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SEWARD, Neb. – Feed Ryan Durdon. Stuff the run. That formula worked just well enough for the Concordia University football team to sneak past visiting Buena Vista University (Iowa) in Saturday (Sept. 8)’s season opener inside Bulldog Stadium. Durdon crossed the goal line for the game-winning touchdown in a 27-20 victory that went down to the wire.
Second-year head coach Patrick Daberkow and his staff didn’t know exactly what to expect with so many new faces in the starting lineup. All five Bulldogs on the offensive line were making their first career starts. Durdon still managed to run wild for 250 yards rushing to save the day offensively.
“For as young of a team as we are, to gut that thing out and to not get down, I was really proud of that,” Daberkow said. “I’m excited about what these guys are going to do with a little experience under their belt. Right now it’s a little nerve-wracking, but we’ll watch film tomorrow and we’ll learn a lot from it. What a valuable thing for them to get the experience they got today and be able to walk away with a win.”
Three freshmen and two sophomore started on the offensive line. They did a commendable job run blocking considering the inexperience. Even when they couldn’t create holes, Durdon seemed to make something out of nothing. A 1,247-yard back a year ago, Durdon has proven he can carry an offense. In his latest workhorse performance, the native of Decatur, Texas, piled up his 250 yards and two touchdowns on 42 totes.
For a guy who last season broke the program single-season record for most carries in a season, Durdon is used to shouldering a heavy load. He was admittedly sore, but grinning after Saturday’s effort.
“It was actually the last drive and I kind of looked at (running backs coach) Von (Thomas),” Durdon said. “I tried to hide it from Coach Daberkow because I know he doesn’t really like it. I tried to tap my helmet and see if I could get a little break, a little breather. I think we were on the 20, 25-yard line – and Coach Daberkow saw me. He yelled at me, ‘There’s a minute-twenty left, you’re fine.’”
On that final touchdown drive that put Concordia up for good, Durdon carried the ball seven times. The highlight was a 48-yard scamper that placed the ball at the Buena Vista 37. Nine plays later, Durdon fittingly dragged would-be tacklers into the end zone on a three-yard touchdown plunge with 53 seconds remaining in the game.
The Bulldogs just needed one more play to sew up the win. Prolific passer Cole Miller and the Beaver offense moved the ball down to the Concordia 36 in the waning moments. Then on third and six, senior linebacker Kordell Glause poked the ball loose from Miller, whose fumble was recovered by junior defensive lineman Aaron Rudloff. Ball game.
“It was really a big moment,” Rudloff said. “But again, my teammates really got me there. I think they deserve all the credit for that. It’s a big win for the team and I’m really proud of the work that they did. I think we did a good job today.”
While the Bulldog defense had some breakdowns in pass coverage, and struggled to limit Buena Vista receiver Eric Pacheco (five catches for 197 yards), it snuffed out the running game. The Beavers were held to 21 rushing yards on 22 attempts. Pacheco kept trying to will Buena Vista (1-1) to victory. He hauled in touchdown strikes of 80 and 63 yards from Miller. He also returned a punt 63 yards for a go-ahead score late in the third quarter.
Despite the big plays, Concordia’s front seven looked stout. Tackling machine Lane Napier made 10 stops, including a sack. Up front, Rudloff shined, making 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack while forcing a fumble and recovering one. On a key first and goal in the third quarter, Rudloff jarred the ball free from Miller. It was recovered by Bulldog defensive lineman Chase Hammons, thwarting a prime Beaver scoring opportunity.
“Outstanding up front,” Daberkow said. “That linebacker crew is the leaders of our defense. Up front we had guys gutting out the win. We’re hard to contend with in the run game. We bring a lot of speed to the defensive line and feel like we have some tough guys up there – just good football players.”
Durdon’s 250 rushing yards were 16 shy of his career high, which happens to be a school single-game record. At quarterback, Jake Kemp made his first career start. He threw for a six-yard touchdown to Arthur Anderson and snuck in another score from a yard out. He finished 9-for-18 for 58 yards. He also threw a pair of interceptions.
On the other side, Miller threw for 283 yards and two touchdowns. Concordia narrowly outgained Buena Vista, 310-304. Both teams had two turnovers and two sacks. For the Beaver defense, defensive tackle Quamaree Harris gave the Bulldogs fits. He registered 11 tackles and two sacks. Reed Kruse notched 19 tackles for the visitors from Storm Lake, Iowa, who opened their season last week with a win over Hamline University (Minn.). Buena Vista is affiliated with NCAA Division III and is a member of the America Rivers Conference.
The Bulldogs will open up conference play next Saturday (Sept. 15) at 1 p.m. CT with their first road trip of 2018. Concordia will head north and take on new GPAC member Jamestown (1-2, 0-1 GPAC). The Jimmies were defeated, 49-7, by No. 7 Northwestern in their first ever GPAC game on Saturday.
200+ yard rushing games, program history
266 – Ryan Durdon vs. Midland, 2017
266 – Randy Pospishil vs. Dana, 1972
261 – JaMaine Lewis vs. Dakota Wesleyan, 2007
250 – Ryan Durdon vs. Buena Vista, 2018
224 – Bob Voelker vs. Doane, 1962
215 – Phillip Elder vs. Doane, 2004
208 – Ryan Durdon vs. Kansas Wesleyan, 2017
208 – Cohl Tufford vs. Dakota State, 2011
206 – Gary Seevers vs. Omaha, 1955
201 – Ryan Durdon vs. Dakota Wesleyan, 2017