SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Riding the wave of a three-game win streak, the Concordia University football team opened up a 28-0 first half lead and then coasted to a 35-7 victory over host Briar Cliff in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday (Nov. 4) afternoon. The Bulldog backfield duo of Ryan Durdon and TJ Austin combined for 352 rushing yards in another dominant day between the tackles for a surging bunch.
First-year head coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad has been a perfect 4-0 since its bye week and has improved to 6-3 overall and to 5-2 in conference action (third place). Concordia is poised to crack the national coaches’ poll when a new top 25 is released on Monday.
The Bulldogs put this game away in the second quarter while following the lead of one of the NAIA’s best offensive line units. It bullied the Chargers (0-10, 0-7 GPAC), paving the way for Durdon to pile up 192 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries. With the game in hand, Durdon got some much needed rest, giving way to the bruising Austin. He rushed 22 times for 160 yards and a touchdown that added an exclamation point on top.
Daberkow has routinely praised his offensive line, which has helped Durdon amass 1,248 rushing yards this season, now second behind only JaMaine Lewis (1,265) on the program’s all-time single-season rushing list. Durdon has also been aided by the blocking of fullback Robert Ferguson and tight end Seth Fitzke.
“That offensive line is playing as well as I’ve ever seen them play,” said Daberkow in a postgame interview with 104.9 Max Country radio. “Coach (Thomas) Byrd is doing a phenomenal job with them. I feel really good about the level they’re performing at and just how aggressive they play. When you can play good defense and run the football, I like our chances against anybody.”
While Durdon closes in on a record, game-breaking senior receiver Jared Garcia eclipsed another school standard. With his second touchdown grab of the day, Garcia moved past former All-American tight end Ross Wurdeman (2,458 yards) for most receiving yards in school history. Garcia ended his day with three receptions for 78 yards and two scores. His touchdowns covered distances of 26 and 33 yards.
Concordia got an early shot in the arm from defensive back Tarence Roby, who picked off a pair of Dylan Desmarais tosses in the first quarter. Roby jumped in front of a pass in the first quarter and returned it 51 yards to the Briar Cliff 45, setting up Garcia’s 26-yard touchdown catch four plays later.
Though it allowed Charger running back Noah Ylagan to rush for 138 yards on 29 carries, the Bulldog defense didn’t surrender much in the passing game and limited Briar Cliff to 264 total yards. It was another stellar day for reigning GPAC defensive player of the week Lane Napier, who made 12 stops, including 1.5 for loss, from his linebacker spot. Safety D’Mauria Martin continues to excel at an All-America level. He made eight tackles.
It's been an incredible ride for Garcia, who now owns program career records for receiving yards (2,495) and touchdowns (35) while also holding the school standard for touchdown catches in a season (11).
“It’s been a pleasure to watch him play,” Daberkow said. “He does some things that are just really fun to watch. He’s a great football player and just a good teammate. We’re pleased that he got that record.”
Freshman Brady Fitzke, a transfer from the University of Nebraska-Kearney, has helped solidify the punting position. He booted the ball four times for an average of 50.0 yards with two of his punts pinning Briar Cliff inside its own 20.
Concordia junior quarterback Riley Wiltfong played a sound first half before giving way to backup Andrew Perea in the second half. Wiltfong went 8-for-11 for 160 yards and three touchdowns through the air. Senior Kiyoshi Brey caught one of those scoring strikes, which covered 15 yards. Throwing the ball was unnecessary in the second half when the Bulldogs turned to the running game (386 yards) to chew up the clock.
The Bulldogs will close out the regular season next Saturday (Nov. 11) by hosting No. 4 Morningside (10-0, 7-0 GPAC) at 1 p.m. CT inside Bulldog Stadium. Concordia will carry a 10-game home winning streak into what is likely to be a battle between two nationally-ranked teams. The Bulldogs last defeated the perennially powerful Mustangs in 2003.
“Not one bit are we intimidated by who comes in and plays us at our house, or anywhere else for that matter,” Daberkow said. “We’re not going to flinch. We don’t have any of that in us. We’re playing good defense and we’re running the ball well. Come and get it. We’re ready.”