SEWARD, Neb. – Head coach Vance Winter’s fifth season at the helm of Concordia football will come to a conclusion on Saturday when the Bulldogs (6-4, 4-4 GPAC) host Briar Cliff (4-6, 3-5 GPAC). Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. from Bulldog Stadium. Fans are encouraged to wear white to support the white out. Those who are unable to make it to Seward can watch a live webcast via the Concordia Sports Network.
Concordia celebrates senior day
Saturday is senior day for Concordia football as the program celebrates the careers of 23 seniors, including one student assistant coach. The senior class is made up of 15 Nebraska natives, two members who call Colorado home and one apiece from the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, Minnesota and South Dakota as well as one who hails from Canada. Five seniors have past all-conference laurels on their résumés: corner Derek Blessing, defensive lineman Dylan Heithoff, offensive lineman Dylan Klassen, linebacker Langston Jones and safety Darnell Woods.
Statistically, Heithoff leads the group of seniors with 34.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks in his career. Jones is the top tackler with 197 stops over his four seasons. Woods has the most interceptions with six. Jeff Balz is the leading receiver with 40 career catches for 406 yards and five touchdowns. Blessing holds school records for punt return yards in a season (388 in 2012) and punt return touchdowns in a season (3). He has 2,127 career all-purpose yards.
In addition to senior day, Saturday has also been tabbed ‘DawgStrong’ Saturday. The promotion works in conjunction with the white out that has been planned for all three home events on campus. White ‘DawgStrong’ t-shirts cost $5. The t-shirts can be purchased/picked up on Thursday and Friday in Janzow top from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m., and during the football and basketball games on Saturday. For more details, click HERE.
Bulldogs dominant in series with Briar Cliff
Since Concordia and Briar Cliff began meeting in 2003 (see series history below), the Bulldogs are 8-2 against the Chargers, who joined the GPAC for the 2002-03 athletic season. The last two meetings have been particularly lopsided with Concordia winning by 32 points or more in both contests. Last season Concordia routed Briar Cliff in Sioux City, Iowa, by piling up a season high 337 rushing yards. Vance Winter’s squad led 24-6 at halftime and continued to pour it on in the second half behind a power rushing game.
2012: Concordia 45-12
2011: Concordia 47-12
2010: Concordia 30-26
2009: Concordia 21-10
2008: Concordia 17-7
2007: Concordia 36-23
2006: Briar Cliff 30-24
2005: Briar Cliff 20-17
2004: Concordia 48-29
2003: Concordia 30-3
Dating back to 1928, Concordia football has won seven or more games in 16 of 86 seasons. At 6-4, the Bulldogs have guaranteed their first winning season since a 10-2 GPAC championship season in 2001. Vance Winter has slowly built the program up since taking over as head coach in 2009. He has won 3, 4, 4, 5 and 6 games year-by-year over the last five seasons. The last time the program finished with exactly seven wins – in 2000 – it won 10 games the following season.
Von Thomas chases Concordia record
Junior quarterback Von Thomas stands a good chance to break a school record for total yards from scrimmage in a single season. The signal caller from Miami, Fla., currently with 2,239 total yards (1,753 passing, 486 rushing), needs 205 yards on Saturday to surpass former quarterback Phil Seevers’ program record of 2,443 yards in 1988. Last season, his first as a starter, Thomas piled up 2,300 yards and 20 total touchdowns.
Curry-Felix catches on
Freshman Chevarius Curry-Felix (Columbia, S.C.) has emerged as Von Thomas’ favorite target down the stretch. Over his last four games, Curry-Felix has caught 19 passes for 221 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-1 speedster has caught a touchdown pass in four-consecutive games. He leads Concordia on the season with 31 catches for 354 yards and four touchdowns. He posted a career high 87 receiving yards on five catches in the Bulldogs’ 48-31 loss to then No. 1 Morningside on Nov. 2.
Coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit has played remarkably well again this season. The Concordia defense continues to rate among the NAIA’s best. The Bulldogs lead the nation in pass defense (134.7) while ranking sixth in the NAIA in total defense (293.9), seventh in pass efficiency defense (97.5) and eighth in scoring defense (18.3). Darnell Woods and company have limited eight of their 10 opponents to 300 yards of offense or less. Only Morningside and Northwestern have eclipsed that total.
Next man in
A recent rash of injuries on the defensive side of the ball forced Vance Winter to shuffle things around. The Bulldogs moved Derek Blessing to outside linebacker last week against Dakota Wesleyan to make up for the absence of junior Drew Baxter. Freshman Bruce Hicks filled in at corner, moving junior Landon Oelke from corner to the strong safety position vacated by Darnell Woods, who also sat out last week’s game with an injury. Hicks, a native of Los Angeles, thrived in one-on-one coverage against one of the GPAC’s top receivers in Anthony Muilenburg of Dakota Wesleyan. Muilenburg finished with just four catches for 34 yards. Hicks was named Concordia’s defensive MVP for the week. The shuffling did not stop the Bulldogs from having a terrific day defensively as they limited the Tigers to 249 total yards.
Home sweet home
A win on Saturday would push Concordia’s home record to 3-2, which would mark the fourth-straight season the Bulldogs have been .500 or better inside Bulldog Stadium. Since 2010, Concordia is 11-9 at home with three victories apiece in Seward in 2010, 2011 and 2012. The Bulldogs had won five-straight home games until the 28-7 loss to Doane on Oct. 26.
Chargers surprise Doane
Briar Cliff will enter Saturday’s game with momentum after surprising Doane last week. The Chargers pulled a 32-23 upset inside the Dakota Dome in Vermillion, S.D., on the strength of 251 yards and three touchdowns through the air from backup quarterback Alec Dutko. Defensively, Briar Cliff forced five crucial turnovers, including one that resulted in a 41-yard fumble return for a touchdown by Rasheed Tynes. The Chargers’ plus-four turnover margin allowed them to overcome a 441-337 disadvantage in total yards. The win ended Briar Cliff’s four-game losing streak in its overall series with the Tigers.
Briar Cliff shows vast improvement
The Chargers have made a significant jump in the sixth year under head coach Tom Rethman. After winning only a single game last season, Briar Cliff has four victories in 2013 with last week’s upset of Doane being the most notable. The Chargers have been prolific in the passing game, ranking second in the GPAC with 258.5 yards per game. Quarterbacks Kevin Van Egdom and Alec Dutko have combined for 2,585 yards, 20 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. The biggest issue for Briar Cliff’s offense has been turnovers. It has 28 giveaways – second most in the conference.
On the other side of the ball, Briar Cliff is last in the league in total defense (473.4) but has been opportunistic and easily tops the GPAC with 32 takeaways, including 18 interceptions and 14 fumble recoveries. Defensive back Steven Trujillo ranks second in the league individually with six picks.
The Chargers hold three additional wins over Dordt (54-14), Hastings (12-7) and Dakota State (37-31). Briar Cliff also suffered a close 24-17 home defeat to Northwestern on Oct. 12.