HASTINGS, Neb. – Concordia senior quarterback Von Thomas piled up 401 total yards and six total touchdowns (three passing, three rushing) in fueling an offensive attack that racked up 43 points on Saturday. The Bulldogs simply failed to get enough defensive stops in a 48-43 shootout defeat to a high-powered Hastings College (2-0, 1-0 GPAC) squad.
After seeing the Broncos put up 61 points in their season-opening win over Kansas Wesleyan University, Concordia sixth-year head coach Vance Winter knew his team had its hands full.
“We really did some good stuff offensively,” Winter said. “(Von) and (Jared Garcia) were great in the second half and throughout the game. We just struggled defensively. Hastings is very good. We were concerned because they have some really good offensive players. We could never stem the tide.”
While Hastings amassed 549 yards of total offense, the Concordia defense did manage to come up with one key stop to keep hope alive. After a fumbled Bulldog punt return gave the Broncos a first-and-10 deep in Concordia territory with the score at 48-43 and 2:30 left, Concordia dug in. Defensive tackle Ronald Jackson blew up a fourth-and-one run at the six-yard line to give Thomas and the offense another shot.
In a last chance opportunity, the Bulldogs turned it over on downs at their own 31 when Thomas misfired on an intended pass to Garcia. Concordia had sought to win at Hastings for the first time since 2005.
“When you can put up 43 points you expect to win,” Winter said. “It is what is. We walked into a hornet’s nest. They were ready for us. They have a much improved football team. They’re really good offensively.”
The Bulldogs flashed some offensive weaponry of their own. Garcia, a freshman from Humble, Texas, reeled in six Thomas passes for 184 yards and a touchdown. He also set up Concordia’s second touchdown with a 68-yard reception that led to a three-yard scoring toss from Thomas to fullback Jerad Leifeld.
Concordia badly needed the Leifeld touchdown after falling behind 27-6 with 5:50 left in the first half. The vaunted Bronco offense looked like it might simply run the Bulldogs out of Lloyd Wilson Field. After Carey Harrison’s 22-yard touchdown catch from Thomas to begin the day’s scoring, quarterback Matt Overmiller led Hastings to 27-straight points and a three-touchdown advantage.
In a game of runs, Thomas provided perhaps the most electrifying play of his career with a 74-yard touchdown jaunt that got the Bulldogs within 34-22 with 4:13 left in the third quarter. A one-yard Thomas touchdown run just over a minute later cashed in on a Hastings lost fumble deep in its own territory.
Concordia got within five on several occasions, with scoreboard readings of 34-29, 41-36 and finally, 48-43. The Broncos had a counter for every jab that the Bulldog signal caller sent their way.
Overmiller had a fine day himself as he went 19-for-30 passing for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He also found the end zone twice on the ground and added 46 yards rushing to a Bronco rush attack that covered 277 yards.
Meanwhile, Thomas completed 17 of 38 passes for 279 yards. He finished with 122 yards rushing on 14 attempts. Among running backs, Trey Barnes topped the Bulldogs with 79 yards rushing on 13 carries. Barnes got 77 of those yards on a single carry that set the stage for a three-yard Thomas touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
Defensively, Concordia got a team high 12 tackles from linebacker Nakemm Evans. Fellow backer Clay Mauro added 11 tackles while defensive lineman Kyle Rakow continued his solid play by posting nine tackles (one for loss). Defensive back Michael Hedlund recorded his first career interception to thwart a Hastings drive at the end of the first half.
While it was the Concordia defense that stood tall in last week’s upset of No. 15 Sterling College, the offense came up with a big performance at Hastings to keep the team in the game.
“Offensively we showed we can do some things,” Winter said. “Garcia had a great game. It’s just frustrating that we didn’t finish the deal.
“It will be a big week of practice to get everyone playing better. This is a fun group to coach and I know they will respond.”
The Bulldogs host their home opener next Saturday (Sept. 20) when Midland University (2-0, 1-0 GPAC) visits Seward for Fan Appreciation Day. The Warriors blanked Dordt 35-0 on Saturday to remain unbeaten.