Steinbach and Justin Ulberg for a loss on third down with a second remaining.

Northwest Missouri used its last timeout to set up the final play. Robinson was wide open briefly, but the defense swarmed after the ball and kept him out of the end zone.

Lamberson set a championship game record for completions, going 33-of-49 for 326 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Mike Peterson had career-highs of nine catches for 150 yards, including a 61-yarder and a 30-yard touchdown. Peterson was a nonfactor on the final drive with Northwest Missouri operating out of the spread offense.

Northwest Missouri had taken a 17-14 lead on Tommy Frevert's 35-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter, set up by Peterson's 61-yarder.

Finnerty was 12-of-19 for 172 yards. He ran 14 times for 59 yards, including TD runs of 5 and 3 yards.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press