Bulldogs finish third straight season with nine wins

The Truman State University football team defeated Tiffin University 28-27 to claim their third-straight victory in the America’s Crossroads Bowl Dec. 3. With the win, the Bulldogs finished the season at 9-2, the program’s third-straight 9-win season. 

This time, Truman won by stopping a two-point conversion attempt by Tiffin that would have given them the lead with 40 seconds remaining. 

“I felt pretty calm on the two-point play,” head coach Greg Nesbitt said. “Our guys had prepared themselves for that specific situation, executed under high stress very well and were fortunate to get a huge play by [sophomore linebacker] Brock Jones for the Bulldog win.”

It was a back-and-forth contest throughout the game. Tiffin took an early 7-0 lead in the first quarter before Truman scored three straight touchdowns to take a 21-14 lead into halftime. 

Truman scored on their first possession after halftime on a quick 51-yard run by senior running back Shamar Griffith for the winning score.

Tiffin pulled within one score on their next possession with a touchdown. After both teams traded turnovers and punts, Tiffin put together a long-scoring drive capped-off with a touchdown pass. 

The last two games between Truman and Tiffin both ended in one-score wins for Truman on two-point conversions after late touchdowns. Feeling that recent history, Tiffin attempted to flip the script by going for two points after their late touchdown, but the Truman defense stood tall and got a stop when they most needed it. 

“I told my unit, ‘this is where champions are made, this is where we see how good we are,’” senior defensive tackle Robert Greco said. “Somebody had to step up and make a play to win the game. And that’s exactly what we did.”

The win capped another historic season for the Truman football program. Before 2021, Truman had never won nine or more games in consecutive seasons, and they have now done so in three straight full seasons going back to 2019. 

Truman was recognized for its success this season, with 18 players selected to the All-GLVC teams, including 13 players selected to the first team. The Bulldogs finished the season with the GLVC’s best defensive unit, finishing number one in points and yards allowed per game.  

As a recognition for his accomplishments, Nesbitt was named co-coach of the year for the GLVC. 

The Bulldogs also received the GLVC Sportsmanship Award after finishing the season as a top-10 least penalized team in Division II football. 

Despite Truman’s historic success over the past several seasons, one goal continues to elude them: a spot in the Div. II football playoffs. Only the top team in the GLVC advances to the playoffs and for the last three years, that has been the University of Indianapolis. 

“Not getting to the postseason was definitely disappointing for us,” Greco said. “We ended on a high note, but we were hoping to be in the playoffs this year.” 

Junior quarterback Nolan Hair echoed Greco, adding that the postseason is the team’s goal for next year.

“We would love to make the playoffs and be undefeated in-season,” Hair said. “We have gotten very close the last few seasons but have not been able to get past UIndy. That’s our goal for next year – get past them and get into the playoffs.” 

Truman will return many of its all conference players next season to make another run at the Division II postseason.

Greco, in his fifth and final year at Truman, said the bowl win this year meant more than it had in previous seasons. 

“This was the last time I got to go to war with my brothers for Truman State University,” Greco said. “It was very emotional for our senior class. We made history becoming the [second-most-wins class] in Truman football history, so this one definitely meant more to us.”

Hair said the win was especially meaningful because it was another win outside of the GLVC for Truman, showing the strength of the conference overall. 

Nesbitt said that while the win was not any more meaningful for him, it was certainly more exciting than the first two.