SEWARD, Neb. – Bryce Collins found the end zone three times and Michael Gill dominated on the defensive line, but those performances were overshadowed by a stunning come-from-behind 22-21 win for visiting Dakota State University on Saturday. Trailing 21-16 with 1:57 left on the clock, the Trojans marched the ball 88 yards in 12 plays to complete a comeback from a deficit as large as 14 points.
Head coach Vance Winter’s squad, which defeated Dakota State in each of the prior three seasons, moved to 2-2 overall after falling to an energized and improving Trojan program.
“They had a lot more fight in them than we had in us tonight,” Winter said. “They thoroughly out-coached us, out-played us and out-everything’ed us. They really competed hard. I’m happy for (Dakota State head coach) Josh (Anderson). He’s done a nice job. Their team is playing very hard.”
Early indicators suggested that Concordia may cruise to victory in front of a large crowd on hand for the season’s only home night game of the season. The Bulldogs dominated a first quarter in which they put together touchdown drives of 87 and 59 yards in building a 14-0 lead. Both possessions ended with touchdowns by Collins.
Concordia’s gifted running back racked up 251 all-purpose yards, when factoring in his work on kickoff returns, and all three Bulldog touchdowns. The Boerne, Texas, native showed another gear on a late-first quarter screen pass that he housed on a play that covered 45 yards. Dakota State frequently lost Collins out of the backfield as he racked up a game high and career best 112 yards receiving.
“Bryce did some good things in the run game and catching the ball,” Winter said. “He’s a really good athlete and good back. He’s the same way we all are. He competed like crazy. We just didn’t get it done.”
After an offensive lull for much of the second and third quarters, Von Thomas and the Concordia offense responded to 10-straight Trojan points with a nine-play, 85-yard touchdown drive that culminated with Collins plunging into the end zone from one yard out. Freshman receiver Logan Otte had the key play of the possession – a 36-yard rush – to put Concordia deep into Dakota State territory. With 13:47 left in the game, the Bulldogs led 21-10.
Once again Concordia was seemingly in control, especially considering the disruptiveness of defensive linemen Michael Gill (12 tackles, 2.5 sacks) and Kyle Rakow (13 tackles, 1.5 sacks). However, the Trojans kept them at bay during a fourth quarter that saw Dakota State put together a pair of touchdown drives of greater than 80 yards.
The game-winning possession began from Dakota State’s own 12 after Sandy Fisher’s 41-yard punt pinned the Trojans back. Dakota State drew a crucial pass interference penalty on third and four from its own 18 and then followed with a 41-yard strike from quarterback Justin Summers to receiver Austin Opdahl. Concordia had another chance to seal the win when a second and goal pass out to the flat slipped through Trey Barnes’ fingers.
Bulldog Stadium went deadly silent on the very next play when Summers’ pass was hauled in by a diving Brendon Waldner for a six-yard game-winning touchdown catch with 10 seconds remaining.
“There was a sense of purpose in what they were doing,” Winter said of Dakota State. “I didn’t feel like we had as much of a sense of purpose after our first two drives. I thought our defense did some good things at times against a pretty good offense, but we didn’t make any plays at the end.”
The Trojans outgained Concordia 406-368 on the night. Dakota State piled up 171 of its yards on the final two touchdown drives. The Bulldogs did a respectable job of limiting the Trojans’ 10th-ranked rush offense, holding Dakota State to 3.4 yards per attempt on Saturday.
Concordia freshman defensive back D’Mauria Martin blocked a 43-yard field goal attempt in the first quarter and also came up with a key tackle for loss on a late Dakota State possession.
Barnes, a Seward High School product, played at linebacker on Saturday for the first time in his collegiate career. He made five tackles and broke up a pair of passes.
Standout Dakota State running back Jeremy Christner ran for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Summers completed 15 of 26 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas went 12-for-25 passing with 168 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 13 times for 68 yards. Defensively, cornerback Tarence Roby came up with an interception for the second-straight game.
The Bulldogs complete their string of three-straight home games next Saturday when they welcome Dordt (0-4, 0-3 GPAC) for homecoming. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m. The Defenders fell by a 35-20 score versus Briar Cliff on Saturday.