SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Dordt running back Xavier Caffee made some early noise, but the Concordia University football team used a run of 24-straight points to pull away for a 34-21 road victory in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Saturday afternoon. Both Bryce Collins and TJ Austin topped 100 yards rushing to power a ground game that punished the Defenders for over 300 yards.
Now 3-1 overall, Concordia is off to its second best four-game start in the seven-year tenure of head coach Vance Winter. The Bulldogs improved to 2-1 in conference play by defeating Dordt for the seventh-straight meeting.
“We did some really, really good things in the first half,” Winter said. “We ran the football well. I thought we came off the ball well. We were busting some runs. First half we played really well offensively.
“Dordt is much improved on offense. They caught us on the first play of the game and just hopped us. It’s tough to simulate the speed of what they’re doing offensively and how fast they’re doing it. They caught us big time early. We had to respond to that.”
Concordia answered with smash mouth football. Collins broke free for gains of 20 and 16 yards on the Bulldogs’ 9-play, 58-yard first-possession drive that resulted in a 29-yard Adam Meirose field goal. Collins then got loose for a 38 yarder on the next drive, which ended with Austin’s 6-yard touchdown run that put the Bulldogs up 10-7.
The one-two punch of Austin and Collins also gashed the Defender defense on ensuing touchdown drives of 95 and 75 yards. Austin delivered scoring tosses of 12 yards to Carey Harrison and six yards to Jared Garcia to provide a 24-14 lead late in the first half.
A third-quarter touchdown pass of four yards from Garrett Folchert to Trae Owens essentially put the game on ice. The score, set up by D’Mauria Martin’s interception and 33-yard return, made it a 34-14 game with 6:40 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldog secondary wasn’t finished. An impact transfer from Southern Oregon University, safety LeDontrae Gooden surfaced with his third interception of the season after Dordt had moved the ball to midfield. Gooden led the team with eight tackles, including two for loss on Saturday.
After Caffee raced 70 yards for a touchdown on the game’s very first play from scrimmage, the Bulldog defense did a solid job bottling up the Defenders’ triple-option attack. Dordt finished with 198 rushing yards on 44 attempts. After Caffee’s electrifying run, the Defenders averaged only 3.0 yards per carry.
“Our guys made some great plays in the secondary,” Winter said. “They threw the ball a little bit more in the second half than we expected and those guys made some big plays. We wish we would have capitalized more on them, but we were able to get one score after D’Mauria’s interception. We were just disappointed we didn’t finish as well as we’d like in the fourth quarter.”
Collins, a native of Boerne, Texas, entered the day needing 123 yards to reach 2,000 for his career. He has joined an exclusive group of six Bulldogs all-time to have eclipsed that number. Last season Collins became the fifth back in program history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a single season.
Saturday’s contest marked the first time two Concordia players have rushed for 100 yards in a single game since Collins and Trey Barnes did so in a 35-14 win at Midland on Sept. 21, 2013. Austin is the first Bulldog quarterback to run for more than 100 yards since Von Thomas put up 111 at Nebraska Wesleyan on Oct. 11, 2014.
Defensively, Concordia bothered Dordt quarterback Taylan Seman into a 5-for-18 performance that included two interceptions and only 62 yards passing. Caffee topped the Defender rushing attack with 74 yards on nine carries.
Caffee and company had to put up with Bulldog linebacker Tait Sibbel, who made five stops in the defender backfield. As a team, Concordia racked up 10 tackles for loss on the day.
For the first time in four weeks, the Bulldogs will be at home next Saturday when they welcome rival Nebraska Wesleyan (2-3, 1-3 GPAC) for homecoming on the Concordia University campus. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. from Bulldog Stadium. In the previous meeting in Seward, No. 15 Concordia defeated the 22nd-ranked Prairie Wolves, 19-3.