Final push for victory snuffed out in homecoming heartbreaker

By Jacob Knabel on Sep. 23, 2023 in Football

SEWARD, Neb. – Attempting to complete a rally from down 16-3 in the final quarter, the Concordia University Football team came up inches short of a potential first down at the opposition’s one yard line. The stop on fourth down allowed visiting Dakota Wesleyan to spoil a Bulldog homecoming Saturday (Sept. 23) in what amounted to a 16-12 decision. Concordia suffered the defeat despite outgaining the Tigers, 460-317, on the strength of 215 rushing yards.

Mostly, this one just felt frustrating for Head Coach Patrick Daberkow and his squad. An inability to finish drives with points cost the Bulldogs, as they slipped to 1-3 on the season.

“It’s hard to process,” Daberkow said. “We have to play better to win games like that. Can’t leave it in anyone else’s hands. We have to execute earlier in the game. We can’t take so long to get going. This one hurts.

“I thought (Austin) Jablonski really fought hard on that fourth down. I thought we had it – but we didn’t. You have to move forward. There’s not a whole lot to say right now, just a lot of disappointment.”

Ultimately, the outcome came down to the fourth-and-two play that Daberkow referenced. With less than a minute remaining, Jablonski took the shot gun snap and bowled forward very near the first down marker at the one. A measurement showed the Bulldogs to be just short of the line to gain. Dakota Wesleyan actually had the ensuing snap go out the back of the end zone for a safety, but it was too late for Concordia with only 18 seconds remaining on the clock.

There were numerous plays the Bulldogs failed to execute that would have changed the complexion of the game. Twice in the first quarter, Concordia was unable to connect on potential long touchdowns with Jablonski and Luke Lang running free in the secondary. The Bulldogs moved the ball consistently between the 20s but scored only 10 points on their four trips to the red zone. Concordia’s lone touchdown came on quarterback DJ McGarvie’s nine-yard rush on a fourth down early in the fourth quarter.

That touchdown got the Bulldogs within one score (16-10). During the fourth quarter, the Concordia defense did its part as it forced back-to-back three-and-outs, then got an interception from linebacker Michael Grindey and finally a safety on the errant snap. Grindey’s second interception of the season put the ball at the DWU 34 with 3:08 left in the game. The Bulldogs proceeded to go 32 yards on eight plays before being denied on fourth down. The Tigers (4-1, 3-1 GPAC) hung on for another close victory despite running only 55 offensive plays (compared to 92 for Concordia).

Said Daberkow, “It’s disappointing but we have to move forward. We have a lot of season left. We have to start capitalizing on our opportunities.”

The skill of Jablonski was on full display as he caught 15 passes for 142 yards and also rushed eight times for 56 yards out of the wildcat formation. A solid performance by the offensive line helped pave the way for Devin Zeigler to run 19 times for 88 yards and for Mark Arp to carry 18 times for 67 yards. McGarvie wound up 24-for-40 for 245 yards through the air. He completed passes to In the process, he became the fourth quarterback in program history to eclipse 5,000 career passing yards. (The other points for Concordia came on Peyton Atwood’s 25-yard field goal late in the first half).

The Tiger offense did just enough to emerge with the W. Quarterback Austin Lee threw touchdown passes of 12 yards to Preston Nedved and 10 yards to Maxwell Raab. Lee totaled 231 passing yards while completing 21-of-30 attempts. Kiel Nelson hauled in six receptions for 101 yards. The Tiger ground attack was limited to 86 yards on 25 attempts. Concordia’s all-time record versus DWU is now 13-11.

Defensively, the Bulldogs were led by the nine tackles from safety Jaden Seier. Grindey collected six tackles and broke up a pass, in addition to the interception. Once again, Concordia played without starting safety Gabe Knisley. On the offensive side of the ball, Adam Van Cleave returned to the field after sitting out last week’s game at Dordt.

The Bulldogs will close the month of September next Saturday (Sept. 30) by welcoming Briar Cliff (0-3, 0-2 GPAC) to Seward. The contest will mark the lone night game of the 2023 season with kickoff set for 6 p.m. CT from Bulldog Stadium. Concordia has won each of the last four series meetings and is 17-3 all-time versus the Chargers.