Second-half offensive struggles equate to GPAC road loss

MITCHELL, S.D. – Head coach Vance Winter’s Bulldogs closed the road portion of the 2013 schedule with a tight loss at Dakota Wesleyan on Saturday afternoon. Concordia dropped to 4-2 away from Bulldog Stadium, going down 24-13 in Mitchell, S.D. The Bulldogs are 6-4 overall and 4-4 in GPAC action heading into their final game of the season next Saturday.

“Our guys played very hard,” Winter said. “Our defense really played well shorthanded. We just had too many mistakes in the second half offensively. We struggled to get anything done and the second half and turned it over too much. We didn’t handle their pressure.”

Trailing 17-13 in the game’s final minutes, junior quarterback Von Thomas led Concordia all the way to the Tiger 35-yard line on the back of a 28-yard pass play to Brian Serra and a 15-yard run of his own. With first and 10 at the 35, Thomas fired a pass that Dakota Wesleyan’s Matt McManus picked off and took 75 yards to the end zone to ice the game with 1:00 remaining.

After outgaining Dakota Wesleyan 231-120 in the first half, the Bulldog offense bogged down and managed only three points over the final 30 minutes. A stout Tiger run defense limited Concordia’s rushing attack to 83 yards on 37 carries (2.2 average).

Dakota Wesleyan also had a big edge in turnover margin, forcing four Concordia giveaways while only turning it over once.

Thomas finished 19-for-32 passing for 159 yards with two interceptions. He equaled freshman running back Bryce Collins with 38 yards rushing to pace the Bulldogs. Curry-Felix again led the team in receiving with eight catches for 61 yards.

The Bulldogs held leads of 10-7 and 13-10 after a pair of short field goals from Adam Meirose. His second field goal – from 20 yards out – broke a 10-10 tie with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter. Concordia twice had to settle for field goals after penetrating inside the Dakota Wesleyan 15-yard line.

The Tigers took the lead for good on quarterback Jon Bane’s 15-yard touchdown toss to Cody Duerksen with 8:30 left to play. Bane, a four-year starter, struggled for a good portion of the game, going 13-for-31 for 120 yards through the air against the Bulldogs’ touted secondary.

Defensively, Concordia was without star senior safety Darnell Woods, who suffered an injury in last week’s game versus Morningside when he made a career high 17 tackles. Coordinator Patrick Daberkow’s unit still held Dakota Wesleyan to only 249 total yards. Prolific Tiger running back Francois Barnaud went for 104 yards on the ground, but needed 30 carries to get there.

Sophomore defensive lineman Michael Gill played effectively on the interior, leading the Bulldogs with eight tackles while teaming with senior linebacker Langston Jones on a sack.

In addition to Woods being sidelined, Concordia also played without junior starting linebacker Drew Baxter, who had started the first nine games of the season.

For the fourth-straight game, Curry-Felix caught a touchdown pass delivered from Thomas. Curry-Felix’s 15-yard touchdown catch brought Concordia even with late in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs will play their final game of the season next Saturday when Briar Cliff (4-6, 3-5 GPAC) visits Seward for a 1 p.m. kickoff from inside Bulldog Stadium. The improved Chargers defeated Doane 32-23 on Saturday afternoon. Last season Concordia routed Briar Cliff 45-12 in Sioux City, Iowa.