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Minnesota-Duluth routs California (Pa.)

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Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008
 

John Luckhardt took a philosophical approach after his California (Pa.) Vulcans were soundly beaten by "the better team" on Saturday in the NCAA Division II semifinals at Adamson Stadium.

Isaac Odim rushed for 126 yards and scored four touchdowns, as the unbeaten Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs overwhelmed the Vulcans, 45-7, to advance to the Division II championship game.

Minnesota-Duluth (14-0) will face Northwest Missouri State on Saturday in Florence, Ala., for the title.

"It's a game," said Luckhardt, 63, the Vulcans' seventh-year coach who began his career in 1968 as a graduate assistant at Purdue. "Nobody likes to get steamrolled, but we've done this to a lot of people. It happened to me at Purdue. Ohio State kicked our fanny, when they beat us for the national championship in '68, 35-7. It happened to me at Northern Illinois. Miami of Ohio was kind. They had us, 51-0, at the half and only beat us, 57-0."

Luckhardt, flanked in a postgame news conference by graduate-student quarterback Kevin McCabe, put his hand on the shoulder of the 6-foot-2, 220-pound product of Pine-Richland High School.

"Everywhere I've been, you run into a buzzsaw like this, and you salute the better team and you wish them well and you realize that we have a special group of kids who played their fanny off," Luckhardt said, turning to McCabe. "We didn't stop playing today.

"What you learn in life is that these things happen to you. Whether it's a divorce, or you lose your job, or the stock market takes about 40 percent of your retirement away, you learn how to deal with all that because that's part of life. And part of life is to get your fanny back up after you get knocked on it."

California (12-2), the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference and Division II Super Regional 1 champion, entered the day averaging nearly 200 yards rushing and 38 points per game. But the Vulcans struggled in their second consecutive attempt at reaching a national title game.

They were beaten by eventual national champion Valdosta State, 28-24, in last year's semifinals, also at Adamson Stadium.

"We've got no excuses," said Luckhardt, who took Washington & Jefferson to a pair of Division III title-game appearances in the 1990s. "We played a very good football team today. I wish we'd have played better, but I'm not sure if we played our best that that would have been good enough."

Minnesota-Duluth, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and Division II Super Regional 3 champion, dominated from the start, outgaining California in total yards, 451-241, including 310-56 in rushing. It was California's lowest rushing total of the season.

"They controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage," Luckhardt said. "That's the best football team we've played since I've been here."

Minnesota-Duluth, the benefactor of four California turnovers and five dropped passes by Vulcans receivers, built a 17-0 halftime lead, then continued to blitz McCabe after the break.

"That was the most pressure I've faced all year," said McCabe, who transferred to California from Virginia at the start of the season.

The Bulldogs' defense stopped California inside the 3-yard line on four successive plays in the third quarter.

Said Minnesota-Duluth defensive back Jim Johnson, who returned two of the Bulldogs' three interceptions for a total of 74 yards: "For no reason were we going to be satisfied with losing today. We had higher goals than getting just to this game."

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