SIOUX CENTER, Iowa – Seventeenth-ranked Concordia continued its dominant ways defensively in recording a second-straight shutout victory on the road. The Bulldogs pulled away in the second half and won 32-0 over host Dordt (1-4, 0-4 GPAC) in Sioux Center, Iowa, on a breezy and chilly Saturday afternoon. Head coach Vance Winter’s squad remains unbeaten at 5-0 overall and 3-0 in conference play.
“It’s been a great run for our defense,” Winter said. “They really played well again today. We had a little bit of a slow start but then we really clamped down. It was a nice job by our players and coaches to make the adjustments against the option. Dordt has a great rushing attack.”
The Defenders entered play ranked third in the GPAC with an average of 235.3 rushing yards per game, but were held to only 131 yards on the ground and just 2.7 yards per carry by Concordia. Sophomore defensive lineman Michael Gill enjoyed one of his best games as a Bulldog, making nine total tackles (2.5 for loss) and a sack to lead the charge.
“The whole group played well,” Winter said. “Michael Gill battled the flu bug on the bus ride to Sioux Center and ended up having an outstanding game. We were very physical once again and tackled real well.”
Despite the smothering defensive effort, Dordt trailed only 14-0 at the halftime break. But the Bulldogs quickly put to bed any thought of a potential upset bid when dangerous return man Derek Blessing took the second half’s opening kickoff 85 yards to the Defender 15-yard line.
That set up a two-yard touchdown plunge for Trey Barnes – his team-leading seventh touchdown of the season. Concordia added a two-point conversion with backup quarterback and holder Garrett Folchert finding Clinton Gardels in the end zone to make it 22-0 with 12:32 left in the third.
The game remained scoreless for most of the first quarter until quarterback Von Thomas scampered 15 yards into the end zone to make it 7-0 at the 1:40 mark, capping a six-play, 59-yard drive. Thomas finished as the team’s leading rusher on the day with 74 yards on 11 attempts.
Thomas, a Miami, Fla., native, fired his only touchdown pass of the afternoon early in the fourth quarter when he connected with senior receiver Jeff Balz on a score from four yards out. Thomas wound up 12-for-22 for 131 yards through the air on a day when 20-plus mile-per-hour winds affected throws of significant depth.
“It was an efficient day for offense,” Winter said. “Our offensive line played well. We had good pass protection all game, we ran the ball well all game and Von played well. The weather made it difficult to do some things. It was tough to throw down field, but we ran it well against their loaded fronts.”
The Bulldogs racked up 372 total yards – 241 on the ground. Barnes ran for 53 on 13 carries and fellow freshman Bryce Collins added 39 yards and a touchdown on 10 totes.
For the second-straight game, freshman defensive back Matt Keener came up with an interception. Last week he returned a pick 23 yards for a score in the win at Dakota State. His two interceptions on the season are tied with sophomore Tait Sibbel for the team lead.
Junior defensive lineman Kyle Rakow joined Gill to make life tough for Dordt up front. Rakow added six total tackles (2.5 for loss) and a pass breakup.
Concordia came into play boasting a defensive unit that ranked first in the GPAC in scoring and total yards. After Saturday’s sterling performance, the Bulldogs lowered their season averages to 10.0 points per game allowed and 238.2 yards per contest given up.
In addition, Patrick Daberkow’s unit has not given up a single point in the last nine quarters. Concordia also remains the only NAIA team not to allow a rushing touchdown this season. Opponents have gone 23-straight quarters and 225-consecutive attempts without reaching the goal line on the ground.
After playing four of their first five games on the road, including the last three in a row, the Bulldogs return home next Saturday when they host Nebraska Wesleyan (2-2, 2-1 GPAC) for homecoming. The Prairie Wolves came away with a 16-6 victory in last year’s meeting in Lincoln, Neb. Concordia won its 2012 homecoming battle, earning a 17-16 upset of then No. 11 Northwestern.
“We’re excited to play at home,” Winter said. “If feels like we’ve been on the road a lot. We’re ready to wear blue again for the first time in a while. We know Nebraska Wesleyan is a good football team.”