Gibson and Marian capture NAIA football championship
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Avenging a loss in the 2014 NAIA football national championship game, Marian University got the better of Southern Oregon on Saturday, taking the 2015 title by a 31-14 score.
Meeting for the second straight year at Municipal Stadium in Daytona Beach, the No. 6 Knights (12-2) never trailed the seventh-ranked Raiders (11-3).
It marks Marian's second national championship in the nine-year history of its football program.
Former South Putnam standout Rob Gibson, the Knights' leading rusher on the season, gained 50 yards on a team-high 16 carries. The performance brought the junior running back's season totals to 1,103 yards on 201 attempts for 10 touchdowns.
Rob is the son of Jack and Sheila Gibson.
The game opened as a defensive struggle as both teams went three-and-out over the course of the first quarter. The difference in the first half came when the Knights embarked on a 13-play, 77-yard drive that was capped by a 19-yard touchdown run by redshirt freshman Maurice Woodard with 4:55 left in the half to stake the Knights the 7-0 lead.
The defense continued to hold as Southern Oregon struggled to move the football on its next drive, and the Knights capitalized quickly. A short field greeted the Knights after a short SOU punt and they took full advantage.
Junior wide receiver Krishawn Hogan capped a seven-play, 44-yard drive with a two-yard rushing score to make it 14-0 at the break.
Coming out after halftime, the Knights' defense continued its dominance over the Raiders. After forcing six punts and a turnover on downs over the first 30 minutes, the Knights held SOU to just eight yards of total offense in two three-and-outs in the third quarter to maintain the two-score advantage.
MU closed the third and opened the fourth with the ball and Woodard capped an eight-play, 69-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown run to make it 21-0 with 14:20 left in the game.
The Raiders were able to get one back on a 32-yard double-pass play to make it 21-7 with 11:28 remaining before Hogan capped a six-play, 77-yard drive with a 55-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Hayden Northern to make it 28-7 with 8:02 left.
After junior Jeremy Shupperd picked off his fifth pass of the season and returned it to the SOU 16-yard line, freshman kicker Matt Plesac hit a career-long 37-yard field goal to make the score 31-7 with 5:36 left. The Raiders scored on a 10-yard touchdown pass with 50 seconds left to make it 31-14.
The Knights are now 2-1 all-time in NAIA championship games. MU is also 14-3 all-time in the NAIA postseason. The .824 winning percentage is the highest of any active member in the NAIA.