CLEVELAND, Miss. (AP) - After a 39-minute weather delay turned the football field into a muddy mess, Delta State quarterback Micah Davis sprinted onto the field and bellyflopped into the standing water, grass and mud flying as he slid about 10 yards.
His teammates howled with laughter. Mission accomplished.
"I wanted to do something to get them pumped up again," Davis said.
Turning a tight game into a convincing victory, Davis threw for 193 yards and three touchdowns as Delta State beat Shepherd 29-17 in a rain-soaked NCAA Division II semifinal game on Saturday.
Delta State (11-3) has won five straight games and advances to its second title game in school history. The Statesmen won the 2000 national championship.
Weather was a huge factor in the game, which included the weather delay, howling winds and a waterlogged field.
Davis threw three interceptions along with his three touchdowns, including two long throws into the wind that stalled in mid-air.
But the Statesmen overcame those miscues, with Davis hitting L.J. Castile for a 6-yard touchdown pass with 2:46 remaining to seal the victory. The senior quarterback, who graduated earlier on Saturday with a degree in chemistry, completed 14 of 22 passes.
"He's a competitor and a great player," Delta State coach Ron Roberts said. "We wouldn't have been here today without him. I obviously really liked the way he handled himself in the fourth quarter."
Trevor Deed rushed for 104 yards on 20 carries. Castile caught five passes for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
Shepherd (12-2) was making its first appearance in the Division II semifinals. Kevin Clancy threw for 212 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Rams opened the game with an impressive 15-play, 77-yard drive that ended on Nate Hoyte's 4-yard touchdown run. But Delta State stormed back with an 11-play, 60-yard drive of its own ended with a 12-yard touchdown run by Bill Franks to tie the score at 7.
The teams traded touchdowns again in the second quarter before Matt Snyder kicked a 33-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give Delta State a 17-14 halftime lead.
"We played a great first half," Clancy said. "We really thought we had a chance in the second half, but made some mistakes when we couldn't. It cost us."
With 8:43 remaining in the third quarter and Delta State still leading 17-14, the game was delayed by lightning and heavy rain after a band of thunderstorms swept through the area. When play resumed, the natural grass field was completely waterlogged and standing water was everywhere.
But that didn't stop the Statesmen's offense. Davis found Carlton Ollie for a 65-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to push Delta State's lead to 23-14 after the extra point was blocked.
Shepherd responded with a 31-yard field goal by Eric Dobratz to pull within 23-17, but then Delta State's defense tightened. Garrett Williams had two crucial fourth-quarter interceptions, as the Statesmen held the Rams to just 281 total yards.
Delta State will play Minnesota-Duluth on Dec. 18 for the D-II?national championship. Minnesota defeated Northwest Missouri 17-13 in the other semifinal game Saturday.