SEWARD, Neb. – On the heels of two down-to-the-wire losses to in-state GPAC rivals, the Concordia University Football readies for a major road challenge on Saturday. The Bulldogs will be headed to Orange City, Iowa, to take on fourth-ranked Northwestern. Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad will try to atone for relinquishing a 17-2 lead in last week’s 21-17 homecoming loss to Hastings. The powerhouse Red Raiders are a program that Concordia has not defeated since 2016.
The Bulldog defense has played well in holding its first two opponents below 300 total yards. The Broncos were able to rally from 15 points down while taking advantage of short fields. Concordia committed four turnovers and struggled to find consistency with an offense that was boom or bust. Without the self-inflicted wounds, Daberkow’s squad could easily be sitting at 2-0.
That stout Bulldog D will be put to the test against a Northwestern offense coming off back-to-back blowout victories. The one blemish on the mark so far was a 30-29 loss at top-ranked Morningside in a much-anticipated season opener. Head Coach Matt McCarty, a Red Raider alum, has carried on the program’s winning tradition. Northwestern may no longer have prolific quarterback Tyson Kooima on the roster, but the offense remains potent while led by signal caller Blake Fryar.
Concordia (0-2, 0-2 GPAC) at No. 4 Northwestern (2-1, 2-1 GPAC)
Saturday, Sept. 24 | 1 p.m.
De Valois Stadium | Orange City, Iowa
Live Webcast: Raider Network
Live Stats: Sidearm Sports
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Parker Cyza and Ross Wurdeman
*2022 national rankings out of 98 NAIA football programs
Offensive PPG: 13.5 (78th)
Defensive PPG: 16.5 (T-25th)
Total Offense: 271.5 (69th)
Pass Offense: 178.0 (59th)
Rush Offense: 93.5 (64th)
Total Defense: 286.0 (31st)
Pass Defense: 181.5 (38th)
Rush Defense: 104.5 (33rd)
Turnover +/-: -2
Offensive PPG: 43.7 (11th)
Defensive PPG: 13.3 (T-15th)
Total Offense: 498.0 (7th)
Pass Offense: 264.7 (17th)
Rush Offense: 233.3 (10th)
Total Defense: 263.0 (23rd)
Pass Defense: 206.0 (54th)
Rush Defense: 57.0 (11th)
Turnover +/-: +7
2022 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Head Coach: Patrick Daberkow (23-27, 6th season)
Passing: Austin Jablonski – 19/49 (.388), 242 yards, 2 td, 2 int, 85.6 effic.; 25 rushes for 87 yards, 1 td
Rushing: Devin Zeigler – 30 rushes, 100 yards, 3.3 avg, 0 td
Receiving: Korrell Koehlmoos – 8 receptions, 155 yards, 19.4 avg, 2 td
Defense: Michael Grindey – 27 tackles, 1 ff, 0.5 tfl’s
Head Coach: Matt McCarty (48-11, 7th season)
Passing: Blake Fryar – 55/78 (.705), 729 yards, 10 td, 0 int, 191.3 effic.; 112 rushing yards
Rushing: Logan Meyer – 40 rushes, 216 yards, 5.4 avg, 3 td
Receiving: Michael Storey – 14 receptions, 185 yards, 13.2 avg, 3 td
Defense: Parker Fryar – 27 tackles, 2.5 tfl’s, 1 pbu
Concordia (0-2, 0-2 GPAC)
9/3 at Doane, L, 10-12
9/17 vs. Hastings, L, 17-21 (homecoming)
9/24 at (4) Northwestern, 1 p.m.
10/1 at Dakota Wesleyan, 1 p.m.
10/8 vs. Jamestown, 1 p.m.
10/15 vs. Mount Marty, 1 p.m.
10/22 vs. Dordt, 1 p.m.
10/29 at (23) Midland, 1 p.m.
11/5 at Briar Cliff, 1 p.m.
11/12 vs. (1) Morningside, 1 p.m.
Northwestern (2-1, 2-1 GPAC)
9/3 at (1) Morningside, L, 29-30
9/10 vs. Dakota Wesleyan, W, 54-7
9/17 at Jamestown, W, 48-3
9/24 vs. Concordia, 1 p.m.
10/1 vs. Mount Marty, 1 p.m.
10/15 at Dordt, 1 p.m.
10/22 at Doane, 1 p.m.
10/29 vs. Briar Cliff, 1 p.m.
11/5 vs. (23) Midland, 1 p.m.
11/12 at Hastings, 1 p.m.
In the rankings
Concordia picked up three points in the NAIA preseason coaches’ poll but has fallen off the national radar due to the 0-2 start. The program’s most recent top 25 appearance came in November 2017 when they landed at No. 25. Current Massey Ratings list Concordia at No. 44 and Northwestern at No. 4. The Red Raiders regularly appear inside the national top 25 and finished as the 2020 NAIA national runner up.
GPAC preseason: 4th
Current Massey Ratings: 44th
GPAC preseason: 2nd
Current Massey Ratings: 4th
Homecoming at Concordia
As part of last week’s homecoming celebration, Concordia hosted Hastings on a warm but comfortable afternoon inside Bulldog Stadium. The Bulldogs appeared to be on their way to victory when Austin Jablonski hurled a 56-yard touchdown pass to Korrell Koehlmoos, pushing the lead to 17-2 with 12:44 left in the third quarter. Things unraveled from there. Concordia committed four turnovers and Hastings took advantage of short fields with scoring drives that covered 50, 55 and 17 yards, respectively. Daberkow wound up playing both Jablonski and DJ McGarvie at quarterback while looking for an offensive spark. The bulk of the Concordia offense came on four plays – the 56-yard touchdown reception by Koehlmoos, a 43-yard connection from Jablonski to Koehlmoos, a 31-yard strike from McGarvie to Carsen Arline and a 28-yard rush by Devin Zeigler.
Koehlmoos rising on all-time receiving lists
There’s no doubt that Koehlmoos is the most dangerous offensive threat for the Bulldogs. Koehlmoos got loose versus Hastings with six catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns. That outburst allowed the Pilger, Neb., native to become the fourth player in program history to eclipse 2,000 career receiving yards. In school history, Koehlmoos currently ranks third in receiving yards (2,025), fifth in receptions (134) and fifth in receiving touchdowns (14). The school records in each of those categories are 2,495 receiving yards (Jared Garcia), 168 receptions (Ross Wurdeman) and 35 receiving touchdowns (Garcia). Over the weekend, Koehlmoos moved past 2022 Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame inductee Clarence Woods on the receiving yards list.
Receiving yards, career
1. Jared Garcia – 2,495 (2014-17)
2. Ross Wurdeman – 2,458 (1998-01)
3. Korrell Koehlmoos – 2,025 (2018-present)
4. Clarence Woods – 2,011 (1984-88)
5. Eric Pralle – 1,974 (1987-1991)
1. Ross Wurdeman – 168 (1998-01)
2. Jared Garcia – 161 (2014-17)
3. Eric Pralle – 147 (1987-91)
4. Dan Danielczyk – 140 (1968-71)
5. Korrell Koehlmoos – 134 (2018-present)
Versus the top 25
In recent years, when Concordia has gone up against a top 25 ranked opponent, it’s meant matchups with top tier GPAC programs like Morningside, Northwestern and Dordt. A signature win would be just the thing to help the Bulldogs forget about the results from their first two games of this season. Concordia’s most recent win over a ranked opponent occurred on Sept. 23, 2017, when it celebrated homecoming with a 29-18 victory over then seventh-ranked Doane. The previous season, the Bulldogs also earned a win over Midland when the Warriors were ranked No. 22.
Wearing No. 1, safety Isiaha Conner has already had a hand in three opponent turnovers. The Las Vegas native recovered a fumble in the season opener at Doane and then plucked two interceptions of Hastings quarterback John Zamora. Conner is capable of doing damage when the ball is in his hands. During the 2021 season, he returned an interception for 35 yards and had a kick return of 67 yards. Conner is a key part of an experienced secondary that also features the likes of Jayzen Armstrong, Kam Baker, Carson Core and Myles Lyons, among others. Armstrong made his presence felt last week with three pass breakups.
Stuffing the run
At its core, the Concordia defense is about stopping the run. The Bulldogs are doing that at a high level having held the opposition to an average of 2.5 yards per carry so far this season. That’s even a tick better than the 2021 defense that stifled GPAC rushing attacks, which averaged only 2.7 yards per rush over the 10-game season. Though there were significant personnel losses from ’21, coordinator Corby Osten has rounded into shape a unit that leans upon a deep crew of linemen. At a defensive end position, Kyle Sterup has been impressive in making 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks through two games. Both Jordan Kavulak and Devon Polley are also proven performers up front.
Zeigler – RB1
On the offensive side of the ball, Concordia is working on ramping up a run game that is seeking more consistency. No. 1 running back Devin Zeigler popped an early 28-yard burst and then struggled to find running room versus Hastings. The running game was limited to 49 yards and 1.6 yards per attempt. Zeigler is the team’s leading rusher on the season with 100 yards on 30 carries. Daberkow may also use Mark Arp and Carter Seim in the backfield.
Grindey paces new-look linebacker crew
Gone are stars Lane Napier and Caydren Cox, but the linebacker crew remains a tenacious unit. Michael Grindey posted 13 tackles at Doane and then made 14 stops versus Hastings. The native of Phoenix, Ariz., teams up with Lukas Coe and Nick Leader for a crew that has contributed heavily to the team’s success against the run. Leader is a former walk on at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln who immediately earned a starting role. Grindey likely would have factored more into the linebacker unit’s on-field production last season if not for injury.
Harold transitions from soccer field
One of the last additions to the 2022 team, Ty Harold has brought his soccer leg to the football field as a kicker. A transfer from Iowa Western Community College, Harold came to Concordia to play for Head Coach Jason Weides’ men’s soccer team. Harold impressed the coaching staff enough during preseason to be trusted with placekicking duties at Doane. In that game, Harold went 1-for-3 on field goal tries and 1-for-1 on extra point attempts. The field goal make came from 28 yards out. Harold then made a field goal from 21 yards out versus Hastings and converted two PATs.
The QBs: Jablonski and McGarvie
Austin Jablonski started and DJ McGarvie appeared in a relief role last week versus Hastings. The two quarterbacks bring different skillsets to the table. Jablonski collected his first two career touchdown passes last week before giving way to McGarvie. A native of Valparaiso, Neb., McGarvie started all 10 games last season as a true freshman. So far this season, Jablonski has gone 19-for-49 passing for 242 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. In the season opener at Doane, Jablonski ran for 95 yards and a touchdown. In action versus Hastings, McGarvie completed 16-of-24 passes for 114 yards. Said Daberkow of going to McGarvie in the second half, “We were trying to create a spark and we felt like that was something that might do that. I thought DJ went through his read progressions well. There were some good things that happened. Ultimately, you’re judged in this game by whether you score points or not, and we didn’t do a good enough job of that.”
Schardt’s return in question
There’s still uncertainty surrounding if and when two-time First Team All-GPAC tight end Garrett Schardt will be healthy enough to make his return to the field. Schardt has not yet played this season due to an injury. Already a Concordia graduate, Schardt made the decision to come back to the team for a fifth season. However, he was slowed in preseason camp and remains hopeful of making an impact at some point this season. Schardt was named an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American in 2021. In the 2020 matchup with Northwestern, Schardt caught seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns.
Series vs. Northwestern
Northwestern has had the upper hand, winning 30 of the first 44 meetings with Concordia in a series that began in 1960 (the first year of football at Northwestern). The Bulldogs’ most recent win over Northwestern occurred inside Bulldog Stadium in 2016 when they held off the Red Raiders, 9-7, in a defensive battle. In last season’s meeting in Seward, Concordia trailed just 3-0 at the end of a quarter before then second-ranked Northwestern piled up 21 points in the second quarter. It was 24-0 before the Bulldogs got on the board with DJ McGarvie’s 20-yard touchdown pass to Korrell Koehlmoos. The Red Raiders outgained Concordia, 393-200, and were plus-two in turnover margin.
The yearly expectation for Northwestern has become a deep NAIA playoff run. Head Coach Matt McCarty led the Red Raiders to the 2021 national semifinals where they were bounced by arch nemesis Morningside. The rest of the GPAC may have been hoping for Northwestern to take a step back after quarterback Tyson Kooima exhausted his eligibility, but that does not appear to be the case. Blake Fryar has tossed 10 touchdown passes to no interceptions through the team’s first three games of 2022. A glaring statistic: the Red Raiders have yet to turn the ball over this season. They are currently plus-seven in turnover margin. Northwestern has a well-balanced team that can run and throw offensively and allows very little to opposing rushing attacks. The Red Raiders lost any margin for error in terms of the GPAC title race, due to the loss to Morningside, but they can hope for a rematch in the NAIA playoffs. At stake on Saturday – a loss would be crippling to Northwestern in the national picture while Concordia could raise eyebrows with an upset.