Ground attack rolls over Briar Cliff
SIOUX CITY, Iowa – The Bulldogs crashed the opposition’s homecoming party for the second-straight week in breezing by Briar Cliff 45-12 at Memorial Field in Sioux City, Iowa, on Saturday. Concordia (3-3, 2-2 GPAC) put up season highs in total offense (479 yards) and rushing yards (337) on the way to a sixth-consecutive win in the series versus the Chargers.
“This was the most complete, physical game we’ve played this season,” head coach Vance Winter said. “We came ready to play. Briar Cliff made some plays early in the game, but we responded. From a blocking and tackling standpoint, this was our best performance of the year.”
Concordia got off to an ominous start when Briar Cliff marched 68 yards on six plays, finishing the game’s opening drive with a 32-yard touchdown pass from quarterback P.J. Quiroga to Bryce Harshman. Leading 6-0, the Chargers had all the momentum on their side after Von Thomas’ pass was tipped and intercepted by Briar Cliff’s Paul Blanchard at the Concordia 42-yard line, thwarting the Bulldogs’ first offensive series.
Junior safety Darnell Woods then came up with what Winter called the biggest play of the game. He picked off Quiroga’s pass and raced 60 yards to the Charger 20-yard line. The game-changing turnover led to a Thomas seven-yard touchdown run that put Concordia in front 7-6. It was all Bulldogs from that point on.
Thomas closed the first quarter with touchdown tosses of 29 yards to senior receiver Colten Quinabo and four yards to senior fullback Will Cox to provide a 21-6 margin. The Quinabo score capped a nine-play, 92-yard drive that featured dominant play up front, characteristic of the entire game.
Behind that punishing offensive line, Concordia went to the ground and consistently gashed the Briar Cliff defense. Freshman Victor Brown piled up 94 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries before giving way to sophomore Mitch Reed, who was every bit as effective. Reed, a Genoa, Neb., native, amassed a game-high 125 yards on 15 carries.
“We were very physical up front,” Winter said. “All of our backs did a nice job. It was good to see us put up that big of rushing numbers.
“Mitch is a good runner. He came in midway through the third quarter and provided some more spark. He runs full speed, really physical and gets the most out of every play.”
Reed scampered 39 yards for a touchdown at the 13:25 mark of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to 38-12, putting the Chargers well out of reach. For good measure, the Bulldogs added one more score at the midway point of the fourth quarter when backup quarterback Justin Haun plunged into the end zone from a yard out. Haun became the sixth Bulldog to find pay dirt on the afternoon.
The loss was the most lopsided of the season for Briar Cliff, which had competed admirably in its 41-28 loss to then No. 21 Doane and 24-13 defeat to No. 22 Dakota Wesleyan. The Chargers entered Saturday hoping to earn their second-straight victory.
“It’s never easy to go on the road and win, and to do it on someone else’s homecoming,” Winter said. “They hit us in the mouth early and our guys responded very well.”
Thomas finished 11-for-19 passing with 135 yards and two touchdowns. The dual-threat signal caller from Miami, Fla., also put up 47 yards rushing and one touchdown on seven attempts.
Defensively, Concordia was led by the play of Woods, who tied Derek Blessing for the team lead with nine tackles. Woods picked off a pair of passes and totaled 106 return yards on those interceptions. Freshman Trey Haggerty and junior Ryan Coffey each plucked an interception of their own.
The Bulldogs return home on Oct. 13 for their homecoming game versus No. 11 Northwestern (5-1, 3-1 GPAC). Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. from Bulldog Stadium.