SEWARD, Neb. — The unbeaten ride continued on Saturday as No. 15 Concordia knocked off No. 22-ranked Nebraska Wesleyan 19-3 at home.
Behind another dominant effort from a defense that has not given up a touchdown in the last 13 quarters, Concordia improved to 6-0 and remained tied with No. 1 Morningside atop the conference at 4-0.
The Concordia defense, led by the nine tackles from sophomore safety Tait Sibbel, made Nebraska Wesleyan one-dimensional. The Bulldogs held the Prairie Wolves to 250 total yards — 142 on the ground — and allowed them to convert only 3 of 12 third downs as their passing game struggled.
“It was just a phenomenal effort,” Concordia coach Vance Winter said. “I thought our guys were flying around. I thought we tackled pretty well. We gave up more rushing yards than we’d like to but when you give up 250 yards of total offense that’s a pretty good performance against a good offense.”
Offensively, the Bulldogs played keep away for much of the afternoon, chewing up 37:32 in time of possession with 338 total yards (181 rushing) behind junior quarterback Von Thomas. The signal caller from Miami racked up 157 yards passing, including two touchdown tosses, and a team-best 67 yards rushing. With Thomas leading the way, Concordia kept the chains moving with conversions on 10 of 19 third-down attempts.
“We stuck with the running game,” Thomas said. “Our running backs were huge this game. Our line did an excellent job of creating holes for them. Even if there weren’t holes, our backs were good enough to bounce it and get extra yards off it.”
Concordia seized momentum early when senior safety Darnell Woods blocked a 19-yard field goal attempt by Nebraska Wesleyan’s Aaron Lorraine after a high snap. That ended a promising first possession for the Prairie Wolves, who marched 56 yards on seven plays.
“I thought we were just a little bit tentative early,” Winter said. “That block was a huge turning point in the game.”
The Bulldogs delivered the dagger in the third quarter. Led by Thomas, Concordia covered 70 yards on 11 plays. Thomas found Jeff Balz wide open in the end zone for a score from 4 yards out. That gave the Bulldogs and their stifling defense a 19-3 advantage with 10:29 left in the third quarter.
That scoring drive came on the heels of a 13-yard touchdown catch by junior Brian Serra late in the first half. Serra caught the ball on the left sideline and reached the ball over the goal line before going out of bounds.
Serra’s touchdown came after a muffed punt by Nebraska Wesleyan’s Corey Jones. That gave Concordia the ball at the Wesleyan 15-yard line.
The Bulldogs will now try to push their win streak to seven. “We’re going to look at it as just another game,” said senior corner Derek Blessing, who had two interceptions on Saturday. “We’re going to start studying film tomorrow, Monday and Tuesday and come out and try to go 1-0 next week and focus on the opponent next week.”
The six wins guarantee Concordia’s first winning season since 2001 when the Bulldogs started the season 8-0 on the way to a 10-2 finish and a co-GPAC title. Winter, who is in his fifth season as coach, has set a personal high for wins a season. He has led Concordia to a record of 11-3 with two wins over ranked teams over the past 14 games.
The schedule does not relent for the Bulldogs, who travel to Orange City, Iowa, to take on Northwestern at 1 p.m. next Saturday. The Red Raiders (2-2, 1-2 GPAC) were ranked 13th in the preseason coaches poll. Last season, Concordia upset Northwestern 17-16 in Seward.
“We know their players and how good their players are and how tough they are to beat at their place,” Winter said. “It’s going to be another slugfest-type game.”
Nebraska Wesleyan (3-2,3-1) ............................ 0 3 0 0— 3
At Concordia (5-0,3-0) ............................ 3 10 6 0—19
C: Meirose 34 field goal
C: Meirose 31 field goal
NW: Lorraine 34 field goal
C: Serra 13 pass from Thomas (Meirose kick)
C: Balz 4 pass from Thomas (kick blocked)