Rob Keys and his University of Findlay football team thought their season was over following Saturday’s 49-24 loss to Ohio Dominican.
But the sun still came up on Sunday, and an afternoon call from the NCAA breathed new life into the Oilers.
UF dropped from fourth to seventh in the Division II Super Region One rankings following Saturday’s loss. But seventh place was just enough for the Oilers to earn the final spot for the NCAA Division II playoffs.
It is Findlay’s first trip to the Division II playoffs.
“After not doing so well on Saturday, we were a little nervous. We didn’t know what our chances were,” Keys said Sunday.
“But everybody from like fifth to eighth, basically the teams that could jump ahead of us, all lost. Teams that could have solidified a spot (in the playoffs) with a win, lost, so that left it up to the committee.”
Only two of the top six teams in last week’s Super Region One rankings won on Saturday: No. 1 Indiana, Pa. (11-0) beat No. 6 West Chester 24-7, locking down its spot as the top-seeded team in the region and earning a first-round bye.
Shepherd University (10-0) rolled to a 63-35 win over Virgina-Wise on Saturday, jumped from third to second in Super Region One, and will host No. 7 Findlay (9-2) this Saturday in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, in a first-round playoff game.
“(Shepherd) is something like 36-2 or 38-2 the last three years,” Keys said. “They reached the national finals two years ago, the regional finals a year or two before that … they have been one of the top Division II teams in the country the last five, 10 years.”
Key knows, though, that the benefit of making the playoffs is what happens in the next game, not the last one.
“Regular season wins and losses are irrelevant now. Everybody starts with a clean slate,” he said.
“When we talked to the kids, that’s what we told them. Twenty-eight teams made the playoffs but everybody’s in the same boat. Our goal now is to get ready for Shepherd, and try to beat one of the best Division II programs in the country.”
The top seven teams from each of four regions qualified for the Division II playoffs. All first-round games are tentatively scheduled to be held at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Super Region One Playoffs
5 West Chester (8-3) at 4 Shippenberg (10-1)
Winner vs. 1 Indiana, Pa (11-0), Nov. 25
7 Findlay (9-2) at 2 Shepherd (10-0)
6 California, Pa. (9-2) at 3 Assumption (9-1)
Winners meet Nov. 25 in second round