To put it simply, No. 3 Midwestern State found a way Saturday afternoon at Doc Wadley Stadium in Tahlequah, Okla.
Sophomore running back Keidrick Jackson cruised in untouched from 6 yards out to allow the Mustangs to clinch the first perfect regular season in school history with an unlikely 37-34 come-from-behind victory over Northeastern State.
The win most likely cinches Super Region Four's top seed for the Mustangs. Their fate will be revealed in the NCAA Division II Football Championship Selection Show Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. via a live video stream on NCAA.com.
"We may have been a little bit winded and our backs were against the wall, but champions find a way to pull through," senior offensive lineman Hank Gilley said.
The game appeared firmly in the RiverHawks' hands when Nate Robinson came down with his third interception of the fourth quarter with 4:04 to play.
But seven plays into NSU's ensuing drive Midwestern defensive end Kevin Birdow stripped RiverHawk quarterback Kenny Davis and Tim McGill flopped on the ball to give the Mustangs one last gasp with 2:29 to play.
The Mustangs methodically moved the ball down the field, converting a fourth-and-2 on a 5-yard run by junior quarterback Brandon Kelsey before Jackson punched the ball in with 36.4 seconds remaining.
Jackson, who broke the century mark for the fourth consecutive game with 108 yards on 14 carries, staked MSU to a 30-20 lead with a 32-yard rush around the left end with 2:04 remaining in the third quarter.
That's when Northeastern seized momentum.
NSU's Travis Boswell sacked Kelsey on second-and-goal from the 7 before Robinson made the first of his picks in the end zone.
Propelled by a 41-yard gain on a Jermaine Sherman reception on a pass that appeared to be knocked away by MSU sophomore Neiko Conway on a third-and-8, the RiverHawks pulled within 30-27 when Joel Rockmore rushed in from 3 yards out to cap a 13-play, 98-yard drive.
Robinson came down with his second pick two plays later to set up 42-yard strike from Kenny Davis to Trey McVay to give the RiverHawks a lead at 34-30 with 4:57 to play.
Kelsey paced MSU's 294-yard rushing attack with 122 yards including a 62-yard TD burst for the Mustangs' first score of the game, but suffered through one of the worst passing games of his career.
The junior from Arlington completed 18-of-29 passes for 184 yards, but was intercepted a career-worst four times.
Senior wide receiver David Little finished with six catches for 54 yards, while junior Edgard Theliar made five receptions for 97 yards.
McVay paced the RiverHawks making nine catches for 167 yards and three touchdowns.
MSU snapped Northeastern State's seven-game winning streak as the RiverHawks closed the season at 7-4.
Midwestern State opened the second half with a 12-0 run and went on to bury Texas A&M International 98-76 in its season opener Saturday night at D.L. Ligon Coliseum.
The Mustangs (1-0) take on Newman (Kan.) Tuesday night in Wichita. Tipoff is set for 5:30 p.m. MSU plays host to the Comfort Inn/Ashbrook Classic Friday and Saturday at D.L. Ligon Coliseum.
Savannah Carver poured in a game-high 23 points on 6-of-17 shooting from the floor including three 3-pointers and an 8-of-12 effort from the charity stripe.
Texas A&M International (0-2) led by as many as five points when Rosebud Guthrie hit a driving layup with 5:36 remaining in the opening half.
But the Mustangs went on a slow run hitting 7-of-8 free throws over a 53-second stretch before freshman Shatoia Gober's layup at the 1:03 mark before halftime gave the Mustangs a 43-36 advantage.
Gober (13 points) and fellow freshman forward Andrea Carter (7 points) combined for 20 points.
"Our freshmen are the catalysts for what we do with our pressure," Johnson said. "I'm proud of them."
The Mustangs forced the Dustdevils into 25 turnovers that produced a 27-17 edge in points off of those miscues.
But it was the veteran combination of Carver and Kirsti Degelia that scored each point of a 12-0 run to start the second half to put the game away.
The Mustangs would lead by as many as 27 points in the second stanza.
"Our press did a good job of getting us back into the game and getting us back to our tempo," Johnson said. "Now we need to build on this momentum Tuesday at Newman."
Degelia used an efficient 6-of-9 shooting night from the floor to finish with 18 points, while senior forward Cierra Thompson notched 10 points and six rebounds.