Carroll wins fourth straight NAIA football title

Updated: December 17, 2005, 8:20 PM ET
Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Tenn. -- Tyler Emmert ended a memorable career with another memorable weekend, leading Carroll College to its fourth straight NAIA football championship, 27-10 over St. Francis (Ind.) on Saturday.

Emmert completed 20 of 36 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns as the top-ranked Fighting Saints (14-0) rolled to a 17-3 halftime lead and held off the second-ranked Cougars (13-1) for the second straight year in the NAIA title game.

Emmert was selected the offensive MVP of the championship game for the third straight year. That honor came a day after he claimed NAIA Player of the Year honors for the second time in three seasons and two days after he was selected the first team quarterback on The Associated Press Little All-America team.

"It's tough to walk off the field, but it's not about records and not about numbers. It's about this group of guys and what we've been able to accomplish," said Emmert, who is 74-3 as a starting quarterback dating to his days at Capital High School in Helena, including 51-3 at Carroll.

The Saints, winners of 21 straight games, become only the second team in college football history to win four straight national titles. The other was NCAA Division III Augustana (Ill.) from 1983-86.

"We haven't talked about history, or wanting to be part of it, because if we didn't reach that goal it would have been a big letdown," Carroll coach Mike Van Diest said. "But this group is obviously special. They play hard and find a lot of different ways to win."

Emmert added 20 yards on the ground, and finishes his career with an NAIA-record 13,979 yards of total offense. He finished with 1,037 completions, two shy of tying the record for any quarterback at any level of college play.

Senior Ryan Grosulak had 83 yards on 17 carries, and junior Jed Thomas added 66 on 16. Marcus Miller kicked field goals of 26 and 33 yards. It was Miller's field goal with 10 seconds left in the 2004 championship game that gave Carroll a 15-13 win.

Defensively, Saints linebacker Phil Lenoue sacked St. Francis quarterback Chris Bramell twice while cornerback Matt Thomas earned defensive MVP honors. The 5-foot-9 Thomas broke up a second-quarter flea-flicker pass to the 6-5 Bramell that could have made it 10-10 late in the second quarter.

"That was a mistake at first. I saw the reverse (to Cougars' wideout Andy Papagiannis), and suddenly saw Bramell floating free," Thomas said. "I just ran as hard as I could and tried to make the jump at the right time."

Bramell said: "He just made the play on me. They made plays all day."

Moments after the breakup, Carroll took a 17-3 halftime lead when Carroll capped a 62-second, 64-yard drive with Emmert's 17-yard touchdown pass to Bryce Doak as time expired.

"I thought we were going to run it out, but Jed got a great run and Zach (Bumgarner) took a pass and went out of bounds the next play," Emmert said. "Doak always said in a situation like that, just put one up and he'd get it. I don't like to operate that way, but thank goodness he was telling the truth."

Emmert also found Tyler Peterson for an 18-yard TD toss in the first quarter, their 17th scoring connection this season, and added a 17-yard TD pass to Marshall McEwen late in the third period.

"Defensively, they pinched inside to close off running lanes, and did a great job in coverage," Cougars coach Kevin Donley said. "Offensively, Emmert is a very gifted athlete who gets away and makes plays when you think you've got him."

Bramell had closed the gap earlier in the third quarter with an 18-yard TD pass to Bo Thompson. Bramell was 6-for-18 for 56 yards and ran for a team-high 72 yards.

St. Francis has three losses in its last 41 games -- all to Carroll and all in their final game of the season. Carroll beat St. Francis in the 2003 semifinals.

"Our seniors have accomplished an awful lot, but the only thing missing was beating Carroll, or winning a national title," Donley said.

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

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