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Morningside heads to NAIA title game

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Morningside heads to NAIA title game

Morningside College will make the school's first appearance in the NAIA National Championship next Thursday, Dec. 13, and attempt to complete a perfect 14-0 season when the Mustangs travel to Rome, Georgia to face Marian University.

Morningside College tight end Austin Klett, a 2010 Clay Central-Everly graduate, makes a catch for the Mustangs, who will play in the NAIA National Championship game on Thursday, Dec. 13. Morningside is undefeated and will face Marian University (Indiana).
(Photo by Bob Rasmus, courtesy of Morningside Athletics.)
CC-E graduate Austin Klett and Spencer graduate Sean Elliott have been integral in the Mustangs' 13-0 season. Klett, a junior tight end, was named All-GPAC First Team this season, and Elliott earned honorable mention all-conference honors as a senior linebacker.

Both helped Morningside advance past Southern Oregon in the NAIA quarterfinals in overtime, 47-44, and win handily over last year's defending champions Saint Xavier last week, 49-17.

Elliott is fourth on the team in tackles, including 11 for loss and two sacks, and leads the team with 64 yards in tackle losses. Klett has caught 14 passes for 158 yards and a touchdown, and helps anchor the outside edge in the Mustangs' potent run game as a blocking tight end.

Both players are doing their part, their job, along with the other 55 members of the championship game's roster to help Morningside play its best game. "Coming into camp and two-a-days, we definitely had the goal of winning the national championship," Klett said. "We felt we had the ability and talent here. We have the motto of 'one heartbeat' this season. That really sums it up. We play well together and for each other, and we always have each other's backs."

This year marks the second time in school history the Mustangs have finished the regular season undefeated. After wins over Montana Tech, 40-35, Southern Oregon and Saint Xavier in the playoffs, all at home, Morningside will head to Rome, Georgia early this week and prepare for its first playoff game on the road this year.

"We take a lot of pride in our preparation. If we can just continue focusing on preparing and avoid the distractions, we'll be fine," Klett said. "There can potentially be distractions for any team in this situation, the first time in the championship game."

The Marian University Knights (11-1), out of Indiana, will also be making its first appearance in the NAIA Championship game. Marian defeated Missouri Valley, 20-17, to advance to the final.

The Mustangs are led by quarterback Joel Nixon, who prior to this season played wide receiver for three years with Morningside. In his first year under center, Nixon was named the 2012 GPAC Offensive Player of the Year and led the nation in pass efficiency (180.4).

Nixon averages 337.2 yards of total offense, which is second in the nation, with 278 per game coming through the air (6th). He also leads the Mustangs in rushing yards with 770. The senior from Wakefield, Neb., has thrown a school record 47 touchdown passes to just 11 interceptions this season.

NAIA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME: Morningside College (13-0) vs. Marian University (11-1) -- Barron Stadium, Rome, Georgia - Thursday, Dec. 13, 5:30 p.m. CST

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