MITCHELL, S.D. – Dakota Wesleyan University quarterback Dillon Turner was as advertised. The reigning NAIA offensive player of the week fired five touchdown passes while leading the high octane 16th-ranked Tigers to a 52-30 victory over the 24th-ranked Concordia University football team at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell, S.D., on Saturday afternoon.
Hoping to remain in the hunt for the playoffs, eighth-year head coach Vance Winter’s squad slipped to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in conference action.
“He’s a great player, one of the best I’ve seen,” Winter said of Turner. “He made some great throws into tight windows and their receivers made some plays. We really struggled with the big plays and then giving up too many third down conversions. We didn’t play as well as we’re capable of in the first half. Credit Dakota Wesleyan. They played lights out.”
A typically stout Bulldog defense looked mystified while trying to stop an offense commanded in near flawless fashion by Turner. The Dakota Wesleyan signal caller turned in a miserable 8-for-24 performance a year earlier in a 17-10 Tiger win over Concordia. Things were much different this time around. On Saturday Turner piloted an offense that nearly hung 400 total yards on the board in the first half alone.
The back breaker came during a crippling sequence late in the first half. On the Bulldog drive that followed an interception by linebacker Patrick Skwara, Dakota Wesleyan stuffed Bryce Collins on a fourth down try in the red zone. Turner then marched the Tigers 81 yards in 40 seconds on a possession that culminated with a 30-yard touchdown strike to Dustin Livingston. At that point, Concordia was left gasping for air, down 35-10 at halftime.
Dakota Wesleyan’s first half offensive clinic included four touchdown drives of 75 yards or longer and another of 58 yards. Livingston’s big-play first half also featured a 60-yard touchdown catch on a heave from Turner, who finished 23-for-35 for 347 yards.
The Tigers still had to fend off a third quarter push from Concordia. On Dakota Wesleyan’s first possession of the second half, All-American defensive end Trey Barnes came down with an interception off a deflected pass. That set up Jared Garcia’s second of three touchdown catches. On the next offensive possession, Collins scored from three yards out to cap a 13-play, 64-yard drive. Suddenly, Concordia trailed just 35-23.
The ensuing kickoff produced another gift when Luke Loudenburg’s fumble was recovered by D’Mauria Martin at the Tiger 29. Dakota Wesleyan’s defense then forced a turnover on downs. It was a missed opportunity that allowed the Tigers to put the game away when Turner tossed another touchdown pass 11 plays later.
Dakota Wesleyan (5-2, 3-1 GPAC) stockpiled 537 total yards, allowing it to overcome another strong performance by Garcia. He finished with six catches for 101 yards and three scores while extending his school record career touchdown reception total to 28. All of his touchdown catches came from the right arm of Riley Wiltfong. Garcia needed only one hand to reel in a scoring snag of 33 yards that tied the game, 7-7, in the opening quarter.
Senior running back Bryce Collins moved up another rung on the program’s all-time rushing list. The native of Boerne, Texas, who wore No. 23 most of the day after tearing his No. 9 jersey, totaled 97 yards on 18 carries. That figure allowed him to pass Gary Seevers for second all-time in Concordia history. Collins now has 3,260 career rushing yards.
The 537 yards allowed were a season high for a Concordia defense that came into play allowing fewer than 300 yards per contest. It also struggled to get off the field, allowing Dakota Wesleyan to convert 10-of-15 third downs. Steady senior linebacker Michael Hedlund paced the defense with 12 tackles (two for loss). Tarence Roby made eight stops and broke up a pass.
The Concordia offense netted 339 yards, with 190 coming through the air. Wiltfong took the lion’s share of the snaps at quarterback. He went 13-for-38 for 137 yards. One of his passes was picked off and returned for a touchdown.
The Bulldogs will be back at home next Saturday when they are scheduled to welcome No. 21 Midland (6-2, 3-2 GPAC) to Seward in another matchup with a ranked opponent. It will be both Military Appreciation Day and Parent’s Day at Bulldog Stadium. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT. Last season Concordia staged one of the largest comebacks in program history (down 35-14) when it rallied back to win in overtime, 41-38, at Midland.