So nice, they did it twice

How did the Bulldogs go back-to-back?

The Bulldogs completed their bid to go back-to-back in the NCAA DII championship with a win over the Colorado School of Mines in a 41-14 victory.

Winning a championship defines a team as the best in the league. Winning back-to-back championships means defying all odds while having a massive target on one’s back. So, how did the Bulldogs go back-to-back? This is a hard question to answer, truthfully. There’s a number of variables that could point to how the Bulldogs came out on top two years in a row.

One important variable is the competition level of NCAA DII football. Since its formation in 1973, the league has seen nine teams win at least two consecutive championships, and this includes the Bulldogs. Four of those back-to-back teams have come in the past 20 years.

Compare this to DI football. In the past 20 years of DI football, only two teams have won back-to-back championships. Those teams were Georgia 2021-22 and Alabama 2010-11, who played during the Bowl Championship Series. Georgia is the only D1 team to win back-to-back national championships in the modern College Football Playoff format.

These differences certainly don’t discount the Bulldogs’ championship success. Both the 2021 and 2022 teams exerted different sets of dominance in both championship seasons. The 2021 Bulldogs were an offensive masterpiece. Those Bulldogs averaged 512.6 offensive yards per game (281.6 rush yards per game and 230.9 pass yards per game), while putting up a massive 47.2 points per game.

Photo by: Marissa Russell

The 2022 Bulldogs suffered from what most teams do: roster turnover. The Bulldogs lost many of the players that made their offense so dominant in 2021. Top players like Jared Berhardt, Zein Obeid and Dylan Pasquali all left the Bulldogs following their first championship. The 2022 Bulldogs didn’t necessarily drop off in offense during 2022, but they were not playing to the level of the 2021 team. The Bulldog offense averaged 427.2 yards per game (216.7 rushing yards per game and 210.5 passing yards per game), while putting up 35.8 points per game.

Fortunately, the 2022 Bulldogs were able to excel on the other side of the ball. The Bulldog defense was effective against all opponents in 2022. The team allowed 228.5 yards per game (67.3 rush yards allowed and 161.2 pass yards allowed), while averaging 14.2 points given up per game. All defensive stats listed were improvements from the 2021 Bulldog team. The 2022 team more than doubled the amount of sacks from 2021, going from 30 to 66. These two teams were able to be juggernauts on both sides of the ball. 

This past season for the Bulldogs, to the untrained eye, showed an obvious difference. Closer games, the first regular season loss in 43 regular season games and lower quality offensive performance. However, under closer inspection, the Bulldogs were cooking up a veteran defense, which shined when they won their second national championship.