GREENVILLE, Ill. -- The top two teams in the NCCAA came together Saturday in Greenville for the 2012 Victory Bowl and proved that was where they belonged as the Greenville Panthers topped the Northwestern Eagles 28-27 in overtime.
After a scoreless first quarter, Northwestern (8-3) took a 14-0 lead into halftime as quarterback Josh Balzer connected with Brian Lecheler for two touchdown strikes. The first of the two scores was an 88-yard hookup on the second play following a Greenville turnover and the second was a two-yard pass with just 15 seconds remaining in the half.
The third quarter scoring belonged to Greenville (8-2) as offensive player of the game Brendan Chambers ran for a 9-yard touchdown just 4:58 into the period. Less than two minutes later, Chambers connected with receiver Anthony Gonzalez for an 80-yard touchdown pass.
Running back Justin Honeycutt gave Greenville its first lead of the game early in the fourth quarter with a two yard touchdown rush, and Tim Youtzy ran in a two yard score with 4:10 remaining in regulation to tie the game.
Both teams had opportunities to win the game in the final minutes as Greenville had a three-and-out, both teams threw an interception, and Northwestern fumbled with 29 seconds remaining.
Greenville kicker Josh Frewin missed a 27-yard field goal as time expired to push the game to overtime.
In overtime, Greenville won the coin toss and elected to put its defense on the field. After eight plays, Youtzy ran the ball in for the go-ahead touchdown, but placekicker Ethan Zepp's point-after attempt failed.
Greenville ran the ball five times on their overtime possession, closed out by a three yard touchdown run by Chambers. Frewin made the point-after, giving Greenville a 28-27 win.
Greenville's offense outgained Northwestern's by almost a two to one margin as the Panthers picked up 626 yards of total offense to the Eagles' 327. Greenville's quarterback Chambers accounted for nearly two-thirds of the Panthers yards as he was 15-of-30 passing for 310 yards and one touchdown while running for 110 yards and two touchdowns in his offensive player of the game performance.
Running back Immanuel Gamble gained 115 yards rushing, and Anthony Gonzalez picked up184 receiving yards.
Northwestern's offense was led by Balzer who was 12-of-20 for 195 passing yards and two touchdowns.
Lecheler was on the receiving end for 127 yards and both touchdowns.
Running back Youtzy gained 73 yards and two touchdowns.
Northwestern's defense was led by defensive player of the game Josh Swore who collected 5.5 tackles including an assisted tackle for a loss of one yards.
The Eagles leading tackler was Joey Bauman who picked up a game-high 13.5 tackles with 11 solo tackles and five assists. Luke Sommerlet and Mitch Swanson had interceptions for Northwestern.
Greenville's defense was paced by Robert Deering and Cody Lopez with 11 tackles each. Deering collected seven solo tackles and eight assists, while Lopez gained six solo tackles and 10 assists. Lopez also tallied a quarterback sack and forced a fumble. Anthony Moore posted an interception.
After ending the season as UMAC conference tri-champions with St. Scholastica, Greenville and Northwestern capped solid seasons with outstanding performances on Saturday.
The Victory Bowl win was Greenville's first in four games, and their eight wins this season tied a program high. Northwestern made their sixth appearance in NCCAA football's showcase event, posting wins over Greenville in 2000 and Malone in 2008.