Game notes: 25th-ranked Concordia set to tangle with No. 3 Morningside

By Jacob Knabel on Nov. 6, 2017 in Football

SEWARD, Neb. – Winner of four in a row, the Concordia University football team now faces its biggest challenge to date. Undefeated and third-ranked Morningside awaits the Bulldogs, who have won each of their last 10 home games. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT inside Bulldog Stadium. The matchup now features two nationally-ranked teams with head coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad appearing at No. 25 in this week’s poll. Saturday will be senior day in Seward.

Concordia is hoping to make this the toughest test within conference play for the Mustangs, who have already locked up at least a share of the GPAC title. Head coach Steve Ryan’s squad has won every conference game by at least 21 points as part of another dominant run through the GPAC. Ryan’s teams always seem to possess a star running back. Bubba Jenkins is this year’s workhorse tailback. He ran for 154 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 41-10 win at Doane.

(3) Morningside (10-0, 7-0) at (25) Concordia (6-3, 5-2)
Saturday, Nov. 11 | 1 p.m.
Bulldog Stadium | Seward, Neb.
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Tyler Cavalli and Roger Fitzke
Live Stats: Stretch Internet


2017 Team Statistics
*National rank in parentheses

Offensive PPG: 27.3 (T-49th)
Defensive PPG: 19.9 (12th)
Total Offense: 396.2 (37th)
Pass Offense: 179.8 (64th)
Rush Offense: 216.4 (17th)
Total Defense: 339.9 (19th)
Pass Defense: 188.4 (19th)
Rush Defense: 151.4 (38th)
Turnover +/-: -2 (T-51st) 

Offensive PPG: 53.0 (2nd)
Defensive PPG: 18.3 (6th)
Total Offense: 597.2 (1st)
Pass Offense: 329.9 (9th)
Rush Offense: 267.3 (5th)
Total Defense: 376.3 (39th)
Pass Defense: 257.1 (74th)
Rush Defense: 119.2 (18th)
Turnover +/-: +12 (T-6th) 


Head Coach: Patrick Daberkow (6-3, 1st season)
Passing: Riley Wiltfong – 71/125 (.568), 975 yards, 13 td, 4 int; Rushing: 43 carries, 222 yards, 5.2 avg, TD
Rushing: Ryan Durdon – 220 rushes, 1,248 yards, 5.7 avg, 8 td; Receiving: 15 catches, 82 yards
Receiving: Jackson Hall – 25 catches, 318 yards, 12.7 avg, 3 td
Defense: D’Mauria Martin – 44 tackles, 6 tfl, 5 int, 8 pbu, ff 

Head Coach: Steve Ryan (152-39, 16th season)
Passing: Trent Solsma – 223/308 (.724), 3,128 yards, 38 td, 3 int; Rushing: 111 yards, 2 td
Rushing: Bubba Jenkins – 245 rushes, 1,625 yards, 6.6 avg, 23 td; Receiving: 9 catches, 75 yards
Receiving: Connor Niles – 72 catches, 1,116 yards, 15.5 avg, 13 td
Defense: Caden McDonald – 87 tackles, 11 tfl, 4.5 sacks, 4 int 


Concordia (6-3, 5-2 GPAC)
9/2 at (20) Kansas Wesleyan, L, 13-28
9/9 vs. Ottawa, W, 24-6
9/16 at (24) Northwestern, L, 21-35
9/23 vs. (7) Doane, W, 29-18 (homecoming)
9/30 at Hastings, L, 18-38
10/14 vs. Midland, W, 44-14
10/21 at Dordt, W, 24-17
10/28 vs. Dakota Wesleyan, W, 38-16
11/4 at Briar Cliff, W, 35-7
11/11 vs. (3) Morningside, 1 p.m.

Morningside (10-0, 7-0 GPAC)
8/26 at St. Francis, W, 41-24
9/2 at (10) Tabor, W, 65-14
9/9 vs. Truman State, W, 35-30
9/16 vs. Dordt, W, 62-23
9/30 at (15) Northwestern, W, 48-20
10/7 vs. (22) Dakota Wesleyan, W, 76-21
10/14 at Briar Cliff, W, 70-10
10/21 vs. Hastings, W, 56-16
10/28 vs. Midland, W, 36-15
11/4 at (24) Doane, W, 41-10
11/11 at (25) Concordia, 1 p.m.

In the rankings
After receiving votes for two weeks in a row, the Bulldogs crept into the NAIA coaches’ poll at No. 25 in the rankings released on Monday (Nov. 6). This marks Concordia’s first top 25 ranking of the 2017 season. The Bulldogs finished last season at No. 19 after going 7-3 in Vance Winter’s final season as head coach. On the flip side, Morningside moved up one spot to third in the poll. The only teams ranked above the Mustangs are No. 1 Saint Francis (Ind.) and No. 2 Reinhardt (Ga.).

GPAC preseason: 5th (coaches); 6th (media)
NAIA coaches’ poll (Nov. 6): 25th
Massey Ratings: 28th

GPAC preseason: 1st (coaches); 1st (media)
NAIA coaches’ poll (Nov. 6): 3rd
Massey Ratings: 2nd

Honoring the senior class
A senior class of 26 will be honored during a pregame ceremony on Saturday. The class is the backbone of this year’s team and features such standouts as running back TJ Austin, tight end Seth Fitzke, receiver Jared Garcia, offensive tackle Hallick Lehmann, defensive back D’Mauria Martin, defensive back Tarence Roby and nose guard Erik Small. Over the past four seasons, the senior class has helped the program to a combined record of 24-16 while helping Concordia claim to third place in the conference this season. The 2016 team was the first Bulldog football squad to finish with a national ranking since the 2001 edition shared the GPAC title and advanced to the quarterfinals of the NAIA playoffs.

Roby earns second GPAC award of 2017
On Monday (Nov. 6), Tarence Roby collected his second GPAC defensive player of the week award of the season. Collectively, the Bulldogs have earned five GPAC player of the week awards in 2017. Roby also received the honor on Sept. 11, two days after returning an interception 100 yards for a touchdown in a win over Ottawa University (Kan.). In last week’s 35-7 victory at Briar Cliff, Roby picked off two passes. His first interception was returned for 51 yards and set up a Jared Garcia touchdown four plays later. Lane Napier (Oct. 30) and D’Mauria Martin (Oct. 16) have also been selected as GPAC defensive players of the week this season.

GPAC players of the week in 2017
Nov. 6 – Tarence Roby
Oct. 30 – Lane Napier
Oct. 16 – Ryan Durdon / *D’Mauria Martin
Sept. 11 – Tarence Roby
*National Defensive Player of the Week

Durdon sneaking up on school record
Ryan Durdon is on a four-game roll never before seen by a Concordia running back. The native of Decatur, Texas, has rushed for 795 yards and six touchdowns during the team’s four-game win streak, moving his season rushing total to 1,248. Durdon needs only 18 rushing yards on Saturday to break the program’s single-season rushing record of 1,265 by JaMaine Lewis in 2007. Through nine games this season, Durdon has produced single-game rushing figures of 266, 208, 201, 192 and 136. His average of 138.7 rushing yards per game ranks sixth best nationally. With Durdon leading the way, the Bulldogs have averaged 294.5 rushing yards over the past four outings.

Program single-season rushing leaders
1. JaMaine Lewis – 1,265 (2007)
2. Ryan Durdon – 1,248 (2017)
3. Cleve Wester – 1,114 (1984)
4. Randy Pospishil – 1,085 (1972)
5. Bryce Collins – 1,016 (2014)
6. Jeff Towns – 1,002 (1979)
7. Cleve Wester – 970 (1983)
8. Ritchie Bishop – 949 (1994)
9. Bryce Collins – 946 (2015)
10. Jeff Towns – 928 (1978)

Garcia chases down Wurdeman
It's fair to call Jared Garcia the best receiver in the history of Concordia football. By making three catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns last week at Briar Cliff, Garcia passed former All-American tight end Ross Wurdeman for the most career receiving yards in school history (see numbers below). Garcia not only owns the career receiving yards record, he also has set new program standards for career touchdown catches (35) and touchdown receptions in a season (11). Garcia stands seven receptions shy of Wurdeman’s school record for career catches (168). Despite playing in only four games this season, the Pearland, Texas, native tops the Bulldogs with six touchdown receptions.

Record watch
Career receiving yards: Garcia: 2,495 | Wurdeman: 2,458
Career receptions: Wurdeman: 168 | Garcia: 161

Dominant defense
While the running game has received plenty of acclaim in recent weeks, the defense has put together an impressive four-game run of its own. Defensive coordinator Corby Osten’s unit has tightened the screws since allowing 38 points and 472 yards in a loss at Hastings on Sept. 30. During the four-game win streak, Concordia has allowed averages of 13.5 points and 297.0 yards per game. The defensive progress has been spearheaded by the likes of senior Erik Small at nose guard, freshman Lane Napier at linebacker and one of the NAIA’s top defensive backfields. Safety D’Mauria Martin looks like a strong All-America candidate who has 13 passes defensed (five interceptions, eight pass breakups). With 80 tackles, Napier is the conference’s second leading tackler.

Wiltfong’s efficiency
The last four games have also been impressive for quarterback Riley Wiltfong. Since the bye week, Wiltfong has completed 49-of-79 (.620) passes for 645 yards to go along with a 9-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio. That run of success has pushed the Doniphan, Neb., native up to 19th nationally in terms of pass efficiency rating (150.2). In his career, Wiltfong has thrown for 2,387 yards and 27 touchdowns in 19 games. A dual threat, Wiltfong has also piled up 537 career rushing yards.

First-year success
Patrick Daberkow, the 10th head coach in program history, is enjoying one of the most successful seasons anyone has ever had as a first-year head coach of the Bulldogs. Only John Seevers (8-1 in 1970) and Kenneth Schroeder (6-2 in 1955) have equaled or topped Daberkow’s six wins as a first-year head coach at Concordia. It will be difficult for anyone to ever outdo Seevers’ first season. He inherited a talented roster from Ron Harms and led the 1970 team to an 8-1 record and a conference championship. Daberkow was part of a staff for head coach Vance Winter that has helped rejuvenate the program following a 1-9 season in 2008.

Records of Concordia head coaches in first year
Walter Hellwege: 1-0 (1925)
Herb Meyer: 2-4-1 (1941)
Kenneth Schroeder: 6-2 (1955)
Ralph Starenko: 3-6 (1959)
Ron Harms: 5-4 (1964)
John Seevers: 8-1 (1970)
Larry Oetting: 1-9 (1977)
Courtney Meyer: 1-7-1 (1990)
Vance Winter: 3-7 (2009)
Patrick Daberkow: 6-3 (2017)

Home cooking
Concordia’s home win streak has moved to 10 with 2017 wins at Bulldog Stadium over Ottawa, Doane, Midland and Dakota Wesleyan. The Bulldogs went a perfect 5-0 at home during the 2016 season. Concordia also won its final home contest of 2015. Included in the win streak are eight triumphs over GPAC opponents and two over squads from the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference. The 2016 team was the program’s first to complete an undefeated home season since 2000. The Bulldogs will need to defeat No. 3 Morningside in order to make it two years in a row with perfect home records.

10-game home win streak
10/28/17 | W, 38-16 | Dakota Wesleyan
10/14/17 | W, 44-14 | Midland
9/23/17 | W, 29-18 | No. 7 Doane
9/9/17 | W, 24-6 | Ottawa (Kan.)
11/12/16 | W, 31-28 | Hastings
10/22/16 | W, 20-14 | No. 22 Midland
10/8/16 | W, 56-0 | Briar Cliff
9/17/16 | W, 9-7 | Northwestern
9/3/16 | W, 23-7 | Mary (Kan.)
11/14/15 | W, 48-0 | Briar Cliff

Scouting Morningside
Morningside is a clearly established national power that has captured seven GPAC titles in a row under Steve Ryan’s direction. As has been the case in many recent seasons, the Mustangs are frighteningly good from a statistical standpoint. They rank No. 1 nationally in total offense and 39th in total defense. On offense, Morningside features some of the nation’s top skill players in quarterback Trent Solsma, running back Bubba Jenkins and receiver Connor Niles. Jenkins leads the nation in rushing yards (1,618), Solsma is No. 1 in pass efficiency (196.5) and Niles ranks third in receiving yards per game (124.0). The high-powered Mustang offense has scored at least 35 points in each of its 10 games this season. Morningside ranks only 74th in the NAIA in pass defense, but many opponents have put up yardage after games were already out of hand. There have been instances in recent years when the Mustangs have let down in their final game of the regular season. They suffered a 49-48 loss at Doane in 2014 and narrowly defeated Northwestern, 14-13, in last season’s regular-season finale.

The last time Morningside visited Bulldog Stadium it came away with a 44-21 win in 2015. Concordia trailed just 27-21 entering the fourth quarter before the Mustangs put the game away with two late touchdown runs by Tyler Kavan. The game was much more competitive than the final score indicated. However, last season’s contest in Sioux City was a Morningside rout, 55-13. Two Mustang interception returns for touchdowns in the opening quarter quickly made it a lopsided affair. The Bulldogs last defeated Morningside in 2003.