SEWARD, Neb. – While kicking off the 2021 home slate, the Concordia University Football team treated fans to big offensive plays, five forced turnovers and a defensive touchdown on a bounce-back Saturday (Sept. 11). The complete reversal from last week saw the Bulldogs bully Briar Cliff, 61-21, on a sultry Seward afternoon. Concordia racked up 520 total yards in a game that had a little bit of everything, including a combined seven turnovers, a kickoff return for a touchdown and four touchdown tosses from a backup quarterback.
This was more like the team Head Coach Patrick Daberkow expected to see this fall. The Bulldogs are now 1-1 after responding to last week’s loss at No. 3 Morningside in emphatic fashion.
“I like how we played in the fourth quarter,” Daberkow said. “I think we have some things to clean up, especially on special teams. Any time you win a game like this and there are 21 points scored on you – and two (touchdowns) are when the defense is not on the field – you have some stuff to work on. We talked about facing adversity and we faced some in the third quarter. I was proud of how they responded, and I was pleased with the effort.”
The 61 points on Saturday broke a Concordia Football program record for most points scored in a GPAC game. Not since the 2001 GPAC championship team dropped 62 on Mount Senario College had the Bulldogs enjoyed this type of productivity. In relief of starting quarterback Wyatt Ehlers, freshman DJ McGarvie fired four touchdown passes while going 7-for-8 for 150 yards. The eight Concordia touchdowns were scored by eight different players.
Among the highlights, Garrett Schardt caught a 72-yard touchdown pass from Ehlers while outrunning the Charger defense to the end zone. Linebacker Shayne Campbell also got into the act with a 49-yard fumble return for a touchdown late in the third quarter. The scoop and score by Campbell supplied needed breathing room at the time after Briar Cliff had gotten within 26-14.
“The biggest thing was keeping the guys together in practice this week and really staying focused on what we want to do,” Campbell said. “There’s a lot of season left. That was week one (at Morningside). We can learn a lot from the tape. We came out here and we did what we wanted to do today. That’s how we wanted to win this one.”
With Jonah Weyand sidelined, Devin Zeigler stepped in as the starting running back and ran for 86 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. Backup Qyalan Clay (who last played for Concordia in 2015) also churned out 43 yards and a score. Leading the way for the receiver group, Korrell Koehlmoos snared seven receptions for 108 yards and a touchdown. He surpassed 100 career grabs in the victory.
The fourth quarter got nutty. McGarvie, a Lincoln North Star High School product, was slinging it around the yard. In that final period. McGarvie fired touchdown strikes of 22 yards to Koehlmoos, 21 yards to Wyatt Cast, 26 yards to Cayden Beran and six yards to Cole Schaedel. In all, five Bulldogs caught exactly one touchdown reception as part of a 384-yard team passing performance.
“It’s always been there. We just haven’t been able to get it to click,” Koehlmoos said. “We got our running game going and that kind of helped open up our receivers. Plus, we took advantage of the DB’s sagging off. We took advantage of what we were given. We just clicked.”
On the other side of the ball, the defense was smothering. The Chargers would have struggled to crack double digits on the scoreboard, but they got a 32-yard interception return for a touchdown by Mike Green and a 93-yard kickoff return touchdown from Tim Brown. Briar Cliff’s offense was held to just 155 yards. In addition, the Concordia defense came up with four sacks. Linebacker Caydren Cox came through with a big day that included two sacks, included one that resulted in a fumble and a Bulldog recovery.
Michael Grindey led the defense with nine tackles. Starting in place of Peyton Mitchell at safety, Gabriel Knisely made a nifty one-handed interception and added four tackles. Jordan Kavulak was credited with two tackles for loss, including a sack. The first Bulldog scoring drive was set up by a muffed punt that was recovered by long snapper Toby Hager. Daniel Cantu also converted on two field goals.
“We absolutely had some guys step up,” Daberkow said. “I was proud of how that happened for us. We had to move some guys around. I’m proud of our team’s resilience this week with our attitude about that next man up mentality. To work through that, to come out on top and to have a lot of guys contribute is a lot of fun.”
With sack yardage included, Briar Cliff (0-3, 0-2 GPAC) managed only 10 rushing yards. Charger quarterback Luke Davies went 14-for-21 for 145 yards and a touchdown.
Schardt finished with 97 receiving yards on three receptions. Daylan Russell caught two passes for 70 yards while Art Anderson recorded two receptions for 19 yards.
The Bulldogs will head to Sioux Center, Iowa, next Saturday (Sept. 18) and take on 14th-ranked Dordt (1-1, 1-1 GPAC). The Defenders were edged, 25-24, by Midland in week one before they responded with a 61-10 thumping of Hastings on Saturday. Dordt has won each of the past three meetings with Concordia.