LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – History has been made.
For the first time in program history, the New Mexico Military Institute Bronco football team has been crowned an NJCAA Division I national champion.
Under the bright lights of the historic War Memorial Stadium, second-seeded NMMI scored 24 unanswered points in the first half to take down No. 1 ranked Iowa Western 31-13 on Friday night.
NMMI had never competed in a national championship as it came close in 1958.
At the end of the game, first-year Bronco head football coach Kurt Taufa'asau was named National Coach of the Year while running back Anthony Grant earned Most Valuable Player honors after carrying the ball 34 times for 192 yards.
The Broncos (12-1) become the first second-seed to claim the national championship since 2013.
"It means a lot. Credit goes out to the players, coaching staff, support staff and all the guys that believed," said Taufa'asau. "To be an alum and (to) bring it back to New Mexico Military … I'm speechless right now. Just proud of the way guys worked (and) battled throughout the year."
A turnover in the form of a fumble recovered by Hunter Chambers gave the Broncos the ball back after punting away on their first offensive series.
Grant scored on a 23-yard run on the second play of the series to put NMMI on top with 12:32 in the opening quarter.
The Reivers were forced to punt on their first series.
NMMI marched down the field on nine plays for 85 yards. Diego Pavia capped it all off with a 34-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 14-0 with 6:10 on the clock.
Iowa Western (10-1) had finally got into the red zone on its next drive. Setting up a 35-yard field goal, the Bronco special teams unit got a key block by Jacob Gellhausen to keep the shutout intact.
The Broncos got three points in the form of a 24-yard field goal by William Testa, which capped off a 13-play, 73-yard drive with 11:42 in the second quarter.
There was a lull for both offenses until NMMI used a 13-play drive to make the score 24-0 after a 16-yard touchdown pass from Pavia to Terrance Moore with 40 seconds left in the first half.
To start the second half, Iowa Western had another turnover after Champ Jenkins forced a fumble that was recovered by Christian Carreathers.
NMMI used the defensive spark to fuel together a six-play drive that resulted in a four-yard touchdown pass from Pavia to Grant with 10:34 left in the third quarter.
Down 31-0, things continued to go south for the Reivers on offense as Jayden Oliver grabbed an interception, causing the third turnover of the game by the Bronco defense.
Iowa Western erased the shutout in the fourth quarter when Nate Glantz threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Flournoy with 12:12 on the clock.
The Reivers executed the onside kick to get the offense back on the field.
Glantz found Flournoy once more, this time from 37 yards out. After the unsuccessful two-point conversion, Iowa Western trailed by 18 points.
It all came down to a fourth-and-20 situation for the Reivers. The big moment resulted in an incomplete pass, which ended Iowa Western's comeback hopes.
NMMI then managed the clock with a 13-play drive that ended in victory formation.
Iowa Western put together 384 total yards of offense while NMMI had 373.
The Broncos dominated the rushing attack with 252 yards to the Reivers' 74.
Pavia finished 13 of 20 for 121 passing yards while he rushed for 55 yards on eight carries.
Moore led the receiving corps with 59 yards on four receptions.
Tre O'Guinn, William Middleton and Antoine Williams each had four total tackles apiece.
The Bronco defense had three sacks, five tackles for loss and two forced fumbles.
This article originally appeared on Las Cruces Sun-News: NMMI knocks off Iowa Western to capture first-ever national title