Opening Up in Olathe

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Can you say rematch? No. 14 Southern Nazarene is in the NAIA Championship Series for the first time in school history and already the Crimson Storm get a chance to redeem one of their two losses with a first round match up against No. 4 MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.).
In what was deemed the War in Wichita, the Pioneers took it to the Crimson Storm at Cessna Stadium in a neutral stadium as MNU handed SNU its first loss of the season at 41-17. The Storm then fell at Northwestern Oklahoma State, but have since rallied to win four straight, including a 38-34 win over No. 19 Langston in the final game of the regular season. That win gave SNU the Central States Football League title and the Storm's first bid to the NAIA Championship Series.


Southern Nazarene comes into Saturday's game riding a four-game winning streak and posted school records for wins in a regular season and in a conference season. SNU opened the 2011 season with five straight wins, posting the best start in school history.
The Storm hit a roadblock with back-to-back losses to MNU and NWOSU, but ran the table the rest of the way. SNU knocked off two ranked teams along the way in No. 21 Kansas Wesleyan and No. 19 Langston.
SNU brings in one of the most high-powered offense in the NAIA. The Storm are fourth in the NAIA in points scored at 435 and are seventh in both passing yards (2,789) and pass effiency (90.2). The Storm average 39.5 points per game the ninth highest rank among NAIA schools. SNU is also 10th in passing yards per game at 253.5.
You can't sleep on the SNU defense either as the Storm are third in the NAIA in total sacks with 33 and are seventh in sacks per game at 3.0. The Storm have proven to be tough on third downs as they are fourth in the nation in third down conversions at 24.1 percent. The Storm are also in the top 10 in the NAIA in total offensive yards allowed per game (254.9) and rushing yards allowed per game (92.5).
Michael Hicks is second the NAIA in total tackles for a loss (28), tackles for a loss per game (2.5) and tackles per game (11.1). The freshman from Cushing, Okla., has already set the single-season school record for tackles with 122.
Brady Wardlaw is fifth in the NAIA in total offensive yards (2,913) and is sixth in passing yards (2,693). He is ninth in passing yards per game (244.8) and 12th in offensive yards per game.
MidAmerica Nazarene comes in with an eight-game winning streak. The Pioneers opened the season with a 24-0 win over Central Methodist (Mo.) before falling to No. 11 Missouri Valley 26-21. MNU hasn't lost since.
The Pioneers are 5-8 all-time in the NAIA Championship Series and are making their fifth straight appearance and ninth overall. MNU went all the way the semifinals last year before falling to Sioux Fall (S.D.). The Pioneers have won the first round game the past two seasons with their last loss in the first round coming at home against Langston in 2008. They are 4-4 in first round games.
MNU is third in the NAIA in first downs per game (23.8), fifth in third-down conversions (46.6 percent), seventh in total offensive yards per game (428.9), eighth in scoring offense per game (40.2) and rushing offense per game (229.6), ninth in total points scored (402) and 10th in total offensive yards (2,296) and fourth down conversion percentage (58.3).
The Pioneers are fourth in sacks per game (3.2), sixth in total sacks (32), seventh in yards allowed per game (248.7), eighth in points allowed per game (15.3) and passing yards allowed per game (143.2), ninth in opponents fourth down conversion percentage (40.2).
Brandon Smith is one of the top defensive players in the NAIA. He is second in fumbles forced per game (0.4), sacks per game (1.2) and total sacks (12). He is also fourth in tackles for a loss per game (1.9).
Southern Nazarene is 0-2 all-time against MidAmerica Nazarene. The first loss came in 2003 when MNU pulled off a 21-14 win. The second loss was this year in Wichita, Kan., at Cessna Stadium. The Pioneers jumped out to a 10-0 lead early in the first quarter, but the Storm rallied to tie it at 10-10 early in the second quarter. MNU took a 17-10 lead late in the first half and then took advantage of a couple of SNU blunders to run a 31-10 score into the break.
SNU didn't recover until late as MNU took a 41-17 win away from the Storm.
The connection between these two sister schools runs pretty deep in faculty and staff. Two former MidAmerica Nazarene head coaches are now employed by Southern Nazarene. Mike Redwine, Vice President for Enrollment Management, went 53-52-1 at MNU and led the Pioneers to their first NAIA Championship Series appearance in his final season in 2000 as MNU went 11-2. Current SNU Head Coach Mike Cochran replaced Redwine and went 46-12 in five years at the helm of the Pioneers program and led MNU to three straight NAIA Championship Series.
Brady Wardlaw hit three different milestones this past week as he went over 10,000 yards in total offense, 9,000 yards in passing and 100 passing touchdowns in his career. He holds 12 different school single-season records and is SNU's all-time leader in offensive yards per game (279.03 touchdowns responsible for (120), total offensive yards (10,054), passing yards per game (256.2), average yards per pass (7.2), pass efficiency (138.0), pass completion percentage (57.8), passing touchdowns (103), passing yards (9,224), pass completions (743) and passes attempted (1,285).
Wardlaw needs 307 more passing yards to hit 3,000 for the season. The only other time that was done was last year when he threw for a school-record 3,515 yards. He also needs just 76 more yards to hit 3,000 yards of total offense for the third straight season.
Matt Pruitt owns the school record for most interception return yards in a single season. He has picked off five passes this year and returned them for 136 yards. He set the school record in 2010 with eight interceptions. He is also just two picks from setting the all-time record at SNU he has 13 total.
SNU needs just three more rushing touchdowns to tie the school record of 22 set by the 2000 team. The Storm have rushed for 1,566 yards this season, the fourth most in a single-season in school history. SNU has thrown for 2,789 yards this season the third most in school history. If SNU can set 211 more yards through the air it will be the third straight 3,000-yard season.
Southern Nazarene is just 19 points away from setting the school record for points scored in a single season. SNU set the record last year with 454. SNU is also just two touchdowns away from tying the school record of 63 that was also set in 2010.
The SNU defense is just two sacks away from setting a school record. The Storm have posted 33 sacks this year. Both the 2007 and 2009 team had 34.