SEWARD, Neb. – Five turnovers and missed opportunities in the red zone plagued the Concordia University football team on Military Appreciation Day inside Bulldog Stadium on Saturday afternoon (Oct. 20). In a series that had seen the home team win seven matchups in a row, the trend was bucked by the Broncos. Visiting Hastings claimed a 21-13 victory with the help of a big day from cornerback Anthony Murray.
Second-year head coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad has dipped below .500 for the first time this season at 3-4 overall (2-4 in the GPAC).
“It’s hard to look past the missed opportunities,” Daberkow said. “When you turn the ball over four times and you stall out in the red zone two or three times, you’re not going to win the game. We have to do a better job, coaches on down of trying to figure out how to get the ball in the end zone.”
Like most Bulldog games this season, Saturday’s contest went down to the wire. On the eighth play of Concordia’s final possession, freshman Korrell Koehlmoos rushed 15 yards for a first and goal at the Hastings 10. Four plays later, Andrew Perea’s pass sailed out of the end zone for a turnover on downs, sealing the Bronco victory in the final minute.
Perea and the offense converted 4-of-8 tries on fourth downs, but it was the ones they did not convert that stung. Three of them occurred in the red zone and another came at the Hastings 32. Then came the back breaker of a pick six in the third quarter that erased what had been a 13-7 Bulldog lead. Murray stepped in front of a pass from Perea and returned it 20 yards to the end zone. Murray ended up with 11 tackles and two interceptions.
Sophomore linebacker Lane Napier and the Concordia defense did their part in giving their team a chance. Hastings (4-4, 2-4 GPAC) also came up empty on two of its three journeys inside the red zone and was contained to 370 total yards. It was another busy day for Napier, who made 18 tackles, one for loss, broke up a pass and blocked an extra point. He was the leader for an active linebacker crew that included Derek Tachovsky (11 tackles), Riley Bilstein (10 tackles, one sack) and Zac Walter (seven tackles, one tackle for loss).
“I’m really proud of their effort,” Daberkow said. “We’re missing opportunities on defense too, though. We had an interception in our hands that bounced out. There was one drive there where they cut through us like a knife through butter. We have areas to improve. On special teams, we’re a block away from popping one of those (returns). We’re real close, just not quite good enough.”
Star tailback Ryan Durdon always seems to be good for at least one explosive play each game. In this instance, that play was a 42-yard burst on a screen pass that set up Durdon in front of a wall of blockers. He then outraced the defenders to the end zone, making it a 6-0 Bulldog lead in the first quarter. Durdon rushed 30 times for 80 yards. He racked up 206 all-purpose yards. Durdon and the offense got a boost from the return of senior Grady Koch at right tackle.
Hastings has actually been better on the road this season (3-1 on the road). For most of the day, the Bulldogs kept Tahj Willingham and the Bronco offense in check. However, Hastings did put together an impressive four-play, 89-yard touchdown drive to take the lead early in the fourth quarter. Willingham rushed 22 times for 173 yards and a score. Quarterback Isaiah Jackson went 11-for-23 for 119 yards.
Concordia enjoyed some of its best offensive success when it was able to get Arthur Anderson and Koehlmoos out on the edges. Anderson had 19 touches (10 carries, nine catches), including one that went for a 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Anderson totaled 133 all-purpose yards. Meanwhile, Koehlmoos caught three passes for 41 yards and ran for 26 yards. The team’s 371 yards of offense were a season high.
The Bulldogs entered the day with a season turnover margin of +10. Hastings outnumbered Concordia 13-0 in points off turnovers. There were just six total penalties. The Bulldogs were solid in the special teams department. They averaged 28.2 yards per kick return and Lane Castaneda averaged 60.0 yards on his two punts.
Concordia will be put to the test by No. 1 Morningside (8-0, 6-0 GPAC) next Saturday (Oct. 27) in Sioux City, Iowa. The Mustangs remained unbeaten on Saturday by toppling No. 3 Northwestern, 42-34, in the NAIA game of the week. The Bulldogs last defeated Morningside in 2003.