WAHPETON, N.D. — In the first start of his collegiate career, Tay Bender had a record-breaking day.
The redshirt freshman from Lincoln Southwest, who transferred from Kansas State to Iowa Western prior to this spring, eclipsed the school's single-game rushing mark by a quarterback in a steady rain Saturday.
Bender carried the ball 31 times for 173 yards and two touchdowns to lead the No. 3 Reivers to a 25-0 victory over North Dakota State College of Science at Bute Alumni Stadium. His rushing total topped the old record of 165 yards, set by Jake Waters in a 56-48 regular-season loss at Grand Rapids in 2011.
“I'll take what I can get,” Bender said. “I was sitting here being the backup for so long, and I was finally getting my chance. No matter what the weather condition was, I was excited to play regardless.”
Bender got the nod Saturday because starter Connor Bravard was among five players Iowa Western coach Scott Strohmeier elected not to play after an on-campus alcohol violation last week. Strohmeier said Bender would've seen a lot of action even if Bravard had played given the weather conditions.
“He might be a little bit sore tomorrow morning,” the coach said. “We needed him in the run game. We weren't getting much. We had a lot of things designed for him, but he also made some good plays running the football.”
Bender recorded 84 yards on his first four carries, including a 31-yard scoring run on the final play of the first quarter that gave IWCC (3-0) a 12-0 lead. The Reivers opened the scoring four minutes earlier when Austin White raced in from the 14 one play after a Wildcat fumble.
The defenses — and weather — dominated most of the afternoon. Iowa Western held NDSCS (1-2) to 103 total yards, including 33 on the ground, and forced four turnovers. Marco Naughton led the way with eight total tackles and a fumble recovery.
“We kind of figured that they were just going to run the ball at least 90 percent of the game. They weren't going to try to chuck it up in these conditions,” he said. “I loved playing in these conditions, and I think every one of our players on defense loved it, too.”
The defense capped its second consecutive shutout with linebacker Cody Poock returning an interception for a touchdown with 1:21 to play. IWCC hasn't been scored upon in 10 quarters.
Bender put the game out of reach by capping a 16-play, 70-yard drive in the final period by racing around the left end to score on fourth-and-goal from the 1. His 263 total yards, including 90 passing, helped offset the absence of Bravard and injured back Akise Teague, who didn't travel with the team.
Strohmeier said the Reivers only used four running plays and short passes because of the weather. Bender completed 9 of his first 11 pass attempts. He finished 14 for 20.
“It was just really limited,” he said. “We couldn't get the ball downfield with everybody slipping around. We didn't show much.”
The coach added that Bender's performance confirmed that IWCC has two viable options at quarterback.
“If you look at really good football teams, you have to have two guys that can play,” he said. “I feel comfortable utilizing both guys.”
Iowa Western (4-0, 2-0) ............................ 12 0 0 13—25
NDSCS (1-2, 1-2) ....................................... 0 0 0 0—0
IW: Austin White 14 run (pass failed)
IW: Tay Bender 31 run (run failed)
IW: Bender 1 run (run failed)
IW: Cody Poock 32 interception return (Danny Hamilton kick)
RUSHING: IW, Bender 31-173, White 15-82, Gilbert 8-11, Begg 1-1. ND, Osborn 15-50, Dobbs 8-6, Garrett 1-(-5), Hansana 7-(-7), Dyson 1-(-11).
PASSING: IW, Bender 14-20-1 90. NDSCS, Hansana 11-25-1 70.
RECEIVING: IW, Reed 4-25, Moore 4-22, Allison 2-12, Smith 1-15, White 1-6, Schleuger 1-6, Gilbert 1-4. ND, Flomo 4-34, Nelson 2-20, Dobbs 2-10, Garrett 1-12, Miles 1-(-2), Osborn 1-(-4).