2013 NJCAA Football Bowl Preview

Southern powers meet in NJCAA National Championship Game

Sunday, No. 1 Georgia Military will clash with No. 2 East Mississippi in the 2013 Mississippi Bowl with the national title on the line. The 2013 NJCAA National Championship Game headlines this weekend’s impressive slate of nine bowl games. Seven of this year’s matchups will feature live video broadcasts through NJCAA TV.

NJCAA National Championship Game

#1 Georgia Military (11-0) vs. #2 East Mississippi (11-0)
Biloxi Indians Stadium (Biloxi, Miss.)
Sunday, Dec. 8th – 3:00 p.m. ET

Website - Watch Live on NJCAA TV

The 2013 NJCAA Football National Championship Game will be a southern showdown between No. 1 Georgia Military and No. 2 East Mississippi. Both teams enter Sunday’s game seeking their program’s second national championship.

Despite being an independent, Georgia Military boasted one of the toughest schedules in the nation this season. The Bulldogs claimed four wins over opponents ranked in the top five, including victories over No. 2 Snow, No. 10 ASA, No. 2 Iowa Western and No. 6 Nassau. Georgia Military is headed to the 14th bowl game of their program’s history, boasting a 4-9 record in the postseason.

The Lions enter Sunday’s title game as champions of the MACJC, defeating No. 5 Mississippi Gulf Coast in the conference semifinals and No. 6 Jones County in the championship game. Appearing in their third bowl game, East Mississippi will try to maintain their perfect bowl record following wins in the 2009 Mississippi Bowl and 2011 El Toro Bowl. Stephens and the Lions are playing in their second national championship game after defeating No. 1 Arizona Western 55-47 in the 2011 title game – their last bowl appearance.

Despite both offenses ranking in the top five in scoring, two contrasting styles will
hit the field in Biloxi. Georgia Military will focus on ball control with freshman running back Jovon Robinson leading the way. The former Auburn-signee has run for 195.4 yards per game and 31 touchdowns in 2013 – leading the country in both categories. East Mississippi’s up-tempo attack is led by sophomore quarterback Dontreal Pruitt who has thrown for 42 touchdowns this year – second-most in the NJCAA – and ranks third with 327.2 passing yards per game. The Lions’ run game is headed by sophomore running back Lakenderic Thomas who ranks fourth in the nation with 15 touchdowns on the ground in 2013.

Although both teams boast offenses that can light up the scoreboard, the age-old adage of “defense wins championships” could prove true Sunday. Georgia Military’s defense held their opponents to 17.5 points per game this year. Sophomore defensive end Davonte Lambert has been a playmaker for the Bulldogs, forcing four fumbles on the year. At the other end, freshman Kenderius Whitehead leads the team with 19.5 tackles-for-loss.

Shutting out five of their 11 opponents this season, East Mississippi’s defense leads the nation in points allowed and ranks second in yards allowed. The Lions’ pass rush has been a thorn in the side of opposing quarterbacks this season. On the defensive front, sophomores Jimmie Gipson III and D.J. Pettway both rank in the top five in the country in sacks – combining for 23.5 on the year.

Both teams are making their second appearance in the Mississippi Bowl. In 2008, Georgia Military fell 41-7 to Mississippi Gulf Coast in the inaugural game. East Mississippi claimed victory one year later, beating Arizona Western 27-24 in 2009.

Top Bowl Matchups

#3 Iowa Western (10-1) vs. #5 Butler

UNI Dome (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
Sunday, Dec. 8th – 4:00 p.m. ET
Website - Watch Live on NJCAA TV

In a rematch of last season’s NJCAA National Championship Game, No. 3 Iowa Western and No. 5 Butler will once again clash in the feature game of the Graphic Edge Bowl. Despite the MFC-champion Reivers putting up record-breaking numbers through the air in 2012, this season’s squad is led by sophomore running back Akise Teague who ranks fourth in the land in rushing with 132.6 yards per game. Butler is led by the efficiency of sophomore quarterback Hunter Vaughn who has thrown 18 touchdowns against just four interceptions this season. Despite the strong offensive numbers for each team, both defenses rank in the top five in points allowed.

#6 Trinity Valley (9-2) vs. #12 Mesa (8-2)

Bulldawg Stadium (Copperas Cove, Texas)
Saturday, Dec. 7th – 12:00 p.m. ET

In the Heart of Texas Bowl, No. 6 Trinity Valley and No. 12 Mesa both have an opportunity to complete one of the best seasons in their respective program’s history. An aerial assault is expected from both teams as Mesa sophomore quarterback Blake Kemp and Cardinals sophomore quarterback Ryan Polite both rank in the top five in passing touchdowns with 27 and 32, respectively. Thunderbirds sophomore wide receiver Cody Saul is the top pass-catcher in the land, ranking first with 116 yards per game and 12 touchdown catches. Entering Saturday with 11.5 sacks on the season – third-most in the country – Trinity Valley sophomore defensive lineman Jhaustin Thomas will utilize his daunting pass rush to try to slow down Mesa’s offense.

#4 Scottsdale (9-1) vs. #19 Dodge City (6-3)
SCC Stadium (Scottsdale, Ariz.)
Saturday, Dec. 7th – 4:00 p.m. ET 

After making tremendous strides in 2013, No. 4 Scottsdale and No. 19 Dodge City will each try to end their season on a high note with a win in the Valley of the Sun Bowl. The Fighting Artichokes boast one of the best tandems in the nation in sophomore quarterback Blake Decker and sophomore tight end Braedon Bowman. The NJCAA passing stat rankings are led by Decker’s 44 touchdowns and 402 yards per game, while Bowman’s 12 touchdown catches also lead the country. Dodge City will look to sophomore running back Tyreis Thomas and a steady rush attack to keep the Artichokes offense on the sidelines. The Conquistadors averaged 177.7 yards rushing during the season and Thomas’ 16 touchdowns on the ground ranks third in the country.

Other Bowls on the Schedule

#14 Hinds (7-2) vs. #16 Navarro (8-3)

Merrill Green Stadium (Bryan, Texas)
Saturday, Dec. 7th – 12:00 p.m. ET
Website - Watch Live on NJCAA TV

#18 Hutchinson (7-4) vs. Dakota-Bottineau (8-2)

Gowans Stadium (Hutchinson, Kan.)
Saturday, Dec. 7th – 2:00 p.m. ET
Website - Watch Live on NJCAA TV

New Mexico Military (7-4) vs. Arizona Western (2-9*)
Veterans Memorial Stadium (Yuma, Ariz.)
Saturday, Dec. 7th – 3:00 p.m. ET

#7 Rochester (10-1) vs. Iowa Central (5-5)

UNI Dome (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
Sunday, Dec. 8th – 12:00 p.m. ET
Website - Watch Live on NJCAA TV

#13 Tyler (8-2) vs. Garden City (2-7*)

Carnie Smith Stadium (Pittsburg, Kan.)
Sunday, Dec. 8th – 2:00 p.m. ET
Website - Watch Live on NJCAA TV

Carrier Dome Bowl Recap

#10 ASA (9-1) 23
#20 DuPage (7-4) 3

Full RecapBox Score

No. 10 ASA utilized five DuPage turnovers to defeat the Chaparrals 23-3 in the Carrier Dome Bowl. Freshman Shaq Joiner led the Avengers' defensive effort, forcing two of DuPage's three fumbles in the game. Offensively, ASA was led by three touchdown passes by freshman quarterback Aaron Young. Avengers sophomore wide receiver Quint Sullivan hauled in six catches for 120 yards and two touchdowns. The Chaparrals' effort was headed by running back Thomas Burton who recorded 92 yards on 14 carries. Young put ASA up early with a first quarter touchdown pass to Sullivan from 19 yards out. Young and Sullivan hooked up again early in the third quarter for a 22-yard touchdown pass. DuPage hit a field goal to get on the board late in the first half but was shutout in the final 30 minutes of play.

For more information on NJCAA Football, download the 2013 NJCAA Football Media Guide.

Photos courtesy of Butler Athletics, Bill Akin/SkyHawk Sports Photography, East Mississippi Athletics, Don Kohler/IWCC, Mesa Athletics, Dodge City Athletics, Stephanie Carpenter and Herb Ngyren Jr./Tyler Morning Telegraph.

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