For the third year in a row the Mississippi Bowl will determine the National Championship. No. 1 Northwest Mississippi and No. 2 Rochester, Minnesota arrived on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on Friday and both teams gathered at a banquet at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Hospitality & Resort Management Center City Line Cafe on the Jeff Davis campus in Gulfport.
There's a big difference between the two JUCO teams. Rochester doesn't give out scholarships while Mississippi junior colleges rely on offering football scholarships.
The Rochester Yellow Jackets reeled-off a perfect 11-0 season and are led by quarterback Nick Rooney.
Yellow Jackets head coach Bill Quistorff said, "Rooney brings some great qualities to the table and one of them is the most important, his leadership capabilities. Very intelligent football player. He has a 4.0 grade point average in the classroom and a very savvy football player. Rooney has a great supporting cast in our skilled positions."
Rooney has completed 69.2 percent of his passes. He's thrown for 4,111 yards and 55 touchdowns. Rochester keeps teams honest with a good running game. Devin Robinson leads the Yellow Jackets ground attack having rushed for 595 yards with 6 touchdowns. He's netting 4.6 yards per carry. Montrel Moore has rushed for 442 yards and 3 touchdowns. He has averaged 7.0 yards a carry.
The Northwest Mississippi Rangers have posted a 10-1 record and beat Mississippi Gulf Coast in the State Championship game.
Head coach Jack Wright says quarterback Garner Minchew has been the one player who helped get the Rangers over the top.
"He's really a talented quarterback, a transfer from Troy during the summer, "said Wright. "He's kind of the glue that kind of held everything together. He's the been catalyst for creating space for our running game and keeping defenses honest."
Minchew enters the Mississippi Bowl having completed 59.3 percent of his pass attempts for 2,867 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Rangers running back Justin Crawford leads a solid ground attack. Crawford has 1,466 yards rushing with 14 touchdowns.
Rochester coach Quistorff says Northwest Mississippi will be the stiffest test his team will face this season and he and his players are thankful for getting a shot at the National Championship. He said during the summer he sat down and watched the 2014 National Championship game that was won by East Mississippi in the Mississippi Bowl and his Yellow Jackets set a goal of getting to the title game.
"It's a great opportunity as a program, the institution and the community to have the opportunity to come down and represent our conference and our state and compete for a National Championship. The fact that this we are one of only three non-scholarship schools to have that opportunity, it's obviously an honor and we're very blessed and grateful to be a part of it."
Tickets are still available for the Mississippi Bowl.
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