2014 Football Schedule and Results

5-6 overall, 4-5 GPAC - Season Stats

SEPTEMBER

Sept. 6 (15) Sterling College (Kan.) Concordia webcast scheduled Sterling, Kan. W, 21-15
Sept. 13 * Hastings College Concordia webcast scheduled Hastings, Neb. L, 43-48
Sept. 20 * Midland University (Fan Appreciation) Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb. W, 35-28
Sept. 27 Dakota State University Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb. L, 21-22

OCTOBER

Oct. 4  * Dordt College (Homecoming) Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb. W, 38-14
Oct. 11  * Nebraska Wesleyan University Concordia webcast scheduled Lincoln, Neb. L, 34-37 (OT)
Oct. 18  * (12) Northwestern College (Parent's Day) Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb. L, 21-27
Oct. 25 * Doane College Concordia webcast scheduled Crete, Neb. L, 20-23

NOVEMBER

Nov. 1 * (1) Morningside College Concordia webcast scheduled Sioux City, Iowa L, 21-44
Nov. 8 * (24) Dakota Wesleyan University (Senior Day) Concordia webcast scheduled Seward, Neb. W, 27-19
Nov. 15 * Briar Cliff University Concordia webcast scheduled Sioux City, Iowa W, 37-25

2014 Football Roster

No. Name Pos. Ht. Wt. Year Hometown
1 Sandy Fisher P 6-0 175 Jr. Lakewood, Colo.
1 Logan Otte WR 6-1 185 Fr. Katy, Texas
2 Nakemm Evans LB 6-2 245 Sr. Lincoln, Neb.
2 Jorge Nicasio WR 5-7 165 Fr. Katy, Texas
3 Jordan Slough RB 5-10 185 Fr. Doniphan, Neb.
3 Adam Vogt DB 5-10 190 Sr. Syracuse, Neb.
4 Carey Harrison WR 5-10 175 Fr. Winchester, Calif.
4 Matt Keener DB 5-10 190 So. El Segundo, Calif.
5 Charles Greene WR 6-1 185 Fr. Columbia, S.C.
5 Adam Meirose K 6-0 200 Jr. Lincoln, Neb.
6 Jared Garcia WR 6-3 205 Fr. Pearland, Texas
6 Michael Hedlund DB 6-0 205 So. O'Neill, Neb.
7 Justus Thompson DB 5-10 190 Fr. Parker, Colo.
8 Eddie Narvaez DB 5-10 185 So. Panorama City, Calif.
8 Demarques Saulberry RB 5-9 205 So. Beaumont, Texas
9 Bryce Collins RB 5-9 205 So. Boerne, Texas
9 Patrick Spicer DB  5-9 175 Fr. Johnson Lake, Neb.
10 Demetrius Hood DB 6-1 195 Fr. Leander, Texas
10 Von Thomas QB 6-2 190 Sr. Miami, Fla. 
11 TJ Austin QB 6-0 210 Fr. Angleton, Texas
11 Shannon Canty LB 6-0 215 Fr. Katy, Texas
12 Justin Haun WR 6-0 210 Jr. Fenton, Mo.
13 Jacob Deaville QB 5-10 180 Fr. Las Vegas, Nev.
13 Davon Hodge QB 5-10 170 So. Dallas, Texas
14 Michael Deaver DB 5-11 175 Fr. Sidney, Neb.
14 Chase Murman QB 6-4 220 So. Glenvil, Neb.
15 Arthur Tuason RB 5-10 255 Fr. Norco, Calif.
16 Garrett Folchert QB 5-11 200 Jr. Ogallala, Neb.
17 Riley Wiltfong QB 6-1 180 Fr. Doniphan, Neb.
18 James Ferguson RB 5-9 195 Sr. Columbus, Neb.
19 Creighton Pearse QB 6-1 185 Jr. Kearney, Neb.
19 Tarence Roby DB 6-3 195 Fr. Rockford, Ill.
20 Greg Moore RB 5-11 205 Fr. Gothenburg, Neb.
21 Sebastian Garces DB 6-1 200 Fr. Boerne, Texas
23 Trent Good RB 5-9 195 Jr. Gothenburg, Neb.
24 Derek Gentrup WR 6-1 190 Fr. Albion, Neb.
25 Landon Oelke DB 6-0 195 Sr. Dalhart, Texas
26 Caleb Wehling DB 5-11 185 So. Liberal, Kan.
27 Chris Osborn DB 5-10 180 Fr. Hamburg, Iowa
27 Malik Palmore WR 6-1 190 Fr. Sierra Vista, Ariz.
28 D'Mauria Martin DB 5-10 180 Fr. Converse, Texas
29 Tait Sibbel DB 6-3 205 Jr. O'Neill, Neb.
29 George Swain DB 5-11 190 Fr. Sarasota, Fla.
30 Collin Christiansen DL 6-1 225 Sr. Palmer, Alaska
31 Jerad Leifeld FB 5-9 220 So. Humphrey, Neb.
31 Garrison Swain LB 5-11 190 Fr. Sarasota, Fla.
32 Brandon Namuth LB 6-1 210 Jr. Lawellen, Neb.
33 Drew Baxter DB 5-11 200 Sr. Rockwall, Texas
33 Landon Stouffer RB 5-11 205 So. David City, Neb.
34 Trey Barnes RB 6-1 230 So. Seward, Neb.
35 Devin Elley FB 5-10 225 Sr. Hastings, Neb.
35 Matt Chilman LB 5-11 225 Fr. Las Vegas, Nev.
37 Clay Mauro LB 6-1 220 Jr. Ely, Nev.
38 Kolton Stone RB 5-10 225 Fr. McCook, Neb.
39 Christopher Hendricks DB 5-9 170 So. Cedar Park, Texas
40 Josh Davis RB 6-1 225 Fr. Katy, Texas
41 Michael Carroll LB 5-11 215 Sr. Aliso Viejo, Calif.
42 Parker Hasenkamp LB 6-1 205 Fr. Hiawatha, Kan.
43 Drake Moore DB 5-10 200 Fr. Katy, Texas
44 Joseph Scott LB 5-9 215 So. Highland, Calif.
45 Geoff Kleinschmit LB 6-2 215 Sr. Crofton, Neb.
46 Brennan Talcott OLB 6-1 210 Sr. Phoenix, Ariz.
47 Josh Slechta TE 6-6 255 Jr. Kennard, Neb.
48 Sam Noonan DL 6-2 235 Fr. Eagle, Neb.
49 Seth Fitzke TE 6-5 260 So. Seward, Neb.
50 Jacob Bierbaum DL 6-0 230 Fr. Seward, Neb.
50 Josh Powell OL 6-0 270 Sr. Kennesaw, Neb.
51 Zach Jackson LB 5-11 220 Fr. Lincoln, Neb.
52 Erik Hansen DL 6-1 245 Fr. Wichita, Kan.
53 Adam Aschenbrenner OL 6-0 270 Sr. Malcolm, Neb.
53 Dakota Coon LB 5-11 210 So. North Platte, Neb.
54 Shane Scott LB 6-0 210 Fr. Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.
55 Colin Elley DL 5-10 240 Sr. Hastings, Neb.
55 Jeff Glines LB 6-0 190 Fr. Taylor Ridge, Ill.
56 Grady Gardner DL 6-0 235 Sr. Grand Island, Neb.
57 Rosten Coon DL 6-0 265 Fr. Casa Grande, Ariz.
58 Patrick Skwara LB 5-11 205 So. Boerne, Texas
59 Kinser Gergen LB 5-11 205 So. Geneva, Neb.
60 Seth Schlenger LS 5-10 270 Jr. Colorado Springs, Colo.
60 Corey Washington OL 6-0 255 Fr. Houston, Texas
61 Trey Anderson OL 5-11 245 So. Lincoln, Neb.
61 Dylan Pierquin DL 5-10 240 Fr. Vilvoorde, Belgium
62 Hallick Lehmann OL 6-5 265 So. Albion, Neb.
63 Chris Miller OL 6-1 320 So. Hopkins, S.C.
64 Chris Hurley OL 5-10 245 Fr. Seward, Neb.
65 Keddrick Fuselier OL 6-1 285 So. Humble, Texas
66 Andrew Crist OL 6-0 235 So. Springfield, Mo.
67 Austin Faulstich OL 6-0 245 Sr. Concordia, Mo.
67 Grady Koch OL 6-5 225 Fr. Doniphan, Neb.
68 Glennon Manninger OL 6-3 280 Sr. Omaha, Neb.
69 Justin Kathman OL 6-1 285 Sr. Juniata, Neb.
70 Sawyer Birtell OL 6-6 300 Jr. Madison, Neb.
71 Kelby Feddern DL 5-11 245 Fr. Atkinson, Neb.
71 Austin Reese OL 6-1 285 Fr. Melissa, Texas
72 Theo Sheridan OL 6-1 265 Jr. Long Beach, Calif.
74 Brian Gorman OL 6-0 250 Jr. Colorado Springs, Colo.
75 Ben Balduc OL 6-3 290 Jr. Roanoke, Texas
76 Josh Eckhoff OL 5-11 280 Fr. East Peoria, Ill.
77 Jacob Lodwig DL 6-1 225 Fr. Lakewood, Colo.
78 Aaron Watson OL 6-2 285 So. Mims, Fla.
79 Jose Garcia DL 6-1 220 So. Ogallala, Neb.
80 Mitch Kreifels WR 6-5 200 Jr. Lincoln, Neb.
80 Wade Scripter WR 6-3 180 Fr. Lincoln, Neb.
81 Riley Herren WR 6-0 185 Jr. Lone Tree, Colo.
82 Kiyoshi Brey WR 5-9 170 Fr. Winchester, Calif.
83 Cameron Christiansen TE 6-3 215 So. Palmer, Alaska
84 Nathan Scoggins WR 6-1 170 So. Prosper, Texas
85 Brandon Luetchens WR 6-1 200 So. Murdock, Neb.
86 DeMarcus Hollier WR 5-10 175 So. Houston, Texas
87 Wendell Adams TE 6-6 265 Fr. Spring, Texas
88 Cody Eitzmann WR 5-10 170 Jr. Deshler, Neb.
89 Clinton Gardels TE 6-5 225 Jr. Wilcox, Neb.
91 Benjamin Browne TE 6-1 220 Fr. Billings, Mont.
91 Khaleeq Griffin DL 6-0 350 Fr. Houston, Texas
92 Ryan Maser LB 5-11 190 Fr. Little Canada, Minn.
93 Ronald Jackson DL 5-10 290 So. Houston, Texas
94 J.R. Rascon DL 6-1 275 Fr. Tucson, Ariz.
95 Michael Winckler DL 6-1 280 So. Fremont, Neb.
96 Michael Gill DL 6-0 275 Jr. Ogallala, Neb.
96 Louvell Rogers II DL 6-2 235 Fr. Lincoln, Neb.
97 Kyle Rakow DL 6-3 245 Sr. Pleasant Dale, Neb.
98 Alex Melius DL 6-3 255 Sr. Lincoln, Neb.
99 Nolan Schroeder DL 6-4 245 So. Davenport, Neb.
RS Caleb Daniels WR 5-6 155 Fr. Leander, Texas
RS Steve Davis DL 6-1 265 Fr. Columbia, S.C.
RS Michael Grau DL 6-0 225 Jr. Lawton, Iowa
RS Brett James WR 5-8 165 Fr. Kearney, Neb.
RS Lane Johnson OL 5-9 245 So. Stilwell, Okla.
RS William Richardson OL 6-1 290 Fr. San Antonio, Texas
RS Aivery Scheffer DB 5-11 195 Fr. Cedar Park, Texas
RS Justin Snow LB 6-3 220 Fr. Cypress, Texas

Head Coach - Vance Winter

Offensive Coordinator - Curran White

Defensive Coordinator - Patrick Daberkow

Special Teams Coordinator - Corby Osten

Kicking Coach - Courtney Meyer

Tight Ends - Harold Pester and Jimmie Bunting

Defensive Backs - Karl Miller

Linebackers - Ryan Coffee

Defensive Line - Brian Quinn

Running Backs - Derek Blessing

Graduate Assistants - Wade Halvorsen and Reggie Corbin

2014 Concordia football schedule announced

View 2014 schedule (PDF)

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University football team will kick off the 2014 season on Sept. 6 at Sterling College (Kan.) as part of an 11-game schedule announced on Thursday. Other highlights include the home opener against Midland on Sept. 20 and the homecoming game versus Dordt on Oct. 4.

In nonconference action, the Bulldogs will also take on head coach Vance Winter’s alma mater, Dakota State University, for the fourth-straight year. The Trojans will visit Seward on Sept. 27 – one of five home dates on the slate.

Sterling will provide a stiff opening test. The Warriors went 9-3, won the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference and advanced to the NAIA Football Championship Series last season. Concordia has not played Sterling since 2001 when the two teams met in Sterling, Kan., in the season opener. The Bulldogs won 21-10 and went on to pile up a school record 10 wins under then head coach Courtney Meyer.

Concordia’s 11 opponents went a combined 61-58 (.513) in 2013. Among those foes, Morningside (11-2) produced the top record. Dordt (2-9) finished with the lowest win percentage. Six of the 11 put up marks of .500 or better and three reached the NAIA playoffs.

In addition to being the first game of the season at Bulldog Stadium, the Sept. 20 battle has been tabbed fan appreciation day. Parent’s day will be celebrated on Oct. 18 (Northwestern) and senior day will take place on Nov. 8 (Dakota Wesleyan).

Three of the season’s opening four games will have 6 p.m. start times, including the first two home games. Eight of 11 games will kick off at 1 p.m.

The Bulldogs begin spring practice on Monday, March 31. The team will hold a practice open to the public at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 25 inside Bulldog Stadium.

2014 schedule
(2013 record in parentheses)

Sept. 6 – at Sterling (9-3), 6 p.m.
Sept. 13 – at Hastings (2-8), 1 p.m.
Sept. 20 – vs. Midland (4-6), 6 p.m. (Fan Appreciation)
Sept. 27 – vs. Dakota State (2-8), 6 p.m.
Oct. 4 – vs. Dordt (2-9), 1 p.m. (Homecoming)
Oct. 11 – at Nebraska Wesleyan (6-4), 1 p.m.
Oct. 18 vs. Northwestern (8-3), 1 p.m. (Parent’s Day)
Oct. 25 – at Doane (5-5), 1 p.m.
Nov. 1 – at Morningside (11-2), 1 p.m.
Nov. 8 – vs. Dakota Wesleyan (8-3), 1 p.m. (Senior Day)
Nov. 15 – at Briar Cliff (4-7), 1 p.m.

Spring prospectus: 2014 Concordia football

Spring practice begins: Monday, March 31
Spring practice open to public: Friday, April 25, 7 p.m., Bulldog Stadium

Head coach Vance Winter, 23-31 overall (enters sixth season in 2014)
Offensive Coordinator: Curran White (third season)
Defensive Coordinator: Patrick Daberkow (fifth season as DC; eighth season on defensive staff)
Special Teams: Corby Osten (seventh season on football staff)
2013 Record: 7-4 overall; 5-4 GPAC (T-5th)

2014 Returning starters:
Offense: 8
Defense: 7
Special Teams: 1

2014 Schedule
Sept. 6 – at Sterling College, 6 p.m.
Sept. 13 – *at Hastings College, 1 p.m.
Sept. 20 – *Midland University, 6 p.m. (Fan Appreciation)
Sept. 27 – Dakota State University, 6 p.m.
Oct. 4 – *Dordt College, 1 p.m. (Homecoming)
Oct. 11 – *at Nebraska Wesleyan University, 1 p.m.
Oct. 18 – *Northwestern College, 1 p.m. (Parent’s Day)
Oct. 25 – *at Doane College, 1 p.m.
Nov. 1 – *at Morningside College, 1 p.m.
Nov. 8 – *Dakota Wesleyan University, 1 p.m. (Senior Day)
Nov. 15 – *at Briar Cliff University, 1 p.m.

Positional Summary

Quarterbacks
Von Thomas is the unquestioned leader of the offense as he enters his senior year – his third as the team’s starting quarterback. The 6-foot-2 Miami native set single-season school records last year with 2,508 yards of total offense, 197 pass completions, 334 pass attempts and a 59.0 completion percentage. The dual-threat Thomas should be even better as a senior. He will be backed up by junior-to-be Garrett Folchert and freshman T.J. Austin, who redshirted in 2013.

Running Backs
This position is in great hands with the return of Trey Barnes and Bryce Collins, who combined for 1,168 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground last season. Head coach Vance Winter says both are stronger and even better equipped now to handle the pounding of the GPAC slate. The talented two-headed monster should give Concordia its best running game since Winter took over in 2009. The Bulldogs are also set at fullback with sophomore-to-be Jerad Leifeld (two receiving TDs in 2013) back in the fold.

Receivers
Transition again defines the receiver position with the departures of starters Jeff Balz and Derek Klaus, who combined for 50 catches and 437 receiving yards last year. Those losses will bring about fierce competition in spring and fall camps. Junior-to-be Riley Herren (Lone Tree, Colo.) is one pass catcher to keep an eye on in addition to fellow returnee Deshawn Eure and a talented group of recruits.

Tight End
Concordia will have arguably the top tight end in the GPAC in Josh Slechta, a consistent blocker who hauled in 23 passes for 322 yards last year. Slechta is the obvious starter but there will be competition for playing time behind him. As a track and field athlete, Slechta will not practice with the football team this spring.

Offensive Line
Concordia loses a senior stalwart in center Dylan Klassen, but the rest of the unit that paved the way for 182.3 rushing yards per game returns. The headliner is right guard Josh Powell, a 2013 second team all-conference choice who has regularly drawn praise from Winter. The group also has starters back in left tackle Glennon Manninger, left guard Ben Balduc and right tackle Sawyer Birtell. Adam Aschenbrenner, who started two games in 2013, figures to slide into the vacated center position as part of one of the most experienced offensive fronts in the league.

Defensive Line
There are significant losses in the form of first team all-conference selection Dylan Heithoff and Cody Hawk, but those departures will be mitigated by a deep group that played a lot of snaps in 2013. Junior-to-be Michael Gill is a rising star. He made 49 tackles (7.5 for loss) and three sacks as a disruptive force in the middle in 2013. Starter Kyle Rakow also returns as part of the team’s 3-4 front. Others like Ronald Jackson and Alex Melius will also be expected to produce.

Linebackers
Concordia simply reloads at a position that has produced some of the program’s best players in recent seasons. The Bulldogs bring back solid backers in Drew Baxter (42 tackles), who started at safety as a sophomore, and Nakemm Evans (35 tackles), both of whom will be seniors. The other two spots will be up for grabs with Langston Jones and Colton Schneider moving on.

Defensive Backs
With All-American Darnell Woods out of the picture, Tait Sibbel figures to be the star of the unit. Sibbel made 54 stops last season and led the team with four interceptions. Landon Oelke is another returning starter and Matt Keener (two interceptions in 2013) should be part of the answer in filling the voids left by Derek Blessing, John Lee and Woods. There will also be opportunities for newcomers.

Specialists
Concordia is set at kicker thanks to the return of second team all-conference choice Adam Meirose, who converted on 9 of 13 field goal attempts as a sophomore. The punting and return positions are wide open as Joe Marshall and Blessing graduate.

VIDEO: Woods performs at NFL regional combine

Watch Darnell Woods at Seattle’s NFL regional combine

Concordia All-American safety Darnell Woods had the opportunity to showcase his skills in front of NFL scouts in Renton, Wash., on March 22. The NFL regional combine was hosted inside the Seattle Seahawks’ practice facility, The Virginia Mason Athletic Center.

Woods, whose 40-yard dash time is listed at 4.84 seconds according to his ESPN.com draft profile, ran the 40 and participated in several other drills in Renton (watch via the link above). The GPAC defensive player of the year has also been part of smaller scale workouts in the area for Canadian Football League teams.

Seattle’s NFL regional combine served as a complimentary piece to the national combine that took place in Indianapolis in February. To view the list of those who participated alongside Woods at the regional combine in Washington, click HERE. The field of prospects included several athletes from NCAA Division I power conference schools.

Woods has been on the radar of pro scouts even before his stellar senior season. Last summer he worked out inside Bulldog Stadium in front of NFL regional scouts from the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings. At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, the native of Phoenix, Ariz., possesses ideal size.

While not considered a likely NFL training camp invitee, Woods aspires to keep playing football on some level. Concordia football coaches believe there's a chance he may find opportunities to play professionally in Europe.

Physical line play characterizes annual open spring football practice

SEWARD, Neb. – A strong crowd got a first look at the 2014 edition of the Concordia University football team on Friday night as the program held its annual open spring practice under the lights at Bulldog Stadium. On a perfect night for football, the Bulldogs showed off their characteristic physical flair in front of a throng of visiting high school prospects, including several who have already inked with Concordia.

Reflecting on the spring as a whole, sixth-year head coach Vance Winter especially liked what he saw from his offensive and defensive lines.

“It was a good spring,” Winter said. “We’re really excited with what we have up front – offensive and defensive lines. They’ve really battled each other all spring. Having Von (Thomas) back at quarterback gives us a comfort level back there. I’ve just been really pleased with the effort and intensity the entire offseason.”

Fans were treated at the beginning of the evening to a display of linemen attempting to field punts. While most of the Bulldog big guys looked uncomfortable in that role, sophomore-to-be Ron Jackson and senior-to-be Kyle Rakow pleased the crowd by successfully hauling the ball in. Rakow even made a diving catch of a line drive punt.

The action soon took on a more serious tone as Concordia shifted to a scrimmage, beginning with the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense. At least in the early going, the offensive front, anchored by right guard Josh Powell, had its way in pushing running back Bryce Collins over the goal line in a smash-mouth opening drive. The No. 1 offense then moved the football in position for a 27-yard Adam Meirose field goal on the proceeding possession.

“I thought the defense and offense traded days throughout the spring in terms of who was dominant,” Winter said. “I think the offense really set a great tempo tonight. They did a great job moving the ball early and then the defense responded and did some good things. Overall it was a good night.”

Thomas, heading into his third season as the starting quarterback, showed a mastery of a pistol spread offense now in its third year under coordinator Curran White. Thomas, a classic dual threat signal caller, and the running game should be a strength Concordia leans upon throughout the upcoming fall.

“I was really pleased with how we ran the ball,” Winter said. “I thought Bryce ran the ball great. I thought Demarques Saulberry, after some early hiccups, ran the ball great. Those guys really did a nice a job, and James Ferguson at the end ran the ball great. We were really asking a lot of those guys because we only had three backs tonight.”

The stout Bulldog o-line got pushed on Friday and all spring by what figures to be a stellar unit up front defensively. The four who saw the most action with the No. 1s at the scrimmage were Michael Gill, Johnson, Alex Melius and Rakow.

Some notable absences on Friday were running back Trey Barnes (appendicitis), cornerback Landon Oelke (offseason shoulder surgery) and tight end Josh Slechta (participating in track and field). Both Barnes and Slechta were honorable mention all-conference choices in 2013.

With Oelke’s absence, Adam Vogt got plenty of reps at a No. 1 corner spot throughout spring. Vogt, a second team all-conference performer on the hardwood for head coach Ben Limback, has used up his eligibility in basketball but can play a year of football.

An added element of excitement was created by the presence of a large group of prospective recruits. Two even signed with the Bulldogs on Friday.

“Look at it. It was a huge crowd,” Winter said. “Pretty exciting. The recruits being here today shows their level of excitement too. We’ve got a great class coming in and we’re really excited about them. They’re going to add to this group and be guys that are really going to help us out a ton this fall.”

The Bulldogs kick off the 2014 season on Saturday, Sept. 6 at Sterling College in Sterling, Kan. Game time is set for 6 p.m. Last season Concordia went 7-4, marking the most wins for the program since 2001. The Bulldogs peaked at No. 14 in the national rankings.

Football alum set to star on CMT reality TV show

By Jake Knabel, Sports Information Director

He wasn’t given much information about the challenges that would be placed in front of him, 2012 Concordia graduate (fitness studies) and four-year football player Dan Margritz just knew he was in. On only a day’s notice the resident of Memphis, Tenn., hopped on a plane and flew out to compete in a reality TV show hosted by “Stone Cold” Steve Austin himself.

A reality show meant to push contestants to their physical limits, the Country Music Television (CMT) spot has not been officially given a title but is set to begin airing in early July.

Says Margritz, “I saw a post about it in November of last year. I just got done with a competition and was looking for something.”

Known at Concordia as a workout freak, Margritz has continued that passion into his post-grad life and serves as strength and conditioning coach and personal trainer in Memphis. He regularly begins lengthy workouts at 4 a.m. and enjoys testing his body in competitions like tough mudders.

This would be something entirely different.

“I flew in and the whole time I couldn’t tell anyone why,” Margritz said. “When we arrived we couldn’t talk and we couldn’t go anywhere unless a producer came with us. We actually sat in holding tanks.”

On a Saturday in the middle of this past March, the first of two days of filming got underway. Margritz was shuttled to rugged film sites along with other select men of imposing stature, chosen based on a combination of physical machismo and personality traits most suitable for TV.

No doubt Margritz, who was a 6-foot, 210-pound fullback as a senior for the Bulldogs, fit the bill. The native of Lexington, Neb., is far from shy.

“When I saw the promos, I’m like, ‘that is so up Dan’s alley,” said Concordia head football coach Vance Winter. “He’s never afraid to challenge himself and he’s always looking for the next thing.”

Having been interviewed by more than 20 casting executives over several months of time, Margritz knew he had a shot to land a spot on the show. So he ramped up his already rigorous workout regimen.

“I did crazy workouts to train,” Margritz said. “On the show we had to carry 90-pound logs a quarter mile and swing across ropes. One big one was trench warfare. We also had to throw 100-pound sandbags and there was the skull crusher, which was the final obstacle. You had competitors like me all the way up to WWE wrestlers and arena football league players.”

Whether those ‘crazy workouts’ paid off remains to be seen. Bound by contract, Margritz is not able to talk about the results of the show, which were already known to those involved on that Saturday in March. Each round, $10,000 was at stake for the winner among eight contestants.

The group of competitors tussled brutally on the first day in plenty of one-on-one competitions. All the while Steve Austin yelled and screamed either approval or disapproval. Even away from the ring, Austin’s presence was authoritative.

“He would come in and act all crazy and yell at you,” Margritz said. “He’s very intimidating. It’s definitely a PG-13 show.”

It’s also a show that may not always be exactly what it seems. The experience provided Margritz an education on ‘reality’ TV. While the results of the competitions are authentic, there are some obvious dramatizations noted by Margritz.

“A lot of stuff I said was what they wanted me to say,” Margritz said. “Sometimes I’d answer a question and then they’d go, ‘how about if you say it like this?’ A lot of it was half acting and half competing. I actually did my pre-show interview the day after we already knew the results.”

Ready for the next challenge, Margritz says he’s already applied to be on ABC’s Wipeout. He also has dreams of creating a ‘Gym Rescue’ show similar to Spike TV’s Bar Rescue.

At this time Margritz serves as the head trainer at a fitness studio in Memphis in addition to assistant football coach and strength and conditioning duties at Macon Road Baptist High School. His wife, who also graduated from Concordia, is attending optometry school in Memphis.

That life is likely to continue as normal, perhaps until the show’s series premiere when Margritz says he will be featured. Just don’t expect a watch party at Steve Austin’s ranch.

“I tweeted at him the other day but he hasn’t gotten back to me,” Margritz quipped.

New KCAC-GPAC Challenge will send Bulldogs to Southwestern in 2015

GPAC Release

SEWARD, Neb. – On Monday evening the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) and Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) announced a partnership that will match football teams from both leagues in a series of challenge games beginning with the 2015 schedule. Teams will be paired based on league finishes from the prior season.

Having tied for fifth in the GPAC in 2013, head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs have been locked into a Sept. 5, 2015, contest at Southwestern College (5-6 overall, 4-5 KCAC in 2013) in Winfield, Kan. It will be the second-straight season that Concordia will begin a campaign on the road in the KCAC. The Bulldogs will kick off 2014 on Sept. 6 at 2013 KCAC champion Sterling College.

Winter is among the many excited about the newly formed KCAC-GPAC Challenge. The current two-year agreement among the conferences will ease the burden on head coaches of finding two non-league games every year. Winter says that the challenge has been well received by coaches throughout both the GPAC and KCAC.

“It’s always a challenge getting your nonconference schedule completed,” Winter said. “This is nice because you’re able to lock in and get high quality matchups year after year. I think they will be very competitive matchups. That makes it fun. I think it’s going to benefit both conferences.”

With nine conference games and the non-conference contest at Southwestern now set for 2015, Concordia needs just one more non-league game to finalize next year’s slate. Contract agreements with Dakota State University, who the Bulldogs will face for the fourth-straight year in 2014, ends after this fall.

The 2015 KCAC-GPAC challenge includes nine games. All nine GPAC schools will play at KCAC institutions in the first year of the challenge before shifting to GPAC home sites in 2016.

Concordia had been set to host Sterling College in 2015 until the challenge surfaced.

Corey Westra GPAC Commissioner:
(Via gpacsports.com release)
“From day one our administrators and coaches were on board to make this work. The fans of the NAIA and our two leagues are in for some outstanding small college football. This is what the NAIA is about, two conferences working together to make each other stronger. This alliance is not only good for our two conferences but for all of NAIA football.”

Dr. Scott Crawford, KCAC Commissioner:
“Speaking on behalf of the KCAC and its member institutions, we look forward to seeing the teams compete on the field in 2015. It will be a great reward following the hard work and collaboration of coaches and sports chairs from each league.”

2015 GPAC-KCAC football matchups (Sept. 5, 2015)

  • Morningside at Sterling (Sterling, Kan.)
  • Northwestern at Tabor (Hillsboro, Kan.)
  • Dakota Wesleyan at Ottawa (Ottawa, Kan.)
  • Nebraska Wesleyan at Friends (Wichita, Kan.)
  • Doane at McPherson (McPherson, Kan.)
  • Concordia at Southwestern (Winfield, Kan.)
  • Midland at Kansas Wesleyan (Salina, Kan.)
  • Briar Cliff at Saint Mary (Leavenworth, Kan.)
  • Hastings at Bethel (North Newton, Kan.)

Vance Winter breaks down 2014 Concordia football

Concordia University head football coach Vance Winter sat down for a pre-camp interview on July 8 to discuss the 2014 Bulldogs and the upward trajectory of the program. Below is the transcript from that interview.

Taking the next step
I think there’s a level of expectation in terms of what we can be. We were all disappointed with some of the close losses we had last season, but we also know that for us taking the next step is a lot harder. There are enough steps and challenges going from being bad to OK, but taking the next step from being OK to being a playoff contender is difficult. That’s our goal. We still have work to do to get there.

2014 seniors
It’s a great hardworking group. I think they’re showing personality and commitment by the amount of guys that stuck around here this summer. There’s a lot of talent in that group. We’re excited to see. There are also some guys who have been unsung guys who maybe have not played that much and have been behind really good players. Now they’re getting an opportunity show what they’ve got this fall. That’s exciting to see. They’re guys who have continued to work hard and plug away. We’re going to have an experienced football team.

Von Thomas growth
I’m more impressed and more proud of him for an outside-of-football maturation standpoint. He’s grown as a person. The talent’s always been there. You never know how a guy’s going to perform under pressure situations. He shows toughness, work ethic – all those characteristics. He’s shown all those things. That’s the exciting thing. The fun thing about coaching him is seeing his tenacity, the work ethic and the will to win. I’d like to see him lift a little bit more weight. He thinks his arms are pretty big. In terms of the other things, he’s a guy that busts his butt and competes hard for his teammates. We have a lot of guys like that.

Running backs
They’ve both (Bryce Collins and Trey Barnes) had a great offseason and worked very hard. Bryce has put on some weight and is really explosive in the weight room, doing some great things out here every week. Trey is also continuing to gain size and strength. That hurt us quite a bit when Trey got hurt towards midseason. They were a great duo. We’re also excited about some of the other backs that have stepped up. One guy in particular is Demarques Saulberry who I think from last fall to now is one of the most improved players on our team.

Offensive line
We were pleased with those guys in the spring. I think we’ve got a group that’s physical and continues to get better. It’s not very often you get a chance to grow and play in a couple-year period with a group of guys. They had a good spring. I was really pleased with the physical mindset and the change that occurred with that group this spring. They’re getting more and more comfortable with what they’re supposed to be doing. I also think there’s some great depth behind those guys. I think in those 8-9-10 guys there are some that are really going to compete for spots.

Receivers
There’s some talent in that group. We’re excited. The thing is we’re going to be young and inexperienced there. We lost Jeff Balz and Derek Klaus who were mainstays for us the past two years at receiver. I’m excited to see some of the guys step up that went through this spring. We have a lot of talent but it’s inexperienced talent. We’ll just see how it goes and it how it turns out. There’s some ability there. We need to be more explosive in the passing game. Our longest play last season was 39 yards. It’s great we’re efficient. It’s great we’re getting first downs but we’d like to see some guys with some explosive capabilities on the perimeter make some big plays. I think there are some guys that can do it.

This spring Jared Garcia and Riley Herren were two guys I thought really stepped up. There were some other guys who were kind of inconsistent throughout. I think we have some freshmen that are going to be really talented.

Offensive balance
(Josh) Slechta going into his junior year we expect him to really come into his own and be the consistently dominant player he can be. All the tools are there and he’s shown a lot of great things. We’re really excited about him becoming a dominant player.

Balance-wise, we’re going to use Coach (Curran) White’s philosophy: take what the defense gives you. We’ve been really efficient. Our third down conversions, running the ball and all those things – were very efficient – the amount first downs we got. That’s kind of our mantra. In the games we struggled we weren’t very good in those areas. We have to be efficient on offense. We have to convert third downs. We have to take care of the football. When we do that we’re pretty good. If we can make more explosive plays we have a chance to be pretty good.

Defensive line
That was exciting to watch in the spring. Those guys really got after it. That’s a group that could be very good. It’s a physical group. I think Michael Gill has a chance to be really, really good. He’s a very strong explosive guy. Kyle (Rakow) and Alex (Melius) have played a lot of football. I’d like to see both of those guys step up and make more plays rushing the passer and get a few more sacks. They’ve been really solid players. I think with Kyle he’s getting into position and not finishing plays sometimes. Ron Jackson was really impressive all spring. He’s a converted o-lineman type guy. He’s a big physical nose guard that we haven’t had for a while.

Linebackers
I was pleased with how they played in the spring. It was one of those areas where we had some question marks going into the spring but if those guys continue to improve at the rate they did in the spring, we’re going to be fine. I think Nakemm coming back more experienced and having a defined role – I think he’s going to have a good year. I thought Michael Carroll was one of our best players in the spring. He’s a guy who’s been chomping at the bit for an opportunity. He was outstanding in the spring. There are other guys like Geoff Kleinschmitt who did some nice things. We moved some things around but I thought from a consistency standpoint throughout the spring we were very pleased with how they played.

Secondary
Drew Baxter, we moved him back to safety from outside linebacker last year. He competed like crazy with a broken hand the last six games. He’s moving back to safety which is his natural position. Tait Sibbel is back. He’s going into his junior year and his third year as a starter. Those two guys give you a lot of confidence back there. They’re going to do the right thing, get our defense lined up right, communicate well and be physical guys in the back end. Landon Oelke has been our junkyard dog. He’s just a really good football player. We feel comfortable lining him at a lot spots.

Program’s development
We’ve come a long way and we’re definitely proud of the fact that we keep getting better every year and we’re getting the right type of people. I’m proud of our staff. I think our staff’s as good as there is in America. They work and they put in a ton of time. It’s not just football time. They’re putting in time bettering these guys. I think our staff is a phenomenal staff. I think as a group we’ve meshed and we’re real comfortable with what each other’s doing. We like to compete. I’m proud of how we’ve built that up and I feel like we’re in the right place there. Going into last season we had high goals and we didn’t quite reach them. That’s going to be the same going into this year.

We’re focused on every week and being consistent week in and week out. I think those are areas we can improve on and be better. Looking back on last year, it was exciting to see our senior group and those who have worked so hard, go out winners. They deserved it. There have been other classes too before it that deserved to go out winners and it just didn’t work out for them. This group really worked their tails off and were really committed. There’s also that tinge of disappointment in that we were so close to playing more. That’s where we’re at. We have to be a team that plays with a chip on its shoulder and not rest on anything. I think that’s been the mindset since spring and offseason. We’re out there to prove that we can be a consistent, very good program.

Schedule
I looked at it a little bit and I know how it lays out because it’s very similar to last year. I know what we have in front of us in week one. I’ve watched enough film of Sterling to know how good a team and program they are. They’re really a legit team. It’s going to be a great challenge. I know our guys are excited. Our guys have seen the type of athletes they have on film. It’s a conference champ from last year.

We haven’t backed away too much in scheduling. We want to continue to challenge ourselves and play great programs. This is another great opportunity.

Past that I look at every week as a challenging game. We have to prepare every week and prepare to be 1-0 every week. We don’t get too far out in front. Our focus right now is Sterling and putting our best effort forth on Sept. 6.

GPAC football media day notebook: Thomas generates buzz

2014 Concordia football media guide

LINCOLN, Neb. – The 15th annual GPAC football media day kicked off the 2014 football season on Thursday at the Cornhusker Marriott in Lincoln, Neb. Sixth-year head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs were picked to finish fourth in both the GPAC preseason coaches’ and media polls. Winter spoke sixth among the 10 league coaches while also taking TV interviews during the break.

The complete transcript of Winter’s press conference as well as the preseason coaches’ and media polls can be viewed below.

Growing expectations
After a fifth-place GPAC finish in 2013, Concordia has been pegged by both league coaches and media to end 2014 in fourth place. That preseason placement is the highest during Winter’s time at the helm and the highest since at least 2004 (as far as data goes back). A fourth-place finish would be the best for the program since 2002, when then head coach Courtney Meyer’s Bulldogs went 5-3 in conference play and tied for third.

Over the past five years, Concordia has exceeded or equaled its preseason GPAC ranking in all but one year. Last year the Bulldogs placed two spots higher than their preseason projection of seventh.

“We feel like we made great strides as a program the past couple years,” Winter said on Thursday. “We expected to have a good football team last fall. We had high goals. Maybe to the people on the outside our season was somewhat of a surprise but for the people in our building, the people on our campus, we had high expectations. Ultimately, we did not reach all of our goals last fall but we did make a lot of great strides. It was the first winning season at Concordia since 2001.”

GPAC preseason coaches’ placement
2014: 4th (finished ??)
2013: 7th (finished 5th)
2012: 8th (finished 7th)
2011: 7th (finished 8th)
2010: 10th (finished 8th)
2009: 10th (finished 10th)
2008: 6th (finished 11th)
2007: 8th (finished 6th)
2006: 8th (finished 9th)
2005: 6th (finished 4-6 in GPAC)
2004: 8th (finished 6th) 

Von Thomas puts the fright in opposing coaches
Winter fielded a question about quarterback Von Thomas’ penchant for prolific games against Briar Cliff and an opposing head coach acknowledged Thomas’ running ability in a comical manner.

Said Morningside head coach Steve Ryan, “When we play Concordia I yell, ‘Von, run out of bounds. Von, run out of bounds. He never listens to me either.”

Ryan’s comment at the podium came immediately after Winter remarked,” I love – and sometimes hate – (Von’s) toughness. We’re trying to tell him to run out of bounds once in a while.”

Winter was also asked about Thomas’ importance to the offense. The senior signal caller generated as much buzz as any individual at Thursday’s media day.

“Part of the progression offensively is that he’s just done a phenomenal job,” Winter said. “I thought his growth last season as an overall quarterback was very good. We were very pleased just with his grasp of the offense. You know all the things about him and the stuff that’s easy to see is the athletic ability and all those things that he brings to the table that way, but he’s such a tough, hard-nosed football player.”

Last season Thomas broke Phil Seevers’ 1988 single-season Concordia record for total yards in a season. Thomas threw for 1,947 yards and ran for another 561, equaling 2,508 total yards of offense. He also set new single-season school records for completion percentage and completions, as he connected on 59.0 percent (197-for-334) of his passes.

Excellent coaching staff
Earlier this summer Winter referred to his staff as being as good as any in America. On Thursday he reiterated those thoughts in praising all three of his coordinators. Offensive coordinator Curran White has helped the offense move from 16.7 points per game the year before he arrived, to 26.4 last season. Meanwhile, Defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow has presided over one of the NAIA’s top defenses in recent seasons. Last year the Bulldogs ranked No. 1 nationally in pass defense and in the top 10 in total and scoring defense. In addition, special teams coordinator Corby Osten has coached some of the top kickers and return men in the NAIA.

“I’d like to thank our football staff, which is probably making fun of me right now in Seward,” Winter said. “I’m blessed to work with such a great group of people. It’s so fun to come into the office every day and work with guys with a common purpose and common goals and who are so focused on the betterment of our young men and our young people.”

Receivers talented but inexperienced
The receiving unit comes with the biggest question marks offensively in 2014. Gone are Chevarius Curry-Felix, Derek Klaus and Jeff Balz. That means there will be several openings for young and unproven wide outs. Even so, Winter thinks this unit has a chance to be a lot more explosive.

“This is as talented a group as we’ve been able to work with at Concordia since my time here,” Winter said. “I think that’s going to be big with how they develop and how they mature throughout the season. It’s a young group but a very talented group and we’re excited to see what they do. I think there’s going to be a lot of competition.”

Replacing defensive stars
There are plenty of big names to replace on the defensive side with the losses of Darnell Woods, Dylan Heithoff, Langston Jones and Derek Blessing. Some of the names will change, but the expectations likely will not for a Bulldog squad known for tough, physical defense. Look for players like defensive lineman Michael Gill and linebacker Michael Carroll to break through.

Says Winter, “We have high, high expectations for that group regardless of who graduated. I’m confident Coach Daberkow and company will get the most out of that group.”

Shout-out to coaches’ wives
Early in Winter’s opening statement, he thanked his own wife and the wives of many of the other Bulldog coaches for their support.

“Another group that deserves special mention – and I’d say this for everybody here – are the coaches’ wives who are going to be without their husbands here pretty quick,” Winter said. “I have a special bias for the Concordia wives. I would be remiss not to use a forum to talk about and recognize them. So thank you to Tanya, Jodi, Emly, Sara, Anuhea, Connie and Beth. Thank you for all you do and all your support.”

Academic excellence
GPAC commissioner Corey Westra addressed media with highlights from the 2013-14 athletics season and mentioned Concordia for its academic prowess. Concordia tied Hastings for most scholar teams in the GPAC with 17 apiece. The Bulldogs also led not only the GPAC, but the NAIA as well with 101 scholar-athletes in 2013-14.

Westra also brought up the rise in number of Concordia student-athletes, now totaling more than 600.

GPAC-KCAC challenge
The recently introduced GPAC-KCAC football challenge is set to debut in 2015. Concordia will play at Southwestern on Sept. 5, 2015, to open the season.

GPAC preseason polls
*First-place votes in parentheses

Coaches
1. Morningside – 81 pts (9)
2. Northwestern – 66 pts (1)
3. Dakota Wesleyan – 58 pts
4. Concordia – 57 pts
5. Doane – 52 pts
6. Nebraska Wesleyan – 51 pts
7. Hastings – 27 pts
8. Briar Cliff – 25 pts
9. Midland – 24 pts
10. Dordt – 9 pts 

Media
1. Morningside – 90 pts (9)
2. Northwestern – 78 pts
3. Dakota Wesleyan – 62 pts
4. Concordia – 59 pts
5. Nebraska Wesleyan – 55 pts
6. Doane – 54 pts
7. Midland – 31 pts
8. Hastings – 30 pts
9. Briar Cliff – 27 pts
10. Dordt – 9 pts 

Vance Winter full media day transcript

Opening statement:

I’m going to echo what everyone else has said today. Thank you, this is a great venue for this event. Thank you to Corey (Westra) and Lucas (Mohrman) for organizing this, and also to Coach (Brian) Keller.

I’d also like to thank our Director of Athletic Communications at Concordia, Jake Knabel, or ‘Knobsy,’ as our football staff likes to call him. I said it two years ago that if we could improve as a football team as much as we improve in our media guides, we’d have great success. We haven’t quite improved in that way yet. Jake’s done just a phenomenal job. I think the attention to detail he puts into every sport and the work on the website has been pretty awesome. He’s done amazing things since he’s came on board. I’ll speak for the entire athletic department at Concordia and say ‘thank you’ to him.

I’d also like to thank our football staff, which is probably making fun of me right now in Seward. I’m blessed to work with such a great group of people. It’s so fun to come into the office every day and work with guys with a common purpose and common goals and who are so focused on the betterment of our young men and our young people.

Another group that deserves special mention – and I’d say this for everybody here – are the coaches’ wives who are going to be without their husbands here pretty quick. I have a special bias for the Concordia wives. I would be remiss not to use a forum to talk about and recognize them. So thank you to Tanya, Jodi, Emly, Sara, Anuhea, Connie and Beth. Thank you for all you do and all your support.

I sit here and listen to everybody talk. Everybody sounds good. You go into this day, everybody sounds good and the adrenaline starts pumping. You start getting more and more fired up for the season. The GPAC, to me, being around it for a while – from top to bottom – this is the best the league’s been. It’s very exciting to see. You have to prepare. You have to be ready to play every week and that’s exciting.

We feel like we made great strides as a program the past couple years. We expected to have a good football team last fall. We had high goals. Maybe to the people on the outside our season was somewhat of a surprise but for the people in our building, the people on our campus, we had high expectations. Ultimately, we did not reach all of our goals last fall but we did make a lot of great strides. It was the first winning season – as Lucas said – at Concordia since 2001 – the 2001 playoff team. It was a step for us that we needed to take. We sincerely believe as a staff and our players, that it was part of the progression.

Like everyone up here, we’re excited for the 2014 season. I feel like we have a great mix of veteran players returning and also some young, green talented players who we’re excited to see and develop relationships with. And then there are program guys who have been itching for an opportunity to compete and play – guys who may have been behind some outstanding players. They’re going to get their opportunity this fall.

I feel like we have a group that’s very hungry, hungry for success and has a lot to prove. I think from day one we’ve talked about that. We have to have a chip on our shoulder and play with energy and aggressiveness all the time.

We are replacing a lot of good football players. Our defensive football team – I’ll talk about that more as we go – but a lot of great football players and great people from last season (have graduated). We also know we have a great group to work with in 2014.

Offensively, Coach Curran White has been our offensive coordinator the past two seasons. He’s just done an outstanding job leading our offense. My first three years as head coach I really felt we didn’t have an identity on offense. We struggled for any offensive identity and we were kind of bottom tier nationally in offensive rankings and bottom tier GPAC. Since Coach White has come on board, we’ve improved dramatically. It’s across the board and in every phase offensively. I think the most important thing that has changed offensively is just the player buy in and the player belief in what we’re doing and in our system and what we’re teaching. We return a lot of guys offensively – a lot of guys who were first-year players last season. Von Thomas is obviously a main returner. He’s going to be a three-year starter at quarterback for us. We have 10 guys that have started games for us returning this fall, including our quarterback, two running backs, our fullback, tight end and five linemen.

A position where we’ll be relatively new is at wide receiver. We also feel like we’ll be really talented there. This is as talented a group as we’ve been able to work with at Concordia since my time here. I think that’s going to be big with how they develop and how they mature throughout the season. It’s a young group but a very talented group and we’re excited to see what they do. I think there’s going to be a lot of competition within that group.

A big word for us throughout the offseason and spring was consistency. For all our improvements last season last fall from a statistics standpoint, we had some games last fall, especially towards the end of the year, where we did not come close to playing our best football. For us to take the next step we need to eliminate those performances in these types of games. We’re offense that’s based on, we need to be efficient. Our longest offensive play last season was 39 yards and that was a run by our quarterback. We were not very explosive, but we were very efficient. That’s something we have to be to be very effective. Hopefully we can gain more explosiveness throughout the season.

Defensively, Coach (Patrick) Daberkow, our defensive coordinator, year-in and year-out has done just a phenomenal job since he took over in 2010. I think he does a fantastic job of getting our guys – whatever group we have that season – to play to their potential. Last season was the best season statistically that we’ve at Concordia since I’ve been there in terms of national rankings. We need to replace some really outstanding football players – the conference defensive player of the year (Darnell Woods), a first team all-conference four-year starter defensive lineman (Dylan Heithoff), a first team all-conference three-year starter linebacker (Langston Jones), another guy who was another two-year starter at defensive line, a linebacker that was a starter and a corner that was a starter. We have some guys to replace defensively.

With all that being said, we’re really excited about how our group played and competed in the spring. We’re really excited about our potential as a defensive group. I believe that defensively especially – they’re being told a lot of things right now maybe from the outside and around campus and those things – I think they have a chip on their shoulder. We have high, high expectations for that group regardless of who graduated. I’m confident Coach Daberkow and company will get the most out of that group.

Special teams coordinator, Coach (Corby) Osten has done a great job leading our special teams group year-in and year-out. It sure has been fun for us to watch Derek Blessing run around in the return game the past couple years. He’s not back next year. All spring we auditioned a lot of guys and going into this fall we’ll be auditioning a lot of guys for the return game role. We also lose our punter from last season so we’ll be replacing a lot of things in the kicking game. We do return a second team all-conference kicker (Adam Meirose), who I feel is just outstanding and scratching the surface of what he can be. We feel like he is a definite difference maker for us.

Finishing up here, this day is fun – kind of the hype machine a little bit. It’s fun to talk about our teams and the excitement for the 2014 season. Everyone here has high expectations. For us all the old clichés can be said – ‘we need to stay healthy,’ ‘we need to develop depth.’ We need all those things. That is true. This is the time of the year we all love and we’re all excited about. I’m excited to get out and coach our guys. I’m excited with the guys have coming back and I’m excited to meet the new guys. We’ll have guys start filtering into campus next week. I’m excited to see all those guys coming back. I’m as biased as can be, but I love our group. I love what we’re building and I love our entire group that we have at Concordia – our brotherhood there. I’m excited, fired up and blessed to get to coach this team. We’re looking forward to the 2014 season.

We open week one, Sept. 6, with an outstanding – watching film – an outstanding Sterling team from Kansas. They were a playoff qualifier and KCAC conference champs last season. Any questions?

Question: What was your downfall last season after starting the season 6-0?

Coach Winter: I think if you look at it, we played some really good football teams. That’s part of it. A lot of those games were fourth-quarter games. We just didn’t come through and make that play in those games. That’s something we’ve talked about quite a bit this offseason. Every game in our league comes down to that – fourth-quarter games. It’s so competitive. You have to be sharp. You have to be ready to play. Any play throughout a game can affect (the outcome).

Question: Do you have any Darnell Woods kind of guys?

Coach Winter: We’re really excited about our safety position coming back. Tait Sibbel is going to be a junior next year. He’s going to entering his third year as a starter from O’Neill, Nebraska. He’s an outstanding player. Drew Baxter, we moved him up to outside backer last season. He’s going to play more back-end type stuff. He’s been a four-year player four us too. They’re going to be different than Darnell. Darnell was such a dynamic hitter and explosive player. They’re going to be a little different but I think they’re going to be very, very good.

Question: Can you talk about Von Thomas, your quarterback, and how important he is to your offense?

Coach Winter: Part of the progression offensively is that he’s just done a phenomenal job. I thought his growth last season as an overall quarterback was very good. We were very pleased just with his grasp of the offense. You know all the things about him and the stuff that’s easy to see is the athletic ability and all those things that he brings to the table that way, but he’s such a tough, hard-nosed football player. We have to back him away sometimes from throwing his body into too much stuff. Our players feed off that toughness and feed off that mindset and will to win. That’s kind of been his imprint in our program. More so than the athletic ability, more so than the other things, I love – and sometimes hate – his toughness. We’re trying to tell him to run out of bounds once in a while.

Question: Von Thomas always seems to save a really good game for Briar Cliff. In fact, after the game last year I offered to pay for his credits to have him graduate early. Have we just scratched the surface of what he’s capable of?

Coach Winter: I think his growth has been outstanding in two years. I think we need to become a little more explosive around him. I think that’s a big key for us – if we can become a little more explosive and dynamic around him. Last year we played two true freshmen running backs throughout the entire season. Those guys got the bulk of our carries and they did a great job. I think those guys are going to continue and improve. If we can become a little bit more explosive receiving the ball and make some more explosive plays in the passing game, that’s going to open up more stuff for him. He’s done everything we’ve asked. He’s competed and we’re excited to see what he’s going to do his senior year.

Question: Oct. 27 – you’re back in here in Lincoln to play against Wesleyan. Talk a little bit about that game, the history of it and what you expect this year. I know it’s a long way off and there’s a lot of football to be played between now and then.

Coach Winter: When Concordia and Nebraska Wesleyan play, I don’t think there’s been too many times– maybe on Wesleyan’s side – where the scoreboard’s exactly lit up. It’s been a hard-nosed, physical football game. That’s kind of the trademark for both teams. That’s a program when I was hired that I talked about wanting to be, getting to that level in terms of their competiveness week-in and week-out. I have a lot of respect for Nebraska Wesleyan.

Vogt scratches itch to play college football

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

Fifth-year senior Adam Vogt got his ‘welcome to college football moment’ out of the way quickly.

“One practice in particular he got trucked by the running back. He just put Adam out,” defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow recalled of an early spring practice in April. “The next play the offense ran an outside zone stretch play and he went in there and made the tackle in the backfield. It was great to see him step up the very next play and throw his body in there.”

The two-play snapshot symbolizes both the challenges Vogt faces and his ability to adapt quickly. It hasn’t taken long for the 5-foot-9 cornerback to bring back shades of his days starring for a highly successful football program at Syracuse High School.

The former two-sport prep star hasn’t played an organized football game since then, but he’s already put himself in position to earn playing time for head coach Vance Winter this fall.

“It had always been kind of a pipe dream,” Vogt said of playing football as a fifth-year senior. “I knew I had to go four-and-a-half years to graduate, not just four. It never really became a reality until the Wednesday before spring ball. I was up here in the offices and Coach (Ben) Limback (head men’s basketball) mentioned that Coach (Vance) Winter asked if I’d be interested. I emailed him and that day I was in his office. The next Monday I was at spring practice.”

And so began the collegiate football career of Vogt, who put together a solid four-year run as a Bulldog basketball player for three different head coaches. The Syracuse native totaled 910 career points and earned second team all-conference honors this past season. He could have chosen to play football at Concordia right from the start, however, basketball was his first passion.

But the itch to play college football never left.

“I just love to compete,” Vogt said. “Just because I decided basketball over football doesn’t mean I don’t love football. If I hadn’t done it, there would always be that what if. ‘Why didn’t I try it?’ This is my last chance.”

There is a precedent in recent Bulldog history for what Vogt is doing. The 1998 Concordia Senior Male Athlete of the Year, Glen Snodgrass made the exact same transition after a successful four-year basketball career for then head coach Grant Schmidt. The physically imposing Snodgrass shifted to defensive end and made seven sacks on his way to first team all-NIAC recognition.

Now the head football coach at York High School, Snodgrass says he thoroughly enjoyed his one season of playing football for Coach Courtney Meyer.

“I always loved football and I was very happy to have one more chance to play the game,” Snodgrass said. “It was very interesting to see the difference in culture between the two programs and it was an outstanding opportunity to meet an entire new group of players, friends and mentors in our football coaching staff. Playing football my fifth year was one of the best decisions of my life.”

According to Daberkow, Vogt has the necessary traits to make a similarly smooth transition.

“He plays with reckless abandon and that’s what you need in a defensive player,” Daberkow said. “And he’s got really quick feet. It really just took one play of him getting caught off guard to make the adjustment.”

With him joining the squad just days before spring practice, some heads turned when Vogt, donning No. 11, graced the practice field on March 31.

“I think some of them were a little surprised but they were a lot more excited than I figured they would be,” Vogt said. “They were a lot more accepting. I just kind of stepped in without putting in the work beforehand. They were a lot more welcoming than I thought they would be. Overall it’s been great getting to know those guys and becoming their teammates.”

Daberkow says Vogt may hold down a starting corner spot when the Bulldogs open the season on Sept. 6 at 15th-ranked Sterling College. An option quarterback and corner at Syracuse, Vogt fits well at the corner spot at Concordia. Plus the quarterback position is already manned by two-year starter Von Thomas.

Vogt figures to spend the fall getting cozy in Daberkow’s schemes while becoming accustomed to working one-on-one against athletic receivers who are likely to have a height advantage on him. Vogt understands that the GPAC will present hurdles more significant than the ones he dealt with at the Nebraska Class C-1 level.

“This spring, Coach kept it simple so that wasn’t too bad with the schemes and all that,” Vogt said. “There’s going to be way more throwing here at Concordia and the NAIA level than I was used to in high school at the C-1 level. Getting used to the level of talent at the wide receiver end and having to guard them – and at the quarterback end – is just going to be that more challenging than it was in high school.”

Time will be at a premium this fall for the secondary education major, who will also be student teaching. He will spend eight weeks teaching math at Seward High School and then another eight weeks in physical education at a school yet to be determined. That means Vogt’s schedule will be packed tight, but he wouldn’t have it any different.

“School will start at 8 o’clock,” Vogt said. “I’ll be there at probably 7:30. Hopefully I’ll get out of there by 3:30 and then come over here for meetings, go to practice, go home and get ready for the next day. It will be a big time commitment with having stuff to do every day for football and getting ready for student teaching. It will be busy, but fun.”

Vogt’s immediate future will feature a string of two-a-days. No problem for Vogt. He worked tirelessly this summer to prepare himself for the physical toll. And of course he wants to win – just as he did at Syracuse High.

Even if the season happens to come up short of expectations, Vogt realizes how blessed he is to have the ability to do something that individuals rarely do anymore – play two collegiate sports.

“I’m happy for the opportunity to play two college sports,” Vogt said. “Most people don’t even have the opportunity to play one. I’m blessed to have the opportunity to play both. I’m a competitor so I’m obviously going to want to play. I’m going to be really mad at myself if I don’t perform at the level that I think I can.”

Biting back: 2014 Concordia football preview

2014 Concordia football media guide

Head Coach: Vance Winter (23-31; five years)
2013 Record: 7-4 overall; 5-4 GPAC (T-5th)
Returning Starters: Offense – 8; Defense – 6; Special Teams – 1
Key Returners: Trey Barnes (RB), Drew Baxter (S), Bryce Collins (RB), Nakemm Evans (LB), Michael Gill (DL), Adam Meirose (K), Landon Oelke (DB), Josh Powell (OL), Kyle Rakow (DL), Josh Slechta (TE), Tait Sibbel (S), Von Thomas (QB)
Key Losses: Derek Blessing (CB/KR/PR), Dylan Heithoff (DL), Langston Jones (LB), Dylan Klassen (OL), Colton Schneider (LB), Darnell Woods (DB)
2013 GPAC All-Conference: Derek Blessing (first team – KR/PR), Dylan Heithoff (first team), Langston Jones (first team), Darnell Woods (first team), Adam Meirose (second team), Josh Powell (second team), Tait Sibbel (second team); view honorable mentions HERE.
2013 NAIA All-American: Darnell Woods

Open fall intrasquad scrimmage: Saturday, Aug. 23: 7-9 p.m.

Outlook:
Concordia University football finds itself on solid ground entering a 2014 season that comes with the program’s highest expectations in more than a decade. Last season brought the Bulldogs’ first winning campaign since 2001 and with a two-year starting quarterback returning, even better things could be in store in 2014.

Sixth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad received its highest preseason ranking since 2002 when GPAC coaches pegged Concordia for a fourth-place league finish.

“We feel like we made great strides as a program the past couple years,” Winter said back on GPAC media day. “We expected to have a good football team last fall. We had high goals. Maybe to the people on the outside our season was somewhat of a surprise but for the people in our building, the people on our campus, we had high expectations. Ultimately, we did not reach all of our goals last fall but we did make a lot of great strides.”

Senior quarterback Von Thomas generated significant buzz at media day. Morningside head coach Steve Ryan joked that he wishes Thomas would run out of bounds more. Concordia’s dual-threat signal caller from Miami, Fla., broke the school record for total yards in a season last year and has piled up 3,787 passing yards, 1,021 rushing yards and 36 total touchdowns over the past two seasons.

What excites Thomas and company is the playmaking potential around the quarterback position. The Bulldogs expect more explosive plays a season after the team’s longest play from scrimmage totaled 36 yards. Thomas knows he will be able to count on a deep backfield that includes experienced sophomores Trey Barnes and Bryce Collins (combined 1,168 rush yards and 18 touchdowns in 2013) and emerging sophomore Demarques Saulberry.

“That makes me feel a lot better,” Thomas said. “It takes a load off my back. We call ourselves the four-headed monster back there. We’re all explosive at any moment. It’s very relieving to see that. I can hand the ball off and watch those guys go out and run.”

The receiver position is less experienced, but perhaps just as talented. Junior Riley Herren of Lone Tree, Colo., enjoyed an impressive spring season and freshman Jared Garcia (Pearland, Texas) has the ability to make an immediate impact. Plus the Bulldogs return tight end Josh Slechta, who Winter believes is ready to become a dominant player.

“This is as talented a group as we’ve been able to work with at Concordia since my time here,” Winter said of the receivers. “I think that’s going to be big with how they develop and how they mature throughout the season. It’s a young group but a very talented group and we’re excited to see what they do. I think there’s going to be a lot of competition within that group.”

Experience is a strength along the offensive line, which last season helped pave the way for the team’s highest yards per game average (360.0) since 2004. Coordinator Curran White’s line is anchored by right guard Josh Powell, a second team all-conference pick in 2013. He is likely to be surrounded by left tackle Glennon Manninger, left guard Ben Balduc, center Adam Aschenbrenner and right tackle Sawyer Birtell.

With more potential firepower, the buzzword in the offensive huddle will be “explosion” for a Bulldog offense that looks to add the long ball to an already efficient unit.

“The coaching staff did a great job recruiting, getting some more explosive guys so we can have more explosive plays,” Thomas said. “Hopefully we can get better at that – having bigger plays throughout games.”

On the other side of the ball, Concordia was more difficult to crack than the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle. Coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit ranked first in the NAIA in pass defense (134.7), fourth in total defense (285.5) and sixth in scoring defense (17.3).

“Coach Daberkow year-in and year-out has done just a phenomenal job since he took over in 2009,” Winter said. “I think he does a fantastic job of getting our guys – whatever group we have that season – to play to their potential. Last season was the best season statistically that we’ve at Concordia since I’ve been there in terms of national rankings.”

The defense faces more turnover compared to the Bulldog offense. Concordia must replace GPAC defensive player of the year Darnell Woods as well as other all-conference performers in Derek Blessing, Dylan Heithoff and Langston Jones.

Even with the losses in the secondary, junior safety Tait Sibbel, a two-year starter, expresses confidence that this squad will continue a tradition of ball-hawking defense. Sibbel will pair with senior Drew Baxter at the safety spots as part of a unit that hopes to be just as stingy against the pass in 2014.

“I think losing those type of big play guys is definitely going to affect us,” Sibbel said. “But I believe the unit we will put on the field this year has a more complete understanding of the schemes we run and what we are trying to accomplish on defense. We are bringing back guys that have the potential to make big plays. Our secondary coming back will be an extremely consistent one, and with consistency in the secondary comes opportunities for game changing plays.”

The biggest question marks come at linebacker with Jones and Colton Schneider having graduated. Senior Nakemm Evans could be in for his best season yet and fellow senior Michael Carroll caught the attention of the coaching staff with a strong spring performance.

The defensive line may prove to be the strength of the defense with returners Michael Gill, Ronald Jackson, Alex Melius and Kyle Rakow in the mix. Gill is a rising star who made 7.5 tackles in the backfield last season. Jackson packs plenty of size and is an up-and-comer to watch at the nose guard spot.

Says Sibbel, “I think we can expect a consistent defense that is going to bring energy, excitement and a love of the game to every play. It will be a fast defense that is always looking for an opportunity to come up with the ball.”

There will be several changes in key special teams spots as coordinator Corby Osten looks to find replacements at punter and for Blessing, an electrifying return man the past two years. A recent run of dependable field goal kicking should continue with the return of junior Adam Meirose, a second team all-conference choice.

The season kicks off at 6 p.m. on Sept. 6 at 15th-ranked Sterling College. The Warriors are one of four preseason top 25 squads on the 2014 slate, which includes No. 3 Morningside, No. 13 Northwestern and No. 21 Dakota Wesleyan.

The challenging schedule won’t dampen expectations for a program that is brimming with confidence after rising from the doldrums of a 1-9 season in 2008.

“We had a great offseason and there is definitely a confident feeling around the team,” Sibbel said.

Added Thomas, “The expectation level is really high. We’re looking forward to it. We’re a team that likes to take on challenges.”

For coverage of the Aug. 7 GPAC football media day, click HERE. To read head coach Vance Winter’s breakdown of each position group, click HERE.

GAME NOTES: Concordia travels to No. 15 Sterling for season opener

SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time since the middle of last November, the Concordia University football team will take the field for regular-season action when the ball is kicked off at 6 p.m. on Saturday from Smisor Stadium, home of 15th-ranked Sterling College. The host Warriors are a member of the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

“We’re really excited to play against a top-15 team like Sterling,” sixth-year head coach Vance Winter said at Tuesday’s Bulldog Booster Club gathering. “They are a legit team with really good players.”

GAME INFO
Concordia (7-4) at No. 15 Sterling (9-3)
Saturday, Sept. 6 – 6 p.m.
Site: Sterling, Kan.
Stadium: Smisor Stadium
Webcast: Stretch Internet
Live Stats: DakStats

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2013 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 26.4 (43rd)
Defensive PPG: 17.3 (6th)
Total Offense: 360.0 (45th)
Pass Offense: 177.7 (53rd)
Rush Offense: 182.3 (31st)
Total Defense: 285.5 (4th)
Pass Defense: 135.5 (1st)
Rush Defense: 150.7 (31st)
Turnover +/-: +5 (T-26th)

Sterling
Offensive PPG: 35.2 (14th)
Defensive PPG: 24.0 (28th)
Total Offense: 350.7 (52nd)
Pass Offense: 132.4 (71st)
Rush Offense: 218.3 (14th)
Total Defense: 419.8 (61st)
Pass Defense: 219.8 (57th)
Rush Defense: 200.0 (52nd)
Turnover +/-: +27 (1st)

Returning Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (23-31, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 197/334, 13 TD, 8 INT, 1,947 yards
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 181 att, 704 yards, 3.9 avg, 11 TD
Receiving: Josh Slechta – 23 rec, 322 yards, 14.0 avg, 1 TD
Defense: S Tait Sibbel – 54 tackles, 4 INT

Sterling
Head Coach: Andy Lambert (Overall: 88-88, 18th year, Sterling: 58-45, 11th year)
Passing: Reggie Langford – 108/203, 19 TD, 6 INT, 1,521 yards
Rushing: Reggie Langford – 273 att, 1,144 yards, 4.2 avg, 9 TD
Receiving: Dentton Hudspeth – 43 rec, 558 yards, 13.0 avg, 6 TD
Defense: S Tyus Williams – 83 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 2 INT

Rising Expectations
After a 7-4 season that included six-straight weeks of being included in the NAIA’s top 25, Concordia was picked by both coaches and media to finish fourth in the GPAC. That preseason placement is the highest since the 2002 season when the Bulldogs were coming off a co-conference title in 2001. Concordia did not receive any votes in the national preseason poll.

Record-Setting Quarterback
Senior quarterback Von Thomas returns for his third season as a starter. The signal caller from Miami, Fla., broke single-season school records in 2013 for total offense (2,508 yards), completion percentage and completions, as he connected on 59.0 percent (197-for-334) of his passes. In his career, Thomas has put up 5,080 total yards of offense, including 3,976 yards through the air. He has been part of 37 total touchdowns (28 passing, nine rushing).

Two-Deep Notes
The first Concordia depth chart of the 2014 season has some notable omissions due to injuries that occurred during fall camp. Expected starters in tight end Josh Slechta, linebacker Michael Carroll and safety Drew Baxter are absent from the two deep and will miss Saturday’s game and perhaps additional contests.

Defensively, Adam Vogt, a four-year member of the basketball team, is listed as a starter at cornerback. Senior Kyle Rakow shifts from defensive line to linebacker to make up for the loss of Carroll. At tight end, Seth Fitzke moves into a starting role in place of Slechta. Fitzke has drawn rave reviews this preseason from the coaching staff.

Young Receiver Core
Three of the four players listed at either flanker or split end on the depth chart are true freshmen. Native Texans Jared Garcia and Logan Otte have earned starting positions while Carey Harrison is listed below Otte on the depth chart. Otte led Texas prep powerhouse Katy High School in receiving as a senior. Meanwhile, Garcia has enjoyed an impressive fall camp. Winter believes the young receiver group will give the Bulldogs a more explosive passing game in 2014.

Sterling’s powerful run game
A key to Sterling piling up more than 35 points per game last season was a prolific running game led by dual threat quarterback Reggie Langford and NAIA First Team All-American running back Antonio Bray. Both return this season after combining for 2,025 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground in 2013. Langford led the team with 1,144 rushing yards while also throwing for 1,521 yards to go with a 19-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In addition, Bray is a terror in the return game. Last season he returned three kicks for touchdowns and averaged 35.7 yards per kick return.

Warriors’ ball-hawking D
Despite being outgained by 69.1 yards per game by its opponents, Sterling went 9-3 overall and won the KCAC. The Warriors overcame the yardage disadvantage with an NAIA-leading plus-27 turnover margin. Sterling’s ball-hawking defense came up with 41 takeaways, including 22 interceptions by 11 different players. The turnovers helped negate its opponents’ average of 419.8 yards per game (61st nationally). The Warriors’ top returning defender is safety Tyus Williams, who came up with 83 tackles last season.

Outlook
The quarterback matchup of Von Thomas versus Reggie Langford provides plenty of intrigue. Both are comfortable whether delivering the football from the pocket or making plays with their legs. While Concordia’s offense has impressed during fall camp, coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s retooled defensive unit will have its hands full with the immense skill talent of the Warriors. Both teams figure to learn plenty about themselves in an early-season showdown.

Bruised Bulldogs knock off No. 15 Sterling to open season

STERLING, Kan. – Entering 2014 with some of their biggest question marks uncharacteristically coming on the defensive side, the Bulldog football team kept a pair of the NAIA’s top skill players at bay for most of Saturday’s season opener. Despite an injury-riddled roster, Concordia exercised control virtually the entire way in pulling a 21-15 road upset of 15th-ranked Sterling College, the defending Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference champion.

Retooling a unit that last season ranked in the top 10 of the NAIA in total and scoring defense, defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s group limited Sterling to 295 yards as Concordia won its opening game for the second-straight season.

“This is one of the biggest character wins we’ve had because of all the adversity and injuries we’ve gone through during camp,” sixth-year head coach Vance Winter said. “I’m really proud of how they hung together and fought. We just fought and competed against a really good team. Sterling played really hard and was a physical group.”

Exciting senior quarterback Von Thomas had a hand in all three Bulldog touchdowns, running for two and throwing for another. His four-yard scoring run on a fourth and goal in the first quarter staked Concordia to a 7-6 lead and it never looked back. The Bulldogs went up 21-6 with their run of 21 unanswered points. Included in that spurt was freshman receiver Logan Otte’s first career touchdown – a 23-yard toss from Thomas.

Fellow freshman receiver Jared Garcia was Thomas’ favorite target on this night. The native of Humble, Texas, hauled in six passes for 62 yards to lead the Bulldogs. Through the air, Thomas connected on 13 of 25 pass attempts for 167 yards. He ran 13 times for 43 yards for an offense that managed 284 total yards. Bryce Collins topped the ground attack with 70 yards on 18 carries. He also caught four passes for 68 yards.

While Thomas made sure the Bulldogs finished drives with touchdowns, defense and special teams were the big story for Concordia. The Sterling duo of quarterback Reggie Langford and All-American running back Antonio Bray, which combined for more than 2,000 rushing yards last season, found the sledding rough against a fast, physical and young Concordia defense. Langford and Bray combined for 75 rushing yards on 29 carries on Saturday.

“Our defensive group did a nice job. They had a great game plan,” Winter said. “They battled through adversity. (Corner Adam) Vogt and (safety Tait) Sibbel both had to leave the game. Our young guys really stepped up and had a great game.”

While the Bulldog run game sputtered for much of the day against an improved Warrior rush defense, Concordia grinded out crucial yards on the final possession and ran out the clock. The Bulldogs piled up 42 yards on the ground and picked up three first downs to chew up the remaining time on their final possession.

“I’m proud of how our offensive group stuck with it,” Winter said. “That was a great finish to the game. We struggled running the ball most of the game and that has to be our bread and butter. But it sure was nice to finish it off like that.”

Sterling struck first with Reggie Langford’s four-yard touchdown run with 6:08 left in the first quarter. Plagued by missed extra points, Warrior kicker Eddie Juarez had his first PAT blocked by Kyle Rakow. He missed another point after late in the third following Langford’s touchdown pass to Dentton Hudspeth that got Sterling within 21-12.

Juarez did come through with a 34-yard field goal with roughly 5:30 remaining in the game, making it a one score game at 21-15. The Warriors failed to get the ball back as Concordia iced the season-opening win.

The outcome may have seemed unlikely considering the Bulldogs entered the game minus key starters in offensive guard Josh Powell, tight end Josh Slechta, linebacker Michael Carroll and safety Drew Baxter – all ruled out due to camp injuries. It got even worse when Vogt and Sibbel were sidelined and Otte missed the second half.

With Powell out, Concordia shuffled its offensive line. Winter complimented Theo Sheridan for his ability to adjust to playing guard. Starter Ben Balduc also shifted roles.

“We didn’t even know who we had left,” Winter said. “We were just sitting there at halftime not knowing what we had. We had guys hurt all over. It was a physical game. There was a lot of hitting out there.”

Defensively, Concordia got one sack apiece from Geoff Kleinshmit, Sam Noonan and Rakow. Noonan, a freshman defensive lineman from Eagle, Neb., “was all over the place” as Winter put it. Linebacker Clay Mauro topped the team with nine total tackles, including 3.5 for loss.

The Bulldogs begin conference play next Saturday when they head west to take on Hastings College at 1 p.m. Last season Concordia defeated the Broncos 26-21 in the conference opener for both teams. Since the GPAC formed in 2000, Hastings has won 10 of the 14 meetings with the Bulldogs. The Broncos are off to a 1-0 start after pummeling Kansas Wesleyan University by a 61-21 final on Saturday.

GAME NOTES: Bulldogs look to continue momentum in conference opener

SEWARD, Neb. – Fresh off an upset at 15th-ranked Sterling College in the season opener, the Concordia University football team is set to take aim at a 2-0 start for the second-straight year. The Bulldogs open up GPAC play on Saturday when they take on Hastings College (1-0) at Lloyd Wilson Field. The Broncos dominated in their 2014 opener, trouncing Kansas Wesleyan University, 61-21.

“Hastings looks good on film,” Concordia sixth-year head coach Vance Winter said. “They have a lot of talent offensively and some nice skill people. They have a really good quarterback. They put up 61 points in their opener so I don’t think we’ll have any problem getting fired up to play.

“It should be a great game. We expect to be in a lot of four-quarter games and this will be one of them.”

GAME INFO
Concordia (1-0) at Hastings (1-0)
Saturday, Sept. 13, 1 p.m.
Site: Hastings, Neb.
Stadium: Lloyd Wilson Field
Webcast: Stretch Internet

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2013 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 26.4 (43rd)
--2014: 21.0 (T-52nd)
Defensive PPG: 17.3 (6th)
--2014: 15.0 (16th)
Total Offense: 360.0 (45th)
--2014: 284.0 (T-62nd)
Pass Offense: 177.7 (53rd)
--2014: 167.0 (T-53rd)
Rush Offense: 182.3 (31st)
--2014: 117 (49th)
Total Defense: 285.5 (4th)
--2014: 295.0 (T-23rd)
Pass Defense: 135.5 (1st)
--2014: 204.0 (46th)
Rush Defense: 150.7 (31st)
--2014: 91.0 (17th)
Turnover +/-: +5 (T-26th)
--2014: -1 (T-53rd) 

Hastings
Offensive PPG: 23.8 (56th)
--2014: 61.0 (T-2nd)
Defensive PPG: 34.8 (63rd)
--2014: 21.0
Total Offense: 351.6 (51st)
--2014: 654.0 (1st)
Pass Offense: 238.9 (23rd)
--2014: 286.0 (17th)
Rush Offense: 112.7 (75th)
--2014: 368.0 (3rd)
Total Defense: 428.7 (65th)
--2014: 440.0 (56th)
Pass Defense: 192.9 (27th)
--2014: 344.0 (79th)
Rush Defense: 235.8 (75th)
--2014: 96.0 (18th)
Turnover +/-: -15 (75th)
--2014: -1 (T-53rd) 

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (24-31, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 13/25, 1 TD, 0 INT, 167 yards
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 18 att, 70 yards, 3.9 avg, 0 TD
Receiving: Bryce Collins – 4 rec, 68 yards, 17.0 avg, 0 TD
Defense: Kyle Rakow, 5 tackles, 2.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 blk

Hastings
Head Coach: Tony Harper (15-16, 4th year)
Passing: Matt Overmiller – 18/33, 3 TD, 1 INT, 192 yards
Rushing: Ramiro Flores – 14 att, 105 yards, 7.5 avg, 1 TD
Receiving: Austin Curlee – 4 rec, 67 yards, 16.8 avg, 0 TD
Defense: Erik Wylie – 10 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 sack

Bulldogs topple another ranked opponent
The victory at 15th-ranked Sterling marked the third-straight season that Concordia has knocked off a ranked opponent. It was the first time the Bulldogs defeated a top 25 team on the road since an Aug. 28, 2010, win at No. 22 Peru State to open the season. Head coach Vance Winter has now guided the program to four victories over ranked opponents in his six seasons.

Wins over ranked opponents under Vance Winter

  • Sept. 6, 2014: 21-15 at No. 15 Sterling
  • Oct. 12, 2013: 19-3 vs. No. 22 Nebraska Wesleyan
  • Oct. 13, 2012: 17-16 vs. No. 11 Northwestern
  • Aug. 28, 2010: 13-7 at No. 22 Peru State

 

Dogged Defense
Despite saying goodbye to defensive stalwarts in corner Derek Blessing, defensive lineman Dylan Heithoff, linebacker Langston Jones and safety Darnell Woods after 2013, coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit hardly seemed to miss a beat in limiting Sterling’s potent offensive attack. Last season the Warriors ranked 14th in the NAIA in scoring at 35.2 points per game. The Bulldogs held them to 295 total yards and 15 points. Despite injuries to key players, Concordia made up for it as youngsters and upperclassmen with increased roles stepped up. The Bulldogs got a sack apiece from seniors Geoff Kleinschmit and Kyle Rakow and freshman Sam Noonan. In addition, junior linebacker Clay Mauro, who entered the game with eight career tackles, made nine stops, including 3.5 behind the line of scrimmage.

Thomas adds three more touchdowns to career total
In 32 career games, senior quarterback Von Thomas has thrown for 29 touchdowns and run for 11. His 40 total touchdowns are 12 shy of the school record held by Jarrod Pimentel (1998-2001), a Concordia Athletic Hall of Famer and quarterback for the 2001 Bulldog GPAC co-championship team. Thomas, owner of single-season school records for total yards (2,508), completions (197) and completion percentage (59.0), is chasing Pimentel in a number of career records. With 167 passing yards at Sterling, Thomas eclipsed 4,000 for his career and now has 4,143. Pimentel is the record holder with 6,435 career passing yards.

Pimentel vs. Thomas
--PIMENTEL: Passing – 470/943, 49.8%, 49 TD, 45 INT, 6,435 yards; Rushing – 248 att, -124 yards, 3 TD
--THOMAS: Passing – 398/738, 53.9%, 29 TD, 27 INT, 4,143 yards; Rushing – 297 att, 1,147 yards, 11 TD

Two Deep Notes
A few notable changes were made to this week’s depth chart. All-conference right guard Josh Powell is back on the No. 1 line after being sidelined for the season opener with an injury. His return allows everyone to shift back to their natural spots with Glennon Manninger at left tackle, Ben Balduc at left guard, Adam Aschenbrenner at center and Saywer Birtell at right tackle. At running back, Trey Barnes reappears at the No. 1 slot after sitting out last week. Barnes rushed for 464 yards and seven touchdowns as a freshman in 2013.

Adam Vogt no longer appears at corner or as a punt returner. Vogt’s collegiate football career lasted only one game after he suffered a knee injury at Sterling. He will miss the remainder of the season. In his place at corner, freshman D’Mauria Martin moves into a starting spot.

Happy early returns
With electrifying return man Derek Blessing having graduated, Concordia used four different players on either kick or punt returns at Sterling. Freshman receiver Logan Otte, who also caught a 23-yard touchdown pass, showed off an impressive burst with three punt returns for 67 yards, including a long of 50. Freshman Patrick Spicer came through with a 40-yard punt return and Bryce Collins had two kick returns for 65 yards.

Freshman receiver puts explosion in passing game
Von Thomas’ favorite target in week one was freshman receiver Jared Garcia, who caught six passes for 62 yards. Otte hauled in his first career reception and touchdown on a 23-yard scoring strike from Thomas in the second quarter. The duo gives the Bulldogs more explosiveness in the passing game than they had in 2013. Garcia’s 43-yard reception at Sterling already surpasses the team’s longest play from scrimmage of 36 yards last season.

Hastings buries Kansas Wesleyan
Hastings shook off a 2-8 campaign in 2013 by putting up eye-popping offensive numbers in a 61-21 thrashing of Kansas Wesleyan University last week. The Broncos used 10 different ball carriers to rack up 368 yards on the ground. They put up another 286 through the air for a total of 654 yards of offense. Sophomore running back Ramiro Flores ran for 105 yards and a touchdown and senior quarterback Matt Overmiller threw for 192 yards and three scores. The offensive production was a big improvement from 2013 when Hastings ranked in the bottom half of the NAIA in both scoring and total offense.

Series with Broncos
In last year’s matchup, Concordia topped Hastings 26-21 in a nailbiter inside Bulldog Stadium. Trailing 21-20, the Bulldogs scored on a 14-yard touchdown run on an end-around to wide receiver Jeff Balz with 59 seconds left. Concordia outgained Hastings 393-269 and improved to 2-0 at the time.

In the 14 meetings since the formation of the GPAC, the Broncos have won 10 of them. The Bulldogs have won two of the last three but are seeking their first win at Hastings since a 31-17 victory on Sept. 17, 2005.

Thomas piles up 401 yards, six total touchdowns in shootout loss at Hastings

HASTINGS, Neb. – Concordia senior quarterback Von Thomas piled up 401 total yards and six total touchdowns (three passing, three rushing) in fueling an offensive attack that racked up 43 points on Saturday. The Bulldogs simply failed to get enough defensive stops in a 48-43 shootout defeat to a high-powered Hastings College (2-0, 1-0 GPAC) squad.

After seeing the Broncos put up 61 points in their season-opening win over Kansas Wesleyan University, Concordia sixth-year head coach Vance Winter knew his team had its hands full.

“We really did some good stuff offensively,” Winter said. “(Von) and (Jared Garcia) were great in the second half and throughout the game. We just struggled defensively. Hastings is very good. We were concerned because they have some really good offensive players. We could never stem the tide.”

While Hastings amassed 549 yards of total offense, the Concordia defense did manage to come up with one key stop to keep hope alive. After a fumbled Bulldog punt return gave the Broncos a first-and-10 deep in Concordia territory with the score at 48-43 and 2:30 left, Concordia dug in. Defensive tackle Ronald Jackson blew up a fourth-and-one run at the six-yard line to give Thomas and the offense another shot.

In a last chance opportunity, the Bulldogs turned it over on downs at their own 31 when Thomas misfired on an intended pass to Garcia. Concordia had sought to win at Hastings for the first time since 2005.

“When you can put up 43 points you expect to win,” Winter said. “It is what is. We walked into a hornet’s nest. They were ready for us. They have a much improved football team. They’re really good offensively.”

The Bulldogs flashed some offensive weaponry of their own. Garcia, a freshman from Humble, Texas, reeled in six Thomas passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. He also set up Concordia’s second touchdown with a 68-yard reception that led to a three-yard scoring toss from Thomas to fullback Jerad Leifeld.

Concordia badly needed the Leifeld touchdown after falling behind 27-6 with 5:50 left in the first half. The vaunted Bronco offense looked like it might simply run the Bulldogs out of Lloyd Wilson Field. After Carey Harrison’s 22-yard touchdown catch from Thomas to begin the day’s scoring, quarterback Matt Overmiller led Hastings to 27-straight points and a three-touchdown advantage.

In a game of runs, Thomas provided perhaps the most electrifying play of his career with a 74-yard touchdown jaunt that got the Bulldogs within 34-22 with 4:13 left in the third quarter. A one-yard Thomas touchdown run just over a minute later cashed in on a Hastings lost fumble deep in its own territory.

Concordia got within five on several occasions, with scoreboard readings of 34-29, 41-36 and finally, 48-43. The Broncos had a counter for every jab that the Bulldog signal caller sent their way.

Overmiller had a fine day himself as he went 19-for-30 passing for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He also found the end zone twice on the ground and added 46 yards rushing to a Bronco rush attack that covered 277 yards.

Meanwhile, Thomas completed 17 of 38 passes for 279 yards. He finished with 122 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Among running backs, Trey Barnes topped the Bulldogs with 79 yards rushing on 13 carries. Barnes got 77 of those yards on a single carry that set the stage for a three-yard Thomas touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, Concordia got a team high 12 tackles from linebacker Nakemm Evans. Fellow backer Clay Mauro added 11 tackles while defensive lineman Kyle Rakow continued his solid play by posting nine tackles (one for loss). Defensive back Michael Hedlund recorded his first career interception to thwart a Hastings drive at the end of the first half.

While it was the Concordia defense that stood tall in last week’s upset of No. 15 Sterling College, the offense came up with a big performance at Hastings to keep the team in the game.

“Offensively we showed we can do some things,” Winter said. “Garcia had a great game. It’s just frustrating that we didn’t finish the deal.

“It will be a big week of practice to get everyone playing better. This is a fun group to coach and I know they will respond.”

The Bulldogs host their home opener next Saturday (Sept. 20) when Midland University (2-0, 1-0 GPAC) visits Seward for Fan Appreciation Day. The Warriors blanked Dordt 35-0 on Saturday to remain unbeaten.

GAME NOTES: Bulldogs welcome Midland for Fan Appreciation Day

SEWARD, Neb. – After beginning the 2014 season with two-straight contests on the road, the Concordia University football team hosts its home opener on Saturday at 1 p.m. In-state rival Midland University (2-0, 1-0 GPAC) will serve as the opponent on a day that has been tabbed Fan Appreciation Day, in partnership with Verizon Wireless, on the Concordia campus.

“They have a lot of returning players,” Bulldog head coach Vance Winter said of the Warriors. “They are a really tough matchup for us offensively. Both of the teams they have played are option teams so we go into this game blind. We expect another really good game.”

Concordia encourages those who plan to attend Fan Appreciation Day to join our Facebook group.

GAME INFO
Midland (2-0, 1-0 GPAC at Concordia (1-1, 0-1 GPAC)
Saturday, Sept. 20, 1 p.m.
Site: Seward, Neb.
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Play-by-play: Frank Greene 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2014 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 32.0 (T-29th)
Defensive PPG: 31.5 (55th)
Total Offense: 384.0 (41st)
Pass Offense:  223.0 (37th)
Rush Offense: 161.0 (37th)
Total Defense: 429.5 (63rd)
Pass Defense: 244.0 (T-65th)
Rush Defense: 185.5 (55th)
Turnover +/-: +2 (T-25th)

Midland
Offensive PPG: 31.5 (T-31st)
Defensive PPG: 7.0 (T-1st)
Total Offense: 389.5 (37th)
Pass Offense: 242.5 (27th)
Rush Offense: 147.0 (41st)
Total Defense: 213.5 (2nd)
Pass Defense: 89.5 (5th)
Rush Defense: 124.0 (22nd)
Turnover +/-: +2 (T-25th) 

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (24-32, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 30/63 (.476), 4 TD, 0 INT, 446 yards, 128.0 Effic.
Rushing: Von Thomas – 27 att, 165 yards, 6.1 avg, 5 TD
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 14 rec, 246 yards, 17.6 avg, 1 TD
Defense: Kyle Rakow – 14 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 1 sack, 1 FF, 1 blk 

Midland
Head Coach: Josh Gehring (10-12, 3rd year)
Passing: Andrew Cameron – 32/52 (.615), 2 TD, 2 INT, 446 yards, 138.6 Effic.
Rushing: Alex Cornist – 48 att, 149 yards, 3.1 avg, 2 TD
Receiving: Kail Walker – 11 rec, 175 yards, 15.9 avg, 0 TD
Defense: Josh Seiler – 20 tackles, 1.5 TFL, 1 FR 

Thomas runs wild
Among all NAIA quarterbacks, only Kentucky Christian’s Graham Johnston (99.3) and Grand View’s (Iowa) Derek Fulton (90.0) average more rushing yards per game than Concordia’s Von Thomas (82.5). Thomas is coming off a career high 122 rushing yards at Hastings. It was his second career 100-yard rushing game. He also topped the century mark on Oct. 27, 2012, with 107 in a 23-14 Bulldog win over Midland in Seward.

In his career, Thomas has 1,269 yards and 14 touchdowns on 311 rushing attempts. He’s also thrown for 4,422 yards and 32 touchdowns. Thomas’ 46 total touchdowns trail only Jarrod Pimentel (52) for the most in school history.

Garcia brings big play receiving threat
No receiver in Concordia football history has ever surpassed 1,000 receiving yards in a single season, but freshman Jared Garcia may be on his way. The native of Humble, Texas, ranks fourth in the NAIA with 123.0 receiving yards per game. He’s already caught 14 passes for 246 yards and a touchdown over the first two games. His 184 receiving yards in the loss at Hastings rank as the most by any NAIA pass catcher in a single game this season. Garcia gives Thomas the sort of big-play target it has lacked in recent seasons. Last year Concordia’s leading receiver caught 36 passes for 392 yards.

Running game returns to full strength
For the first time this season, offensive coordinator Curran White will have both Bryce Collins and Trey Barnes at his disposal in the backfield. While the Bulldogs ran for a healthy rushing total of 205 yards last week, they lacked consistency with 151 of those yards coming on two plays (77-yard run by Barnes, 74-yard touchdown run by Thomas). Last season Collins and Barnes combined to rush for 1,265 yards and 18 touchdowns on 317 carries. Concordia figures to lean heavily upon the rushing attack the rest of the way with the trio of Barnes, Collins and Thomas again leading the way.

Defense on the mend
The makeup of the 2014 Concordia defense looks very little like the 2013 one. With a glut of injuries, coordinator Patrick Daberkow has turned to the likes of first-year players like cornerbacks Tarence Roby (Northern Illinois University transfer) and D’Mauria Martin and defensive lineman Sam Noonan. Sophomore Michael Hedlund even made the transition from quarterback to safety to provide depth to a position that has seen injuries of varying degrees to starters Drew Baxter and Tait Sibbel.

A pleasant surprise at the linebacker position has been the play of junior Clay Mauro, who has been elevated to the No. 1 line on the depth chart. The native of Ely, Nev., led the team with nine tackles in the upset at No. 15 Sterling College. He added another 11 stops in last week’s loss at Hastings.

40+ points = victory?
Until last week’s 48-43 loss at Hastings, Concordia had won 14-straight games when scoring 40 or more points. That streak dates back to Sept. 20, 1997, when the Bulldogs fell by an identical 48-43 score in a game played at Concordia University-Wisconsin. The Bulldogs had been 5-0 under Vance Winter when reaching the 40-point plateau.

Midland off to 2-0 start
The Warriors ended the 2013 season by losing six of their last eight games, but they have rebounded to begin the 2014 season with wins over No. 24 Peru State College (28-14) and Dordt College (35-0). On the strength of those wins, head coach Josh Gehring’s squad received votes in this week’s NAIA top 25 poll. Midland has gotten off to a quick start by allowing very little defensively – a combined 14 points and 427 total yards over two games. Last season the Warriors ranked 78th nationally in total defense, allowing an average of 472.5 yards per game.

Series history
Since the GPAC formed in 2000, Concordia and Midland have split their 14 meetings, 7-7. The Bulldogs have won the last two matchups, including last year’s 35-14 decision in Fremont. After trailing 7-0 at the end of the first quarter, Concordia dominated the rest of the way. Bryce Collins (121 yards, two touchdowns) and Trey Barnes (101 yards, three touchdowns) both went over 100 yards rushing and the Bulldogs outgained Midland, 493-214.

Garcia catches three touchdown passes in home-opening win over Midland

SEWARD, Neb. – With the game appeared headed for a 14-14 halftime score, Bulldog defensive back Tarence Roby scooped up a fumble and raced 46 yards to the end zone in a play that proved crucial. The Concordia University football team maintained a lead the remainder of the game on the way to a 35-28 home-opening victory over Midland University inside Bulldog Stadium on Saturday.

Offensively, senior quarterback Von Thomas fired four touchdown passes and ran for 91 yards. When deciding to let it fly, Thomas simply let his big freshmen receivers go up and make plays. Wideout Jared Garcia, coming off a 184-yard receiving game last week at Hastings, caught three of those touchdown tosses.

“Von and I bonded a lot this summer,” Garcia said. “A lot of stuff we’re doing out here has to do with that camaraderie we built over the summer. It’s working out for us.”

The lethal combination of Thomas to Garcia helped overcome 508 yards of total offense by Midland. The Bulldog defense limited the Warriors by forcing four turnovers – two by way of Roby, who also came up with an interception.

“Credit goes to Midland. They’re much improved on offense,” sixth-year head coach Vance Winter said. “They really had us on our heels for a lot of the game. I thought defensively we made some big plays when it counted. The score on D with Tarence was a huge play before the half.

“It was a highly-competitive game. Fortunately we made a few more plays.”

In a game that saw six combined turnovers, none was bigger than the Warrior lost fumble late in the first half. Roby pounced on Alex Cornist’s miscue and easily outran the Midland offense to the end zone with 0:36 left in the half.

If Bulldog fans were unaware of Roby’s talents beforehand, they now know the transfer from Northern Illinois University.

“I saw the running back catch the ball so I went over to pursue,” Roby said of the game-changing play. “I saw the ball pop out and I was just hoping it wouldn’t go out of bounds. Coach always says if it’s at the end of the quarter try to scoop and score. That’s what I did and I ended up in the end zone.”

Midland had one last opportunity with the score at 35-28. After stuffing Bryce Collins on a fourth and goal at the one, the Warriors took over with 6:14 left in the game and marched 57 yards on 11 plays. That’s when safety Michael Hedlund picked off a tipped pass from Midland quarterback Andrew Cameron.

Concordia then got one first down on a pair of Collins runs and milked the remaining clock to improve to 14-8 over the program’s last 22 games. Collins and the rushing attack helped seal up another close win. Each of the team’s first three games has been decided by seven points or less.

“We’re going to be in a lot of four-quarter games,” Winter said. “We’ve got so much youth and inexperience at a lot of positions. It’s going to be that way, but they are fun to coach. They continue to compete very hard so I’m excited to see their continued growth.”

The growth process has happened at an accelerated rate for Garcia, who now has 18 catches for 314 yards and four touchdowns on the season. On Saturday the native of Humble, Texas, caught scoring rifles of 12, 13 and 31 yards. His 13-yard touchdown catch with 11:56 left in the game provided a 35-21 advantage and enough margin for the Bulldogs to hang on.

“Those guys put in the time during the summer,” Winter said of Thomas and Garcia. “You can definitely tell that they’ve got a good feel for each other and where they’re going to be. Jared’s a legit receiver. It’s been really fun to watch those two guys the past two games.”

Thomas went 8-for-18 passing for 140 yards. He threw his first interception of the season on Saturday but still owns a sparking eight-to-one touchdown-to-interception ratio. His four passing scores pushed his career total touchdown figure to 50 (36 passing, 14 rushing) – two short of Jarrod Pimentel’s school record.

Collins led Concordia with 99 rushing yards, including a long of 38. DeMarques Saulberry ran nine times for 35 yards. Another freshman receiver – Carey Harrison – also caught a touchdown toss from Thomas. Harrison’s scoring catch at the beginning of the second half covered 38 yards.

Defensively, both D’Mauria Martin and Nakemm Evans notched 10 tackles to lead the Bulldogs.

On the opposite side, Alex Cornist enjoyed a big day on the ground for Midland. He ran for 189 yards on 32 carries. He scored all four of the Warrior touchdowns.

The Bulldogs are back at home next Saturday to host their final non-conference game of the regular season. Winter’s alma mater Dakota State University (2-2) will visit Seward for a 6 p.m. kickoff inside Bulldog Stadium. Concordia has defeated the Trojans in each of the last three seasons. Dakota State fell 40-37 to Presentation College on Saturday.

Roby tabbed GPAC defensive player of the week

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – Tarence Roby’s game-changing defensive touchdown in Saturday’s 35-28 win over Midland University has propelled the redshirt freshman defensive back to GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Defensive Player of the Week accolades, as announced by the league on Monday.

A native of Rockford, Ill., Roby came up with seven tackles, two pass break ups and an interception from his cornerback spot. The former Northern Illinois University Huskie made his biggest contribution when he scooped up a fumble late in the first half and returned it 46 yards for a touchdown, giving the Bulldogs a 21-14 lead at the time.

“I saw the running back catch the ball so I went over to pursue,” Roby said shortly after the game. “I saw the ball pop out and I was just hoping it wouldn’t go out of bounds. Coach always says if it’s at the end of the quarter try to scoop and score. That’s what I did and I ended up in the end zone.”

On the season, Roby has 15 total tackles, three pass break ups, an interception and two fumble recoveries. Roby’s touchdown was the first score by a Bulldog defensive player since Matt Keener returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown in last year’s win at Dakota State University on Sept. 28.

Roby and the Bulldogs (2-1, 1-1 GPAC), now receiving votes in the national poll, return to action on Saturday when they host Dakota State. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

GAME NOTES: Dakota State visits Bulldog Stadium for Saturday night game

SEWARD, Neb. – Head coach Vance Winter’s alma mater serves as the opponent on Saturday when the Bulldogs play host for their second-straight game. Concordia and Dakota State University will kick off at 6 p.m. in a battle underneath the lights inside Bulldog Stadium. It will be the fourth-consecutive season that the two teams have met.

“Dakota State is much improved,” Winter said. “They’ve got some talented running backs and they’re really moving the ball. We will have to play better than we did against them last year to beat them.”

GAME INFO
Dakota State (2-2, 1-2 NSAA) at Concordia (2-1, 1-1 GPAC)
Saturday, Sept. 27, 6 p.m.
Site: Seward, Neb.
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Play-by-play: Frank Greene 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2014 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 33.0 (T-25th)
Defensive PPG: 30.3 (T-53rd)
Total Offense: 398.3 (35th)
Pass Offense: 197.3 (51st)
Rush Offense: 201.0 (22nd)
Total Defense: 455.7 (72nd)
Pass Defense: 260.3 (68th)
Rush Defense: 195.3 (T-58th)
Turnover +/-: +3 (20th) 

Dakota State
Offensive PPG: 29.0 (T-37th)
Defensive PPG: 25.3 (T-35th)
Total Offense: 355.3 (50th)
Pass Offense: 99.0 (81st)
Rush Offense: 256.3 (10th)
Total Defense: 402.8 (55th)
Pass Defense: 264.0 (70th)
Rush Defense: 138.8 (27th)
Turnover +/-: +2 (T-30th) 

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (25-32, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 39/82 (.476), 8 TD, 1 INT, 592 yards, 138.0 effic.
Rushing: Von Thomas – 39 att, 262 yards, 6.7 avg, 5 TD
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 18 rec, 314 yards, 17.4 avg, 4 TD
Defense: Tarence Roby – 15 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 3 pbu’s, 1 INT, 2 FR, 1 TD 

Dakota State
Head Coach: Josh Anderson (9-46, 6th year)
Passing: Justin Summers – 36/64 (.554), 4 TD, 2 INT, 398 yards, 121.0 effic.
Rushing: Jeremy Christner – 67 att, 352 yards, 5.3 avg, 4 TD
Receiving: Brendon Waldner – 12 rec, 134 yards, 11.2 avg, 0 TD
Defense: Ben Kullos – 47 tackles, 4.0 TFLs, 2 INT 

Bulldogs on the offensive
No Concordia football team has averaged more than the 32.0 points per game put up by the 1951 Concordia Athletics Hall of Fame team that went 8-1 and won the Central Church Conference title under then head coach Herb Meyer. Through three games, coordinator Curran White’s 2014 offense is averaging 33.0 points per game and 398.3 total yards per game. The program record for most total yards per game was set by the 2004 team that averaged 388.4 yards. At its current pace, the Bulldogs are also on track to break the school record for points in a season (326 by the 2001 co-GPAC championship team).

Thomas chasing Pimentel
Senior quarterback Von Thomas is closing in on a couple of career school records held by former star quarterback Jarrod Pimentel (1998-2001). With 5,934 yards of total offense over 34 career games, Thomas sits 377 total yards shy of Pimentel’s school record of 6,311. In addition, the native of Miami, Fla., needs two touchdowns (passing or rushing) to tie Pimentel’s program record of 52 total touchdowns (49 passing, three rushing) over 41 games. Pimentel still holds a substantial lead over Thomas in career passing yards, 6,435 to 4,568.

Turnovers key defensive effort
While Concordia ranks 72nd in the NAIA in total defense, it has been opportunistic. The Bulldogs are tied for the most takeaways in the GPAC with eight through three games. In last week’s 35-28 win over Midland, Concordia forced four turnovers, including a fumble that went for a 46-yard touchdown return by GPAC defensive player of the week Tarence Roby. A native of Rockford, Ill., Roby has recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass. His touchdown was the first for a Bulldog defensive player since Matt Keener returned an interception 23 yards for a touchdown in last year’s win at Dakota State University on Sept. 28. In addition, safety Michael Hedlund has two interceptions. 

Scouting Dakota State
The Trojans, a member of the North Star Athletic Association, began the season with consecutive wins over Mayville State (28-20) and Dordt (41-7) prior to back-to-back losses to Valley City State (34-10) and Presentation (40-37). Dakota State has not won more than two games in a season since posting a 3-7 record in 2008. Head coach Josh Anderson’s squad has relied heavily upon a rushing attack that ranks 10th in the NAIA. The Trojan ground game features the trio of running backs Jeremy Christner (352 yards, 4 TD) and Jabree Shorter (341 yards, 2 TD) and quarterback Justin Summers (278 yards, 4 TD). The Dakota State 55th-ranked defensive unit is led by linebacker Ben Kullos, who has already racked up 47 tackles and a pair of interceptions.

Series history
Concordia and Dakota State are meeting each other for the fourth-straight season. The Bulldogs have won each of the past three meetings, winning by scores of 49-21 in 2011, 28-7 in 2012 and 24-0 in 2013. Both the 2012 and 2013 games were played in Madison, S.D. The 2011 contest took place in Seward.

Dakota State stuns Bulldogs with fourth-quarter rally

SEWARD, Neb. – Bryce Collins found the end zone three times and Michael Gill dominated on the defensive line, but those performances were overshadowed by a stunning come-from-behind 22-21 win for visiting Dakota State University on Saturday. Trailing 21-16 with 1:57 left on the clock, the Trojans marched the ball 88 yards in 12 plays to complete a comeback from a deficit as large as 14 points.

Head coach Vance Winter’s squad, which defeated Dakota State in each of the prior three seasons, moved to 2-2 overall after falling to an energized and improving Trojan program.

“They had a lot more fight in them than we had in us tonight,” Winter said. “They thoroughly out-coached us, out-played us and out-everything’ed us. They really competed hard. I’m happy for (Dakota State head coach) Josh (Anderson). He’s done a nice job. Their team is playing very hard.”

Early indicators suggested that Concordia may cruise to victory in front of a large crowd on hand for the season’s only home night game of the season. The Bulldogs dominated a first quarter in which they put together touchdown drives of 87 and 59 yards in building a 14-0 lead. Both possessions ended with touchdowns by Collins.

Concordia’s gifted running back racked up 251 all-purpose yards, when factoring in his work on kickoff returns, and all three Bulldog touchdowns. The Boerne, Texas, native showed another gear on a late-first quarter screen pass that he housed on a play that covered 45 yards. Dakota State frequently lost Collins out of the backfield as he racked up a game high and career best 112 yards receiving.

“Bryce did some good things in the run game and catching the ball,” Winter said. “He’s a really good athlete and good back. He’s the same way we all are. He competed like crazy. We just didn’t get it done.”

After an offensive lull for much of the second and third quarters, Von Thomas and the Concordia offense responded to 10-straight Trojan points with a nine-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that culminated with Collins plunging into the end zone from one yard out. Freshman receiver Logan Otte had the key play of the possession – a 36-yard rush – to put Concordia deep into Dakota State territory. With 13:47 left in the game, the Bulldogs led 21-10.

Once again Concordia was seemingly in control, especially considering the disruptiveness of defensive linemen Michael Gill (12 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Kyle Rakow (13 tackles, 1.5 sacks). However, the Trojans kept them at bay during a fourth quarter that saw Dakota State put together a pair of touchdown drives of greater than 80 yards.

The game-winning possession began from Dakota State’s own 12 after Sandy Fisher’s 41-yard punt pinned the Trojans back. Dakota State drew a crucial pass interference penalty on third and four from its own 18 and then followed with a 41-yard strike from quarterback Justin Summers to receiver Austin Opdahl. Concordia had another chance to seal the win when a second and goal pass out to the flat slipped through Trey Barnes’ fingers.

Bulldog Stadium went deadly silent on the very next play when Summers’ pass was hauled in by a diving Brendon Waldner for a six-yard game-winning touchdown catch with 10 seconds remaining.

“There was a sense of purpose in what they were doing,” Winter said of Dakota State. “I didn’t feel like we had as much of a sense of purpose after our first two drives. I thought our defense did some good things at times against a pretty good offense, but we didn’t make any plays at the end.”

The Trojans outgained Concordia 406-368 on the night. Dakota State piled up 171 of its yards on the final two touchdown drives. The Bulldogs did a respectable job of limiting the Trojans’ 10th-ranked rush offense, holding Dakota State to 3.4 yards per attempt on Saturday.

Concordia freshman defensive back D’Mauria Martin blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and also came up with a key tackle for loss on a late Dakota State possession.

Barnes, a Seward High School product, played at linebacker on Saturday for the first time in his collegiate career. He made five tackles and broke up a pair of passes.

Standout Dakota State running back Jeremy Christner ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Summers completed 15 of 26 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.

Thomas went 12-for-25 passing with 168 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 13 times for 68 yards. Defensively, cornerback Tarence Roby came up with an interception for the second-straight game.

The Bulldogs complete their string of three-straight home games next Saturday when they welcome Dordt (0-4, 0-3 GPAC) for homecoming. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. The Defenders fell by a 35-20 score versus Briar Cliff on Saturday.

GAME NOTES: Concordia hosts Dordt for homecoming Saturday

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University football team will look to shake off a one-point home loss to Dakota State University when it hosts Dordt on Saturday as part of homecoming week on campus. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. from Bulldog Stadium.

“Hopefully we’ll improve this week,” head coach Vance Winter said at Tuesday’s Bulldog Booster Club gathering. “I believe we have the talent and the guys to turn into a good football team. We’re focused right now on fixing our mistakes. We have to play better.”

GAME INFO
Dordt (0-4, 0-3 GPAC) at Concordia (2-2, 1-1 GPAC)
Saturday, Oct. 4, 1 p.m.
Site: Seward, Neb.
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Play-by-play: Frank Greene

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2014 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 30.0 (34th)
Defensive PPG: 28.3 (T-47th)
Total Offense: 390.8 (36th)
Pass Offense: 192.0 (53rd)
Rush Offense: 198.8 (23rd)
Total Defense: 443.3 (73rd)
Pass Defense: 245.0 (63rd)
Rush Defense: 198.3 (64th)
Turnover +/-: +3 (T-19th) 

Dordt
Offensive PPG: 7.3 (87th)
Defensive PPG: 45.8 (T-82nd)
Total Offense: 177.3 (88th)
Pass Offense: 83.5 (84th)
Rush Offense: 93.8 (82nd)
Total Defense: 471.5 (78th)
Pass Defense: 236.3 (58th)
Rush Defense: 235.3 (73rd)
Turnover +/-: -5 (T-76th)

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (25-33, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 52/108 (.481), 9 TD, 2 INT, 768 yards, 131.7 Effic.
Rushing: Von Thomas – 52 att, 330 yards, 6.3 avg, 5 TD
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 19 rec, 313 yards, 16.5 avg, 4 TD
Defense: Kyle Rakow – 32 tackles, 6.0 tfl’s, 3.5 sacks

Dordt
Head Coach: Greg Youngblood (4-22, 3rd year)
Passing: Taylan Seaman – 11/47 (.234), 1 TD, 3 INT, 185 yards, 50.7 Effic.
Rushing: Daniel Fennig – 58 att, 174 yards, 3.0 avg, 1 TD
Receiving: Jason Miller – 12 rec, 140 yards, 11.7 avg, 1 TD
Defense: Vanoy Harris – 46 tackles, 4.0 tfl’s, 1 sack

Too close for comfort
Concordia’s first four games have been decided by a combined margin of 19 points. The Bulldogs are the only team in the GPAC whose first four contests have all been won or lost by seven points or fewer. In each game this season, either Concordia or its opponent has possessed the ball in the final two minutes with a chance to tie or take the lead.

First four games
9/6 – at (15) Sterling; W, 21-15
9/13 – at Hastings; L, 43-48
9/20 – vs. Midland; W, 35-28
9/27 – vs. Dakota State; L, 21-22 

Thomas update
With 244 total yards in last week’s loss, senior quarterback Von Thomas pushed his career total to 6,178 yards over 35 games. The native of Miami, Fla., needs 133 total yards to tie Jarrod Pimentel’s (1998-2001) school record of 6,311. Thomas’s 51 total touchdowns (37 passing, 14 rushing) are one shy of Pimentel’s program record of 52 total touchdowns (49 passing, three rushing). Pimentel, a member of the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame, led the 2001 Bulldogs to a co-GPAC title and berth in the NAIA football playoffs.

Disruptive D-line
While Concordia looks to improve upon a defense that ranks 73rd nationally in total yards allowed per game (443.3), the production of defensive linemen Kyle Rakow and Michael Gill has served as a bright spot. The duo combined for 25 tackles and four sacks last week against Dakota State. Rakow is off to a tremendous start in his senior year, already amassing career highs in tackles (32), tackles for loss (6.0) and sacks (3.5). Rakow (Pleasant Dale, Neb.), who ranks third among GPAC players in sacks, also has been credited with three quarterback hurries, a forced fumble and a blocked PAT this season.

Meanwhile, Gill (Ogallala, Neb.) came up with 12 tackles and 2.5 sacks versus Dakota State. Gill ranks third on the team with 28 tackles (behind Nakemm Evans and Rakow). He has made 3.0 tackles for loss.

Barnes makes shift to other side of ball
Seward High School product Trey Barnes made his first appearance at linebacker at the collegiate level last week. The move came after Barnes had played his first 13 career games at running back, piling up 575 yards and seven touchdowns on 156 carries. Early-season injuries necessitated Barnes’ move to the defensive side of the ball. The Seward native recorded five tackles and two pass break ups in his first action at linebacker.

“We hope it gives us a little more depth and athleticism on the perimeter,” Winter said after the Dakota State game. “I thought he did some nice stuff (Saturday). He’s a good athlete and a good player. We expect him to do good things.”

Early returns promising on punts
Thus far, Concordia has had good success both punting and receiving punts. Junior punter Sandy Fisher pinned Dakota State inside its own 20 on five of his eight boots on the day. His season punting average of 38.3 on 23 attempts ranks fourth in the conference. His work has helped the Bulldogs down 10 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line this season.

On the flip side, Concordia ranks 13th among all NAIA teams with an average of 16.4 yards per punt return. Five different Bulldogs have returned at least one punt this season. Freshman Logan Otte leads the way with three returns for 67 yards. Last week Carey Harrison set the offense up in Dakota State territory with a 23-yard punt return.

Scouting Dordt
Dordt continues to try to find its footing in its third season under head coach Greg Youngblood. The Defenders have been outscored by a combined total of 183-29 through their four losses to begin the campaign. Dordt ranks last among all NAIA programs in total offense (177.3) and 78th in total defense (471.5). On the defensive side of the ball, junior linebacker Vanoy Harris has racked up 46 tackles to lead the conference. The Defenders have lost nine-straight games since a 56-27 win over Trinity Bible College on Oct. 12, 2013.

Series history
Concordia has won six of the seven meetings all-time with Dordt. Last season the Bulldogs defeated the Defenders 32-0 in Sioux Center, Iowa. Concordia has won all three matchups with Dordt at Bulldog Stadium, including a 52-12 victory on Sept. 22, 2012.

Thomas breaks two school records in homecoming domination of Dordt

SEWARD, Neb. – Senior quarterback Von Thomas broke a pair of school career records and the Concordia University football team racked up 548 total yards in rolling to a 38-14 homecoming Saturday win over visiting Dordt College (0-5, 0-4 GPAC). Thomas got plenty of help from backfield mate Bryce Collins, who put up 142 of his career high 157 rushing yards in the first half.

The blowout win was just what the Bulldogs needed after last week’s heartbreaking loss in the final minute to Dakota State. Concordia improved to 3-2 overall and 2-1 in conference action.

“We challenged our guys to play a 60-minute football game. I thought we did a lot better today,” head coach Vance Winter said. “We were a lot more efficient. There were some crazy things that happened in that game, but we maintained our composure and did some better things.

“I thought offensively, up front, and Bryce running the ball – we did some nice things controlling the game.”

In pulverizing the Defender defense to the tune of 327 rushing yards and 5.8 yards per carry, Concordia outgained Dordt by more than 400 yards (548-122) and possessed the ball for 41:34. The Bulldogs amassed 29 first downs compared to just six for the Defenders. Concordia was also 11-for-17 on third downs while holding Dordt to 1-for-9 on third downs.

Thomas and company had everything working on the chilly homecoming Saturday.

“After last week’s loss here at home, we went back and made some minor adjustments,” Thomas said. “We started out with an attitude offensively. We had to get back into attack mode and be aggressive and get back to converting on third downs. I felt like we did a pretty good job doing that today.”

Thomas broke former star quarterback Jarrod Pimentel’s school total touchdown record with a second quarter scoring strike to Jared Garcia in the left corner of the end zone. Garcia made a highlight reel catch over Dordt’s PJ Tramell to mark the 53rd total touchdown (38 passing, 15 rushing) of Thomas’ standout Bulldog career. The native of Miami, Fla., then eclipsed another of Pimentel’s career marks (6,311 total yards). Thomas finished with 244 total yards (and three total touchdowns) on the day and now has 6,422 for his career.

“I never set any goals as far as personal (stats), but I’m going to enjoy it,” Thomas said. “My teammates won’t let me live it down now. It’s a great feeling.”

In the running game, Concordia’s offensive line opened up massive holes for Collins. The sophomore running back from Boerne, Texas, broke free for a 47-yard rush on the Bulldogs’ opening drive, setting up Thomas’ five-yard touchdown run. Collins later scored from one and seven yards out as Concordia built a 28-7 halftime advantage.

The Bulldogs led 35-7 early in the third quarter when Thomas added his 39th career passing touchdown, finding tight end Seth Fitzke for a six-yard scoring play that capped an 11-play, 67-yard drive. The touchdown was the first in the career of Fitzke, a Seward High School product.

Defensively, senior defensive lineman Kyle Rakow and company enjoyed their best outing of the season. The Defenders got almost half of their total yardage on a 60-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Taylan Seaman to Xavier Cafee after Concordia had pulled its No. 1 unit.

Take out the late scoring strike and Dordt’s option offense averaged just 1.8 yards per play.

“It’s always key to play assignment-sound football when you play an option team,” Rakow said. “Dordt is good at what they do. Coach’s emphasis all week was that if everyone does their part, we can shut them down. I thought we did a pretty good job most of the day of doing that.”

Rakow continues to make a habit out of being in the opposition’s backfield. The native of Pleasant Dale, Neb., came up with two more tackles for loss on Saturday to bring his team-leading season total to eight. His five total tackles were enough to top the Bulldogs with Dordt running only 36 offensive plays.

The Defenders got used to seeing No. 10 on the field. Thomas ended up completing 21 of 31 passes for 216 yards. He also ran four times for 27 yards on a day when he helped cement his place among some of the best offensive players in Concordia’s history.

“Von’s just done an amazing job,” Winter said. “He’s been an amazing leader for us. I’m real happy for him to be able to do that on homecoming with his mother and his fiancé here. He’s a great competitor. I love coaching him. I know our guys like playing for him too.”

A 38-7 advantage early in the fourth quarter allowed Winter to get a look at lot of his reserves. Senior running back James Ferguson busted a 46-yard run in the fourth quarter and finished with 49 yards rushing. Garcia, who caught his fifth touchdown pass of the season, led the team with six receptions for 33 yards. Nine different players caught a pass for the Bulldogs.

Dordt got its first score on a 50-yard punt return for a touchdown by Markei Goodman that came off a punt of just five yards. The Defenders were suddenly within seven points, but never got any closer.

The Bulldogs renew their rivalry with Nebraska Wesleyan (1-4, 1-3 GPAC) next Saturday in another game set to kick off at 1 p.m. Last season Concordia defeated the then No. 22 Prairie Wolves 19-3 on Oct. 12 in what was the NAIA game of the week. Nebraska Wesleyan fell 55-29 at Doane on Saturday.

GAME NOTES: Bulldogs renew rivalry with Nebraska Wesleyan on Saturday

SEWARD, Neb. – Coming off a blowout victory over Dordt, the Concordia University football team will aim for its second-straight win over Nebraska Wesleyan when the two GPAC rivals go head-to-head on Saturday. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. from Abel Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

“Wesleyan has a lot of really good players,” head coach Vance Winter said at Tuesday’s booster club gathering. “They have a receiver that’s as good as we’ll face.

“It will be a different type of game. It’s their homecoming so I’m sure they will rally the troops and give us their best shot. We expect them to play well so we're going to have to play really well to come out with a win."

GAME INFO
Concordia (3-2, 2-1) at Nebraska Wesleyan (1-4, 1-3)
Saturday, Oct. 11, 1 p.m.
Site: Lincoln, Neb.
Stadium: Abel Stadium
Webcast: Stretch Internet

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2014 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 31.6 (T-26th)
Defensive PPG: 25.4 (35th)
Total Offense: 422.2 (21st)
Pass Offense: 199.6 (50th)
Rush Offense: 222.6 (16th)
Total Defense: 379.0 (41st)
Pass Defense: 214.8 (48th)
Rush Defense: 164.2 (T-41st)
Turnover +/-: +2 (T-26th) 

Nebraska Wesleyan
Offensive PPG: 17.2 (77th)
Defensive PPG: 42.0 (79th)
Total Offense: 282.8 (74th)
Pass Offense: 278.4 (13th)
Rush Offense: 4.4 (88th)
Total Defense: 458.2 (76th)
Pass Defense: 248.0 (72nd)
Rush Defense: 210.2 (65th)
Turnover +/-: -6 (T-77th) 

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (26-33, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 74/140 (.529), 11 TD, 3 INT, 993 yards, 134.1 Effic.
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 73 att, 414 yards, 5.7 avg, 4 TD
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 25 rec, 346 yards, 13.8 avg, 5 TD
Defense: Kyle Rakow – 37 tackles, 8.0 tfl’s, 3.5 sacks 

Nebraska Wesleyan
Head Coach: Brian Keller (101-85, 19th year)
Passing: Tyler Francis – 109/206 (.529), 8 TD, 10 INT, 1,376 yards, 112.1 Effic.
Rushing: Joel Wiedel – 40 att, 96 yards, 2.4 avg, 1 TD
Receiving: Connor Zumpfe – 34 rec, 602 yards, 17.7 avg, 6 TD
Defense: Kalen Vandenberg – 52 tackles, 1.0 tfl, 1 INT 

Ground and pound
With last week’s 318 yard output on the ground, Concordia’s rushing attack has vaulted up to 16th nationally with an average of 222.6 yards per game. The production has been even better over the past four games. Over that stretch the Bulldogs have averaged 249.0 rushing yards per game with 10 rushing touchdowns. The duo of quarterback Von Thomas and running back Bryce Collins has combined for 771 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground to lead the attack. Collins ranks 15th nationally with 103.5 rushing yards per game.

Thomas continues rewrite of Concordia record books
Another big day for Von Thomas last week allowed him to break a pair of program career records formerly held by star quarterback Jarrod Pimentel (1998-2001). Thomas has eclipsed Pimentel’s previous records for career yards of total offense (6,178) and career total touchdowns (52). Thomas now stands at 6,430 total yards (4,969 passing, 1,461 rushing) and 54 touchdowns (39 passing, 15 rushing) over 36 career games. The native of Miami, Fla., is also chasing Pimentel’s career records for passing yards (6,435 yards) and touchdown passes (49). In 2013 Thomas broke single season records for total offense (2,508), completions (197), passing attempts (334) and completion percentage (59.0).

Up next for Thomas?

Passing yards (career)
Pimentel – 6,435
Thomas – 4,969 

Passing touchdowns (career)
Pimentel – 49
Thomas – 39 

Pass completions (career)
Pimentel – 470
Thomas – 459 

Pass attempts (career)
Pimentel – 943
Thomas – 853 

Passing yards (season)
Pimentel – 2,150 (2001)
Thomas – 993 (2014) 

Passing touchdowns (season)
Rod Giesselman – 17 (1970)
Thomas – 11 (2014) 

Rushing touchdowns (season)
Cleve Wester – 13 (1984)
Thomas – 6 (2014) 

Defense dominates
Ranked 73rd nationally in total defense entering last week, the Bulldogs rebounded by limiting Dordt to 122 total yards. The Defenders got 60 of those yards on a late touchdown pass. Take that play out and Concordia allowed Dordt just 1.8 yards per play. The 122 yards were the fewest by a Concordia opponent since Midland’s 118 in a 23-14 Bulldog win on Oct. 27, 2012. The dominate effort pushed defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit up to 41st in the NAIA in total defense (379.0) and 35th in scoring defense (25.4).

The team’s unofficial defensive MVP so far has been senior defensive lineman Kyle Rakow, who made two more tackles in the backfield versus Dordt. Rakow has career highs this season with 37 tackles, eight tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.

Saturday features matchup of top receivers
Nebraska Wesleyan and Concordia both boast one of the most productive receivers in the GPAC. The Prairie Wolves’ Connor Zumpfe was named GPAC offensive player of the week on Monday after catching nine passes for 209 yards and four touchdowns in a loss at Doane. Zumpfe leads the GPAC in receptions (34), receiving yards (602) and receiving touchdowns (six). Last season Concordia held Zumpfe to four catches for 29 yards in the Oct. 12 meeting. Meanwhile, Bulldog freshman Jared Garcia caught his fifth touchdown pass of the year in the win over Dordt. The native of Humble, Texas, tops Concordia with 25 catches for 346 yards.

Scouting Nebraska Wesleyan
Nebraska Wesleyan has struggled against a difficult early-season schedule that has included No. 3 Morningside, No. 8 Tabor College (Kan.) and No. 16 Northwestern. The Prairie Wolves’ four losses have come to teams with a combined record of 14-4. Head coach Brian Keller’s squad has not gotten any traction in the running game – an area Wesleyan ranks last among all NAIA teams with 4.4 rushing yards per game. The Prairie Wolves are currently 74th in total offense and 76th in total defense. They are led by quarterback Tyler Francis (GPAC leader with 275.2 passing yards/game) and senior defensive lineman Phil Latimer, a 2013 NAIA All-American. Wesleyan’s lone win came by a score of 38-28 at Briar Cliff on Sept. 20. Nebraska Wesleyan is celebrating its homecoming this week.

Series History
Nebraska Wesleyan leads the all-time series with Concordia, 33-19, since the first meeting in 1958. The Bulldogs won last year’s contest, 19-3, in what was the NAIA game of the week pairing No. 15 Concordia and No. 22 Nebraska Wesleyan. The Bulldogs are looking to snap a streak of four-straight losses when playing at Wesleyan. Concordia last beat the Prairie Wolves on their home field, 27-20, on Nov. 2, 2002.

Von Thomas’ journey from hometown Miami to record-setting quarterback

By Jake Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications

You probably know senior Von Thomas as Concordia University’s starting quarterback. GPAC opponents know him well, too. They fear him for his ability to tear them apart through the air or by gliding past their defense before it even knows what happened.

But Thomas is more than just the guy who directs an explosive Bulldog offense. His story is one that began in a humble neighborhood on 101st Street in Miami, Fla. It’s a vibrant city where his passion for football spawned, where his dream of becoming a police officer took hold and where tragedy struck extended family members.

A strong leader on the field and a fun-loving guy off it, Thomas traces his positive traits back to his roots and to the most influential person in his life – his mother Blanca.

“My mom was tough. We knew right from wrong,” Thomas said. “We would get disciplined and everything as you can imagine. We are the way we are now because of my mom. It was just her. She raised three boys. My oldest brother is in the army. My other brother works for the county back home. Now I’m getting ready to graduate from college with a degree in psychology.”

With Blanca in attendance at last week’s homecoming game, Von continued his assault on the Bulldog football record book. He surpassed former star quarterback Jarrod Pimentel for both career total yards of offense and career total touchdowns as Concordia blew away Dordt. Five games into 2014, Von is on track for his best season yet in his third year as a starter.

It’s been an incredible run for a guy who, during his freshman season, at times missed classes. He grew and he learned better of it. Look at him now.

“I never set any goals as far as personal (stats), but I’m going to enjoy it,” Thomas said following his record-setting day. “My teammates won’t let me live it down now. It’s a great feeling.”

Anyone who saw him play at Miami’s Monsignor Edward Pace High School knew Von had the potential to become a collegiate star. But he had been overshadowed by future NFL players like Kayvon Webster (Denver Broncos), Demarcus Van Dyke (drafted by the Oakland Raiders) and Adrian Bushell (signed as undrafted free agent with Raiders). Plus Von did not become Pace’s full-time starting quarterback until his senior year – too late in the game to draw the attention of some college recruiters.

But the talent was hard to ignore. NCAA Division I schools were interested in Von, but they wanted him to try receiver. That made Von uneasy.

“I didn’t have any film at that position because I just played quarterback in high school,” Von said. “(NCAA Division I FCS) Alabama State (University) ended up picking me up late. I went on a visit late and told them I was coming.”

And so Von enrolled at Alabama State for the fall semester of 2008. However, he quickly realized, before school even started, that the culture wasn’t quite what he wanted. So he decided to put college on hold and return home where Blanca welcomed him back.

For more than a year, Von worked at the local Costco where his mother served as the store’s supervisor. Von pushed carts, rain or shine. He was happy to help his mom and keep her company with both of his older brothers having already moved out of the nest. At the same time, he knew he wasn’t taking full advantage of the talents God had afforded him.

A chance encounter with a former coach while walking around his high school provided the break he needed.

“One of my coaches saw me,” Von said. “He asked, ‘Hey, what are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in school.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I left Alabama State. I’m just ready to go back to school and play football again.’ I had been out for that year.”

That particular coach happened to have a connection with a Concordia head coach at the time. Von was put in touch with Bulldog head football coach Vance Winter and Von’s return to collegiate football was set into motion.

Von’s talents were easy for Winter to see upon viewing The Sunshine State native’s high school film. So in December of 2009, Von visited Concordia for the first time and signed on the dotted line to become a Bulldog. As Von remembers, “That was my first time experiencing snow.”

A little snow would not bother someone as tough as Von, now known for his disdain for running out of bounds. An oncoming defender looking to lay him out doesn’t seem so daunting when compared to some of the other things Von has faced in his life.

Let’s be frank, it’s not as if Von lived amidst a Miami Vice-type atmosphere. He admits to being oblivious to what violence did occur in his area, and Blanca and his brothers Arnold and Chris never allowed Von to even think about veering down the wrong path.

Still there were the reminders of what trouble lurked nearby. Blanca had to move the family out of their 101st Street house after it was twice robbed in broad daylight. Then in 2011, with Von settling in at Concordia, something much worse occurred.

“I received a call from one of my cousin’s back home saying that our cousin Michael had been killed – shot in the head and dumped in the water,” Von said. “I contacted my mom as soon as I found out – she was at work – and my brother as well.

“I lost two of my close cousins and we were all the same age range. That was pretty tough.”

Like everything else, Von took it in stride. He dealt with other things like not seeing his father, who lives in Hallandale, Fla., and just “wasn’t there” as Von states.

He was wired early on to be tough and not show weakness. Otherwise he could have simply been eaten alive.

“My older brother Chris would tell me that people would come up to you and just try to fight you just because – just to see what you were about,” Von said. “I tell people now that back home you had to learn to defend yourself. People are crazy back home. You had to learn how to fight. My brothers taught me a lot.”

Those roots also have influenced Von in his aspirations of becoming a police officer. This past summer he interned with the Seward Police Department, learning the ropes of what it will take for him to fulfill a dream – something Blanca always wanted herself. Von plans to enter the police academy after he graduates in December.

“Being a police officer has always been in my mind even though I rarely talked about it before,” Von said. “The internship here was really good experience. I saw a lot of things and learned a lot.

“It was my mom’s dream growing up to be a police officer as well.”

While Von may not have dreamed of playing his college football in Nebraska, he’s not complaining about the way his life has transpired. Concordia has become a second home, and the place where he met his future wife.

“My plan was to get my degree and head back home to Miami,” Thomas said. “Things didn’t work out that way, which I’m pretty excited and happy that it didn’t. I did meet my fiancé here. She was feeling the same way too like, 'I’m never going to meet anybody here from Nebraska.' It worked out for her too. I’ve had a lot of fun here. I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t rewrite any story that I had here. I feel like everything happens for a reason.”

The story that Von continues to author has thrilled Bulldog fans, who have seen the Miami native help boost the program into the upper half of the GPAC. With his play on the field and his big smile off it, Von has had little trouble endearing himself to others.

“Von’s just done an amazing job,” Winter said. “He’s been an amazing leader for us. I’m real happy for him to (break those records) on homecoming with his mother and his fiancé here. He’s a great competitor. I love coaching him. I know our guys like playing for him too.”

Von will head back to Florida in December, but trust that he will return to Concordia next May to walk across the stage at graduation. Mom insists. And who’s to argue with Blanca, the woman who has meant so much in his life?

“My mom is forcing me to walk,” Von said. “She was like, ‘you’re not going to miss it after I did all of this for you.’ I said, ‘you got it, mom.’ We’ll be back up in May. I’ll be walking across that stage and I know it’s something my mom has been wanting to see for a while.”

That moment will put a bow on what’s been a remarkable Concordia career for Von – perhaps the top quarterback in program history. Stated simply and fittingly by Von, “Somehow it worked out.”

Fourth quarter lead slips away in overtime loss at Nebraska Wesleyan

LINCOLN, Neb. – Despite burrowing itself into a 14-0 hole, the Concordia University football team came within an eyelash of accomplishing something it had not done in 12 years – defeat Nebraska Wesleyan on the road. Quarterback Von Thomas threw for a career-high 284 yards and ran for 111, but it wasn’t quite enough as the Prairie Wolves rallied to tie in the fourth quarter and then won in overtime, 37-34, inside Abel Stadium on Saturday afternoon.

After Concordia settled for an Adam Meirose 36-yard field goal to begin the overtime, Nebraska Wesleyan followed with an 18-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tyler Francis to running back Joel Wiedel to clinch the game and send its homecoming crowd home happy.

Other than last week’s 38-14 blowout of Dordt, every Bulldog game has been decided by seven points or fewer. Concordia is now 3-3 overall and 2-2 in GPAC play.

“We definitely did some nice things today,” Bulldog head coach Vance Winter said. “But we had a lot of critical mistakes throughout the game whether it was a touchdown taken off the board or dropping coverages – things like that. They really cost us the game.

“Credit to Wesleyan. They really played a good football game.”

Thomas and the young receiver core sparkled for much of the game after a quiet first quarter. Freshman Logan Otte (Katy, Texas) made a big splash, catching a 62-yard touchdown pass in the middle of the second quarter prior to a 35-yard leaping snare that set up Jared Garcia’s 13-yard touchdown grab late in the first half. Otte finished with a career high 132 receiving yards – 109 of which came in the opening half.

After amassing 548 total yards in last week’s win over Dordt, Concordia piled up 508 more yards at Nebraska Wesleyan.

“They’re going to be pretty good every week,” Winter said of his group of offensive skill players. “We have to be more consistent in other areas. I felt like we ran the ball a lot better in the second half. We did a lot of good things offensively. We finished drives with scores for the most part.”

The Bulldogs finally grabbed their first lead, 24-20, at the 9:54 mark of the fourth quarter when Von Thomas kept the ball on the read option and waltzed untouched 29 yards to the end zone. The Miami native, bottled up in the running game in the first half, nearly had another rushing touchdown but was tripped up from behind after a 34-yard run that made it first and goal at the two.

Three plays later Thomas floated a touch pass to tight end Clinton Gardels for a four-yard score that put the Bulldogs in control, 31-20, or so it seemed.

Down 11, Francis and the Prairie Wolf offense went to work with under five minutes remaining in the contest. Francis converted a critical fourth and 10 (from own 41) by letting GPAC-leading receiver Connor Zumpfe go up and get the ball. His 16-yard catch kept a drive alive that ultimately covered 73 yards in 1:36 and ended with Zumpfe’s five-yard touchdown grab. A successful two-point try cut Concordia’s lead to three.

The Wesleyan offense then got the ball back at its own 28 with 2:17 remaining. Again the combo of Zumpfe and Ryan Larsen wreaked havoc on the Concordia secondary. Larsen reeled in a 24-yard completion on the final Prairie Wolf possession of regulation, setting up Kramer Rath’s third field goal of the game. His 31-yard boot forced the overtime.

While Nebraska Wesleyan again struggled to find consistency in the run game (2.6 yards per attempt), it got a huge day from Francis, who completed 31 of 49 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns. Zumpfe caught 11 balls for 171 yards and a score. Wiedel notched 104 receiving yards on 10 catches out of the backfield.

“We let the ball be thrown over our heads way too many times today,” Winter said. “399 yards passing is too much. They were able to extend drives on third downs. We only had four possessions on offense in the first half.”

Bulldog running back Bryce Collins shouldered a heavy load again on Saturday as he carried the ball 26 times for 113 yards. The native of Boerne, Texas, now has three 100-yard rushing games this season and five for his career.

Defensively, Concordia got great production from its stalwarts up front, junior Michael Gill (nine tackles, three tackles for loss) and Kyle Rakow (seven tackles, one tackle for loss). Freshman Tarence Roby made a game high 11 stops.

Last week Thomas eclipsed program career records for total yards of offense and total touchdowns. In Saturday’s loss Thomas surpassed Jarrod Pimentel’s former career record of 470 pass completions. Thomas now has 479 after hitting on 20 of 36 passes. Thomas is also nearing the single-season record of 17 touchdown passes in a season, set by Rod Giesselman in 1970. Thomas has 14 touchdown tosses after throwing for three scores on Saturday.

The Bulldogs return home next Saturday to host No. 13 Northwestern (4-1, 4-0 GPAC) at 1 p.m. The game has been designated Parent’s Day at Bulldog Stadium. The Red Raiders defeated Briar Cliff 38-0 on Saturday for their fourth-straight victory.

GAME NOTES: No. 12 Northwestern visits Bulldog Stadium for parent’s day

SEWARD, Neb. – Twelfth-ranked Northwestern (4-1, 4-0 GPAC) will invade Bulldog Stadium on Saturday as Concordia University plays host as part of parent’s day. The football program welcomes parents and family members to the Janzow Campus Center at the conclusion of the game. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

“We need to start making our own breaks,” head coach Vance Winter said. “This week against Northwestern would be a great time. We’ll have to play a lot better.”

The Bulldogs are coming off a 37-34 overtime loss at Nebraska Wesleyan last week. Meanwhile, Northwestern extended its winning streak to four with a 38-0 rout of Briar Cliff.

GAME INFO
No. 12 Northwestern (4-1, 4-0) at Concordia (3-3, 2-2)
Saturday, Oct. 18, 1 p.m.
Site: Seward, Neb.
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Play-by-play: Frank Greene 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2014 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 32.0 (T-24th)
Defensive PPG: 27.3 (T-42nd)
Total Offense: 436.5 (17th)
Pass Offense: 213.7 (44th)
Rush Offense: 222.8 (12th)
Total Defense: 396.7 (50th)
Pass Defense: 245.5 (68th)
Rush Defense: 151.2 (33rd)
Turnover +/-: even (T-38th) 

Northwestern
Offensive PPG: 26.2 (T-45th)
Defensive PPG: 11.6 (1st)
Total Offense: 326.0 (64th)
Pass Offense: 161.8 (67th)
Rush Offense: 164.2 (42nd)
Total Defense: 199.6 (1st)
Pass Defense: 125.6 (6th)
Rush Defense: 74.0 (3rd)
Turnover +/-: even (T-38th) 

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (26-34, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 94/176 (.534), 14 TD, 5 INT, 1,277 yards, 134.9 effic. (rushing: 468 yards, 7 TD)
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 99 att, 527 yards, 5.3 avg, 4 TD
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 29 rec, 411 yards, 14.2 avg, 6 TD
Defense: Kyle Rakow – 44 tackles, 9.0 tfl’s, 3.5 sacks 

Northwestern
Head Coach: Kyle Achterhoff (37-11, 5th year)
Passing: Craig Bruinsma – 48/97 (.495), 4 TD, 2 INT, 537 yards, 105.5 effic.
Rushing: Jessie Riley – 96 att, 361 yards, 3.8 avg, 2 TD
Receiving: Ben Green – 25 rec, 367 yards, 14.7 avg, 5 TD
Defense: Justin Wohlert – 16 tackles, 6 INT / Greg Hegstad – 43 tackles, 11 tfl’s, 3.5 sacks 

Thomas tracker
By completing 20 of 36 passes in last week’s overtime loss at Nebraska Wesleyan, senior quarterback Von Thomas surpassed another program career record formerly held by Jarrod Pimentel. Thomas, who also owns Concordia career marks for total yards of offense (6,825) and total touchdowns (58), is now nine pass completions (479) ahead of Pimentel (470) for the all-time school record. In 2013 Thomas broke single season Bulldog records for total offense (2,508), completions (197), passing attempts (334) and completion percentage (59.0).

Up next for Thomas?

Passing yards (career)
Pimentel – 6,435
Thomas – 5,253

Passing touchdowns (career)
Pimentel – 49
Thomas – 42

Pass attempts (career)
Pimentel – 943
Thomas – 889

Passing yards (season)
Pimentel – 2,150 (2001)
Thomas – 1,277 (2014) 

Passing touchdowns (season)
Rod Giesselman – 17 (1970)
Thomas – 14 (2014) 

Rushing touchdowns (season)
Cleve Wester – 13 (1984)
Thomas – 7 (2014)

Texas freshmen make for big-play duo
Freshman Logan Otte (Katy, Texas) enjoyed a breakout game last week, going for career highs with seven catches for 132 yards and a touchdown. Fellow freshman Jared Garcia (Humble, Texas) caught his team-leading sixth touchdown pass in the defeat. Garcia tops the team with 29 receptions for 411 yards. Now healthy after missing the loss at Hastings earlier this season, Otte is second on the Bulldogs with 11 catches for 191 yards and two touchdowns. The two have made Concordia much more explosive this season. Garcia has hauled in passes that have covered 68, 43, 31 and 27 yards this season. Otte has touchdown grabs of 62 and 23 yards and also has rushes of 36 and 24 yards.

Collins tops the century mark
Sophomore running back Bryce Collins followed up a career high 157 yards rushing in the win over Dordt with 113 yards at Nebraska Wesleyan. The native of Boerne, Texas, has topped the century mark three times in his five games this season and five times in his 16 career games. Collins ranks 11th among all NAIA ball carriers with an average of 105.4 rushing yards per game. He also rates seventh nationally in all-purpose yards per game (176.0).

Collins and Thomas have combined for 995 yards, 11 touchdowns and a 5.8 per carry average on the ground. Among GPAC teams, only Morningside (Brandon Wegher/Tyler Kavan – 1,165 yards, 18 touchdowns) boasts a more prolific rushing duo.

Explosive Bulldog O vs. top-ranked Red Raider D
This weekend’s contest features Northwestern’s No. 1 nationally-ranked defense (total yards and scoring) against a blossoming Concordia offense that rates third best in the GPAC in both total yards and scoring. The Red Raiders own an active streak of 11-straight quarters without allowing its opponents a single point. That stretch covers shutouts of both Nebraska Wesleyan (8-0) and Briar Cliff (38-0) and a 35-7 win over Dakota Wesleyan, which failed to score over the final three quarters of the Sept. 20 game in Mitchell, S.D.

On the flip side, the Concordia offense appears to have hit its stride over the last two weeks, amassing more than 500 total yards in both games and 72 combined points. Among all 88 NAIA football programs, the Bulldogs rank second in third down conversation rate (48.9 percent), 12th in rushing offense (222.8), 17th in total offense (436.5), 18th in pass efficiency (134.2) and 24th in scoring (32.0).

Close calls
Five of Concordia’s first six games have been decided by a margin of seven points or less. Its three losses have come by a total of a mere nine points with defeats by margins of five (Hastings), one (Dakota State) and three (Nebraska Wesleyan) points.

Last two meetings decided by three combined points
From 2003 to 2011, Northwestern defeated Concordia nine-straight times. The Bulldogs snapped their series losing streak in 2012 by upsetting then No. 11 Northwestern, 17-16, inside Bulldog Stadium on Oct. 13. Concordia survived that game when the Red Raiders’ Mike O’Brien missed a 25-yard field goal attempt with 39 seconds left. Two minutes earlier, the Bulldogs gained the lead on Kenny Zoeller’s 24-yard field goal.

Last season’s meeting also came down to the wire in Orange City, Iowa. Down 30-22 late in the fourth quarter, Concordia scored on Bryce Collins’ one-yard touchdown run. The ensuing two-point try failed when Josh Slechta was ruled to be out of bounds on a throw from Von Thomas. The Bulldogs got the ball back with 1:30 remaining but ran out of time at their own 47. Northwestern, which led 13-0 after the first quarter, held on for a 30-28 win.

Scouting Northwestern
The Red Raiders are leaning upon a stout defense this season after saying goodbye to prolific quarterback Davis Bloemendaal (6,810 passing yards, 70 passing touchdowns over 42 career games from 2010-13). Northwestern had three different players throw at least one pass in last week’s 38-0 victory over Briar Cliff. The quarterback position has been given time to develop by the nation’s stingiest defense, which is led by senior linebacker Greg Hegstad, who has already racked up 11 tackles in the backfield, and junior cornerback Justin Wohlert (six interceptions). They also possess an elite pass rusher in defensive end Sam Van Ginkel (16 sacks since the beginning of the 2013 season). The Red Raider pass rush has piled up 20 sacks (sixth most in the NAIA) on the year. Von Thomas versus the Northwestern defense should make for one of the more intriguing matchups across NAIA football on Saturday.

Turnovers plague Bulldogs in loss to No. 12 Northwestern

SEWARD, Neb. – Despite turning it over five times, the Concordia University football team nearly upset a ranked Northwestern team for the second time in three years in another pulse-pounding affair. The twelfth-rated Red Raiders came from behind to steal a 27-21 win over the host Bulldogs in Seward on Saturday afternoon.

Sixth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad is now 3-4 overall and 2-3 in conference play. All four losses have been decided by a margin of seven points or less.

“Obviously against a good team you can’t afford to have that turnover margin,” Winter said. “We really struggled with turnovers today. We had two in the red zone that cost us points. Credit to Northwestern. They made plays. We have to take care of the ball.”

Northwestern (5-1, 5-0 GPAC) took advantage of a fumbled punt late in the fourth quarter, recovering the ball at the Bulldog 16. Four plays later Brady Timmer scored his second touchdown of the day on a two-yard run to give the Red Raiders a 27-21 lead with 3:17 left in the game. Concordia turned it over on downs on the proceeding possession and Northwestern then ran out the clock for its fifth-straight win.

The Bulldogs produced explosive plays for touchdowns, but a minus-five turnover margin proved too much to overcome. Ball-hawking Northwestern cornerback Justin Wohlert (GPAC-leading nine interceptions) picked off three Von Thomas passes. Two of them came with the Bulldogs in the red zone.

Once again the Thomas to Jared Garcia connection was alive and well. The Bulldogs took their first lead of the day when Thomas delivered a strike down field to Garcia, who hauled the ball in and carried it 65 yards for the score to make it 14-7 early in the second quarter. Just a few minutes later Garcia caught his eighth touchdown pass of the season when Thomas found him on a 20-yard scoring play, extending the lead to 21-13 at the time.

“We’ve got a lot of young players playing due to injuries,” Winter said. “Those guys are just good football players. It’s a lot of young players who are competing. We’re just making a few key mistakes in the game that cost us. Hopefully we’ll learn from this down the road.

“I’m proud of this group and how they responded to last week.”

Concordia quickly answered the 12-yard touchdown run by Northwestern’s Jessie Riley on the game’s opening eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive. Freshman Tarence Roby then electrified the Bulldog Stadium crowd by taking the ensuing kickoff 90 yards for his second touchdown of the season. Roby also returned a fumble 45 yards for a score in the win over Midland.

“I saw it was a short kick so I had to get to it as quick as possible,” Roby said. “I set up the blocks and ran straight first and I saw the hole open up, so I ran through it. I saw they were moving towards their sideline so I cut back to our sideline. There was just open field.”

The Red Raiders outgained Concordia 449-308 on the day. The Bulldog defense struggled to contain Riley, who piled up 145 yards rushing and 33 receiving. However, the performance was an improvement over last week’s game at Nebraska Wesleyan in which Concordia gave up more than 500 yards.

Defensive backs Landon Oelke and Tait Sibbel both made 11 tackles while defensive lineman Kyle Rakow again shined with nine tackles – two for loss – and one sack.

Thomas finished 10-for-26 for 189 yards and two touchdown passes. The stout Northwestern defense, ranked No. 1 in the NAIA in total yards and scoring, limited Thomas to 15 yards rushing on five attempts. Bulldog running back Bryce Collins put forth a solid effort with 78 yards rushing on 18 carries. He also caught three passes for 25 yards.

The Red Raiders’ streak of 11-straight quarters without allowing a point was snapped when Roby raced to the end zone at the 10:52 mark of the first quarter.

Northwestern quarterback Craig Bruinsma completed 25 of 39 passes for 249 yards and a touchdown. His second quarter touchdown toss to Ben Green brought the Red Raiders within a point, 14-13. That score held up heading into the halftime break.

Concordia had hoped to duplicate its 2012 home win over Northwestern in which it defeated the then No. 11 Red Raiders, 17-16, on homecoming.

The Bulldogs will take the short trip to Crete next Saturday and challenge rival Doane (3-3, 3-2 GPAC). Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. Concordia has lost eight-straight meetings with the Tigers since a 23-10 Bulldog win in Crete in 2005. Doane had Saturday off following a 27-23 loss to No. 18 Dakota Wesleyan on Oct. 11.

Roby kickoff return touchdown leads to GPAC weekly recognition

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – On the strength of a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in last week’s 27-21 loss to No. 12 Northwestern, freshman Tarence Roby has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Special Teams Player of the Week. The Monday announcement marks the second time Roby has earned a GPAC weekly award. He was also tabbed the conference’s defensive player of the week on Sept. 22.

Roby’s kickoff return for a touchdown answered a scoring drive by the Red Raiders on the game’s opening possession. The native of Rockford, Ill., hauled the kickoff in at the 10-yard line and ran straight up the middle. As he approached midfield, Roby feinted to his left and then burst to the right, leaving the Northwestern kicker tripping over his own feet.

“I saw it was a short kick so I had to get to it as quick as possible,” Roby said after the game. “I set up the blocks and ran straight first and I saw the hole open up, so I ran through it. I saw they were moving towards their sideline so I cut back to our sideline. There was just open field.”

On the day, Roby totaled 112 kickoff return yards on two attempts. He also made four tackles from his cornerback spot.

The former Northern Illinois Huskie has scored twice this season on returns. Roby’s first touchdown came on Sept. 20 when he scooped up a fumble and took it 45 yards to the end zone as part of a 35-28 home win over Midland.

Roby and the Bulldogs (3-4, 2-3 GPAC) return to action on Saturday to play rival Doane (3-3, 3-2 GPAC) in Crete at 1 p.m.

GAME NOTES: Bulldogs look to end series drought versus rival Doane

SEWARD, Neb. – Following a fourth close loss last week, the Concordia University football team will be back on the road on Saturday in a clash with rival Doane (3-3, 3-2 GPAC). Kickoff from Al Papik Field in Crete is slated from 1 p.m. The Bulldogs are seeking their first win over the Tigers since 2005.

“I’m proud of how we responded and how we practiced,” head coach Vance Winter said of last week’s preparation. “We competed hard and played hard. Every week it’s been a blast to coach these guys. They really care. It’s not meant to be easy. We still have exciting things to play for.”

In last week’s action, Concordia fell, 27-21, to No. 12 Northwestern inside Bulldog Stadium. Winter’s squad has suffered all four of its defeats by a margin of seven points or less. Doane has been off since a 27-23 loss at No. 18 Dakota Wesleyan on Oct. 11. The Tigers had won three-straight games prior to that defeat.

GAME INFO
Concordia (3-4, 2-3) at Doane (3-3, 3-2)
Saturday, Oct. 25, 1 p.m.
Site: Crete, Neb.
Stadium: Al Papik Field
Webcast: Tiger Sports Network

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2014 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 30.4 (28th)
Defensive PPG: 27.3 (40th)
Total Offense: 417.9 (23rd)
Pass Offense: 210.1 (48th)
Rush Offense: 207.7 (16th)
Total Defense: 404.1 (54th)
Pass Defense: 246.0 (T-66th)
Rush Defense: 158.1 (36th)
Turnover +/-: -5 (T-69th) 

Doane
Offensive PPG: 27.2 (T-44th)
Defensive PPG: 27.5 (42nd)
Total Offense: 382.8 (37th)
Pass Offense: 248.5 (27th)
Rush Offense: 134.3 (60th)
Total Defense: 408.5 (56th)
Pass Defense: 268.7 (81st)
Rush Defense: 139.8 (27th)
Turnover +/-: -9 (83rd) 

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (26-35, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 104/202 (.515), 16 TD, 9 INT, 1,466 yds, 129.7 effic. (rushing: 483 yds, 7 TD)
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 117 att, 605 yds, 5.2 avg, 4 TD
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 31 rec, 496 yds, 16.0 avg, 8 TD
Defense: Kyle Rakow – 53 tackles, 11.0 tfl’s, 4.5 sacks

Doane
Head Coach: Matt Franzen (38-40, 8th year)
Passing: Brandon Stuart – 77/181 (.425), 11 TD, 8 INT, 1,199 yds, 109.4 effic.
Rushing: Kenneth Boggs – 69 att, 323 yds, 4.7 avg, 3 TD
Receiving: Nick Reed – 19 rec, 349 yds, 18.4 avg, 2 TD
Defense: Aaron Hanlin – 35 tackles, 12.0 tfl’s, 5.5 sacks 

Roby collects second GPAC weekly honor
A transfer from the University of Northern Illinois, Tarence Roby has made an immediate impact in his redshirt freshman season. The native of Rockford, Ill., took a first-quarter kickoff 90 yards for a touchdown in last week’s loss versus Northwestern. That play enabled Roby to be named the GPAC special teams player of the week on Monday. The 6-foot-3 cornerback was also tabbed the conference’s defensive player of the week on Sept. 22, two days after he returned a fumble 45 yards for a touchdown in the 35-28 win over Midland.

Roby began fall camp as a receiver but moved to defense after the Bulldogs suffered injuries to the defensive backfield prior to the start of the season. On the season, Roby has 39 tackles (2.5 for loss), two interceptions, seven pass break ups and two fumble recoveries.

Big play Garcia
No player has scored more touchdowns for the Bulldogs this season than freshman receiver Jared Garcia. The 6-foot-3 receiver from Humble, Texas, caught two more touchdown passes from quarterback Von Thomas last week, bringing his team-leading season total to eight. That number ties Erwin Hayes (1997) for the second-most touchdown receptions in a single season in program history. Garcia is closing in on the school record of 10 by Brian Naber in 1970. Garcia needs 12 more catches and 137 receiving yards to put his name into the top 10 of Concordia single-season charts in those respective categories.

Thomas tracker
With two touchdown passes last week, Von Thomas needs just two more to break Rod Giesselman’s school record of 17 touchdown tosses in 1970. Thomas already holds Bulldog single-season records for total offense (2,508), completions (197), passing attempts (334) and completion percentage (59.0). He owns program career records for total offense (7,029), total touchdowns (60) and completions (489). Below is a summary of additional records Thomas has a shot at breaking.

Up next for Thomas?
Passing yards (career)
Pimentel – 6,435
Thomas – 5,442

Passing touchdowns (career)
Pimentel – 49
Thomas – 44

Pass attempts (career)
Pimentel – 943
Thomas – 915

Passing yards (season)
Pimentel – 2,150 (2001)
Thomas – 1,466 (2014)

Passing touchdowns (season)
Rod Giesselman – 17 (1970)
Thomas – 16 (2014)

Rushing touchdowns (season)
Cleve Wester – 13 (1984)
Thomas – 7 (2014)

Rakow makes living in opposing backfields
While the Bulldog defense has fell short of lofty 2013 NAIA rankings in total defense (fourth) and scoring defense (sixth), senior defensive lineman Kyle Rakow has burst onto the scene with a monster statistical season. The native of Pleasant Dale, Neb., has flown by career highs in tackles (53), tackles for loss (11) and sacks (4.5). Rakow has at least one tackle for loss in six of seven games this season after adding two more versus Northwestern.

Doane runs through Nebraska rivals
Doane has a chance to go a perfect 4-for-4 against its GPAC Nebraska rivals by topping Concordia on Saturday. After dropping their first two games this season, the Tigers defeated Hastings (28-24), Midland (40-35) and Nebraska Wesleyan (55-29). Doane almost pulled off the feat last year with its only loss against in-state opponents being a 20-19 decision at Nebraska Wesleyan.

Scouting Doane
Doane enters Saturday with a record of 2-1 at home. All three of the Tiger losses have come against ranked opponents: No. 13 Northwestern (17-10, OT), No. 18 Dakota Wesleyan (27-23) and No. 19 Friends (33-7). Behind quarterback Brandon Stuart, Doane possesses the 27th-ranked pass offense in the NAIA. Stuart’s favorite target has been receiver Nick Reed, a former Tiger basketball star. Last season Reed led the GPAC in scoring with 22.3 points per game. Like the Bulldogs, Doane has been unable to duplicate its strong defensive numbers from a year ago. However, the Tiger pass rush has produced 21 sacks – tied for the fifth most among all NAIA teams. Doane has won eight-straight meetings with Concordia.

Doane overcomes 20-point deficit to extend series win streak over Bulldogs

CRETE, Neb. – Saturday’s rivalry game between the Concordia University football team and Doane featured two completely different halves. After dominating the opening 30 minutes, the Bulldogs saw a 20-0 lead melt away as the Tigers finished the game with 23 unanswered points for a 23-20 victory at Al Papik Field in Crete.

Concordia, which had sought its first win over Doane since 2005, slipped to 3-5 overall and 2-4 in GPAC action. Sixth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad has suffered all five of its losses by margins of seven points or less.

“We played lights out in the first half,” Winter said. “We probably played a little bit above our heads. Then in the second half we just didn’t play well offensively at all.”

Doane (4-3, 4-2 GPAC) took its first lead of the day with 12:44 left in the game when running back Clayton Moore carried over the goal line for his third rushing touchdown on the afternoon. That play finished off a four-play, 41-yard drive set up by a Bulldog turnover.

Moore, who ran for 105 yards, also scored on rushes of five and 18 yards to erase what had seemingly been a comfortable 20-point lead.

The Concordia offense punished Doane with first-half touchdown drives of 64, 80 and 76 yards. Senior quarterback Von Thomas broke yet another record courtesy of touchdown tosses to sophomore Seth Fitzke from one yard out and to freshman Jared Garcia from two yards out as part of the big opening half. Those two scores gave Thomas 18 touchdown passes, eclipsing the former school record of 17 by Rod Giesselman in 1970.

The lead bulged to 20-0 when running back Bryce Collins took off for a 67-yard touchdown run midway through the second quarter. The native of Boerne, Texas, came up just shy of a career high rushing total with his 149 yards on 16 carries.

Everything changed after halftime. Concordia mustered only 51 yards of offense over the final 30 minutes, during which it had to punt five times and also turned it over twice. That opened the door for the opportunistic Tigers, who put up 14 points off Bulldog turnovers.

“We’re competing like crazy,” Winter said. “It’s just really frustrating and disappointing what we’re going through. We have to finish games. We’re working on it. Our guys care a great deal.”

Thomas finished 14-for-26 passing for 126 yards to go along with two touchdown tosses and one interception. He was relieved early in the second half by backup quarterback Garrett Folchert, who completed 5 of 6 passes for 45 yards. Garcia, who leads the team with nine touchdown catches on the season, hauled in nine passes for 70 yards. Redshirt freshman TJ Austin also saw snaps at quarterback after Thomas left with an injury.

The Concordia defense put forth one of its better efforts of the season, holding Doane to 297 yards and just 3.9 yards per play. Both Tarence Roby and Michael Hedlund came up with first-half interceptions. Coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit also got a boost from the return of safety Drew Baxter, who appeared in his first game this season and made four tackles and a sack.

Winter liked the play of his corners in Roby and freshman D’Mauria Martin, who were part of a secondary that held Doane to 82 yards passing on 23 attempts.

“Defensively we competed really well,” Winter said. “I thought Tarence and D’Mauria were outstanding all game. They played well defensively, but those guys were on the field a little too long. We would have liked a couple more stops and to get off the field on third down, but they really competed.”

Lost fumbles by Justin Haun (hit by a punt) and Austin put the Bulldog defense in tough positions. Doane cashed in on both turnovers that gave it starting spots in Concordia territory.

Trailing 23-20, the Bulldogs got the football at their own 6 with 2:54 remaining in the game. Concordia picked up one first down on an 11-yard connection from Folchert to Garcia. The drive then ended with Doane leading tackler Garret Borcher stuffing Folchert on a fourth and one at the 26.

In addition to Thomas missing most of the second half, Collins also played sparingly after halftime. Those losses played a role in the Bulldogs’ offensive struggles in the second half.

“We have to make a play. We knew Doane would come back,” Winter said. “When Von went out in the second half our offense just didn’t respond.”

The loss is another in a series of close calls. All but one of Concordia’s eight games has been decided by seven points or less. The Bulldogs five defeats have come by five, one, three, six and three points.

The Bulldogs go back on the road next Saturday when they take on No. 1-ranked Morningside (6-0, 5-0 GPAC) in Sioux City, Iowa. The powerful Mustangs entered the weekend leading the NAIA in total offense (727.2) and scoring offense (67.5). In last year’s meeting, Morningside defeated Concordia 48-31 in Seward.

GAME NOTES: Bulldogs set to challenge top-ranked Morningside on the road

SEWARD, Neb. – No one has succeeded yet in slowing down top-ranked Morningside. Coming off yet another nail-biting loss, the Concordia University football team will try to contain the prolific Mustang offensive attack when the two teams go head-to-head in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday. Kickoff from Elwood Olsen Stadium is slated for 1 p.m. Morningside has won the last 10 meetings with Concordia.

“There are no holes on their football team,” head coach Vance Winter said of Morningside. “It’s the most impressive team I’ve seen since 2008 Sioux Falls (national champion). Their running back (Brandon Wegher) is the best player I’ve seen on film that we’ve played against.

“Our guys will rally and respond (from the Doane loss). We just continue to fight and improve. Doane was a very good team and as athletic a team as we’ve faced.”

In last week’s action, the Mustangs cruised to a 63-0 win over crosstown rival Briar Cliff. Morningside outgained the Chargers 696-86 in another dominant performance for head coach Steve Ryan’s squad. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs let a 20-0 lead slip away in a 23-20 loss at Doane. Concordia has dropped three-straight games.

GAME INFO
Concordia (3-5, 2-4) at No. 1 Morningside (7-0, 6-0)
Saturday, Nov. 1, 1 p.m.
Site: Sioux City, Iowa
Stadium: Elwood Olsen Stadium
Webcast: Livestream 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2014 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 29.1 (T-32nd)
Defensive PPG: 26.8 (40th)
Total Offense: 409.3 (28th)
Pass Offense: 205.0 (51st)
Rush Offense: 204.3 (21st)
Total Defense: 390.8 (47th)
Pass Defense: 225.5 (55th)
Rush Defense: 165.3 (46th)
Turnover +/-: -6 (T-72nd) 

Morningside
Offensive PPG: 66.9 (1st)
Defensive PPG: 12.0 (1st)
Total Offense: 722.3 (1st)
Pass Offense: 336.4 (3rd)
Rush Offense: 385.9 (1st)
Total Defense: 227.7 (3rd)
Pass Defense: 167.1 (14th)
Rush Defense: 60.6 (1st)
Turnover +/-: +4 (T-16th) 

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (26-36, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 118/228 (.518), 18 TD, 10 INT, 1,590 yds, 127.6 effic. (rushing: 492 yds, 7 TD)
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 133 att, 754 yds, 5.7 avg, 5 TD
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 40 rec, 566 yds, 14.2 avg, 9 TD
Defense: Kyle Rakow – 64 tackles, 12.5 tfl’s, 4.5 sacks 

Morningside
Head Coach: Steve Ryan (116-33, 13th year)
Passing: Ryan Kasdorf – 120/162 (.741), 20 TD, 6 INT, 2,057 yds, 214.1 effic. (rushing: 127 yds, 4 TD)
Rushing: Brandon Wegher – 138 att, 1,235 yds, 8.9 avg, 21 TD
Receiving: Devin Thomas – 44 rec, 879 yds, 20.0 avg, 8 TD
Defense: Zac Schleuger – 61 tackles, 18.5 tfl’s, 2.0 sacks 

Collins chases 1,000-yard season
Despite missing the conference opener, sophomore Bryce Collins has a shot to become the first Bulldog ball carrier to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing since JaMaine Lewis’ school record total of 1,265 in 2007. Four rushers in program history have reached the 1,000-yard figure. Collins, a native of Boerne, Texas, has racked up 754 yards on 133 carries over seven games. He ranks 10th among all NAIA players with an average of 107.7 rushing yards per game. He needs 90 more yards to crack Concordia’s single-season top 10 list for rushing yards. In last week’s loss at Doane, Collins surpassed 100 yards rushing for the sixth time in his career.

Concordia 1,000-yard rushers
1,265 – JaMaine Lewis, 2007
1,114 – Cleve Wester, 1984
1,085 – Randy Pospisil, 1972
1,002 – Jeff Towns, 1979 

Garcia nears single-season record
No player has scored more touchdowns for the Bulldogs this season than freshman receiver Jared Garcia. The 6-foot-3 receiver from Humble, Texas, caught a two-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Von Thomas last week, bringing his team-leading season total to nine. That number surpassed Erwin Hayes (eight in 1997) for the second-most touchdown receptions in a single season in program history. Garcia is closing in on the school record of 10 by Brian Naber in 1970. Garcia needs two more catches and 37 receiving yards to put his name into the top 10 of Concordia single-season charts in those respective categories.

Thomas tracker
With two more touchdown passes last week, senior quarterback Von Thomas broke Rod Giesselman’s school record of 17 touchdown tosses in 1970. Thomas now holds Bulldog single-season records for touchdown passes (18), total offense (2,508), completions (197), passing attempts (334) and completion percentage (59.0). He owns program career records for total offense (7,162), total touchdowns (62) and completions (503). Thomas needs three more pass attempts to break the school record in that category.

Up next for Thomas?
Passing yards (career)
Pimentel – 6,435
Thomas – 5,566 

Passing touchdowns (career)
Pimentel – 49
Thomas – 46

Pass attempts (career)
Pimentel – 943
Thomas – 941

Passing yards (season)
Pimentel – 2,150 (2001)
Thomas – 1,590 (2014) 

Rushing touchdowns (season)
Cleve Wester – 13 (1984)
Thomas – 7 (2014)

Down to the wire
Seven of Concordia’s first eight games have been decided by a margin of seven points or less. The Bulldogs are 2-5 in those games. In sixth-year head coach Vance Winter’s first five seasons, Concordia played in only 10 games that came down to a touchdown or less. In 2013, the Bulldogs went 1-1 in such close contests.

Games decided by 7 points or less under Winter
2014
9/6 – W, 21-15 at (15) Sterling
9/13 – L, 43-48 at Hastings
9/20 – W, 35-28 vs. Midland
9/27 – L, 21-22 vs. Dakota State
10/11 – L, 34-37 (OT) at Nebraska Wesleyan
10/18 – L, 21-27 vs. (12) Northwestern
10/25 – L, 20-23 at Doane
2013
9/14 – W, 26-21 vs. Hastings
10/19 – L, 28-30 at Northwestern
2012
9/8 – L, 23-26 vs. Dakota Wesleyan
10/13 – W, 17-16 vs. (11) Northwestern
2011
10/22 – L, 7-10 vs. Nebraska Wesleyan
2010
8/28 – W, 13-7 at (22) Peru State
9/4 – W, 3-0 vs. Nebraska Wesleyan
9/18 – L, 3-7 vs. Midland
10/16 – W, 30-26 vs. Briar Cliff
2009
9/5 – L, 10-12 at Midland 

Bulldogs vs. ranked opponents
No. 1 Morningside will be the third ranked opponent Concordia has faced this season once the game kicks off on Saturday. The Bulldogs defeated then No. 15 Sterling 21-15 in the season opener and fell, 27-21, to then No. 12 Northwestern on Oct. 18. Concordia has defeated one ranked opponent in each of the last three seasons, having also recorded a 19-3 win over No. 22 Nebraska Wesleyan in 2013 and a 17-16 victory over No. 11 Northwestern in 2012. The Bulldogs’ last road win over a top 25 team came on Aug. 28, 2010, when they topped No. 22 Peru State, 13-7.

Rakow ranks high in TFLs
For the seventh time in eight games this season, senior defensive lineman Kyle Rakow made a tackle in the backfield as part of the loss at Doane. The native of Pleasant Dale, Neb., ranks fifth among GPAC players and 19th among all NAIA players with 12.5 tackles for loss on the season. He leads the Bulldogs in tackles for loss, tackles (64) and sacks (4.5) – all easily career highs.

Scouting Morningside
Just how dominant have the Mustangs been? They are a unanimous No. 1 in the NAIA football coaches’ poll and lead the nation in each of the following categories:

  • Scoring offense (66.9)
  • Total offense (722.3)
  • Scoring defense (12.0)
  • Rushing offense (385.9)
  • Rushing defense (60.6)
  • Pass efficiency (216.8)
  • First downs per game (32.4)
  • Fewest first downs allowed (85)
  • Third down conversion percentage (56.8)

In addition, Morningside boasts the GPAC’s leading passer in Ryan Kasdorf (312.0 yards per game) and rusher in Brandon Wegher (176.4). Wegher is also the NAIA’s leading rusher and was named the national player of the week after piling up 327 yards on the ground in a win over Dakota Wesleyan on Oct. 18. Unlike Concordia, the Mustangs have yet to play in a tight game, winning all seven contests by a margin of 40 points or more. The Bulldog offense likely needs to play at its highest level all season for it to keep up with the high-powered Morningside attack.

CUNE alums Ekart and Opfer square off at Bulldog Stadium Friday night

SEWARD, Neb. – Concordia University alums Todd Ekart (’97) and Jamie Opfer (’98) know each other well. They even lived together during their careers as Bulldog football players. Now the two friends are set to square off inside Bulldog Stadium as head coaches in the first round of the 16-team Nebraska Class B playoff bracket.

Ekart will bring ninth-seeded Sidney High School (7-2) to the Concordia University campus to challenge Opfer and eighth-seeded Seward High School (7-2). Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. on Friday.

Ekart, who played for head coach Courtney Meyer at Concordia from 1993-97, relishes the chance to return to his alma mater.

“I was excited,” Ekart said about learning of the playoff pairings. “I was on the bus back from Gering (48-0 Sidney win) and there was some speculation on who it was going to be, but I am really looking forward to Friday.”

There will be mutual respect across sidelines on Friday night. Opfer, a four-year Bulldog linebacker from 1994-98, once lived with Ekart and a few others in a basement apartment in Seward. Similar to the matchups the last two seasons that have pitted Opfer against fellow CUNE alum Glen Snodgrass and York High School, the upcoming battle comes with a Concordia flavor.

“I was excited about the opportunity to play Sidney,” Opfer said. “It’s a unique opportunity when you have a chance to compete against someone whom you know very well and have a lot of  respect for how they run their program and the things that he has  accomplished at Sidney. I think when Todd took over they were 0-9. To go from where they started to where they are now is a testament to his work ethic and passion for the game.”

Like Ekart, Opfer (15th year as a PE teacher and football coaching staff member at Seward) has helped rejuvenate a program that struggled the season before he took over as head coach.

“I think Jamie has done a great job bringing the Seward program back to prominence,” Ekart said. “Watching the Seward defense reminds me of how Jamie used to play – fundamentally sound and always making plays.”

Both coaches also lean upon offenses capable of lighting up the scoreboard. The Red Raiders got star running back Chance Aglin (101 rush yards vs. Gering) back from an injury a week ago. They pair him with quarterback Lane Harvey.

The Bluejays counter with quarterback Reid Karel (1,531 yards passing), running back Chance Stevenson (838 yards rushing) and receiver Ben Klenke (679 yards receiving), making up a talented trio of skill players.

The Concordia alums expect a competitive contest that may not be decided until late in the fourth quarter.

“I think the game could go either way,” Opfer said. “It could be a shootout, or it could be a defensive battle. Either way I know it’s going to be a great game. Both teams are well balanced offensively and can run or throw it and the defenses are stout.”

Ekart (who says that one of his greatest memories of playing at Concordia was competing alongside his brother Drew) forecasts a physical battle on Friday.

“I think both teams have a bunch of really athletic players and both are physical,” Ekart said. “I expect a clean hard-hitting game from both teams.”

The winner between Seward and Sidney will advance to the quarterfinals to play either top-seeded Omaha Skutt (7-2) or No. 16 Waverly (4-5) on Friday, Nov. 7.

Austin-led Bulldogs give No. 1 Morningside toughest test

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – Top-ranked Morningside cruised to wins by 40 points or more in each of its first seven games, but the Mustangs had to sweat a bit more on Saturday. The Concordia University football team drove 76 yards for a touchdown on the game’s opening possession before the Morningside offensive locomotive churned out another 44 points in a 44-21 victory for the Mustangs inside Elwood Olsen Stadium.

The loss was the fourth straight for the Bulldogs, who fell to 3-6 overall and 2-5 in GPAC action.

“The fact is that Morningside is the No. 1 team in the nation for a reason,” head coach Vance Winter said. “They’re a really good team. I think they knew they were in a game today. That was nice to see. I thought our guys really competed well, we just didn’t make as many plays as they did.”

In place of senior Von Thomas (out with an injury), redshirt freshman quarterback TJ Austin made his first career start and led Concordia on an eight-play, 76-yard touchdown drive to open the game. Austin completed 3 of 4 passes for 46 yards on the possession that ended with Bryce Collins’ 18-yard touchdown run.

“It was really a great first drive,” head coach Vance Winter said. “I thought TJ handled himself well. He played with great poise and made good decisions throughout the football game. That was a great start. He showed some really positive things.”

After the Mustangs ran off the next 14 points, the Bulldogs pulled even early in the second quarter on Austin’s 22-yard touchdown toss to freshman Logan Otte. It was the first career scoring toss for Austin, a native of Angleton, Texas.

But the Bulldog defense simply could not keep the nation’s leader rusher, Brandon Wegher, under wraps. Wegher found the end zone five times on the afternoon and piled up 258 yards on the ground. Wegher ran for touchdowns of one, 44, 34, 13 and 83 yards as Morningside racked up 525 yards to Concordia’s 360.

Getting a glimpse at its possible 2015 starting quarterback, Concordia saw Austin finish 11-for-29 passing for 180 yards. The numbers would have been more impressive had it not been for several dropped passes. Austin also ran for 41 yards on 12 attempts.

Austin had powerful sophomore Bryce Collins to lean upon in the running game. The native of Boerne, Texas, eclipsed the 100-yard barrier for the fifth time this season. He toted the rock 23 times for 123 yards and two touchdowns against a stout Mustang defense that entered the game ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring.

“Bryce is an outstanding back,” Winter said. “He played a great football game. He’s as good as anybody. I was proud of how all our guys kept fighting and competing.”

Otte caught four passes for 102 yards for his second 100-yard receiving game of the season. He hauled in a 48-yard pass that set up Collins’ one-yard touchdown run that got the Bulldogs within 16, 37-21, with 2:43 left in the third quarter.

While Morningside ended up winning comfortably, its 44 points and 525 total yards were both season lows. Patrick Daberkow’s defense also forced four Mustang punts and picked off prolific quarterback Ryan Kasdorf three times.

“I was really proud of the way our defense played all game,” Winter said. “Brandon Wegher is the best football player we’ve went against. He’s the best football player I’ve seen in a long time in terms of our league. He made some great plays and great runs.

“I think he also knew he was in a football game, and I don’t think that’s been the case all season for Morningside. Our guys really competed very hard and made some great plays.”

The defensive effort was led junior safety Tait Sibbel, who made 10 tackles and picked off a pass. Freshman cornerback Tarence Roby and sophomore linebacker Michael Hedlund both came up with their fourth interceptions of the season. Hedlund’s pick came right at the end of the first half with Morningside in the red zone.

The Bulldogs return home next Saturday to host No.19 Dakota Wesleyan (6-3, 4-3 GPAC) for senior day. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. from Bulldog Stadium. The day will also feature a fundraiser for five-year-old Parker Chipman, a family friend of Concordia junior long snapper Seth Schlenger. Parker was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in August. The Bulldogs will be selling T-shirts to raise profits for Parker. More details will be posted on the web early next week.

GAME NOTES: Bulldogs welcome No. 24 Dakota Wesleyan for senior day

SEWARD, Neb. – The Concordia University football team will honor its senior class on Saturday as the Bulldogs welcome No. 24 Dakota Wesleyan for the final game of the season inside Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

In last week’s action, Concordia gave No. 1 Morningside it’s most difficult test to date. Ultimately, the powerful Mustangs won 44-21 behind 258 yards and five touchdowns on the ground from star running back Brandon Wegher. Meanwhile, Dakota Wesleyan, ranked 19th in last week’s top 25 poll, fell, 24-7, at Nebraska Wesleyan. The Tigers had entered the game with wins in four of their previous five outings.

GAME INFO
Dakota Wesleyan (6-3, 4-3) at Concordia (3-6, 2-5)
Saturday, Nov. 8, 1 p.m.
Site: Seward, Neb.
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network 

STATISTICAL BREAKDOWN
2014 Team Statistics
Concordia
Offensive PPG: 28.2 (38th)
Defensive PPG: 28.7 (51st)
Total Offense: 403.8 (31st)
Pass Offense: 202.2 (48th)
Rush Offense: 201.6 (18th)
Total Defense: 405.7 (58th)
Pass Defense: 223.7 (56th)
Rush Defense: 182.0 (53rd)
Turnover +/-: -5 (T-65th) 

Dakota Wesleyan
Offensive PPG: 22.3 (62nd)
Defensive PPG: 26.8 (39th)
Total Offense: 362.9 (52nd)
Pass Offense: 175.0 (62nd)
Rush Offense: 187.9 (28th)
Total Defense: 393.9 (52nd)
Pass Defense: 247.0 (76th)
Rush Defense: 146.9 (31st)
Turnover +/-: +3 (T-27th)

Individual Leaders
Concordia
Head Coach: Vance Winter (26-37, 6th year)
Passing: Von Thomas – 118/228 (.518), 18 TD, 10 INT, 1,590 yds, 127.6 effic. (rushing: 492 yds, 7 TD)
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 156 att, 889 yds, 5.7 avg, 7 TD
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 40 rec, 566 yds, 14.2 avg, 9 TD
Defense: Kyle Rakow – 69 tackles, 13.5 tfl’s, 4.5 sacks

Dakota Wesleyan
Head Coach: Ross Cimpl (20-10, 3rd year)
Passing: Dillon Turner – 134/269 (.498), 9 TD, 11 INT, 1,412 yds, 96.8 effic. (rushing: 281 yds, 7 TD)
Rushing: Francois Barnaud – 218 att, 1,149 yds, 5.3 avg, 12 TD
Receiving: Kodi Larson – 33 rec, 358 yds, 10.8 avg, 0 TD
Defense: Brady Bonte – 64 tackles, 19 tfl’s, 5 sacks 

Bulldogs ‘Play for Parker’
Saturday’s game will feature a fundraiser for five-year-old Parker Chipman, who was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on Aug. 22. Parker is a close family friend of Concordia junior long snapper Seth Schlenger. The Bulldog football program began wearing “Play for Parker” bracelets, helmet decals and ankle tape at the Nebraska Wesleyan game (Oct. 11) in support of Parker. More details about the fundraiser will be released early this week on ConcordiaBulldogs.com.

Austin makes first career start
With Von Thomas out with an injury last week, redshirt freshman TJ Austin made his first career start at quarterback. The native of Angleton, Texas, led Concordia on an eight-play, 76-yard touchdown drive on the game’s opening possession. Austin completed 11 of 29 passes for 180 yards and a touchdown while also running for 41 yards on 12 carries. He entered the game having never thrown a pass at the collegiate level. Thomas is expected to return on Saturday for senior day. Austin is listed as the No. 2 quarterback on this week’s two deep.

Collins continues pursuit of 1,000-yard season
Despite missing the conference opener, sophomore Bryce Collins is on pace to become the first Bulldog ball carrier to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing since JaMaine Lewis’ school record total of 1,265 in 2007. Four rushers in program history have reached the 1,000-yard figure. Collins, a native of Boerne, Texas, has racked up 889 yards on 156 carries over eight games. He ranks 11th among all NAIA players with an average of 111.1 rushing yards per game. By surpassing 100 yards rushing for the seventh time in his career and for the fourth time in the last five games last week at Morningside, Collins’ rushing total ranks 10th best all-time on the program single-season list (see below).

Top single-season rushing totals in Concordia history
1,265 – JaMaine Lewis, 2007
1,114 – Cleve Wester, 1984
1,085 – Randy Pospisil, 1972
1,002 – Jeff Towns, 1979
970 – Cleve Wester, 1983
949 – Ritchie Bishop, 1994
928 – Jeff Towns, 1978
903 – Phillip Elder, 2004
899 – Alex Alvarez, 2001
889 – Bryce Collins, 2014

Reinforcements
Several fall camp injuries depleted key areas of the Concordia football team. In recent weeks, upperclassmen such as safety Drew Baxter and tight end Josh Slechta have returned to the field to help shore up positions that had lacked depth. After missing the first six weeks of the season, Slechta made his 2014 debut versus Northwestern on Oct. 18. The 6-foot-6 native of Kennard, Neb., has five catches for 101 yards over three games. Baxter was inserted into the lineup at Doane and plays what Vance Winter calls a “walk-up safety.” Baxter has made six tackles and a sack in his two games this season.

Defense holds own at Morningside
While NAIA leading rusher Brandon Wegher scorched Concordia for 258 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, the Bulldog defense held up better than any of Morningside’s first seven opponents. The Mustangs entered the game averaging 66.9 points and 722.3 total yards but were held to season lows of 44 points and 525 yards against defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit. Concordia also forced Morningside to punt four times, something it had done only 12 times in its first seven games. In addition, Tarence Roby (fourth), Michael Hedlund (fourth) and Tait Sibbel (first) each picked off a pass from Mustang quarterback Ryan Kasdorf. The 23-point victory margin for Morningside was by far its lowest of the season. The Mustangs won each of their first seven games by 40 points or more.

Otte cracks century mark
Von Thomas has benefited this season from the arrivals of freshmen receivers Jared Garcia and Logan Otte. With Austin at the controls last week, Otte caught four passes for 102 yards and a touchdown. The duo of Garcia and Otte has combined for 61 receptions, 931 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches. Otte has eclipsed the 100-yard receiving mark twice this season. Garcia’s 184 receiving yards at Hastings on Sept. 13 are a team high this season.

Thomas tracker
With two more touchdown passes at Doane on Oct. 25, senior quarterback Von Thomas broke Rod Giesselman’s school record of 17 touchdown tosses in 1970. Thomas now holds Bulldog single-season records for touchdown passes (18), total offense (2,508), completions (197), passing attempts (334) and completion percentage (59.0). He owns program career records for total offense (7,162), total touchdowns (62) and completions (503). Thomas needs three more pass attempts to break the school record in that category.

Up next for Thomas?

Passing yards (career)
Pimentel – 6,435
Thomas – 5,566

Passing touchdowns (career)
Pimentel – 49
Thomas – 46

Pass attempts (career)
Pimentel – 943
Thomas – 941

Passing yards (season)
Pimentel – 2,150 (2001)
Thomas – 1,590 (2014) 

Scouting Dakota Wesleyan
Dakota Wesleyan is 6-3 overall despite being outscored by a combined total of 241-201 over nine games. The Tigers three losses have all come by three scores or more (35-7 vs. Northwestern, 50-7 at Morningside and 24-7 at Nebraska Wesleyan). Offensively, Dakota Wesleyan has struggled to make up for the loss of four-year starting quarterback Jon Bane, who threw for 9,224 yards and 83 touchdowns over 40 career games. Head coach Ross Cimpl’s squad leans upon star running back Francois Barnaud, who has 1,149 yards and 12 touchdowns on the ground this season. He has 3,298 career rushing yards in 36 games. The Tigers, who have won the last four meetings with Concordia, own conference wins over Briar Cliff (27-16), Hastings (34-31), Doane (27-23) and Midland (42-21). In terms of total yards, Dakota Wesleyan ranks 52nd nationally both offensively and defensively.

Play for Parker: football asks for help in raising money for child with leukemia (#P4P)

SEWARD, Neb. – Parker Chipman, a close family friend of Concordia University junior long snapper Seth Schlenger, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia on Aug. 22. The Bulldog football program began wearing “Play for Parker” bracelets, helmet decals and ankle tape at the Nebraska Wesleyan game (Oct. 11) in support of Parker.

In another show of support, Concordia football is raising money for Parker by selling T-shirts that incorporate the five-year-old boy’s love of batman. T-shirts can be purchased for $15 and are available by contacting Concordia football players, by attending Saturday’s 1 p.m. game versus Dakota Wesleyan or by visiting the football offices located in the PE Gym. T-shirts will be sold at a table set up on the east concourse of the stadium during the game. There will also be a bucket for the collection of donations to the Parker Chipman fund (“Pennies for Parker”). All profits will go towards Parker’s medical costs.

Money can also be donated to help Parker’s cause by visiting the website www.youcaring.com/parkerchipman. Following the football game on Saturday, there will be a benefit dinner from 5:30 – 10 p.m. at Faith Westwood United Methodist Church, located at 4814 Oaks Lane, Omaha, NE, 68137. The event includes a chili feed, bake sale and the auctioning of several items. Once again, all proceeds will benefit Parker.

“Parker had just started kindergarten and we took him into the doctor for shoulder pain,” said Doug Chipman, Parker’s father. “He got an MRI and that’s when we found out he had leukemia. Of course that’s a shocker for any parent to hear.”

The news also hit hard for Schlenger, who describes himself as a family-oriented person.

“Anyone who knows me, knows that my family is my life,” Schlenger said. “I would do anything for Parker. The Chipmans are family and the football team is a brotherhood that nobody else can understand. The feeling of being able to turn to this team during a rough time like this is an experience I cannot get anywhere else. I have 140 brothers willing to do anything right now. All I ask is that we do as much as we can to help save Parker and get the family through this stretch.”

When Schlenger informed the team of the situation, Bulldog football players immediately began thinking of ways to help.

“We had a leadership council meeting with our juniors and seniors,” head coach Vance Winter said. “The guys talked about an opportunity we had as a football team to help out this family. The guys were really all in and brought forth a lot of ideas in terms of what we could do to raise money.

“We want to let Parker know that as a football group, we are thinking of him and praying for him daily. What he’s going through makes our struggles as a football team seem pretty minor. We want to be there to support him and his family.”

According to Doug Chipman, the support has been overwhelming. He and the family never expected the Concordia football team to reach out and become part of the fundraising effort.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Doug said. “I would not think most college kids would be interested in a fundraiser. For them to take time out to do this is pretty humbling. For them to take time to design shirts and to sell them, it’s amazing.”

A fan of Concordia, Parker watches games online. He’s a big football fan and a supporter of the Bulldogs. Now he needs your support in this trying battle.

“Any little thing is going to help,” Schlenger said. “This is a very expensive disease to fight so anything will help out this family. I encourage you to help this band of brothers at Concordia fight for this little boy so he can continue on and chase his own dreams.”

Adds Winter, “I know he watches games and follows us pretty closely. Anything little thing that we can do to do help, it’s our honor to do it.”

Please spread the hashtag #P4P on social media in support of Parker. He and the Chipman family greatly appreciate your prayers, donations and purchases of “Play for Parker” T-shirts.

Doug Chipman says there is a chance Parker may attend part of the game “if he is home and able.” Parker has undergone chemotherapy and has spent much of his time in the hospital since being diagnosed.

Meirose named to Capital One Academic All-District® Football Team

CoSIDA release

SEWARD, Neb. – All-conference kicker Adam Meirose has been named to the Capital One Academic All-District® 3 Football Team of the College Division, as announced by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) on Thursday.

CoSIDA: “The Capital One Academic All-District® Football Teams have been released to recognize the nation’s top student-athletes for their combined performances athletically and in the classroom. Capital One has been the entitlement rights holder to CoSIDA’s Academic All-America teams programs since 2011.”

Meirose, a Lincoln native and product of Lincoln North Star High School, took over as Concordia’s kicker in 2013. He made 9 of 13 field goal attempts and went 31-for-33 on extra point attempts to break the program record for made PATs in a season. He was then named a second team all-GPAC choice.

In 2014, Meirose has broken his own record for point after touchdowns (33-for-35) while going 3-for-5 with a long of 36 on field goal tries. In his career, Meirose is 64-for-68 on PATs and 12-for-18 on field goal attempts.

Meirose is majoring in exercise science as a pre-physical therapy student. The junior is also on track to earn Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athlete recognition. He is the only kicker on the district 3 college division academic team.

District 3 of the College Division covers institutions in the states of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Academic All-District® honorees advance to the Capital One Academic All-America® Team ballot, where first-, second- and third-team All-America honorees will be selected and then released on Nov. 19.

Sibbel leads senior day win over No. 24 Dakota Wesleyan

SEWARD, Neb. – Due to an injury suffered two weeks ago, record-breaking quarterback Von Thomas played only sparingly on senior day, but he did check into the lineup late to take one final kneel. In doing so, he put the finishing touch on a 27-19 Concordia University football win over No. 24 Dakota Wesleyan University (6-4, 4-4 GPAC) on Saturday afternoon.

The win was sweet relief for a team that had lost four-consecutive games, with most of those coming in agonizing fashion. Head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs moved to 4-6 overall and 3-5 in the GPAC.

“It’s really gratifying to see our seniors have a great result in their last home game because these guys have meant a lot to our program and to us,” Winter said. “I was really happy to see that. It wasn’t always pretty, but the guys continued to fight. We made enough plays at the end. I was really proud of our offense, finishing the day with the football.”

For the second-straight game, redshirt freshman TJ Austin saw extensive action at quarterback. He completed 9 of 16 passes for 149 yards while running for 76 yards on 14 attempts. He fired a strike to fellow redshirt freshman Jared Garcia for a 46-yard touchdown in the second quarter, making it 17-0 Bulldogs.

Austin again had tough-as-nails running back Bryce Collins to lean upon, as well as a defense that forced four Tiger turnovers. Collins ran for 127 yards on 26 totes to become the fifth player in program history to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in a season. He also caught a 36-yard pass that set up Adam Meirose’s first of two short field goals on the day.

Austin, who has been mentored by Thomas, turned in another solid performance while taking most of the snaps in the pistol spread.

“My coaches and my team had a lot of faith in me,” Austin said. “I couldn’t ask for a better o-line. They gave me everything I needed to do my job. And I have a great running back in the backfield and great receivers that catch and block.”

The Bulldog defense got Concordia on the board first when junior safety Tait Sibbel scooped up a Francois Barnaud fumble and returned it 41 yards for a touchdown at the 4:08 mark of the first quarter. Sibbel was also one of three Bulldogs to pick off a pass in the first half. Michael Hedlund and Landon Oelke also got into the act. Oelke’s interception ended a Tiger red zone drive late in the first quarter.

“In the first half our defense was just lights out,” Winter said. “Dakota Wesleyan is a good football team. Offensively they just have a bunch of guys who know how to win. They’ve figured out how to win close games. We knew it was going to be tough at the end. I was proud of our defense today.”

After trailing 27-7, Dakota Wesleyan made the game tense late thanks to fourth-quarter touchdowns on Dillon Turner’s 11-yard toss to Dustin Livingston and John Fabrizius’ three-yard scoring run.

But the Tigers failed to get the ball back as Concordia ran 12 plays to milk the final 6:05 of game time. All four first downs on the final drive came via Austin quarterback keepers. The combo of Austin and Collins combined for 203 yards on the ground.

On the other side of the ball, the Concordia defense held Tiger all-time leading rusher Francois Barnaud to 44 yards on 15 carries. His longest rush all day was eight yards. Dakota Wesleyan ended up with a 380-358 advantage in total yards.

Oelke topped the Bulldog defense with eight tackles. Sibbel added seven to go with his interception and fumble return touchdown. Other than the two Dakota Wesleyan fourth-quarter touchdown drives, there was little about the defense that disappointed.

“Coach (Patrick) Daberkow had a game plan set since Monday,” Oelke said. “We stuck to it. We had some drops in coverage that the quarterback wasn’t ready for. It worked out well for us.”

The Bulldogs will conclude the 2014 season next Saturday when they play Briar Cliff in Sioux City, Iowa, at 1 p.m. On Saturday, Briar Cliff (2-8, 2-6 GPAC) fell, 20-0, at Doane. Concordia has won each of the last seven meetings with the Chargers, including last season’s 45-7 blowout in Seward.

Sibbel claims weekly GPAC defensive award

GPAC release

SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time in his career, junior Tait Sibbel has been named the GPAC/Hauff Mid-America Sports Defensive Player of the Week, as announced by the league on Monday. Sibbel becomes the second Bulldog football player to be named a conference player of the week this season. Fellow defensive back Tarence Roby collected the defensive honor on Sept. 22 and the special teams weekly award on Oct. 20.

Sibbel did it all defensively in leading Concordia to a 27-19 win over No. 24 Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday. The native of O’Neill, Neb., returned a Francois Barnaud fumble 41 yards for a first-quarter touchdown that put the Bulldogs on the board first. On Dakota Wesleyan’s previous possession, Sibbel intercepted Dillon Turner’s pass. Sibbel also made seven tackles from his safety position.

A second team all-conference selection last season, Sibbel ranks fourth on the team with 55 tackles this season. He also has two interceptions, two pass break ups, a fumble recovery and a tackle for loss. A starter for each of his first three seasons, Sibbel’s career numbers include 176 tackles, seven interceptions and seven pass break ups.

Sibbel and the Bulldogs (4-6, 3-5 GPAC) return to action on Saturday when they close the season at Briar Cliff. Kickoff from Memorial Field in Sioux City, Iowa, is set for 1 p.m.

Saulberry tops 150 yards rushing to lead season-ending victory

SIOUX CITY, Iowa – On a snowy Saturday afternoon at Memorial Field in Sioux City, Iowa, the Concordia University football team completed the 2014 season by continuing its domination of Briar Cliff. Behind sophomore Demarques Saulberry and their punishing offensive line, the Bulldogs ran for 222 yards on the way to a 37-25 win over the host Chargers.

Seventh-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad concludes the campaign with records of 5-6 overall and 4-5 in GPAC play, putting it in a tie for sixth place in the final league standings. By piling up 426 total yards on Saturday, the Bulldogs finished 2014 with an average of 401.6 yards of offense per game, breaking the 2004 school record of 388.4.

“Demarques ran well. He really set the tone early on and busted some big runs,” Winter said. “It started up front with our o-line. They controlled things. They were very physical and Demarques did a great job finishing runs. He really played a good game.”

Saulberry became the third Bulldog to surpass 100 yards rushing in a single game this season. He reached the century mark in the first half and finished with 171 yards and his first career touchdown on 25 carries. His 33-yard first-quarter touchdown run gave Concordia a lead (9-6) that it would not relinquish.

The Bulldog offense operated at peak efficiency during a first half in which it outgained the Chargers, 316-100. Concordia really got going in the second quarter when it tacked on three touchdowns through the air (two via Von Thomas’ right arm and one from TJ Austin). Thomas connected on second-quarter touchdowns with receivers Logan Otte (26 yards) and Jared Garcia (12 yards). Fullback Josh Davis also caught his first of two touchdowns on the day in the second quarter.

“TJ and Von were really efficient,” Winter said. “We were hurt by some drops. We had too many of those. Both quarterbacks played well and handled the conditions really well. It was a tough day to throw but they were able to make some plays for us.”

Thomas, who started at quarterback in his final game as a Bulldog, capped the first half with the touchdown toss to Garcia, providing a comfortable 30-13 halftime margin. The score marked Garcia’s 11th touchdown catch of the season, breaking the previous school record of 10 touchdown receptions by Brian Naber in 1970.

While the sledding proved more difficult in the second half for the Bulldog offense, Thomas found Davis for an eight-yard touchdown catch with 8:08 left in the third quarter. Thomas completed 6 of 12 passes for 90 yards and three touchdown passes on the day. His program record-breaking single-season total of 21 touchdown passes put him at 49 for his career, tying the Bulldog record held by Jarrod Pimentel.

Led by senior defensive end Kyle Rakow, the Concordia defense allowed only 201 total yards to quarterback Kevin Van Egdom and the Charger offense. Van Egdom found the end zone from one yard out on two occasions in the fourth quarter to put Briar Cliff within shouting distance.

The Bulldog defense buckled down for the remainder of the game, holding Briar Cliff to a combined 20 total yards over its final three possessions. Junior safety Tait Sibbel, the reigning GPAC defensive player of the week, came through with another solid effort that included five tackles and an interception. Linebacker Nakemm Evans topped the team with eight tackles (2.5 for loss). Meanwhile, Rakow pushed his season tackle for loss total to 15.5 with two more at Briar Cliff.

Sophomore linebacker Michael Hedlund pitched in six tackles and had what Winter called the best hit he’s seen since he’s been at Concordia. Hedlund’s vicious collision with a Briar Cliff receiver led to Sibbel’s interception.

For the third-straight game, Austin took the bulk of the snaps at quarterback for coordinator Curran White’s offense. The native of Angleton, Texas, went 8-for-14 for 114 yards and one touchdown through the air.

The Bulldogs entered the day needing 46 points to break a school record for most points in a single season. The 2001 co-GPAC championship team retains the record with its total of 326 points. The 1951 Bulldogs own the program mark for points per game (32.0).

While this season fell short of high preseason expectations, Winter likes the returning nucleus he’ll have in 2015. The Bulldogs will have to retool along the offensive line with the departures of left tackle Glen Manninger, center Adam Aschenbrenner and right guard Josh Powell, but the skill positions are stocked. Austin, who got his feet wet at quarterback late in the season after Thomas suffered an injury, will have the talented receiving duo of Garcia and Otte and the backfield of Bryce Collins and Saulberry at his disposal.

“It’s been a frustrating season, but our future is bright,” Winter said. “I’m really excited about TJ and the skill people we have both offensively and defensively.”

Seventeen Bulldogs named to GPAC football all-conference list

GPAC all-conference football teams

SEWARD, Neb. – A total of seven Bulldog football players received first or second team all-conference recognition and another 10 were named honorable mention, as announced by the GPAC on Tuesday (view full list at bottom). Representing Concordia on the first team are sophomore running back Bryce Collins, junior kicker Adam Meirose and senior offensive lineman Josh Powell.

Second team all-conference accolades went to sophomore tight end Seth Fitzke, freshman receiver Jared Garcia, senior defensive lineman Kyle Rakow and freshman defensive back Tarence Roby. Meanwhile, Concordia record-setting quarterback Von Thomas appeared on the list of honorable mentions.

Despite missing two games, Collins became the fifth 1,000-yard rusher in program history on the strength of six 100-yard performances on the season. The native of Boerne, Texas, ran for a career high 157 yards in a win over Dordt on Oct. 4. Also a threat in the kick return game and as a pass catcher out of the backfield, Collins piled up 1,559 all-purpose yards and eight total touchdowns. In two seasons as a Bulldog, Collins has rushed for a combined 1,720 yards and 18 touchdowns.

Also a Capital One Academic All-District selection, Meirose broke his own record for successful extra point tries in 2014, going 40-for-42 on PATs and 6-for-8 on field goals (long of 36). The Lincoln North Star High School product rises to the first team following second team honors as a sophomore. In his career, Meirose has converted on 71 of 75 extra point attempts and 15 of 21 field goal attempts.

Powell, a second team choice in 2013, helped pave the way for Collins from his right guard spot. The Kennesaw, Neb., native anchored an offensive line that helped the Bulldogs rank second in the GPAC with an average of 203.8 rushing yards per game. In addition, Concordia’s average of 401.6 total yards of offense broke the former program record held by the 2004 team.

A big part of that record-breaking offense was Garcia, a transfer from Stephen F. Austin. The native of Humble, Texas, eclipsed a school record of his own by hauling in 11 touchdown passes. He also topped Concordia with 44 receptions for 650 yards – both numbers that rank in the top 10 on Concordia single-season lists. Garcia burst onto the scene with 184 receiving yards at Hastings in week two. The following week he caught three touchdown passes in a win over Midland.

On the defensive side of the ball, no Bulldog enjoyed a more productive statistical season than Rakow. He far surpassed career highs with team-leading totals of 79 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and seven quarterback hurries. Rakow, who hails from Pleasant Dale, Neb., recorded at least one tackle for loss in nine of 11 games on the way to earning his first career all-conference honor.

Roby, also a first-year Bulldog, emerged as a playmaker in the defensive backfield and on special teams. The Rockford, Ill., native earned two GPAC player of the week honors and scored touchdowns on a 45-yard fumble return (vs. Midland) and on a 90-yard kickoff return (vs. Northwestern). Roby finished the season with 51 tackles, five interceptions, eight pass break ups and two fumble recoveries. He totaled 277 yards on nine kickoff returns.

With junior Josh Slechta sidelined for the first half of the season, sophomore Seth Fitzke stepped into a starting role and impressed the coaching staff with his ability as a blocker. The former Seward High School standout also caught 15 passes for 127 yards and two touchdowns.

Thomas earned his third-straight honorable mention accolade. The Miami native completed his four-year career with program single-season records for touchdown passes (21), total offense (2,508), completions (197), passing attempts (334) and completion percentage (59.0). He owns program career records for total offense (7,260), passing touchdowns (49), total touchdowns (65), completions (510) and pass attempts (960).

2014 Concordia football all-conference selections:
FIRST TEAM:
Bryce Collins, RB
Adam Meirose, K
Josh Powell, OL
SECOND TEAM:
Seth Fitzke, TE
Jared Garcia, WR
Kyle Rakow, DL
Tarence Roby, DB
HONORABLE MENTION:
Adam Aschenbrenner, OL
Ben Balduc, OL
Sandy Fisher, P
Michael Gill, DL
Michael Hedlund, LB
Glenn Manninger, OL
Landon Oelke, DB
Logan Otte, WR
Tait Sibbel, DB
Von Thomas, QB