Division II Football: Pittsburg State Wins National Championship

David LutherFeatured ColumnistDecember 17, 2011

Dave Martin/AP
Dave Martin/AP

Pittsburg State (Kansas) won its second Division II national championship in school history on Saturday, beating Wayne State (Michigan) 35-21 in the championship game in Florence, Alabama.

Pitt State took advantage of five Wayne State turnovers in the game, helping the Gorillas to their first national title since 1991.  Pitt State lost in the title game three times in the 20 years between championships.

The scoring began on the opening kickoff as Wayne State's Josh Renel returned the ball 93 yards for a touchdown, becoming just the second player in Division II history to return the opening kickoff of the championship game for a score.

Wayne State took the lead 14-13 in the second quarter when Pitt State's Paul Robinson burst through the line to block a 22-yard field goal attempt by the Warriors.  Arles Herrion scooped up the ball and returned it for a touchdown, giving PSU a 20-14 lead.  

The Gorillas expanded that lead to 27-14 by halftime, giving PSU the most first-half points scored by a team in the championship game since 2000.

Dave Martin/AP
Dave Martin/AP

The second half was a defensive struggle, as the two teams traded punts before Wayne State finally found the end zone with just 5:11 remaining in the fourth quarter to cut Pittsburg State's lead to six.

Pitt State immediately answered with a touchdown of its own with a two-point conversion for a 35-21 lead with just 2:34 left in the fourth quarter.  When Pitt State's Elijah Olabode picked off WSU's Mickey Mohner's pass, the victory was sealed for the Gorillas.

Pittsburg State finished the season 13-1 while Wayne State fell to 12-4.