Physical run game powers Bulldogs to first 3-0 start since 2001

By on Sep. 21, 2013 in Football

Physical run game powers Bulldogs to first 3-0 start since 2001

FREMONT, Neb. – For the first time since sharing the GPAC championship in 2001, Concordia football is undefeated after three games. Featuring a punishing power run game and smothering defense, the Bulldogs bowled their way to a 35-14 road victory over Midland (2-1, 0-1 GPAC) on Saturday afternoon in Fremont, Neb.

“It’s a good first road conference win,” Concordia head coach Vance Winter said. “I’m proud of our guys. We dealt with some adversity early in the football game after we had some unfortunate plays.”

The Bulldogs faced an early 7-0 hole but that proved mostly insignificant thanks to another big day from Concordia’s prolific freshmen running back tandem. Bryce Collins (24 carries for 121 yards and two touchdowns) and Trey Barnes (19 attempts for 101 yards and three touchdowns) both went over 100 yards rushing and combined to score all five Bulldog touchdowns on the afternoon.

“First thing’s first, it starts up front,” Winter said. “Those guys have done a great job in our first three games. I think it’s a great testament to those guys that we get better and better as the football game goes on and a great testament to their conditioning. They just did an outstanding job. There were great holes today and our backs did a nice job busting some runs.”

Concordia finished with an edge of 493-214 in total yardage. Defensive coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit limited Midland to just one offensive touchdown and only 89 yards on the ground after giving up a meager 35 rushing yards to Hastings last week.

“We were physical,” Winter said. “That was kind of our mantra going into the game. Midland does a lot of flashy things and they run a real fast-paced offense. It comes down to, for us, a few simple things and I thought we really tackled well. We were very physical tackling.”

The Bulldog defense came away with its biggest stop of the game early in the second quarter. The Warriors, leading 7-0 at the time, forced and recovered a fumble by Concordia quarterback Von Thomas at the Bulldog 15-yard line. On the next possession, a pair of incompletions and then a sack by Dylan Heithoff forced Midland to attempt a 49-yard field goal that hit the cross bar, keeping Concordia within a touchdown.

The Bulldogs went 67 yards on seven plays to tie the score on the ensuing possession. Barnes finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown plunge to give Concordia the momentum it needed to swing the game.

“From that point on I felt very comfortable about how the game was going to go,” Winter said of the key defensive stop.

The physical running game eventually wore Midland down and allowed Concordia to pad its lead. Winter’s squad iced the game with fourth-quarter touchdowns by Collins (eight-yard run) at the 14:55 mark and by Barnes (25-yard run) with 2:56 to play. The duo has a combined for eight touchdowns on the season (five for Barnes and three for Collins).

The Bulldogs took a 14-7 lead to the halftime break only to have Midland tie it up again at 14-14. Warrior quarterback Michael Karls found Kyle Morris for a three-yard touchdown hook up to cap a 13-play, 67-yard drive ending with 8:26 left in the third. However, Concordia would come right back with a 75-yard touchdown drive of its own to regain control.

Thomas finished the day an impressive 21-for-28 passing with 241 yards. He attempted only six runs a week after rushing 19 times for 89 yards in the win over Hastings.

On Saturday, Thomas distributed the ball to eight different receivers. Freshman Chevarius Curry-Felix led both teams with five catches for 68 yards.

For Winter, the only negative offensively were the three turnovers. Concordia was minus-two in turnover margin in week three after combining for a plus-seven margin the first two games.

“It was an efficient game overall for us offensively,” Winter said. “I’m disappointed in the turnovers, but it was a really efficient game. We were really pleased with how we threw the ball and ran the ball. We were very balanced offensively.”

Concordia’s latest game marked the first time two Bulldog runners went over 100 yards rushing in the same game since Oct. 13, 2007, when JaMaine Lewis (133 yards) and Jeff Neujahr (110) both topped the century mark in a 30-14 win over Nebraska Wesleyan.

Backup defensive back Bruce Hicks, a freshman from Los Angeles, ended Midland’s final offensive possession by coming down with his first career interception. The Concordia defense has six interceptions already this season.

The Bulldogs remain on the road next Saturday when they take on Winter’s alma mater, Dakota State University, in Madison, S.D. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m. as the Trojans (1-3) celebrate their homecoming. Dakota State defeated Presentation College 35-28 on Saturday to pick up their first win of the season.