SEWARD, Neb. – In its 2022 season finale on Saturday (Nov. 12), the Concordia University Football team drew the daunting task of attempting to slow down a Morningside offense that has overpowered the GPAC throughout another season of dominance. The top-ranked Mustangs rode running back Ryan Cole to a 55-18 victory on a chilly afternoon inside Bulldog Stadium. Morningside outgained the Bulldogs, 539-318, and made it a comfortable margin in the scoring column despite three interceptions.
Prior to kickoff, Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad recognized a group of 12 seniors. Concordia wrapped up 2022 at 4-6 overall (4-6 GPAC) in a season that had its share of highlights despite the record.
“It’s a disappointing outcome,” Daberkow said. “I thought we had some things going here and there, but we couldn’t sustain anything and we couldn't stop them from running the ball. That’s going to be a long day if you can’t stop them from doing that … I saw guys playing aggressive football the way it’s meant to be played. I’m going to miss a lot of those (seniors). It’s hard to send them out on this note.”
Even with its starting quarterback (Joe Dolincheck) sidelined by injury, Morningside (10-0) is a bear to try to keep up with. Though Concordia’s defense did a fine job limiting the Mustangs on third downs (4-for-14), Morningside got way too many chunk plays in the run game via Cole. The 5-foot-11, 190-pound back churned out 216 rushing yards and four touchdowns (plus 90 receiving yards and a receiving touchdown) behind a massive offensive line. The Mustangs had essentially put the game away early in the third quarter when Cole ran 40 yards for a touchdown following an interception. It was a 31-6 game at that time.
Offensively, the Bulldogs found no room to run (zero rushing yards), so they logically turned to DJ McGarvie and the passing game to generate offense. McGarvie finished the day 31-for-54 for 318 yards and three touchdown passes. His scoring tosses covered 14 yards to Carsen Arline, five yards to Korrell Koehlmoos and 87 yards to Austin Jablonski. That final touchdown was mostly due to the athleticism of Jablonski, who outraced the Morningside defense to the end zone.
There’s never been a more productive passing game in Concordia history. McGarvie broke program single season passing records for yards (2,553), completions (229) and attempts (388). In his final collegiate game, Koehlmoos became the first player in school history to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season. He finished 2022 with totals of 95 catches for 1,024 yards and 12 touchdowns (all new school records). As an offense, the Bulldogs broke the school record for yards per game at 407.5 this fall.
In Saturday’s game, Arline caught a career high 12 receptions (for 64 yards). Jablonski racked up 134 yards on his six catches and tight end Luke Lang hauled in six passes for 85 yards. Eleven of the team’s 15 first downs came from the pass.
Said Daberkow, “I think we’re going to look back upon this season – and the record isn’t what we want it to be – but this might be a year we look back at as a time when we figured things out a little bit, specifically on offense. We built the confidence to move the ball. We have young guys playing and we have a lot of guys coming back. I’m really excited about the future of this team. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be part of this and be around these guys. They give me a lot of headaches, but I love them to death.”
It was a tough day for the Concordia rush defense, but nose guard Devon Polley stood out for his work on the interior. He made four tackles for loss while polishing off a season that should end some type of all-conference recognition. On Saturday, Gabe Knisley led the defense with 10 tackles and a pass breakup. Corner Jayzen Armstrong made two interceptions and safety Luke Sanchez came up with one of his own. Armstrong’s first pick put an end to Morningside’s opening drive of the game. In addition, Kyle Sterup posted six tackles, 1.5 stops for loss and a pass breakup.
There were 12 seniors whose names were called prior to the game: Jayzen Armstrong, Kam Baker, Wyatt Cast, Eric Kiper, Korrell Koehlmoos, Nate Moore, Gerald Morris, Kaden Peters, Cade Peterson, Johnny Robinson III, Logan Srna and Brandon Vega. With the returning talent both offensively and defensively, Daberkow and his staff will expect improved results in 2023.
Said Daberkow, “As a Christian, I don’t think there’s anything in my life that God puts in it that isn’t a work in progress. Ultimately, it’s how we learn and grow and grow closer to Him. I hope our guys come to understand that in their time here.”