ORANGE CITY, IA (NWC) – The No. 3-ranked Northwestern College football team (11-1, 9-1 GPAC) heads to their third-straight National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Football Championship Series (FCS) semifinal round with a 52-27 victory over Marian University (9-2, 6-1 MSFA) Saturday afternoon at De Valois Stadium.

“Michael was outstanding and made some outstanding catches in key moment,” said head coach Matt McCarty. “We just trusted our key players this afternoon!”

The first half saw the Northwestern defense do what they’ve done time after time this season, complexly stifling a high-powered Marian offense that averaged the fifth-best points per game (40.1) and 17th-best offense (412.9ypg). The Raider defense allowed just two Marian first downs and 47 total yards in the first 30 minutes of play, as the Knights’ quarterback Zach Bundalo could only complete three of his 10 passes for eight yards. The Marian offense was frustrated, having to punt in six of the seven full possessions of the half, while Bundalo also through one interception.

Reminiscent to the start last week against Dickinson State, the Red Raiders jumped out to a commanding 35-0 first half lead before the Knights of Marian University could put points up on the scoreboard. As Raider fans have become accustomed to, the first points of the day came by the legs of Jalyn Gramstad (So., Lester, Iowa) and a 17-yard rushing touchdown midway through the first quarter. It proved to be the lone score of the opening frame. Both teams took their time feeling each other out, as both teams combined for six punts in the quarter.

“Our defense was executing at a high level, able to create some turnovers,” noted McCarty. “Our offense kept feeding off the defensive momentum and kept putting points on the board.”

The game would be blown open in the second quarter, as the Raiders tacked on four more touchdowns to take the 35-7 halftime lead. All four of the Raiders’ touchdowns in the second quarter would be Gramstad finding Michael Storey (Sr., Spencer, Iowa) as he would tie the program’s single-game receiving touchdown record in the second quarter alone. All four strikes would come from 15+ yards, but the biggest was a 44-yard strike to really drive it home giving NWC the 21-0 lead.

The Red Raiders would put up two more scores, plus a 34-yard field goal from Eli Stader (Jr., Cedar Grove, Wis.), keeping the Knights at arms length. Marian would put up 27 second half points, but it would prove to be too little, too late for the squad from Indianapolis. Gramstad would find Cade Moser (Sr., Rock Valley, Iowa) in the third quarter, for his fifth passing touchdown of the day. Konner McQuillan (Jr., Leavenworth, Kan.) would cap off another stellar day running the football with a 2-yard touchdown run near the end of the third quarter.

Northwestern now advances to the Semifinals of the NAIA FCS for the third-straight season, and the third time under head coach Matt McCarty. It marks the program’s seventh all-time semifinal appearance and the first time since 1983 the Red Raiders will host a semifinal game.

GAME NOTES:
For the 10th time this season, the Red Raider defense held their opponent to under 100 rushing yards.
Jalyn Gramstad notched new career-highs in passing yards (297) and passing touchdowns (5) in the win.
Gramstad surpassed the 2,000-yard passing mark on the season, sitting at 2,104 yards.
The sophomore is now sitting at 20 rushing TDs on the year, needing FIVE to break the single-season program record.
The sophomore was 21-for-33 through the air with a long of 44 yards, while adding 48 yards and one score on the ground for the Raiders.
Northwestern won their second-straight game, in back-to-back seasons, over Marian to take the 2-1 all-time series lead.
The offense put up 457 yards of offense in the game, their seventh-highest offensive output of the season.
Northwestern scored all seven times they entered the red zone on the afternoon.
The defense was dominant, holding the Knights to just 239 yards on the game, and 62 yards on the ground.
The game was decided in the first half, total yards of offense: NWC 323, Marian 47.
Michael Storey was dominant, tying a single-game program record with four touchdowns. He recorded seven catches for 138 yards with a long of 44 yards.
For Storey, it now marks nine career 100-yard receiving games and his fourth of 2022.
Konner McQuillan notched back-to-back 100-yard rushing performances in the NAIA FCS, running for 109 yards on 25 carries and one score.
McQuillan now has eight-career 100-yard rushing games and four this season.
Tanner Oleson led the stout Raider defense with seven tackles in the game.
Jacob Dragstra and Peyton Nieuwsma both recorded a sack in the win.
Both safeties, Noah Van’t Hof and Jaden Snyder, recorded interceptions; bringing both tied for the team lead with three on the season.
Eli Stader hit his third field goal of the season from 39 yards out. It’s his only attempt at the 30-39-yard range on the season.