Angelo State punches ticket to Division II quarterfinals

·4 min read
Angelo State University running back Alfred Grear heads to the end zone for a touchdown during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Angelo State University running back Alfred Grear heads to the end zone for a touchdown during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Running back Alfred Grear got things started again with a 63-yard touchdown on the opening score, and the Angelo State University football team shook off No. 21 Nebraska-Kearney 20-7 in an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday afternoon.

ASU improved to 11-2 after pushing its winning streak to seven games, and the Rams punched their ticket to the quarterfinals. They'll face Colorado School of Mines on Saturday, Dec. 4, in Golden, Colorado. Kickoff is scheduled for noon local time,1 p.m. CST, at Marv Kay Stadium.

This is the first time since 1989 that ASU has advanced to the national quarterfinals. The Rams lost in the semifinals 32 years ago.

Nebraska-Kearney finished 10-3.

Angelo State University quarterback Zach Bronkhorst drops back to pass during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Angelo State University quarterback Zach Bronkhorst drops back to pass during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

"I'm so proud of the guys for the way they played on both sides of the ball and on special teams," ASU head coach Jeff Girsch said. "We were pretty good on special teams, minus the one dropped snap on a punt. We talked about this team and what it's been about.

"We played our best football at the end of the season and we're continuing to do that and it's showing. And we've got great leaders, guys who have bought in when we took over the program at the end of 2018. We told these guys, 'If you stay and you keep working hard and do what we ask you to do, you're going to be playing in big-time games,' and we're at that point right now."

It was a scoreless game before Grear scored on the long TD run at the 7:48 mark of the second quarter.

Nebraska-Kearney quarterback TJ Davis, 2, tries to elude Angelo State University's Hunter Kyle, 24, and Leddy French during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Nebraska-Kearney quarterback TJ Davis, 2, tries to elude Angelo State University's Hunter Kyle, 24, and Leddy French during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

"I was just glad to get the opportunity," Grear said. "Coach (Kevin) Kilmer, he called the offense and I'm glad he gave me the opportunity to carry the rock and the O-linemen did their jobs and all I had to do was just finish the run."

In last week's playoff opener against Minnesota-Duluth, Grear returned the opening kickoff 100 yards.

Grear had a game-high 152 yards on the ground on 16 carries. CJ Odom added 12 for 48.

Nate Omayebu, the leading rusher in the Lone Star Conference, was limited to four carries for 37 yards. He got injured early on, but appeared to be OK on the sidelines.

Angelo State University linebacker Josh Quinton goes airborne as a teammate makes a tackle during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Angelo State University linebacker Josh Quinton goes airborne as a teammate makes a tackle during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Asa Fuller kicked field goals of 24 and 45 yards to give the Rams a 13-0 advantage at the half.

The Rams made it 20-0 on a 5-yard TD pass from quarterback Zach Bronkhorst to tight end Dagen Dunham with 11:31 left in the third.

The Lopers prevented a shutout with a 5-yard TD run by Dayton Sealey at the 6:21 mark of the third.

ASU finished with 424 yards total offense, including 252 on the ground.

Angelo State University linebacker Hunter Kyle, left, makes a tackle during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Angelo State University linebacker Hunter Kyle, left, makes a tackle during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Unlike last week's game against Minnesota-Duluth when the Rams jumped out to a sizable 41-0 cushion at the half, Saturday's showdown against the Lopers was more of a defensive slugfest.

"Today's game was no different than what I expected," the Rams coach said. "I knew it was going to be a physical football game. Kearney's a very physical football team and the quarterback (Harlon Hill candidate TJ Davis) I think is an outstanding player, but we did some great things to him today to limit his opportunities."

Bronkhorst completed 15 of 30 passes for 172 yards and one TD. He was picked off once.

Angelo State University running back CJ Odom, 5, tries to shake off a defender during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Angelo State University running back CJ Odom, 5, tries to shake off a defender during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

Davis was limited to 9 of 22 passing for 86 yards. He had 16 carries for 12 yards, as the Rams defense tackled him for a total loss of 29 yards.

ASU is one of just eight teams still playing in the D-II ranks.

"Man, it means everything," senior linebacker Josh Quinton said. "I'm really proud of these guys. I'm proud of coach Girsch, I'm proud of Alfred and all the guys in the locker room, man.

"Like coach said, it all started in 2018 and to see it come to fruition is really a blessing. It means the world."

Angelo State University quarterback Zach Bronkhorst fires a pass as Braxton Webb, 76, provides protection during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Webb is a former San Angelo Central High School standout who transferred from SMU.
Angelo State University quarterback Zach Bronkhorst fires a pass as Braxton Webb, 76, provides protection during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. Webb is a former San Angelo Central High School standout who transferred from SMU.

Nebraska-Kearney's remarkable turnaround this season won't be defined by Saturday's season-ending loss.

"It was pretty incredible, to take a group that four years ago won one game in the previous 22 times and then for this group to come in and do what they did, I'm proud of them," NKU head coach Josh Lynn said. "I'm proud of the effort and proud of the rebuild. Loper football will be back."

As the Lopers coach pointed out, it would have been a one-score game if not for Grear's long TD run in the second quarter.

Lynn thought his defense performed well for the most part, but the Lopers couldn't get into a rhythm offensively.

Angelo State University linebacker Daron Allman, 14, makes a tackle during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.
Angelo State University linebacker Daron Allman, 14, makes a tackle during an NCAA Division II second-round playoff game against Nebraska-Kearney at LeGrand Stadium at 1st Community Credit Union Field on Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021.

On their last series of the game, the Lopers drove down to the Rams' 34-yard line and flirted with pulling within one score, but Davis' pass fell incomplete on fourth-and-18.

"Give Angelo State credit," said Lynn, a former head coach at Eastern New Mexico who used to compete in the same conference with the Rams. "Defensively, they had a good scheme. They took away big plays."

Charles Bryce is a journalist covering sports in West Texas. Send him a news tip at cbryce@gannett.com. Consider supporting West Texas journalism with a subscription to GoSanAngelo.com.

This article originally appeared on San Angelo Standard-Times: Angelo State punches ticket to Division II quarterfinals

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