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Top coach ends best win streak

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Published December 21, 2003

SALEM, Va. - John Gagliardi's season, already a record breaker, ended perfectly Saturday with St. John's (Minn.) as the Division III national champion.

The Johnnies snapped the NCAA-record 55-game winning streak of Mount Union (Ohio) with a 24-6 victory in the Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl, giving their 77-year-old coach his first national championship since 1976.

"Maybe it's my year," Gagliardi said after winning his fourth national championship in 55 years as a coach, 51 at St. John's.

"You can't hardly beat it," he said. "The thing about these playoffs is only one team wins it all, and we've been losing a ton of times to the eventual champion. It's going to be kind of nice to see how this is."

Gagliardi, who passed Eddie Robinson as the career college wins leader this season, improved to 414-114-11 overall.

Mount Union (13-1) had won three consecutive Stagg Bowls and 109 of its past 110 games. But St. John's intercepted four passes, returning one 100 yards for a score, and got big contributions from most valuable player Blake Elliott to deprive Purple Raiders of an eighth national title in 11 years.

Elliott rushed for 110 yards, including a 51-yard fourth-quarter touchdown. The winner of the Gagliardi Trophy as the best player in Division III also caught five passes for 51 yards and had a 27-yard kickoff return despite a tight hamstring.

His touchdown run gave St. John's a 17-6 lead with 13:34 left. The Johnnies all but clinched the victory less than five minutes later on Mike Zauhar's 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, the game's final score.

NAIA CHAMPIONSHIP: Tyler Emmert showed why he won the NAIA player of the year, throwing three touchdowns and running for another to help Carroll (Mont.) College (15-0) beat Northwestern Oklahoma State (11-2) 41-28 in Savannah, Tenn., to give the Saints consecutive national titles.

Emmert completed 26-of-37 passes for 344 yards, adding the offensive MVP award to the season honor he received Friday. Half of his completions and all three touchdowns went to Mark Gallik, who had 250 yards receiving.

PIONEER BOWL: Uyl Joyner threw two touchdowns and ran for two more in Albany State's 52-30 victory over Fayetteville State in Atlanta in a game matching champions of two historically black conferences, Albany State (10-2) from the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and Fayetteville State (8-4) from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association.

Orange Bowl

MIAMI: Free safety Sean Taylor practiced as the Hurricanes continued preparing for their Jan. 1 matchup with No. 9 Florida State in Miami. Taylor missed the first two days of bowl practices with flu-like symptoms.

FLORIDA STATE: The Seminoles finished a week of practice and are in good shape, coach Bobby Bowden said. The Seminoles will take five days off. "We've gotten everything done I think we could do," Bowden said after finishing practice in 30-degree weather. Also, the Seminoles chose tailback Greg Jones, linebacker Michael Boulware and long-snapper Brian Sawyer, all seniors, as captains.

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