Despite picking up just five first downs in the contest, Nebraska Wesleyan held on for a 10-7 GPAC football win over Concordia University on Saturday afternoon in Seward. The Prairie Wolves improved to 4-3 overall (3-3 GPAC), while Concordia dropped to 4-4 (3-3 GPAC).
Both teams struggled to find offensive rhythm in the opening drives of the game. Wesleyan was able to take advantage of Concordia’s first turnover of the game to grab the early advantage. On Concordia’s second drive, quarterback Cohl Tufford (Richardson, Texas) fumbled inside the Bulldog 10-yard line. Wesleyan recovered the fumble, and NWU’s Dalton Thyfault hauled in a 12-yard touchdown pass from Ethan Myers for a 7-0 Nebraska Wesleyan lead.
Later in the first quarter, Concordia tied the game with a huge play on defense. Myers dropped back and floated a pass out into the flat. Concordia defensive back Heath Broekemeier (Prairie Grove, Ark.) picked off the pass attempt and returned it 25 yards for a score. The extra point by Daniel Moore (Papillion, Neb.) was good, and the score was tied 7-7.
The teams traded punts multiple times in the second quarter, but Concordia had an opportunity to score just before halftime. The Bulldogs got the ball on their own 24-yard line with less than two minutes to play in the half. A 36-yard completion from Tufford to Kyle Hoffman (Phoenix, Ariz.) gave Concordia a first down at the Wesleyan 28-yard line. As time was winding down, the Bulldogs set up for a 30-yard field goal. Moore was unable to connect, and the score remained tied heading into halftime.
Concordia again had some golden opportunities to score in the third quarter. The Bulldog defense forced two Wesleyan turnovers, the second of which set Concordia up with a first down at the Wesleyan 15-yard line. Bulldog linebacker Tom Malander (Fullerton, Neb.) forced a fumble, and Jerrod Fleming (Houston, Texas) recovered the loose ball deep inside Wesleyan territory. The Concordia offense continued to struggle, however, and a missed 35-yard field goal attempt by Kenny Zoeller (Spring, Texas) kept the score at 7-7.
The Concordia defense forced another quick three and out, but a miscue on special teams would prove costly for Concordia. Concordia punt returner Chris Smith (Houston, Texas) muffed the punt, and Wesleyan’s Mike Huettner recovered the loose ball inside the Bulldog 10-yard line. The Concordia defense held and forced a field goal attempt. Steve Anderson hit from 20 yards out to put Wesleyan on top by the score of 10-7.
The Bulldogs moved the ball deep inside Wesleyan territory on their next possession. Concordia marched 42 yards in 10 plays and moved to the Wesleyan 30-yard line. However, a 47-yard field goal was missed by Zoeller, and the Prairie Wolves maintained the slim lead. Concordia got the ball back two more times down the stretch but was unable to put a scoring drive together.
Concordia finished with 230 yards of total offense (115 passing, 115 rushing). The Bulldogs were just 3-of-19 on third downs, and Concordia was 0-of-3 in red zone opportunities. Tufford was 16-of-30 for 115 yards. Dan Margritz (Lexington, Neb.) was the top rusher with 44 yards on 10 carries. Jamarcus Walker (Houston, Texas) caught eight passes for 36 yards. Micah Wagner (Omaha, Neb.) had a game-high 15 tackles to lead the way defensively. Fleming added 11 stops and the fumble recovery, while Ben Klein (Dallas, Texas) and Broekemeier each picked off passes for Concordia on the day.
Nebraska Wesleyan had just 164 yards of total offense on the day (116 passing, 48 rushing). NWU was just 3-of-16 on third downs. Myers was 11-of-18 through the air for 116 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for Nebraska Wesleyan. Joe Manley caught three passes for 57 yards. Brett Kaczor and Russell Walton each had 11 tackles for NWU defensively.
Concordia travels to Midland University on October 29. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Fremont.