SEWARD, Neb. – A second-straight home game against a top-10 ranked team awaits the 24th-ranked Concordia University football team on Saturday. No. 2 Morningside will bring its NAIA top-rated offense to Seward for a 1 p.m. kickoff inside Bulldog Stadium. Concordia will celebrate parent’s day with a postgame meal for Bulldog players and family members.
Head coach Vance Winter’s squad is coming off its second three-point loss of the season against a top 10 opponent. Last week Concordia fell by a 23-20 score in overtime to sixth-ranked Doane. Meanwhile, Morningside is undefeated in conference play and has won four-straight games since a 33-30 loss to NCAA Division III No. 1-ranked University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
(2) Morningside (7-1, 6-0) at (24) Concordia (5-2, 4-2)
Saturday, Oct. 31 | 1 p.m.
Site: Seward, Neb.
Stadium: Bulldog Stadium
Radio: 104.9 Max Country (KTMX-FM)
Webcast: Concordia Sports Network
2015 Team Statistics
*National rank in parentheses
Offensive PPG: 30.7 (33rd)
Defensive PPG: 18.0 (10th)
Total Offense: 387.9 (39th)
Pass Offense: 207.9 (41st)
Rush Offense: 180.0 (34th)
Total Defense: 267.3 (4th)
Pass Defense: 142.0 (4th)
Rush Defense: 125.3 (20th)
Turnover +/-: +3 (T-29th)
Offensive PPG: 61.6 (1st)
Defensive PPG: 13.0 (2nd)
Total Offense: 608.6 (1st)
Pass Offense: 347.4 (3rd)
Rush Offense: 261.3 (9th)
Total Defense: 257.9 (3rd)
Pass Defense: 133.1 (2nd)
Rush Defense: 124.8 (19th)
Turnover +/-: +7 (T-10th)
Head Coach: Vance Winter (33-39, 7th year)
Passing: TJ Austin – 49/97 (.505), 8 TD, 2 INT, 622 yds, 127.5 effic. (rushing: 64 att, 357 yds, 3 TD)
Rushing: Bryce Collins – 108 att, 629 yds, 5.8 avg, 5 TD (receiving: 21 rec, 208 yds, TD)
Receiving: Jared Garcia – 29 rec, 518 yds, 17.9 avg, 6 TD
Defense: Tait Sibbel – 44 tackles, 12.0 tfl’s, 5 pbu’s, 1 INT, 2 blks / Trey Barnes – 51 tackles, 10.0 tfl’s, 6.0 sacks
Head Coach: Steve Ryan (127-36, 14th year)
Passing: Ryan Kasdorf – 127/179 (.709), 26 TD, 1 INT, 2,178 yds, 220.0 effic. (rushing: 48 att, 160 yds, 2 TD)
Rushing: Tyler Kavan – 104 att, 741 yds, 7.1 avg, 16 TD
Receiving: Connor Niles – 48 rec, 886 yds, 18.5 avg, 9 TD
Defense: Zac Schleuger – 72 tackles, 5.0 tfl’s, 1.0 sack, 2 INT
In the rankings
After garnering a No. 23 national ranking last week, Concordia dropped one spot to No. 24 in the top 25 poll released on Monday. Meanwhile, Morningside moved up one spot to No. 2. The Mustangs vaulted to No. 1 with the release of the Sept. 21 rankings and have not been rated lower than fourth this season. Morningside will be the third ranked opponent Concordia has faced this season. The Bulldogs have lost their first two games against top 25 foes – 17-14 at No. 9 Northwestern and 23-20 in overtime versus No. 6 Doane.
Calling the signals
Sophomore Riley Wiltfong became the third Bulldog quarterback to start a game this season last week when got the call versus Doane. Both sophomore TJ Austin and senior Garrett Folchert were sidelined due to injury. Wiltfong is also atop this week’s depth chart after completing 17-for-27 passes for 261 yards to go with two touchdowns and two interceptions against a Doane defense ranked among the NAIA’s top five units. A native of Doniphan, Neb., Wiltfong led Doniphan-Trumbull High School to a class C-2 state title as a senior. Wiltfong served as Concordia’s junior varsity quarterback in 2014. Austin, Folchert and Wiltfong have each put together one game of at least 200 passing yards this season.
Wiltfong made effective use of top receiver Jared Garcia last week. No matter the quarterback, the 6-foot-3 sophomore from Pearland, Texas, has been a game-breaking performer, especially over the last three weeks. During that stretch Garcia has caught 18 passes for 375 yards and four touchdowns. Last week Garcia hauled in six passes for a career high 192 yards and two scores while also drawing a pair of flags on the Doane secondary. In 18 career games, Garcia has reeled in 17 touchdown passes, including a program single-season record 11 in 2014. In the loss to Doane, Garcia surpassed 1,000 career receiving yards (1,168). He is on track to challenge Concordia Ross Wurdeman’s program career receiving records for catches (168), yards (2,458) and touchdowns (24).
Special teams ace
A tremendous senior for Tait Sibbel continued on Saturday as the O’Neill, Neb., blocked a pair of Jordan Pederson punts in the second quarter. Sibbel’s second block resulted in a 12-yard touchdown return for sophomore Tarence Roby, putting Concordia up 13-3 at the time. Sibbel also posted a game high 11 tackles versus Doane. He has 12 tackles for loss – third most among GPAC players. The former three-year starter at safety has 225 tackles and nine interceptions over 39 career games.
Missed it by that much
Nearly every Concordia loss since the start of 2014 has been the nailbiting variety. Of the team’s eight losses during that stretch, seven have been decided by a touchdown or less (list below). Three of those defeats have come against top 25 opponents. Two of the losses have been suffered by three points in overtime. The combined margin of defeat in the seven losses has been 24 points.
Losses by seven points or less last two years
10/24/15 – vs. No. 6 Doane, 23-20 (OT)
9/19/15 – at No. 9 Northwestern, 17-14
10/25/14 – at Doane, 23-20
10/18/14 – vs. No. 12 Northwestern, 27-21
10/11/14 – at Nebraska Wesleyan, 37-34 (OT)
9/27/14 – vs. Dakota State, 22-21
9/13/14 – at Hastings, 48-43
Hedlund on the stop
Like Sibbel, Michael Hedlund is playing linebacker after starting his career at a different position. The former quarterback and defensive back has been remarkably consistent, registering double-digit tackle totals in five of six games in which he’s played in this season. He posted a career high 19 tackles at Midland and followed it up with 10 more last week. The native of O’Neill, Neb., tops Concordia with 69 tackles and ranks second among GPAC players with an average of 11.5 stops per game. He’s made eight tackles behind the line of scrimmage.
Series versus Morningside
Morningside is 12-1 against Concordia since the two teams began playing as GPAC opponents in 2002. The Bulldogs got their lone victory over the Mustangs in 2003 by a 34-19 score in Seward on Nov. 15. Morningside carried No. 1 national rankings into 2013 and 2014 meetings with the Bulldogs. In the Mustangs’ most recent trip to Seward (2013), they came away with a 48-31 win after overcoming a 24-21 halftime deficit. In that contest, Von Thomas threw for 248 yards and Bryce Collins rushed for three scores as Concordia tested then top-ranked Morningside.
Despite losing running back Brandon Wegher to the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, Morningside again ranks as the top offense in the NAIA in both scoring and total yards. Head coach Steve Ryan’s squad possesses one of the nation’s most prolific passers in Ryan Kasdorf, who has a near spotless 26-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio. All seven of Morningside’s wins have come by 20 points or more. Over the last three weeks the Mustang scoring machine has averaged 74.7 points per game. Spurred by leading tackler Zac Schleuger, Morningside also owns a top-five rated defense in scoring and total yards.