The Truman State University football team concluded its season over the weekend in Hobart, Indiana, at the inaugural America’s Crossroads Bowl against the Panthers of Ohio Dominican University.
The Bulldogs entered the weekend at 9-2 overall and 5-2 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference with a chance to record Truman’s first ever 10 win season. The Bulldogs qualified for the bowl after finishing third in the GLVC, the highest finishing team to not qualify for Div. II playoffs. Ohio Dominican, of the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, finished the regular season 7-2 overall and 6-1 in the G-MAC, the second best record in its conference.
The Bulldogs asserted themselves early in the game with a 19-play drive resulting in a 20-yard field goal by kicker Josh Scheiderer. This drive took over 10 minutes off the clock in the first quarter and established the Bulldogs running game early. After forcing a quick three-and-out by the Panther offense, Truman continued to stick to its running game to push the ball down the field. After another long drive — this time 14 plays and 99 yards — running back Jordan Salima powered the ball into the endzone to push the Bulldog lead to 10 points.
After giving up the only Panther score of the day on a quarterback draw by Ohio Dominican’s Jake Woycke, the Bulldogs demonstrated their offensive versatility by marching down the field in just two minutes behind 47 passing yards by quarterback Jaden Barr and scoring on a 40-yard field goal by Scheiderer. The Bulldogs carried a six-point lead into the halftime break.
The second half saw more of the same from the Bulldogs. The lone score of the half came on an eight-yard rush by Salima followed by a two-point conversion by the Bulldogs to increase the lead to 21-7. Anchored by a large senior class, the ’Dogs defense showed signs of their early season dominance in this game, allowing 14 points or fewer for the seventh time this season, and recording their second shutout after halftime. After holding the Panthers to just seven points and leading in every offensive statistical category, the Bulldogs captured their tenth win of the season, their first postseason win of the decade and set a new school record for most wins in a single season.
Following the game Jordan Salima was named the America’s Crossroads Bowl MVP for his performance. Salima finished the game with two touchdowns and 137 total yards of offense. Salima had 117 rushing yards, marking his fifth 100-yard game of the season. Salima will finish his career as a Bulldog in the top ten in rushing yards, total yards, rushing touchdowns, career touchdowns and rushing attempts at Truman.
“Finishing off my career as offensive MVP was the icing on the cake,” Salima said. “I didn’t even know that was a thing until they called my name from the loudspeaker, but it’s been an honor and I’m so thankful for my coaches, teammates and especially the o-line.”
Salima’s head coach Gregg Nesbitt said that he too is grateful for this season’s team. Nesbitt is in his 40th season as a coach and 10th with the Bulldogs. Nesbitt said he is proud of this team’s willingness to prepare and compete together in both practices and games. He said he believes the Truman fans that traveled to the game also played a role in the Bulldogs’ success.
“I personally will always remember the large following of Bulldog fans that made the trip to Hobart, Indiana, in December to be a part of history in person,” Nesbitt said.
While this season might have officially started in early September for the Bulldogs and their fans, Salima said the 2019 team’s success is a result of hard work dating back to the end of last season.
“It’s so rewarding to close the season out as bowl champs with my boys,” Salima said. “It’s crazy because football season officially started in August, but the team and I have been grinding all winter, spring and summer. So it’s nice to see all our work pay off, and it was impeccable timing for it to come in the first 10th win in Truman history.”