In honor of the upcoming Concordia Football Reunion (Sept. 16-17), throughout the summer Concordia athletics will be releasing select excerpts of the book Cultivating Men of Faith and Character: The History of Concordia Nebraska Football, written by Director of Athletic Communications Jake Knabel. The following passage details Concordia’s monumental victory over rival Doane in 1970. The mighty Tigers entered the season opener that year with an active unbeaten streak of 38 games.
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In his first game as head coach at Concordia, John “Sid” Seevers was faced with the daunting task of going up against a Doane College team that entered the 1970 season with an active 38-game unbeaten streak, the longest at the time of any college football program, at any level, in the nation. The mighty Tigers had even been featured in a Sports Illustrated magazine piece in 1969. Head coach Al Papik’s 1968 squad had averaged an eye-popping 46.8 points per game while going a perfect 10-0. In other words, Doane was an obvious favorite as it made its way to Seward on September 19 of 1970. “Those guys just romped and stomped on everybody,” said then Concordia quarterback Rod Giesselmann, who had seen Doane pummel the Bulldogs, 48-14, in 1969. One factor working in the Bulldogs’ favor was experience under center with Giesselmann, a senior who had played his first three seasons under head coach Ron Harms. On the other side, Doane had to break in Leonard King at quarterback in place of the departed Larry Green, who did not lose a single game in four years as the starter.
Seevers, a member of the Concordia football staff since 1963, carried a surprising air of confidence considering his team was coming off a 4-5-1 season that had been derailed by injuries in 1969. The 1952 Concordia graduate had convinced himself that his squad could play with any opponent on its nine-game schedule. He knew he needed some more size on his line so he added offensive tackle and Seward native Rex Gerwick to help solidify it. Gerwick proved to be an important piece to go along with Concordia’s productive passing attack that featured Giesselmann (Seward), flanker Brian Naber (Waco, Nebraska) and split end Dan Danielcyzk (Detroit, Michigan), who finished his career with a then program career record 140 pass receptions. But was it really enough to take down Doane? Seevers thought so. Weeks prior to the game, he told Doane assistant coach Ray Best, “If you don’t play good football, you’re going to get beat bad and if we play really good football, this game is not going to be close.”
A massive crowd of 6,800 people (according to a newspaper story) flocked to Seward. “Someone down there really played that up,” Seevers said of the conversation he had with Best. “Because it got bigger and bigger and bigger. They thought they were going to come up here and just pulverize us.” As Seevers recalled, the stands were already filled 45 minutes ahead of the scheduled kickoff. “I think that was the largest crowd we ever had.” In eight years playing in Seward, including four years at Concordia High School, Giesselmann never performed in front of more fans than he did that day.
The Tigers were sloppy from the gun, fumbling away the first play from scrimmage to set up a two-yard touchdown toss from Giesselmann to Naber. Concordia added two more points in the first half via a safety that occurred when junior linebacker Neal Koch dropped standout running back Mike Sallier in his own end zone. Doane had its opportunities to draw nearer in a contest that remained competitive into the fourth quarter. In a key defensive stop, the Bulldogs stuffed the Tigers on a fourth down inside the Concordia 10. With 3:10 left in the third quarter, Giesselmann connected again with Naber, this time on an 11-yard touchdown pass, making it 15-0. The onslaught picked up in the final stanza with running back Carl Abele (Seward) scoring from two yards out midway through the fourth. The game then got out of hand in the final minute with turnovers leading to two more Bulldog touchdowns. By the time the contest had come to a merciful end for Doane, Concordia held a total yards advantage of 447-243.
Perhaps overconfident, Doane got flattened with a humbling 35-0 defeat. Concordia had blown the game open with 20 fourth-quarter points to shock Papik and the Tigers. In a story written a year later by the Lincoln Evening Journal, Best commented, “We were stunned. We were real disappointed in ourselves that the score was so lopsided. There was a great deal of pressure and it just caught up with us and exploded all at once.” Seevers gave credit to what he called an “electric” crowd that day in Seward. “The ball bounced our way. There’s no question about that,” Giesselmann said. “It was just a fun night. And it made it more fun when our basketball team played down there that year.”
Somehow Concordia had overcome a Tiger team with a star running back in Sallier, the NAIA rushing leader in 1969, and a five-man Doane defensive front with impressive size for the time period. Defensive tackle Louis Cooper stood 6-8 and weighed in at 265 pounds. Another Doane defensive tackle, Kevin Hunt, measured up at 6-5, 250. These were “monster men” as Seevers referred to them. The Bulldogs beat them by choosing to run right at the big fellas in the trenches. Seevers felt like he knew he had an opponent demoralized if he could succeed while attacking its strengths. Incredibly, Concordia’s pint-sized left guard Bob Huckfeldt (5-7, 168), a future college professor from Los Angeles, took on Cooper and opened up holes in the run game with the team’s patented scramble blocking techniques. Said teammate Dean Vieselmeyer to a freshman Huckfeldt in 1969, “Everybody hates to play against you because you’re so dang short. You’re hitting us down in the shins and the knees when everybody else hits you in the chest.”
Doane’s mammoth defensive tackles struggled to contain Abele, who ran over the Tigers for 214 rushing yards on 41 bruising carries. Giesselmann tossed for another 222 as the Bulldogs dominated in all phases. Even the defense found the end zone with freshman defensive end Ronald Kollmeyer’s 40-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Defensively, the Bulldogs terrorized King, who was intercepted three times – twice by ball-hawking safety Steve Sirek. In plucking his second pick, Sirek set up a four-yard touchdown run by backup quarterback Tim Taube.
What a way to begin a coaching tenure. The team celebrated by hurling its head coach into the on-campus pool. It didn’t matter that Seevers had worn a tie and dress clothes that day. This would be a day that no associated team member would ever forget. Said Seevers, “All the players tossed me in. I didn’t have much choice on that. I had worn a black suit. I dressed up. We were all celebrating and they said, ‘take off your watch. Do you have any money on you?’ It was a good time. The next day they had a big article in the newspaper about us winning. I got a lot of cards and telephone calls telling me congratulations.”
Papik would retire his post at Doane at the conclusion of the 1970 season. His 16-year record at Doane stood at 80-52-9. The Tigers wound up losing three more times in 1970 and concluded the campaign at 6-4 overall. Meanwhile, Sid led Concordia to the Nebraska Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (NIAC) title in the first year of the league’s existence. The 1970 Bulldogs outscored their opponents by a combined total of 286-96. Only one of their eight victories came by less than an 18-point margin. Concordia whipped up on each of its Nebraska rivals, including Midland, 43-14, and others such as Sioux Falls, 55-12, and Northwestern College, 48-20. Concordia finished at 8-1 overall with its only loss coming at the hands of Yankton College. Regarded as one of the top teams in program history, the 1970 Bulldogs were inducted into the Concordia Athletic Hall of Fame in 2000.