DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Jalyn Gramstad threw three touchdown passes and ran for another to lead Northwestern (Iowa) over Keiser (Florida) University 35-25 on Saturday for the NAIA national championship.
The Red Raiders (13-1) used the big play to counter long Keiser scoring drives and claim its third title in program history, the others coming in 1973 and 1983. Northwestern was making its second title-game appearance in three seasons and finished this year with a 13-game winning streak after losing its opener by a point to Morningside.
Gramstad was 14-of-19 passing for 247 yards and rushed for another 128 yards on 22 carries. Cade Moser scored on a pair of big plays and had a combined 158 yards offense. Noah Van’t Hof made two interceptions.
The Seahawks (10-4) trailed 28-25 with just over seven minutes left after scoring on Bryce Veasley’s 1-yard run. But Northwestern, which had three scoring plays of over 60 yards, ate up over five minutes before Gramstad found his way through the defense for a 19-yard clinching touchdown.
“We did what we needed to do and we talked about just continuing to pound the stone and just keep working. And when there’s a crack, we got to finish it and our guys did that in the fourth quarter.” said Northwestern coach Matt McCarty in an on-field postgame interview with ESPN.
The Red Raiders took the lead for good at 21-17 late in the third quarter on Gramstad’s 64-yard connection to Konner McQuilla. Gramstad threw a 3-yard TD pass to Blake Anderson to extend the lead early in the fourth quarter after Northwestern had stopped Keiser on downs at the Seahawks 48.
Tied at 7 at halftime, the teams combined for 24 points in the third quarter.
Moser scored on a 64-yard run, the Seahawks tied it on Jaden Meizinger’s 2-yard run to complete a nine-play, 62-yard drive then took the lead on Chance Gagnon’s 26-yard field goal after a fumble recovery at the Northwestern 18.
Keiser got the game’s first points on Marques Burgess’ 1-yard run after a 13-play, 98-yard drive. Northwestern stuck back on their first play after the ensuing kickoff with Gramstad’s 69-yard pass to Moser.
Keiser’s Shea Spencer was 14-of-16 passing for 122 yards with an interception before being injured late in the third quarter. Veasley came on in relief.
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