Butler to face No. 10 NEO A&M in Midwest Classic Bowl

Butler to face No. 10 NEO A&M in Midwest Classic Bowl

Butler football will renew a series with a former rival when the Grizzlies battle Northeastern Oklahoma A&M in the Midwest Classic Bowl at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 2 in Miami, Okla.

NEO (8-3) is ranked 10th in the most recent NJCAA poll, while Butler (7-4) is ranked 15th.

"Playing post-season football is awesome and an honor; not everyone gets this opportunity, and for us, playing in December is special – it gives our kids the opportunity to play together one more time – in the end, that's what's really important and memorable to them," Butler football coach Tim Schaffner said.

The Midwest Classic Bowl is in its second year of existence. Last year, No. 7 Independence defeated No. 4 NEO 30-20 in the inaugural game. 

"We are excited to be invited to the Midwest Classic Bowl Game for a variety of reasons: it's a regional opponent with whom we don't have a lot of recent history, despite being less than 200 miles apart," Schaffner said. "The shorter travel distance will make it easier for our fans to come watch the 2018 Grizzlies one more time – and from everything I have seen and read about the whole bowl experience down in Miami, they do it right and work really hard to put on a quality/top notch event."

This will be the 11th time the two teams have played, but the first since 2001.

This is the third meeting in a bowl game. The two teams played in the 1981 Rodeo Bowl in Arkansas City, Kan. Butler won that game 21-14 for the first of its six national championships.

The two teams then met in the 1993 Mineral Water Bowl in Excelsior Springs, Mo., with NEO claiming a high-scoring 52-50 win over Butler.

The teams have also met in the regular season: NEO won meetings 1933, 1934, 1994 and 1995 before Butler won four straight season openers from 1998 to 2001. The all-time series is tied 5-5.

NEO (8-3, 5-2 Southwest Junior College Football Conference) claimed a share of the regular season conference championship. The Norsemen beat Blinn 35-21 in the first round before falling to Kilgore 62-19 in the conference championship game this past Sunday.

"NEO has had a quality football program for decades and this season is no exception," Schaffner said. "They have had a really good season, play well on both sides of the ball and will be difficult to prepare for."

NEO is led offensively by Darran Williams, who rushed for 1,302 yards on the season on 199 carries. He had 12 touchdowns in 11 games. Quarterback Guy Myers has started the last five games. On the season, Myers has completed 69 of 124 passes for 1,058 yards and 10 touchdowns with just three interceptions. Marcheenan Hair is the leading receiver with 49 catches for 579 yards and four touchdowns.

Defensively, linebacker Patrick Rosette leads with 90 tackles. Defensive back Gervarrius Owens had 85 tackles and leads the team with two interceptions, while lineman LaRon Stokes leads the team with six sacks.

Butler (7-4, 5-2 KJCCC) makes its first bowl appearance since 2016, having lost to Eastern Arizona 39-38 in the Salt City Bowl. The Grizzlies will be making their 28th bowl appearance - with 11 national championship appearances and six titles in their history.

Zach Allan is in his first year as head coach after 10 years as an assistant at NEO.

Butler's offense is operated by quarterback Trae Self, who has completed 122 of 261 passes for 1,641 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions. The Grizzlies' leading receiver is Larry Jones with 28 receptions for 317 and three touchdowns. Ja'kevious Vickers has rushed for 641 yards on 141 carries and four touchdowns.

Linebacker Hunter Kier leads Butler in tackles with 63, while defensive lineman Jordan Smith has 62 tackles and leads the team with 11 sacks. Lineman Jacoby Jones has 10.5 sacks and defensive back Tay Gowan leads Butler with five interceptions.

Schaffner (31-14 in four years) will be coaching his second bowl game as head coach. He led Butler to the 2016 Salt City Bowl against Eastern Arizona. Serving as Butler's defensive coordinator from 2005 to 2014, Schaffner helped the Grizzlies to eight bowl games - including consecutive national championship wins in 2007 and 2008.

Other Butler bowl game notes:

- This is the 17th time in the past 21 years Butler has played in a postseason bowl game. Overall, this will be the 28th bowl game in school history. Butler is 14-13 all time in bowl games.
- This will be the first time Butler has played a bowl game in the state of Oklahoma. This will be the 11th different state in which Butler has played a bowl game. Other states include Kansas, Texas, Arizona, Utah, Iowa, Tennessee, Missouri, Idaho, New York and Georgia

Butler's bowl appearances:
1951 Coffey Bowl (Coffeyville) Butler 12, Coffeyville 9
1981 Rodeo Bowl (Arkansas City) Butler 21, NE Oklahoma A&M 14* 
1983 Roaring Ranger Bowl (Ranger, Texas) Butler 21, Ranger (TX) 11
1984 Garland Shrine Bowl (Garland, Texas) Butler 27, Tyler (TX) 14
1985 Valley of the Sun Bowl (Phoenix, Ariz.) Phoenix (AZ) 43, Butler 13
1986 Dixie Rotary Bowl (St. George, Utah) Dixie State (UT) 36, Butler 33
1987 Texas Classic (Tyler, Texas) Blinn (TX) 35, Butler 14
1989 R.C. Cola Bowl (Cedar Falls, Iowa) Butler 24, Iowa Central 0
1990 East Bowl (Johnson City, Tenn.) Butler 23, Lee's McRae (TN) 8
1993 Mineral Water Bowl (Excelsior Springs, Mo.) NE Oklahoma A&M 52, Butler 50
1996 Valley of the Sun Bowl (Phoenix, Ariz.) Glendale (AZ) 45, Butler 26
1998 Real Dairy Bowl (Pocatello, Idaho)Butler 22, Ricks (ID) 18 * 
1999 Dixie Rotary Bowl (St. George, Utah) Butler 49, Dixie State (UT) 35 * 
2000 Cannon Empire Bowl (Garden City, NY) Butler 30, Nassau (NY) 20
2001 Golden Isles Bowl (New Brunswick, Ga.) Georgia Military 31, Butler 19 * 
2002 Dixie Rotary Bowl (St. George, Utah) Dixie State 31 (UT), Butler 18
2003 Dixie Rotary Bowl (St. George, Utah) Butler 14, Dixie State (UT) 10 * 
2004 Dalton Defender's Bowl (Coffeyville) Pearl River (MS) 35, Butler 14 * 
2005 Top of the Mountains Bowl (Salt Lake City) Snow (UT) 17, Butler 14
2006 Dalton Defender's Bowl (Coffeyville) Butler 57, Vermilion (MN) 0
2007 Top of the Mountains Bowl (Salt Lake City) Butler 56, Snow (UT) 27 * 
2008 Top of the Mountains Bowl (Salt Lake City) Butler 37, Snow (UT) 30, 2OT  * 
2010 Citizen's Bank Bowl (Pittsburg) Navarro (TX) 13, Butler 12 * 
2011 Citizen's Bank Bowl (Pittsburg) Butler 21, Trinity Valley (TX) 17
2012 Graphic Edge Bowl (Cedar Falls, Iowa) Iowa Western 27, Butler 7 *
2013 Graphic Edge Bowl (Cedar Falls, Iowa) Iowa Western 6, Butler 0 
2016 Salt City Bowl (Hutchinson) Eastern Arizona 39, Butler 38

*indicates NJCAA National Championship Game