As the calendar is set to flip to the New Year and the second half of the NCAA DII 2023-24 season, let’s take a look back at the wild fall season that recently concluded. In sports dominated by the same names and powerhouse programs, five first-time champions were crowned while other firsts were achieved as well.
Harding runs its way to DII football history
The Harding Bisons finished the 2023 DII football season a perfect 15-0 on their way to the first national championship in program history. It was on the back of arguably the best rushing attack in the history of college football that led to the dominating 38-7 victory.
Blake Delacruz reeled off a 60-yard run early in the fourth quarter that put the Bisons over the 6,000-yard rushing mark on the season. That made Harding the first team in the history of college football to rush for 6,000 yards in a single season. The Bisons averaged an astounding 410.7 yards per game on the ground — that’s 30.2 yards per game more than the next closest school (Division III’s Springfield) and more than 100 yards better than the top rushing team in FBS (Liberty) or FCS (Davidson). Delacruz ran for 212 yards himself and, as you probably guessed, became the first player in DII football history to eclipse the 200-yard mark in the championship game, breaking Billy Holmes’ record of 195 yards rushing in the 1997 title game. Braden Jay added 161 yards rushing and three scores and with a bevy of others in the flexbone attack, the Bisons fell just 23 yards short of the team rushing record for the championship game.
California is golden in DII’s 50th anniversary
The state of California had a great run in women’s sports this past fall. As DII celebrates its golden anniversary, The Golden State celebrated with a pair of first-time champions with Point Loma taking the crown in DII women’s soccer and Cal State LA winning it all in DII women’s volleyball.
The Sea Lions’ victory came in thrilling fashion as Emma Thrapp headed a Grace Nelson corner kick into the net for what would be the game-winning goal.
🚨 SEA LIONS TAKE THE LEAD 🚨
— PLNU Sea Lions (@PLNUSeaLions) December 9, 2023
It was an impressive run for Point Loma, which posted five straight shutouts in the tournament, outscoring its opponents nine to nil. This…