SEWARD, Neb. – A second-straight GPAC in-state rivalry is on the docket as the Concordia University Football Program looks forward to its 2020 home opener. Hastings will be in town on Saturday for a 6 p.m. CT kickoff from Bulldog Stadium. This will be the 53rd all-time meeting between the Bulldogs and Broncos. Both squads are fresh off week one victories within conference play.
Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad manhandled Doane at the line of scrimmage in the 24-7 victory last week in Crete. The Bulldogs owned decided advantages in total yards (374-195), time of possession (39:16 to 20:44), first downs (21-10) and turnovers (+2). Running back Jonah Weyand busted loose for 169 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was the type of breakout ground game the program has been seeking since the 2017 season. Concordia won in Crete for the first time since 2005.
Meanwhile, Hastings put together a dominant performance of its own in a 45-7 stomping of Dakota Wesleyan. The Broncos piled up 247 rushing yards and outgained the Tigers, 431-251. It was a shot of confidence Hastings was look for after it finished 2-8 last season (ended on an eight-game losing streak). Running back Tyree Nesmith carried the ball 24 times for 108 yards and four touchdowns. Head Coach Tony Harper is in his ninth season as head coach after serving as the program’s defensive coordinator from 2006-11.
*2019 national rank in parentheses
NOTE: Only 30 of the 82 NAIA football programs that intend to play in 2020-21 have started their seasons.
Offensive PPG: 15.6 (81st out of 93)
Defensive PPG: 22.2 (31st)
Total Offense: 280.2 (78th)
Pass Offense: 214.4 (33rd)
Rush Offense: 65.8 (88th)
Total Defense: 335.0 (35th)
Pass Defense: 220.5 (65th)
Rush Defense: 114.5 (16th)
Turnover +/-: +4 (T-30th)
Offensive PPG: 17.5 (79th)
Defensive PPG: 43.0 (86th)
Total Offense: 303.9 (70th)
Pass Offense: 182.2 (64th)
Rush Offense: 121.7 (61st)
Total Defense: 437.4 (84th)
Pass Defense: 222.1 (69th)
Rush Defense: 215.3 (86th)
Turnover +/-: -4 (T-60th)
2020 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Head Coach: Patrick Daberkow (13-18, 4th season)
Passing: Blake Culbert – 15/33 (.455), 145 yards, 1 td, 0 int, 92.4 effic.
Rushing: Jonah Weyand – 21 rushes, 169 yards, 8.0 avg, 2 td
Receiving: Cayden Beran – 5 catches, 36 yards, 7.2 avg, 0 td
Defense: Lane Napier – 7 tackles, pbu
Head Coach: Tony Harper (35-50, 9th season)
Passing: Jesse Ulrich – 12/21 (.571), 184 yards, 2 td, 0 int, 162.2 effic.
Rushing: Tyree Nesmith – 24 rushes, 108 yards, 4.5 avg, 4 td; 2 catches, 60 yards
Receiving: Keiotey Stenhouse – 3 catches, 59 yards, 19.7 avg, td
Defense: Keyuntea Kinney – 6 tackles, 3 tfl’s, sack
Concordia (1-0, 1-0 GPAC)
9/12 at Doane, W, 24-7
9/19 vs. Hastings, 6 p.m.
9/26 at Briar Cliff, 1 p.m.
10/3 vs. Jamestown, 1 p.m.
10/10 at Dakota Wesleyan, 1 p.m.
10/17 at Northwestern, 1 p.m.
10/24 vs. Dordt, 1 p.m.
11/7 vs. Morningside, 1 p.m.
11/14 at Midland, 1 p.m.
Hastings (1-0, 1-0 GPAC)
9/12 vs. Dakota Wesleyan, W, 45-7
9/19 at Concordia, 6 p.m.
9/26 vs. Doane, 1 p.m.
10/3 at Morningside, 1 p.m.
10/10 at Midland, 1 p.m.
10/24 vs. Briar Cliff, 1 p.m.
10/31 at Jamestown, 1 p.m.
11/7 vs. Northwestern, 1 p.m.
11/14 at Dordt, 1 p.m.
Concordia’s fan protocols for Saturday’s game can be viewed HERE. Bulldog Stadium can be filled up to 75 percent capacity. Face coverings must be worn by fans in attendance. Fans of the Bulldogs are advised to check COVID-19 related protocols for each road venue prior to traveling for away contests.
In the rankings
The GPAC Preseason Football Coaches’ Poll was unveiled on Aug. 26. Concordia landed at No. 7 (37 points) with Hastings following at eighth (23 points). The poll resembled the final 2019 standings. The NAIA did not release an NAIA preseason national poll though Concordia and Hastings were unlikely to garner attention nationally. In the current Massey Ratings, the Bulldogs appear at 27th while the Broncos check in at 42nd. Concordia last appeared in the national rankings in the preseason of 2017 when it was rated 20th. Meanwhile, Hastings’ most recent poll appearance occurred in October 2017 when it slotted in at 19th.
GPAC preseason: 7th
Current Massey Ratings: 27th
GPAC preseason: 8th
Current Massey Ratings: 42nd
Most lopsided win over Doane in 50 years
The three-score margin in last week’s Concordia-Doane matchup was a departure from recent meetings that went down to the wire. In fact, the 17-point spread marked the largest margin of victory for the Bulldogs over the Tigers since a 35-0 blowout in 1970. (Doane owned a 38-game unbeaten streak at the time of that game in ’70). With the victory, Concordia shook off some of the frustration of close losses to Doane the past two years (21-16 in 2018 and 17-10 in 2019). Entering last week, the Tigers had won 13 of the previous 14 contests in the series. Patrick Daberkow is now 2-2 against Doane as head coach (also won in 2017).
Why not Weyand?
The answer to some of Concordia’s running game blues the past two years just might be Jonah Weyand, a redshirt sophomore from Crete, Neb. The Crete High School alum now gets his chance to be the primary back after Ryan Durdon served that role the past three years. Weyand seized the opportunity last week by piling up 152 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the first half alone. Weyand finished with 169 yards despite sitting out most of the second half. As Weyand later admitted, the offensive line played a major role in that success. Particularly striking was the blocking on Weyand’s 15-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. He simply right through a crater-sized hole on the way to the end zone. Prior to last week, Weyand’s collegiate career included just 119 rushing yards.
Not missing a beat
The defense graduated some fine players in defensive end Aaron Rudloff and linebackers Riley Bilstein, Derek Tachovsky and Zac Walter, but the unit did not appear to miss a beat at Doane. After Jamaine Derogene’s 56-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, Lane Napier and company stifled the Tigers. They managed to average just 3.9 yards per play and never reached the red zone the entire day. The Bulldogs forced two turnovers thanks to a forced fumble by Karson Dickson (recovered by Jorge Ochoa) and an interception by AJ Jenkins. Chase Hammons and Eric Kieper Jr. collected a sack apiece.
Over the past 10 years, Concordia has routinely ranked among the top 30-35 teams nationally in terms of scoring defense. The Bulldogs have had a top 15 scoring defense in three of the previous seven years.
Scoring defense ranks, last 10 years
2019 – 31st (22.2)
2018 – 38th (27.1)
2017 – 15th (21.4)
2016 – 28th (24.1)
2015 – 13th (18.7)
2014 – T-44th (27.5)
2013 – 6th (17.3)
2012 – T-30th (22.6)
2011 – T-35th (24.1)
2010 – 36th (23.2)
Offensive line shows out
The offensive line received rave reviews for its work in helping the ground game pound out 229 rushing yards. That was the highest total for the program since putting up 252 rushing yards in the 2018 season opening victory over NCAA Division III Buena Vista University. The starting group up front includes tackles Cole Baumgartner and Gavin Mull, guards Keegan Hornung and Christian Schlepp and center Johnny Robinson. All but Schlepp entered 2020 with starting experience. The staff believes this o-line is shaping up to be more like the 2017 unit that helped Concordia rush for nearly 2,000 yards (4.3 per carry).
Redshirt junior Blake Culbert made his first start at quarterback since 2018 (second of his career) and took every offensive snap last week at Doane. The native of Garden Grove, Calif., simply had to stay out of the way of a strong run game and defensive performance. Culbert completed 15-of-33 passes for 145 yards and one touchdown. His most impressive toss was a 15-yard touchdown strike to Brady Fitzke on a third-and-10 play. Culbert completed at least one pass to six different Bulldog receivers. Backup Wyatt Ehlers may also see playing time going forward. Ehlers can provide a unique dimension with his ability as a runner.
Tight ends = legit
The tight end position can certainly be a security blanket for Culbert. The main targets at the position are Brady Fitzke and Garrett Schardt. Fitzke caught two passes for 21 yards (including the touchdown) while Schardt reeled in two passes for 40 yards in last week’s victory. Both tight ends stand 6-foot-3 or taller and have good hands. In his career, Schardt has 17 receptions for 294 yards and a touchdown. Fitzke is just beginning to tap into his potential (older brother Seth was an all-conference tight end for the Bulldogs). He is healthy after battling injuries the previous two years.
Dickson makes presence felt
He did not start the game at Doane, but defensive end Karson Dickson certainly made his presence felt. The native of Carleton, Neb., possesses ideal size at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds. Dickson is a transfer via NCAA Division II Northwest Missouri State. Last week he was credited with three tackles and a forced fumble. Dickson caught attention with a couple of hard hits on Tiger quarterback Drake Davidson. Daberkow likes the depth up front on the defensive line. The starters last week featured ends Chase Hammons and Payton Kidder and nose guard Gerald Morris.
Series vs. Hastings
The Broncos have owned the all-time series with a record of 36-15-1 versus the Bulldogs. However, the series has been very competitive recently with the two programs splitting the last 10 meetings evenly (see history below). The 2019 matchup resulted in the largest point differential in series history with Concordia blowing out Hastings, 44-0. The Bulldogs put forth an aerial assault that saw Cayden Beran catch 10 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. Concordia outgained Hastings, 443-186. The Broncos came away with the victory inside Bulldog Stadium the previous year, which snapped a string of four-straight Concordia series home wins.
Last 10 meetings
2019 – Concordia 44, Hastings 0 (Hastings)
2018 – Hastings 21, Concordia 13 (Seward)
2017 – Hastings 38, Concordia 18 (Hastings)
2016 – Concordia 31, Hastings 28 (Seward)
2015 – Concordia 28, Hastings 3 (Seward)
2014 – Hastings 48, Concordia 43 (Hastings)
2013 – Concordia 26, Hastings 21 (Seward)
2012 – Hastings 34, Concordia 26 (Hastings)
2011 – Concordia 10, Hastings 0 (Seward)
It was a rough eight-game losing streak to conclude the 2019 season for Hastings. During that stretch, the Broncos dropped each game by margins of 23 points or more. That’s why last week’s 45-7 thumping of Dakota Wesleyan was a significant victory. Hastings needed to shore up a defense that allowed 43.0 points per game last season. Up front last week, Keyntea Kinney wreaked some havoc while recording three tackles for loss, including a sack. The early indications show an improved run defense. The Broncos held Dakota Wesleyan to 59 rushing yards on 29 attempts. Offensively, Hastings returns playmaking receiver Keiotey Stenhouse, who hauled in 53 passes for 827 yards and six touchdowns last season. He will catches passes from sophomore quarterback Jesse Ulrich, who is in his first season as the starter. The Broncos return two All-GPAC players on defense in defensive back DaeRon Jones (second team) and defensive lineman Steel Willis (honorable mention). Hastings is seeking its first winning season since going 6-4 in 2014.