ORANGE CITY, Iowa – Some eyebrows may have raised when the Concordia University Football team took a 10-0 lead to the halftime break on Saturday (Sept. 24) at fourth-ranked Northwestern. The final 30 minutes were a complete reversal as Red Raider backup quarterback Jalyn Gramstad went wild with five total touchdowns (four rushing). Gramstad’s monster performance allowed the Red Raiders to run away with it, 34-10, in Orange City, Iowa.
The spirited first half performance had Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s program hopeful of beating Northwestern for the first time since 2016. Despite the loss that dropped the Bulldogs to 0-3 this season, there were positives to take away.
“We talked all week about capitalizing on opportunities,” Daberkow said. “I thought defensively we were scraping at the ball and creating turnovers in the first half. Any time you go on the road and have a 10-point lead at halftime, you’ll take that. We had too many things unravel in the second half. Their quarterback is an incredible athlete. I’m sure we took some wrong fits – we’ll watch the film – but hats off to him.”
An opportunistic defense had much to do with Concordia’s 10-point lead. The Red Raiders entered the game having not turned the ball over all season. However, in the first quarter alone, Northwestern quarterback Blake Fryar was picked off by corner Jayzen Armstrong and linebacker Lukas Coe and safety Gabe Knisley both recovered a fumble. The first lost fumble led to Austin Jablonski’s four-yard touchdown rush late in the opening quarter. The second one then paved the way for Ty Harold’s 24-yard field goal.
Northwestern Head Coach Matt McCarty and his staff ironed out the mistakes after their sluggish first half, which ended with Concordia’s Luke Sanchez intercepting a pass. The Red Raiders let Gramstad go to work. A new star may have been born. Gramstad completed 9-of-11 passes for 179 yards and a touchdown and rushed 15 times for 177 yards and four touchdowns. Over the third and fourth quarters, the Red Raiders outgained the Bulldogs, 383-89.
Concordia wound up plus-four in turnover margin and got solid work from starting quarterback DJ McGarvie in the first half. McGarvie finished 20-for-44 passing for 210 yards. He connected most frequently with Korrell Koehlmoos, who hauled in a career high 11 receptions for 108 yards. The native of Pilger, Neb., also punted eight times for an average of 41.9 yards with four attempts downed inside the 20. In a new role, Jablonski made three catches for 18 yards, in addition to the rushing touchdown.
While Northwestern (3-1, 3-1 GPAC) got its rushing attack rolling thanks to the quarterback run, the Bulldog rushing game was stymied. Concordia was limited to 38 rushing yards on 26 attempts. The Bulldog defense forced five turnovers and was paced by the seven tackles apiece from Michael Grindey and Knisley. Coe and Kyle Sterup combined for a sack.
Said Daberkow, “Moving forward, we have to figure out what we can do better coming out of halftime that can create a spark. We started the game really strong and then things came apart … We have such a selfless group, and I love them. We have guys making moves positionally that are best for the team.”
In other statistical notes, Devin Zeigler ran for 35 yards and caught two passes for 23 yards. Six Concordia receivers pulled down at least one catch. Both teams finished with exactly 18 first downs, though the Red Raiders averaged 8.2 yards per play compared to 3.6 yards per play for the Bulldogs.
Concordia had been aiming for its first win in Orange City since 2002. Northwestern has been a perennially elite program having reached the national championship game in the 2020 season before advancing to the national semifinals last season.
Prior to a string of October home games, Concordia will be on the road next Saturday (Oct. 1) for a matchup with Dakota Wesleyan (0-5, 0-4 GPAC). Kickoff from Mitchell, S.D., is set for 1 p.m. CT. The Bulldogs thumped the Tigers, 34-0, in Seward last season as McGarvie threw for three touchdowns and ran for two scores.