NCAA Division II Semi-Finals


Harding, the champions of Super Region 3, will make its first appearance in the NCAA Division II Playoffs national semifinals Saturday. The Bisons, No. 3 seed in semifinals, will travel to meet No. 2 seed Texas A&M-Commerce, the second-place regular season team in the Lone Star Conference. Kickoff at Memorial Stadium in Commerce, Texas, will be at 2:30 p.m. Central Time.

The winner of the Harding-Texas A&M-Commerce game will play the winner of the Indiana (Pa.)-West Florida game for the national championship Saturday, Dec. 16 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.

Harding is playing postseason football for the ninth time in program history. The Bisons played in NAIA bowls in 1972 (Cowboy) and 1976 (San Jacinto Shrine) and in the NAIA playoffs in 1989 and 1992. Harding has played in the NCAA II Playoffs in 2012 and 2014 and reached the national quarterfinals last season. The Bisons also played in the 2013 Live United Texarkana Bowl against Texas A&M-Commerce.

Harding enters the matchup on an 11-game winning streak, the second longest in program history. The streak came after the Bisons opened the season with three consecutive losses.

Harding enters the game as the NCAA Division II leader in rushing TD (51) and rushing yards (4,868). Harding has rushed for more than 300 yards 10 times this season and for 200 or more yards in 27 straight games.

Harding will be playing five consecutive road games in the same season for the first time since 1929 (four of those games were against local high schools).

The Coaches
Harding’s Paul Simmons is in his first season as the head coach of the Bisons. He is in his 12th season at Harding and had been Harding’s defensive coordinator since 2010. Simmons was a three-time All-American defensive end and linebacker at Harding.

Colby Carthel, a 2000 Angelo State graduate, is in his fifth season as head coach of the Lions. He is 37-14 at Texas A&M-Commerce.

Series History
Texas A&M-Commerce leads the all-time series 3-1. Harding won the last meeting 44-3 at the 2013 Live United Texarkana Bowl. Commerce won 40-0 in Searcy in 1995, 43-28 in Commerce in 1996 and 14-11 in Commerce in 2001.

Home/Road Records
Harding is 8-1 on the road this season and has won its last eight, tied for the second-longest road winning streak in Division II. The Bisons are 14-2 on the road in the last two seasons with six road wins coming against nationally ranked teams. Commerce is 5-0 at home this season and has won eight straight at home, tied for the third-longest home winning streak in Division II.

Streaks, Trends and Records
Zach Shelley averages 8.7 yards per carry in his career, which is the highest among active players at any level in the NCAA (min. 2,000 yards) — Bernard McDondle (Colorado St.-Pueblo) is second at 8.4 … Shelley ranks fourth at Harding in career rushing yards (2,669) and fifth in career rushing TD (22) … ranks seventh with 3,563 all-purpose yards, 258 behind Santiago Collins (3,821, 2000-03).

Harding has 4,868 rushing yards, second in program history, 211 yards behind last season’s 5,079 yards … the Bisons have scored 466 points, the fourth-highest total in program history.

Junior linebacker Sam Blankenship has 123 tackles, the most tackles in a season since the NCAA standardized tackle stats in 2000. His 71 solo tackles are two behind Said Perez’s record 73 in 2000.

With 10 points against Ferris State, senior Tristan Parsley moved to within 10 points of becoming Harding’s career scoring leader, trailing only Park Parish’s 272 points from 2012-16.

Harding has won the time-of-possession battle in all 14 games and ranks second in Division II at 35:24 per game. The Bisons have had the ball 151 minutes more than their opponents. Harding has won TOP in 28 of its last 30 games.

In the last six games, HU has converted 50-of-86 third downs, 58 percent. In the last eight games, Harding opponents have converted only 31-of-99 third downs, 31 percent.

Harding freshman Cole Chancey has 1,239 rushing yards, third in an HU single season. He is 67 yards behind second place (Chris Pierson, 1,306, 1997) and 241 yards behind leader Alan Dixon (1,480, 1972).

Harding has not completed a pass in two of its three playoff games. The Bisons completed three passes against Ashland and none against Indianapolis and Ferris State.

Seniors Zach Shelley and Tristan Parsley became the first Harding players to play in 50 games when they appeared against Ferris State.

A Quick Look at Texas A&M-Commerce
Texas A&M-Commerce’s lone loss came on Oct. 7 at Midwestern St. (47-42) … Commerce has won eight games since … the Lions have held six opponents below 10 points in a game … Commerce has completed 69 percent of its passes, good for third in D2 … allows a D2-low 11.63 yards per kickoff return … seventh in D2 in red zone defense, allowing a score only 65 percent of opponents’ trips … averages 8.5 tackles for loss per game, 11th in D2 … has been penalized 129 times, the second-highest number in D2 … quarterback Luis Perez leads D2 in passing yards, passing TD and passing yards per game.

Team Leaders (National Rank in parenthesis)

Rushing – Cole Chancey: 200 rushes, 1,239 yards (17th), 14 TD (25th); Zach Shelley: 114 rushes, 858 yards (73rd), 5 TD; Grant Kimberlin: 89 rushes, 850 yards (78th), 3 TD; Terrence Dingle: 180 rushes, 734 yards, 18 TD (7th)
Passing – Terrence Dingle: 30-of-74, 671 yards, 4 TD
Receiving – Andrew Dather: 12 receptions, 275 yards, 1 TD
Tackles – Sam Blankenship: 123 tackles (58th), 3 INT; Devyn Comer: 13.5 TFL, 7.5 sacks (98th); V’Onte WilliamsDra Smith: 3 INT
Punting – Tristan Parsley – 40 punts, 37.5 avg.
Kicking – Tristan Parsley – 15 of 21 FG (42nd), 57 of 58 PAT

Rushing – Carandal Hale: 152 rushes, 738 yards, 4 TD
Passing – Luis Perez: 374-of-532, 4,390 yards (1st), 42 TD (1st), 10 INT
Receiving – Buck Wilson: 65 receptions, 950 yards (29th), 11 TD (20th); Marquis Wimberly: 55 receptions, 708 yards (86th), 5 TD; D’Arther Cowan: 55 receptions, 664 yards, 8 TD
Tackles – Brucks Saathoff: 81 tackles; Kieston Carter: 15.5 TFL (80th); Norman Moimoi: 6.5 sacks (52nd)
Punting – Tristan Perry: 48 punts, 39.2 avg. (51st)
Kicking – Kristov Martinez: 20 of 24 FG (10th), 57 of 58 PAT

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