Previously ranked 17th in the nation, Valdosta State (Ga.) surprised No. 2 Winston-Salem State (N.C.) 35-7 in the NCAA Division II national football championship game.
That propelled the Blazers to a unanimous No. 1 ranking in the final American Football Coaches Association poll of the season despite a 12-2 overall record.
A couple of New Mexico Highlands’ Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference rivals remained in the AFCA Top 25 after representing the league in the national playoffs.
RMAC champion Colorado State-Pueblo went unbeaten until losing to No. 16 West Texas A&M 34-13 in the national quarterfinals. The ThunderWolves finished 12-1 and ranked No. 6 in the nation, although they had been rated as high as No. 1 and in fact finished the regular season atop the AFCA poll.
And Chadron State (Neb.) finished 9-3 and ranked No. 18, its highest spot of the fall.
The Eagles lost to West Texas A&M in the opening round of the playoffs. After upsetting CSUP, the Buffs lost to Winston-Salem in the semifinals and finished 12-3 and ranked No. 4.
NMHU, which finished 8-3 and third in the RMAC behind CSUP and Chadron, had been unofficially ranked as high as 27th. The Cowboys were competitive with both the Wolves and Eagles, losing to Chadron 36-33 and falling at Pueblo 31-17.
According to NMHU’s sports information department, two Cowboys — linebacker Jordan Campbell and offensive lineman Chris Awambu — took part in separate senior bowl games this past Saturday as they look to gain the attention of NFL scouts.
Campbell played in the FCS Senior Bowl, while Awambu was in the D2 vs. NAIA Senior Bowl.