Game Notes: Off win over Briar Cliff, Bulldogs face stiff road challenge

By Jacob Knabel on Oct. 2, 2023 in Football

SEWARD, Neb. – Winning vibes returned to the Concordia University Football locker room this past week as the Bulldogs earned a 35-23 home win over Briar Cliff in the season’s lone night game. That result helped wipe away the frustration of the previous two weeks. Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad now faces back-to-back road contests within the GPAC. The 22nd all-time meeting between Concordia and Morningside will unfold this Saturday at Elwood Olsen Stadium in Sioux City, Iowa.

Nothing has come easy so far this season for the Bulldogs, who trailed most of the game at Jamestown before rallying for their first victory of 2023. Despite a 21-7 halftime lead, Concordia needed nearly the full 60 minutes to seal last week’s win over Briar Cliff. Explosive fourth quarter plays of 68 yards from DJ McGarvie to Carsen Arline and of 75 yards on a rush by Austin Jablonski put the contest on ice. The Bulldogs moved their record to 2-3 a week after missing an opportunity in the 16-12 homecoming loss at the hands of Dakota Wesleyan.

Under Head Coach Steve Ryan, Morningside has been the most dominant force in the GPAC. The program has captured 13 GPAC championships and three NAIA national titles under Ryan’s leadership. The Mustangs may have graduated prolific passer Joe Dolincheck, but they remain a force offensively and have won each of their first four GPAC games in blowout fashion. Morningside pummeled Doane last week in Crete, 38-7, while limiting the Tigers to 208 total yards. The Mustangs have been using two quarterbacks in Cash Parker and Lennx Brown. Morningside is averaging 41.6 points per game and allowing 15.2 points per game.

Concordia (2-3, 2-3 GPAC) at No. 3 Morningside (5-0, 4-0 GPAC)
Saturday, Oct. 7 | 1:30 p.m.
Elwood Olsen Stadium | Sioux City, Iowa
Webcast: Morningside Stream
Live Stats: NAIA PrestoStats
Radio: 104.9 Max Country
Commentators: Parker Cyza and Ross Wurdeman
Online Tickets: HomeTown Ticketing (also sold on site)


Team Statistics
*2023 national rankings out of 96 NAIA football programs

Offensive PPG: 23.2 (56th)
Defensive PPG: 29.6 (60th)
Total Offense: 401.6 (30th)
Pass Offense: 259.8 (19th)
Rush Offense: 141.8 (46th)
Total Defense: 394.0 (65th)
Pass Defense: 242.0 (70th)
Rush Defense: 152.0 (58th)
Turnover +/-: -5

Offensive PPG: 41.6 (11th)
Defensive PPG: 15.2 (T-10th)
Total Offense: 452.2 (12th)
Pass Offense: 255.2 (22nd)
Rush Offense: 197.0 (12th)
Total Defense: 277.4 (19th)
Pass Defense: 208.0 (46th)
Rush Defense: 69.4 (10th)
Turnover +/-: +2


Head Coach: Patrick Daberkow (29-34, 7th season)
Passing: DJ McGarvie – 112/182 (.615), 1,289 yards, 5 td, 7 int, 122.4 effic.
Rushing: Devin Zeigler – 96 rushes, 430 yards, 4.5 avg, 6 td
Receiving: Austin Jablonski – 47 receptions, 502 yards, 10.7 avg, 2 td
Defense: Kyle Sterup – 40 tackles, 12 tfl’s, 2 sacks, 1 ff, 1 fr

Head Coach: Steve Ryan (224-42, 22nd season)
Passing: Cash Parker – 50/79 (.633), 803 yards, 8 td, 3 int, 174.5 effic.
Rushing: Lennx Brown – 56 rushes, 372 yards, 6.6 avg, 4 td
Receiving: Zach Norton – 35 receptions, 469 yards, 13.4 avg, 4 td
Defense: Isaac Pingel – 47 tackles, 8.5 tfl’s, 5 sacks, 2 pbu’s, 1 int, 1 ff


Concordia (2-3, 2-3 GPAC)
9/2 vs. (1) Northwestern, L, 35-48
9/9 at Jamestown, W, 27-23
9/16 at (19) Dordt, L, 7-38
9/23 vs. Dakota Wesleyan, L, 12-16 (homecoming)
9/30 vs. Briar Cliff, W, 35-23
10/7 at (3) Morningside, 1:30 p.m.
10/14 at Hastings, 1 p.m.
10/28 vs. Midland, 1 p.m.
11/4 vs. Doane, 1 p.m. (senior day)
11/11 at Mount Marty, 1 p.m.

Morningside (5-0, 4-0 GPAC)
8/26 at (7) Benedictine, W, 20-17
9/9 at Hastings, W, 55-18
9/16 vs. Mount Marty, W, 47-17
9/23 vs. Midland, W, 48-17
9/30 at Doane, W, 38-7
10/7 vs. Concordia, 1:30 p.m.
10/14 at Dakota Wesleyan, 1 p.m.
10/21 vs. Jamestown, 1 p.m.
10/28 at (1) Northwestern, 1 p.m.
11/4 vs. (14) Dordt, 1 p.m.
11/11 at Briar Cliff, 1 p.m.

In the rankings
Concordia landed at No. 6 in the 2023 GPAC preseason coaches’ poll and has been off the national radar this season, in terms of the NAIA coaches’ poll. The program’s most recent top 25 appearance came in November 2017 when they checked in at No. 25. Current Massey Ratings list Concordia at No. 52 and Morningside at No. 1 in the NAIA. The Mustangs are routinely ranked at or near the top of the NAIA coaches’ poll. They currently sit at No. 3 in the official coaches’ poll.

GPAC preseason: 6th
Current Massey Ratings: 52nd

GPAC preseason: 2nd
Current Massey Ratings: 1st

Last time out
Concordia badly needed a win at home and got it last week while outgaining Briar Cliff, 478-284. The offense churned out 23 first downs as DJ McGarvie threw for 229 yards and a score and Devin Zeigler led the rushing attack with 87 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries. The Chargers got within 21-16 in the fourth quarter before explosive plays helped the Bulldogs seal the victory. McGarvie hit an uncovered Carsen Arline for a 68-yard touchdown connection and Austin Jablonski later sprinted 75 yards for a touchdown out of the wildcat formation. Jablonski continues to star as one of the nation’s most productive receivers. He ran for 86 yards and hauled in eight receptions for 78 yards versus Briar Cliff. Arline made five grabs for 95 yards. Other highlights included a blocked punt by Deegan Barnes and the first career interception for safety Daylan Henson. The defensive front was active in the backfield in piling up 10 tackles for loss, including 2.5 apiece from Devon Polley and Kyle Sterup and two for Carson Fehlhafer. The Chargers rushed for only 40 yards on 29 attempts. The 35 points for Concordia equaled a season high.

Hitting the road
For the second time this season, the Bulldogs are readying for back-to-back road games. Concordia found a way to escape Jamestown with a win, 27-23, in its first road venture back on Sept. 9. The next week, the Bulldogs fell flat in a 38-7 loss at then 19th-ranked Dordt. Three road contests remain on the 2023 slate: Morningside (Oct. 7), Hastings (Oct. 14) and Mount Marty (Nov. 11). Concordia went 2-3 away from home in 2022 with the wins coming over Dakota Wesleyan and Briar Cliff.

Coach Daberkow + staff
Patrick Daberkow’s history at Concordia dates back to his first season as a Bulldog football player in 2003. This is Daberkow’s 16th season as part of the program’s staff – seventh as head coach. He served as defensive coordinator for seven years before being named as head coach in December 2016. Daberkow assumed offensive play calling duties in 2022. Meanwhile, his full-time staff includes Defensive Coordinator Corby Osten, Special Teams Coordinator Trent Laune and Assistant Coach Grady Koch (who specializes in coaching the offensive line, among other duties). A couple of significant additions to the staff this season are Kevin Crume (former Nebraska Wesleyan assistant) and Greg Nelson (former Lincoln Lutheran head coach). Daberkow’s record stood at 27-31 at the conclusion of six seasons. His most successful year was a 7-3 record in 2021.

Playmaking Jabo
With eight more receptions this past week, receiver Austin Jablonski maintained his NAIA national lead in that category. Jablonski has caught 47 passes for 502 yards and two touchdowns through the first five games of 2023. Concordia had the nation’s 2022 leader for catches in Korrell Koehlmoos, who reeled in 95 receptions (a school record). In addition, Jablonski ranks as the Bulldogs’ third leading rusher with 142 yards (on only 13 attempts). The former walk on at the University of Nebraska started the first two games of the 2022 season at quarterback before settling in as a receiver. Jablonski accomplished the unique feat last season of throwing, running and catching touchdowns. Over two seasons as a Bulldog, Jablonski has pulled in 83 catches for 985 yards and five touchdowns.

Jablonski game-by-game receiving numbers
9/2 vs. Northwestern: 9 for 122, 2 TD
9/9 at Jamestown: 5 for 85
9/16 at Dordt: 10 for 75
9/23 vs. DWU: 15 for 142
9/30 vs. Briar Cliff: 8 for 78

McGarvie moving up program all-time lists
Lincoln North Star High School product DJ McGarvie made his 21st career start this past Saturday. McGarvie performed solidly once again in completing 18-of-31 passes for 229 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. The Valparaiso, Neb., native has posted at least 185 passing yards in each outing this season. On the program’s all-time lists, McGarvie continues to rank No. 4 for both passing yards (5,326) and passing touchdowns (42). There are only four players in program history to have reached 5,000 passing yards. Next up for McGarvie to pass is Rod Giesselmann (5,519), a 2023 Concordia Athletics Hall of Fame inductee. McGarvie’s school record of 458 passing yards in a single game came last season against Dordt. McGarvie ranks second among GPAC quarterbacks for average passing yards per game (257.8) in 2023. According to Max Preps, McGarvie threw for 3,130 yards and 25 touchdowns in 26 career high school games at Lincoln North Star.

Concordia all-time passing yards leaders
1. Jarrod Pimentel – 6,435
2. Von Thomas – 5,662
3. Rod Giesselmann – 5,519
4. DJ McGarvie – 5,326
5. Kurt Earl – 4,158

Concordia all-time passing touchdowns leaders
1. Von Thomas – 49
1. Jarrod Pimentel – 49
3. Rod Giesselmann – 47
4. DJ McGarvie – 42
5. Kurt Earl – 37

Disruptive D-Line
The TFL’s are on the rise for Concordia’s defensive front. The Bulldogs made 10 stops in the backfield last week as the defensive line continues to make strides. The experienced anchors include 6-foot-1, 285-pound Devon Polley and 6-foot-5, 250-pound Kyle Sterup. Those two stalwarts posted 2.5 tackles for loss apiece versus Briar Cliff. The 6-foot-4, 300-pound Carson Fehlhafer enjoyed a big night of his own with nine tackles, two stops for loss and a sack. It’s been a monster first half of the season for Sterup, who has registered 40 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and two sacks. Fehlhafer now leads the team with three sacks on the year. The defense has been much stouter the past two weeks. Opponents are averaging 4.3 yards per rush.

Zeigler/Arp: 1-2 punch
Running backs Devin Zeigler and Mark Arp combined to score Concordia’s first three touchdowns versus Briar Cliff. Arp got on the board first with a touchdown run of 12 yards. Zeigler than followed with scoring runs of one and eight yards. The fifth-year Bulldog Zeigler is leading the team in touchdowns (six) and points scored (36) through five weeks. Among GPAC running backs, Zeigler ranks third in terms of rushing yards per game (86.0). Arp has carried the ball 46 times for 184 yards and two touchdowns in 2023. In his five seasons at Concordia, Zeigler has carried the ball 365 times for 1,433 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Next in line: Gideon Stark
The next quarterback in line after DJ McGarvie could be Gideon Stark. Bulldog fans got a look at Stark this past Saturday as he threw the ball three times and completed on pass for 10 yards. Though from Magnolia, Texas, Stark has plenty of connections to Concordia. His father Paul played football and his mother Kim played volleyball at Concordia. The 6-foot-7 quarterback also followed his older sisters to Concordia. Kara and Shelby have both been members of the Bulldog volleyball program. Gideon graduated from Concordia Lutheran High School in Texas and is majoring in Business Administration. Gideon has a big arm and the ability to make downfield throws.

O-line made up of upperclassmen
The offensive line that Concordia has started in recent weeks (listed below) has featured four juniors and one senior in fifth-year Bulldog right guard Christian Schlepp. The line includes Cohen Carpenter and Blake Schlegel at the tackles, Tyler Walford at left guard and Jackson Anderson at center. Those five players average a weight of 277 pounds. Others who have seen action up front include Toby Hager, Nathan Miller, Seth Moore and Nick Sazama. Daberkow has used as many as nine offensive linemen on the field at once in what the program dubs its “Rhino Package.” That formation was put to use on Devin Zeigler’s game-winning touchdown at Jamestown. Concordia also completed a fourth-and-one pass for a gain of 15 yards to tight end Daylan Russell out of that formation versus Briar Cliff.

Projected starters
LT – No. 54 Cohen Carpenter, Jr. (6-4, 250)
LG – No. 69 Tyler Walford, Jr. (6-3, 300)
C – No. 56 Jackson Anderson, Jr. (6-1, 245)
RG – No. 58 Christian Schlepp, Sr. (6-2, 265)
RT – No. 74 Blake Schlegel, Jr. (6-6, 325)

Freshmen take over kicking game
Gone is last year’s kicker/punter combination of Ty Harold and Korrell Koehlmoos. In their place have steppeda group of freshmen. Special Teams Coordinator Trent Laune has turned to Peyton Atwood for placekicking, Braxton Borer and Jayson Guthard for punting and Admir Mujkic for kickoff duties. Atwood has gone 15-for-16 on PATs and 1-for-4 on field goals through the first five weeks. Borer stepped into the punting role over the past two weeks. Quarterback DJ McGarvie has also punted twice this season in situations where Concordia appeared to be lining up to go for a fourth-down conversion. Another freshman made an impact on special teams last week as Deegan Barnes blocked a punt.

Series vs. Morningside
It's been one-sided as Morningside is 20-1 all-time versus Concordia. That one win for the Bulldogs came in 2003 by a 34-19 score in Seward. Courtney Meyer was the Bulldogs’ head coach at the time. Concordia’s 2022 season ended with a 55-18 home defeat at the hands of the Mustangs. DJ McGarvie threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns in attempting to make up for a nonexistent running game. The touchdown tosses went to Carsen Arline, Korrell Koehlmoos and Austin Jablonski. The potent Morningside offense racked up 539 total yards.

Scouting Morningside
Back-to-back National Player of the Year award winner Joe Dolincheck has departed, but Morningside remains a major player as a GPAC championship and national title contender. Under Head Coach Steve Ryan, the Mustangs have won 12 straight GPAC titles and are a three-time NAIA national champion. Without Dolincheck, this year’s squad has put to use a two-quarterback system with Cash Parker and Lennx Brown combining for 1,276 passing yards and 12 touchdowns. Brown also leads the team in rushing with 372 yards on 56 attempts. Returning First Team All-GPAC running back Ryan Cole has not played since the season opener. Other first team all-conference returners include receiver Zach Norton, offensive lineman Riley Lindberg, linebacker Isaac Pingel and defensive backs Lonell Boyd Jr. and Dijion Walls. Morningside ranks in the top 20 nationally in total offense and total defense. After Concordia went up against an alum last week in D’Mauria Martin (special teams coordinator at Briar Cliff), it will see another alum in Tarence Roby (former All-American defensive back), an assistant at Morningside.