CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — After Butler Community College quarterback Billy Cosh went down with a knee injury on the final play of the first half, the Grizzlies’ national-title hopes were put on the shoulders of freshman Tyler Harrison, a 6-foot-4, 201-pound sophomore from Derby who hadn’t seen any meaningful action for Butler this season.
“Tyler hasn’t had any snaps when we’ve had a game on the line all year,” Butler tight end Jacob Hurla said. “To put him in in the second half of the national championship game ... that’s a tough spot for him.”
Harrison, who entered the game 18-of-29 passing for 263 yards and two touchdowns, threw interceptions on his first two passes, both in Iowa Western territory. The second one was the most costly, coming at the Reivers’ 1-yard line and with the Grizzlies’ down 21-0 with four minutes left in the third quarter.
“That was a good play call, I just didn’t put enough on it,” Harrison said. “It was hard to see Billy go down, because he’s a friend and a teammate. I had a chance to step up and I didn’t.”
Replacing Reivers -- Iowa Western’s national title will be tough to repeat, as the Reivers lose 40 sophomores off of this year’s team, including quarterback Jake Waters, the Midwest Conference offensive player of the year, and record-setting receiver Deon Long.
In all, eight starters on offense and defense are gone.
“I’m going to enjoy this, because I know what I have to do next,” Iowa Western coach Steve Strohmeier said. “And that’s replace Jake and the rest of these guys.”
Missing Dreamius -- Former Heights star and Butler sophomore running back Dreamius Smith wasn’t available for the Graphic Edge Bowl after breaking his collarbone in the Region VI championship game against Hutchinson last month.
Smith, who is committed to play for West Virginia, rushed for 1,023 yards and 17 touchdowns this season.
Omli’s new home -- Butler sophomore safety Tate Omli got his first chance to play in the stadium he’ll call home for the next two seasons. Omli, a sophomore from Ell-Saline, committed to play for Northern Iowa after a visit last month.
“Tate loves it (at Northern Iowa),” Butler defensive coordinator Tim Schaffner said. “I think he went there with his dad on the visit and just felt really comfortable.”
Not that that was any consolation for Omli after Sunday’s loss.
“I just love my teammates, love this group of guys,” Omli said. “I’m going to miss all of them so much ... there were just some things that went wrong tonight we couldn’t recover from.”