Jacob Knabel, Director of Athletic Communications
SIOUX CITY– The Concordia University Football team has found its identity and it hasn’t wavered. The formula again involved a bruising rushing attack and a smothering defense in a 24-9 workmanlike victory at Briar Cliff on Saturday afternoon. The Bulldogs spoiled the Charger homecoming in Sioux City, Iowa, while limiting the host to just 171 total yards of offense.
Head Coach Patrick Daberkow has led the program to its first 3-0 start in conference play since 2013 (third occurrence during the GPAC era). After shaking off an early safety and 2-0 deficit, Concordia controlled the game against a squad still seeking answers offensively.
“It feels great being 3-0,” Daberkow said. “Nobody’s going to complain about that. The defense played phenomenal today. Coach (Corby) Osten, Coach (Wes) Coomes and our whole defensive staff have done such a great job with our guys. They’re creative and we’re really hard to move the ball on when we’re doing things right. We were really close to pitching a defensive shutout. Briar Cliff is a good football team – and playing on the road it’s good to get a win.”
Minus All-American Lane Napier, the Bulldogs showed off their depth on the defensive side of the ball. Stirling Tonniges stepped into a starting linebacker role and Concordia hardly missed a beat. The Chargers (0-2) managed a meager nine first downs and were just 5-for-17 on third-down conversions. The rugged Bulldog defense recorded five sacks, including two sacks apiece from Chase Hammons and Logan Kreizel and one from Caydren Cox. In the postgame, Daberkow lauded the play this season of linebacker Jorge Ochoa (five tackles at Briar Cliff).
Offensively, Concordia has thrived on mistake-free football (zero turnovers through three games) and by winning time of possession (33:05 in time of possession on Saturday). As a precaution, reigning NAIA National Offensive Player of the Week Jonah Weyand (nine rushes for 38 yards) was held out of the second half. Despite his absence, the ground game churned out 179 tough yards on 49 attempts. Lyle Whitney and Martin Solano both rushed for their first career touchdowns.
“They have some really talented players up front (on defense),” Daberkow said. “(Robert) Robinson, No. 18, is an All-American for a reason. To be able to run the ball again feels good. We certainly have work to do, but a win’s a win and we’ll take it.”
With the way their defense was performing, the Bulldogs felt good about their chances early in the fourth quarter when Solano crossed the goal line on a three-yard plunge. Solano’s touchdown pushed the lead to 24-9 and capped a smash mouth 12-play, 78-yard drive that featured 11 tailback runs and melted 5:43 of game time off the clock. On the day, Solano rushed for 40 yards on nine carries while Whitney piled up 73 yards on 16 attempts.
Concordia took the lead for good in the opening quarter when it capitalized on a short field that resulted from a 28-yard punt. Two plays after the punt, Blake Culbert fired a 26-yard touchdown pass to Korrell Koehlmoos for a 7-2 lead. Prior to the final touchdown, Jordan Spilinek added a 21-yard field goal make and Whitney rushed for an eight-yard touchdown. On the field goal drive, Koehlmoos had a reception for 61 yards.
Making his fourth career start, Culbert completed 10-of-21 passes for 172 yards and a score. Koehlmoos eclipsed 100 receiving yards (104) with his three catches. Cayden Beran hauled in four passes for 41 yards. The offensive output was balanced with 179 rushing yards and 172 passing yards (351 total).
The Bulldog defense forced Briar Cliff to punt 12 times. The Chargers also had only 86 passing yards and averaged a mere 2.4 yards per rushing attempt. On the flip side, Lane Castaneda punted seven times (average of 36.3 yards/punt) and pinned Briar Cliff inside its own 20 twice.
Next Saturday (Oct. 3) will be homecoming at Bulldog Stadium. Concordia is slated to play a Jamestown squad that has yet to start its 2020 season. The Bulldogs would like to avenge last year’s 13-10 four overtime loss played in a pit of mud in North Dakota. The dynamics will certainly be unusual with it being the season opener for the Jimmies. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. CT from Seward.
“I don’t think we change how we approach Jamestown,” Daberkow said. “It will be a little bit weird because we won’t have film to scout of them. They’ll come down and they’ll be ready to play. We have to control what we can control. It’s a game between the ears. If you can just eliminate mental mistakes, take care of the football and play good defense, things usually take care of themselves.”