Saint Francis wins NAIA title, beating Baker 38-17

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) Nick Ferrer through three touchdown passes to Seth Coate and Saint Francis of Indiana beat previously undefeated Baker of Kansas 38-17 on Saturday night to win the NAIA championship.

Coate, a 6-foot-4 senior, caught nine passes for 180 yards, including second-half touchdown receptions of 59 and 36 yards. The last one put the Cougars (13-1) up 31-10 with 12:21 left. Baker finished 14-1.

''This is still tough to wrap my head around,'' said Coate, who was voted the game's outstanding offensive player. ''I have been around this program since I was six so this whole experience was unbelievable.''

Ferrer completed 18 of 30 passes for 245 yards and three touchdowns, finishing his junior season with 51 TD passes.

Logan Brettell, who had helped Baker overcome a 17-point lead in the fourth quarter of its semifinal win over Eastern Oregon, was 34 for 50 for 263 yards and a touchdown, marking the only time this season he has not accounted for at least two touchdowns.

''We didn't make enough plays and we gave up too many big plays,'' Baker coach Mike Grossner said. ''We threw the ball 50 times but we only got 263 yards. We couldn't get the ball vertical more.''

St. Francis led 17-3 at halftime against a team that had averaged 49.9 points in its 14 victories.

After opening the game with an 11-play drive that ended in Clarence Clark's 26-yard field goal, the Wildcats did not score again until the middle of the third quarter.

Saint Francis responded to the opening score with a 56-yard touchdown drive to take the lead and never gave it up. Ferrer's 5-yard touchdown pass to Coate finished the Cougars' opening drive and marked the 27th straight game in which Coate has caught at least one touchdown pass.

''Holding them to a field goal early and answering with a score set the tone for the game,'' Saint Francis said coach Kevin Dooley.

Justin Green (143 yards on 24 carries) helped Saint Francis get its running game going, and that set the stage for Ferrer and Coate.

''They started to play run support heavy and we decided to go up top,'' said Ferrer. ''Seth caught them with a double move for a touchdown and that opened the game up for us. ''

The Cougars' victory keeps the NAIA championship in the state of Indiana. Saint Francis' last three losses, including playoff losses in 2014 and 2015, have all come at the hands of Marian, which won the championship last year.