SEWARD, Neb. – A month of preseason preparation is nearly complete for the Concordia University football team, the only GPAC program yet to open up the 2018 season. The Bulldogs last made a public appearance on Aug. 25 when they scrimmaged NCAA Division III Nebraska Wesleyan. This will be year two of Patrick Daberkow’s tenure as head coach. Concordia is coming off a 6-4 overall mark (third place in the GPAC) in 2017.
The Bulldogs will stay within the American Rivers Conference (formerly called the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference), home to week one opponent Buena Vista University of Storm Lake, Iowa. The Beavers got their season started with a 39-27 home victory over another NCAA Division III squad in Hamline University (Minn.) on Aug. 30. The Beavers, guided by second-year head coach Grant Mollring (former offensive coordinator at Hastings), are used to shootouts. Their opening game featured a combined 927 total yards.
After this Saturday, Concordia will go on the road for the first time and play at new GPAC member Jamestown on Sept. 15. The Jimmies are 1-1 outside of conference play.
Buena Vista (1-0) at Concordia (0-0)
Saturday, Sept. 8 | 1 p.m.
Bulldog Stadium | Seward, Neb.
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Tyler Cavalli and Roger Fitzke
Live Stats: Stretch Internet
2017 Team Statistics
*National rank in parentheses
^Rankings are among the 88 NAIA programs in 2017
Offensive PPG: 24.6 (59th)
Defensive PPG: 21.4 (15th)
Total Offense: 371.5 (48th)
Pass Offense: 172.1 (67th)
Rush Offense: 199.4 (23rd)
Total Defense: 356.7 (27th)
Pass Defense: 197.8 (28th)
Rush Defense: 158.9 (40th)
Turnover +/-: -4 (T-61st)
^Rankings are among the 242 NCAA D-III programs in 2017
Offensive PPG: 26.3 (131st)
Defensive PPG: 42.4 (222nd)
Total Offense: 423.3 (60th)
Pass Offense: 339.2 (5th)
Rush Offense: 84.0 (226th)
Total Defense: 511.6 (235th)
Pass Defense: 266.4 (214th)
Rush Defense: 245.2 (226th)
Turnover +/-: -7 (T-194th)
*2017 statistical leaders
Head Coach: Patrick Daberkow (6-4, 2nd season)
Passing: Riley Wiltfong – 78/142 (.549), 1,078 yards, 13 td, 7 int; Rushing: 58 carries, 218 yards, 3.8 avg, TD
Rushing: Ryan Durdon – 227 rushes, 1,247 yards, 5.5 avg, 8 td; Receiving: 15 catches, 82 yards
Receiving: Kiyoshi Brey – 28 catches, 393 yards, 14.0 avg, 4 td
Defense: Lane Napier – 97 tackles, 8 tfl, sack, 2 pbu, ff
Head Coach: Grant Mollring (4-7, 2nd season)
Passing: Cole Miller – 237/414 (.572), 3,203 yards, 22 td, 12 int; 178 rush yards, 6 td
Rushing: Tariq Thomas – 111 rushes, 396 yards, 3.6 avg, 3 td; 16 catches, 166 yards, td
Receiving: TJ Lint – 70 catches, 1,048 yards, 15.0 avg, 10 td
Defense: Gary Weaver – 40 tackles, 6.5 tfl, 5 sacks, 2 ff, 2 pbu
9/8 vs. Buena Vista, 1 p.m.
9/15 at Jamestown, 1 p.m.
9/22 vs. Midland, 1 p.m.
9/29 at Dordt, 1 p.m.
10/6 vs. Dakota Wesleyan, 1 p.m.
10/13 at Briar Cliff, 1 p.m.
10/20 vs. Hastings, 1 p.m.
10/27 at (3) Morningside, 1 p.m.
11/3 vs. (7) Northwestern, 1 p.m.
11/10 at Doane, 1 p.m.
Buena Vista (1-0)
8/30 vs. Hamline, W, 39-27
9/8 at Concordia, 1 p.m.
9/15 at Wartburg, 1 p.m.
9/22 vs. Coe, 1 p.m.
9/29 at Central, 1 p.m.
10/6 vs. Loras, 1 p.m.
10/13 at Luther, 1 p.m.
10/20 vs. Dubuque, 1 p.m.
11/3 at Nebraska Wesleyan, 1 p.m.
11/10 vs. Simpson, 1 p.m.
In the rankings
Concordia cracked the NAIA top 25 national poll last Nov. 6 but then dropped out after falling in the 2017 finale. The Bulldogs did not receive any votes in the national poll this preseason. They were picked fourth among the 10 GPAC football schools by both the coaches and media. Massey Ratings currently lists Concordia as the 32nd ranked team nationally out of 93 NAIA football programs.
Buena Vista’s preseason placement is a reflection of the program’s recent struggles. League coaches from the American Rivers Conference pegged the Beavers ninth out of nine conference teams. Buena Vista is looking for its first above .500 record since 2008.
GPAC preseason: 4th (coaches); 4th (media)
NAIA coaches’ poll (Aug. 6): not ranked
Massey Ratings: 32nd (out of 93 NAIA)
ARC preseason: 9th/9 (coaches)
D3football.com preseason poll (July 30): not ranked
Massey Ratings: 180th (out of 251 NCAA D-III)
Coaching staff stability
Though it’s only Patrick Daberkow’s second season as head coach, there is plenty of familiarity among staff members. Daberkow is beginning his 16th year as a member of the program, including four seasons as a player and 10 as an assistant (seven years as defensive coordinator). Daberkow’s full-time staff includes two other alums in defensive coordinator Corby Osten (10 seasons as a Concordia assistant) and pass game coordinator/quarterbacks coach Reggie Corbin (seven seasons as a Concordia assistant). Meanwhile, Wes Coomes (special teams/defensive backs/recruiting coordinator) is in his second season as a full-time assistant. Other assistants such as Courtney Meyer (19-year Bulldog head football coach), Karl Miller, Harold Pester and Von Thomas have also put in several years with the program as coaches/players.
Daberkow, just the 10th head coach in program history (see list below), posted the second most wins ever for a Concordia head football coach in his first season. Daberkow is one of six Concordia alums who went on to become head football coach for the Bulldogs.
Records of Concordia head coaches in first year
Walter Hellwege: 1-0 (1925)
Herb Meyer: 2-4-1 (1941)
Kenneth Schroeder: 6-2 (1955)
Ralph Starenko: 3-6 (1959)
Ron Harms: 5-4 (1964)
John Seevers: 8-1 (1970)
Larry Oetting: 1-9 (1977)
Courtney Meyer: 1-7-1 (1990)
Vance Winter: 3-7 (2009)
Patrick Daberkow: 6-4 (2017)
Running backs strength of offense
Concordia has a mostly youthful/unproven offensive line, but the depth at running back is a strength a year after Ryan Durdon broke out as a star and set a new program single-season standard for carries (227). Durdon came close to eclipsing the school record for rushing yards in a season (see below). He will be backed up by the likes of true freshman Jonah Weyand (Crete, Neb.), redshirt freshman AG Simba and sophomore Payton Kidder. None of the aforementioned backs carried the football last season, but all have gotten significant reps leading up to the season. Daberkow likes the contrasting styles they offer and the luxury of being able to give Durdon a breather.
Program single-season rushing leaders
1. JaMaine Lewis – 1,265 (2007)
2. Ryan Durdon – 1,247 (2017)
3. Cleve Wester – 1,114 (1984)
4. Randy Pospishil – 1,085 (1972)
5. Bryce Collins – 1,016 (2014)
6. Jeff Towns – 1,002 (1979)
7. Cleve Wester – 970 (1983)
8. Ritchie Bishop – 949 (1994)
9. Bryce Collins – 946 (2015)
10. Jeff Towns – 928 (1978)
Kemp expected to start at QB
Decatur, Texas, native Jake Kemp enters the week atop the depth chart at quarterback. He has battled redshirt junior Andrew Perea, sophomore Blake Culbert and true freshman Luke Lang for the opportunity to start the opener. Kemp’s taken an unusual path on his journey to becoming a starting quarterback. He first showed up on campus at Concordia in 2016. He then spent one semester apiece at Texas Wesleyan University and at Belhaven University before making his way back to Seward. Kemp went to the same high school (Decatur High School) as Ryan Durdon. Kemp’s next pass will be his first in a Bulldog uniform. Kemp was the homecoming king at his high school in Decatur. Kemp is listed at 6-foot-1, 218 pounds.
Linebacker room loaded
At least on paper, there’s not a better position group on the team. The proven stars are senior Kordell Glause and sophomore Lane Napier. Glause is a solid all-around outside backer. Napier is a tackling machine. His 97 tackles last season were most among GPAC players during the regular season. It marked the seventh highest tackle total for a Bulldog player during the GPAC era (2000-present). The other starters are listed as Zac Walter at one outside spot and Derek Tachovsky on the inside as part of the 3-4 scheme. Others such as Riley Bilstein, Jorge Ochoa, Tanner Schwaninger and Sterling Tonniges could be a factor.
Most tackles (single season), GPAC era
1. Erik DeHaven – 110 (2001)
2. Michael Hedlund – 107 (2016)
3. Michael Hedlund – 105 (2015)
3. Josh Conrad – 105 (2000)
5. Sean Stewart – 102 (2001)
6. Troy Schlueter – 100 (2000)
7. Lane Napier – 97 (2017)
There are big shoes to fill with first team all-conference defensive backs D’Mauria Martin and Tarence Roby having graduated. Roby starred as one of the NAIA’s most electrifying return men. He also returned an interception 100 yards for a touchdown and appeared on SportsCenter in 2017. Make way for some new faces. The starters on the depth chart at corner are transfer Olajuwon Ferguson, a junior, and sophomore Darius McVay. The safeties are seniors Devon Jackson and Caden Jameson. Several others could factor into the mix. This has generally been a position of strength within the program. Roby (2017) and safety Darnell Woods (2013) are the latest Concordia defensive backs to collect All-America honors. This group will get a big early test by Buena Vista quarterback Cole Miller, who threw for 382 yards and five touchdowns in the Beavers’ opener.
A program all-time great has also moved on at the receiver position in the form of four-time all-conference performer Jared Garcia, the school’s record holder for career receiving yards and touchdowns. Now it’s time for senior Vincent Beasley to shine. He was a human highlight reel on many occasions during preseason prep. Kemp will need a go-to receiver and Beasley just might be the guy. His production is expected to ramp up from the 15 catches, 250 yards and two touchdowns he registered in 2017. The leading returning receiver is sophomore Lane Castaneda, who reeled in 25 passes for 318 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Art Anderson is another young receiver who has shown promise.
Concordia had won 10 home games in a row prior to its 35-0 loss to third-ranked Morningside in the final game of 2017. The Bulldogs went a perfect 5-0 at home in 2016. Some highlights from the win streak were the 2017 homecoming win over then No. 7 Doane, Ryan Durdon’s 266-yard rushing performance versus Midland and Tarence Roby’s spectacular 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. Concordia has won each of its last five home openers, including last season’s 24-6 victory over Ottawa University (Kan.). The Bulldogs last played an NCAA school in 2013 when they went on the road and defeated NCAA Division II William Jewell College (Mo.), 30-15.
10-game home win streak
10/28/17 | W, 38-16 | Dakota Wesleyan
10/14/17 | W, 44-14 | Midland
9/23/17 | W, 29-18 | No. 7 Doane
9/9/17 | W, 24-6 | Ottawa (Kan.)
11/12/16 | W, 31-28 | Hastings
10/22/16 | W, 20-14 | No. 22 Midland
10/8/16 | W, 56-0 | Briar Cliff
9/17/16 | W, 9-7 | Northwestern
9/3/16 | W, 23-7 | Mary (Kan.)
11/14/15 | W, 48-0 | Briar Cliff
Scouting Buena Vista
Statistically, Buena Vista is an air-it-out team that relies heavily on senior quarterback Cole Miller, who threw for more than 3,000 yards last season. The Beavers attempted 459 passes to just 309 rushing attempts in 2017. Their emphasis on the pass was reflected on the NCAA Division III national leaderboard, which showed Buena Vista at No. 5 nationally in passing offense and 226th in rushing offense. The biggest problems for head coach Grant Mollring’s squad have been on the other side of the ball. The Beaver defense yielded more than 500 yards per game last fall. Buena Vista got out to a 3-2 start last season before dropping its final five games. Its lone road win came at the University of Dubuque (Iowa), 44-41. Mollring is familiar with Concordia having served as the offensive coordinator at Hastings for three seasons and the offensive coordinator at Doane for four years. Buena Vista’s season opening win came over a Hamline University team that went 2-8 in 2017. In addition to Miller at quarterback, the Beavers bring back standout defensive lineman Gary Weaver, a second team all-conference selection last fall.