Augustana Vikings - 1986 national champions
Seniors end careers unbeaten with four NCAA titles
As the final gun sounded to end the 1986 Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl the seniors on the Augustana College football team became a part of history. They walked off the field at Phenix City Municipal Stadium in Phenix City, Alabama knowing that they accomplished a feat that can never be topped.
When tri-captains Troy Westerman, Lynn Thomsen and Brad Price picked up the NCAA Division III national championship trophy, it marked the first time collegiate football history that one class had a hand in four straight national titles. The Vikings lost in the 1982 Amos Alonzo Stagg Bowl to West Georgia by a score of 14-0. That would be the last time that Augustana would taste defeat until November 28, 1987.
In 1983 the Vikings went 12-0 and beat Union of New York 21-17 for the title. In 1984 Augustana went 12-0 once again and this time beat Central of Iowa 21-12 for the title. The record moved to 13-0 in 1985 as the Vikings beat Ithaca of New York by a score of 20-7 for the crown. In 1986 Augie smashed Salisbury State 31-3 in the championship game to cap a 12-0-1 season.
The seniors totaled 14 on the 1986 team and they had a hand in a record that can only grow in magnitude. A shocking 0-0 tie to Elmhurst to open the 1985 season was the difference between a 50 game winning streak and a 50 game unbeaten string. No school in college football history has ever sent an entire class through all four years with national championships. That senior class included Kirk Bednar (Streator HS, Streator, Ill.), Tom Billups (Burlington HS, Burlington, Iowa), Kevin Cmiel (Barrington HS, Barrington, Ill.), Mike Gray (Benet Academy, Downers Grove, Ill.), Ed Herrera (Gillespie HS, Benld, Ill.), Brian King (Crystal Lake Central HS,
Once again head coach Bob Reade used his usual combination of a punishing rushing attack mixed with a smothering defense to lead the Vikings to a sixth straight undefeated regular season. Price led the Augustana offense for the third year in a row from his halfback position. He picked up 1,218 yards on 226 carries and scored 18 touchdowns for a total of 108 points. His rushing total was his third straight year over 1,000 yards and he finished his career as the school's second leading rusher with 3,399 yards and second leading scorer with 210 points.
A young offensive line continued to jell as the season went along and by year's end the Vikings were averaging 286.3 yards per game rushing and 33.9 points per game. While it took the offense a few games to get into the groove, the defense never missed a beat. Starting a total of seven seniors, this unit allowed a total of just 73 points, which averaged out to 5.6 per game.
In four playoff games against the finest teams in the nation, Augustana allowed a total of just 27 points. Running against the Vikings was virtually impossible as opponents could gain just 331 yards on 398 attempts for an average of 0.8 yards per carry. Passing was equally dangerous as Augustana defenders intercepted 42 passes. Throw in the 21 fumble recoveries and that equals 63 turnovers generated, or nearly five a game. How about the fact that the Vikings averaged 11.3 yards on 50 punt returns while opponents could muster up just 11.7 yards per kick return on 78 kickoff returns. Everywhere you looked, this team dominated its opponents.
Tackle Lynn Thomsen anchored the defense as he had been doing for four years. Thomsen started all 50 games of his Augustana career and came away with a career record of 49-0-1 as a starter.