SEWARD, Neb. – For the first time in 2020, the Concordia University Football team is looking to respond from a loss. The Bulldogs battled a powerful Northwestern offense for four quarters last week before falling by a two-touchdown margin. Head Coach Patrick Daberkow’s squad now prepares for another prolific offensive team with Dordt slated to be on hand at Bulldog Stadium this Saturday. Concordia (4-1) has won its previous two home games this season (over Hastings and Jamestown).
Daberkow is determined to advance his program to a point where it turns the corner against opponents such as Northwestern and Dordt. While the Bulldogs surrendered more than 400 passing yards to quarterback Tyson Kooima, they hung tight with the Red Raiders by allowing only two touchdowns on seven red zone trips. Concordia pushed the ball into the red zone in the middle of the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead (down 23-17) before an interception on fourth down ended the threat.
Head Coach Joel Penner (fifth year) has transformed the program at Dordt, which began playing football in 2008. The next step in the eyes of the Defenders might just be earning a spot in the NAIA playoffs (something they have not yet achieved in their brief history). Last week Dordt dominated Doane, winning by a final score of 44-19. The Defenders owned an advantage of 528-162 in total yards. The offensive attack revolves around impressive dual-threat quarterback in Noah Clayberg (former University of Iowa player).
*2020 national rank in parentheses
NOTE: 49 of the 95 NAIA football programs that intend to play in 2020-21 have started their seasons.
Offensive PPG: 24.4 (24th)
Defensive PPG: 15.6 (8th)
Total Offense: 383.4 (17th)
Pass Offense: 230.8 (16th)
Rush Offense: 152.6 (24th)
Total Defense: 314.0 (20th)
Pass Defense: 207.0 (28th)
Rush Defense: 107.0 (14th)
Turnover +/-: +3 (T-9th)
Offensive PPG: 43.8 (7th)
Defensive PPG: 20.8 (20th)
Total Offense: 532.2 (4th)
Pass Offense: 239.6 (11th)
Rush Offense: 292.6 (3rd)
Total Defense: 306.8 (18th)
Pass Defense: 196.0 (24th)
Rush Defense: 110.8 (15th)
Turnover +/-: +1 (T-19th)
2020 INDIVIDUAL LEADERS
Head Coach: Patrick Daberkow (16-19, 4th season)
Passing: Blake Culbert – 85/169 (.503), 1,154 yards, 7 td, 2 int, 119.0 effic.
Rushing: Jonah Weyand – 91 rushes, 471 yards, 5.2 avg, 7 td
Receiving: Korrell Koehlmoos – 18 catches, 383 yards, 21.3 avg, 2 td
Defense: Chase Hammons – 12 tackles, 5 tfl’s, 5 sacks
Head Coach: Joel Penner (28-19, 5th season)
Passing: Noah Clayberg – 77/114 (.675), 979 yards, 7 td, 2 in, 156.5 effic.; 75 rushes, 528 yards, 7.0 avg, 9 td
Rushing: Carter Schiebout – 66 rushes, 420 yards, 6.4 avg, 5 td
Receiving: Levi Jungling – 37 catches, 479 yards, 12.9 avg, 3 td
Defense: Josh Mrazek – 29 tackles, 4.5 tackles, 0.5 sacks
Concordia (4-1, 4-1 GPAC)
9/12 at Doane, W, 24-7
9/19 vs. Hastings, W, 34-28 (OT)
9/26 at Briar Cliff, W, 24-9
10/3 vs. Jamestown, W, 23-3
10/17 at Northwestern, L, 17-31
10/24 vs. Dordt, 1 p.m.
11/7 vs. Morningside, 1 p.m.
11/14 at Midland, 1 p.m.
11/21 at Dakota Wesleyan, 1 p.m.
Dordt (4-1, 4-1 GPAC)
9/12 at Midland, W, 22-14
9/26 at Dakota Wesleyan, W, 47-10
10/3 vs. Northwestern, L, 40-48
10/10 vs. Jamestown, W, 66-13
10/17 vs. Doane, W, 44-19
10/24 at Concordia, 1 p.m.
10/31 vs. Morningside, 1 p.m.
11/14 vs. Hastings, 1 p.m.
11/21 at Briar Cliff, 1 p.m.
Fan protocols for Northwestern can be viewed HERE. The Red Raider Athletic Department is limiting capacity to 50 percent in its football stadium. Consistent with GPAC rules, fans in attendance must wear face coverings. Fans will be allowed to enter the stadium 90 minutes prior to kickoff. Tickets can be purchased on site on game day. Fans are encouraged to review visiting venue protocols prior to departing for road games.
In the rankings
The GPAC Preseason Football Coaches’ Poll was unveiled on Aug. 26. Concordia landed at No. 7 (37 points) while Northwestern was placed second in the league (73 points; one first-place vote). The poll resembled the final 2019 standings. The NAIA has not released a single national poll this year. In the current Massey Ratings, the Bulldogs appear at 29th while the Defenders check in at 12th. Concordia last appeared in the national rankings in the preseason of 2017 when it was rated 20th. Dordt cracked the NAIA top 25 at the end of 2018 and finished that season at No. 23. The Defenders were ranked 24th in the preseason in 2019 but have disappeared from the official national rankings since then.
GPAC preseason: 7th
Current Massey Ratings: 29th
GPAC preseason: 3rd
Current Massey Ratings: 12th
Getting over the hump versus top 25 teams
Based on Massey Ratings and the @NAIAFBALL top 25, Concordia played a top 10 team in the NAIA last week in Northwestern (8th in Massey / 10th in @NAIAFBALL). Currently Massey lists Dordt at No. 12. After the loss to Northwestern, Coach Daberkow discussed the need to get over the hump against the conference’s elite opponents. The most recent win over a top 25 foe came on Sept. 23, 2017, when the Bulldogs toppled then seventh-ranked Doane, 29-18, on homecoming. Since then, every Concordia matchup with top 25 opponents has come against either Morningside or Northwestern. Considering Dordt’s 4-1 start, a victory on Saturday would represent one of the more significant wins for the Bulldog program over the past several years.
What opposing coaches are saying
The comments below were taken from pregame interviews play-by-play voice Evan Jones conducted leading up to matchups with Concordia.
Chris Bessler, Doane
(Lane Napier) is a good one. You’ve got to get a body on that guy. He’s a good football player and he’s going to make plays. You have to know where he’s at all the time and what they’re trying to do with him … I anticipate them trying to establish a running game and a quick passing game and try to take control of the tempo of the game.
Tony Harper, Hastings
Concordia is one of the most physical teams in the conference … Every time you talk about Concordia – and I don’t care who is there whether it was Coach (Courtney) Meyer, Coach (Vance) Winter and now Coach Daberkow – it’s their defense. That defense is solid. Their defensive line gets off the ball. They’re big, they’re physical. Their linebackers as a core could be one of the top two in the conference. The corners they’ve got can run man-to-man. They do a really good job. Then you look over at their offense. Their o-line – this was just from watching their film – I believe is one of the top two in this conference. They’re athletic. They’re not as big as they have been, but they’re athletic, they’re physical, they’re fast, they get off the ball … And you have to talk about those long receivers who killed us last year just going up and beating us on 50/50 balls. You can’t forget about the running back who had one heck of a game against Doane. That guy is physical and he runs downhill. Once you think you’ve got him wrapped up he’s going to break the tackle. Then he gets tired and they bring in another guy that’s just as fast and physical as him. In my opinion, this is the best Concordia team I’ve seen in a long time.
Matt McCarty, Northwestern
Whenever you play Concordia, they’re going to be a really well-coached team. Coach Daberkow does a really good job. They’re going to play a really physical and aggressive football game and do a good job of creating negative plays for an offense. They’re going to run the football and try to establish the run and they have some really good skill players on the edge that you have to account for. Every time we play Concordia it’s a battle.
Brian Mistro, Jamestown
They’re going to hit you in the mouth. You’re going to get punched in the mouth when you play Concordia. It’s a physical team. The running back is running for a lot of yards and playing his tail off. The quarterback makes good decisions … They’re not turning the ball over. Coach Daberkow’s got those guys playing really well … (from Jamestown Sun) They have some skill guys that are pretty good, their running back’s been running over everybody, their defense is stout and really disciplined … (Jonah Weyand) runs like he’s mad at somebody.”
Dennis Wagner, Briar Cliff
They obviously can run the ball and that sets up their passing game. They like to get on the edges when they throw. They’re not a real big drop back team. They get out on the edge or they go play action if they’re going to stay in the pocket. A lot of it’s based off the running game.
A defense that won’t break
Concordia’s defense is quite difficult to break. Through five games, the Bulldogs have allowed a grand total of nine touchdowns (three last week at Northwestern). Red zone trips had actually been rare for Bulldog foes in the first four games (seven total). Tyson Kooima and the Red Raider offense certainly moved the football, but it managed only two touchdowns out of seven red zone trips (three field goals). Concordia has held three opponents to single-digit scoring totals and currently ranks eighth nationally in scoring defense (15.6). The Bulldogs will be tasked this week with trying to limit a Dordt offense that put up point totals of 35 and 38, respectively, in the past two meetings with Concordia.
Junior Garrett Schardt leads all GPAC tight ends in receptions (15) and receiving yards (261) this season. His numbers got a big boost from last week’s career day at Northwestern. Schardt hauled in seven passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. The scoring plays covered 16 and 34 yards. On the second touchdown, Schardt busted a tackle just after catching the pass from Blake Culbert and went the final 20 yards untouched into the end zone. Schardt’s most recent touchdown prior to last week came on an 82-yard trick play versus Dakota Wesleyan in his freshman year in 2018. Over 21 career games, Schardt has hauled in 30 passes for 515 yards and three touchdowns. Fellow tight end Brady Fitzke also caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from Culbert in the win over Doane.
Napier, Weyand return to lineup
Star performers in linebacker Lane Napier (Briar Cliff and Jamestown games) and running back Jonah Weyand (Briar Cliff second half and Jamestown game) were sidelined by injuries before returning last week at Northwestern. A 2018 AP First Team All-American, Napier has pushed his career tackle total to 371 (program record during the GPAC era). He is a three-time first team All-GPAC honoree. On the other hand, Weyand (redshirt sophomore) has a lot of football left in him. He carried the ball 26 times for 87 yards last week. The Crete High School product rushed for five touchdowns in the win over Hastings and now has season numbers of 471 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on 91 carries. Meanwhile, starting linebacker Jorge Ochoa has been sidelined. Stirling Tonniges started in his spot last week.
NAIA sack leader
The Bulldogs added two sacks last week to their NAIA leading sack total of 19. A sack apiece was generated at Northwestern by Karson Dickson and Gerald Morris. There have been plenty of contributors to that sack figure, including team leader Chase Hammons (five), Dickson (three), Morris (three), Eric Kieper Jr. (two) and Logan Kreizel (two). Concordia defenders have made 33 stops in the backfield so far this season. Dickson has made a significant impact in his first season with the Bulldogs after transferring from NCAA Division II Northwest Missouri State University.
Defending the pass
Concordia’s pass defense was tested to the max last week against Tyson Kooima. The Bulldogs surrendered 407 yards to Kooima, but they did manage to force 15 incompletions and picked off two passes – one apiece by corner Isiaha Conner and linebacker Caydren Cox. Concordia has managed to break in a new group of cornerbacks with solid results. The core of the unit has featured Jayzen Armstrong, Kamren Baker, Conner and Jourdhin Smith. Prior to last week, the Bulldogs had allowed passing yardage totals of 77, 245, 86 and 220, respectively. Concordia ranks 18th nationally in pass efficiency defense (114.4).
The ultimate goals are to someday win the GPAC and/or qualify for a spot in the NAIA playoffs. In a nine-game regular season, a record of at least 7-2 is likely needed to earn a berth. After the loss to Northwestern, Daberkow told 104.9 Max Country listeners in the postgame show, “We had 100 percent belief in our locker room. We have to turn the corner with this program and make Bulldog Nation proud and go get a win that people on the outside don’t think we’re going to get. We have some opportunities left to do that.” The remaining schedule is unforgiving (defending national champion Morningside also yet to come), but there certainly are exciting opportunities, as Daberkow put it. The program has not reached the NAIA playoffs since 2001 when it shared the GPAC title.
Redshirt junior Blake Culbert has steadied the quarterback position in his first season as a starter. Culbert did not throw an interception until his 165th pass attempt of this season and has a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 7-to-2. The native of Garden Grove, Calif., has made regular use of four different pass catchers who each have 12 or more receptions this season: Cayden Beran (24 for 226), Korrell Koehlmoos (18 for 383), Garrett Schardt (15 for 261) and Lane Castaneda (12 for 115). Culbert has completed 85-of-169 passes for 1,154 yards. That yardage total ranks him No. 5 nationally. Culbert has a shot at becoming just the second player in program history to throw for 2,000 or more yards in a single season.
Series vs. Dordt
Concordia had won nine of the first 10 meetings with Dordt until the Defenders got the best of the Bulldogs in both 2018 and 2019 (other victory in the series for Dordt came in 2008). That leaves the all-time series at 9-3 in favor of Concordia. Last year’s meeting in Sioux Center was a forgettable one for the Bulldogs, who fell by a 35-0 score. The Bulldog defense did a commendable job of holding Dordt to 379 total yards, but the offense gave it little chance. Concordia was victimized by five interceptions and it put up only 170 total yards. The most recent Bulldog victory over the Defenders occurred by a 24-17 score in Sioux Center in 2017. The two sides have not played in Seward since 2014 (38-14 Concordia win).
From 2012 through 2014, the Bulldogs virtually named the score in games against Dordt. Things have changed in dramatic fashion for the Defender program. Massey Ratings judges Dordt to be a borderline top 10 team in the NAIA. It’ll be a chore trying to contain junior quarterback Noah Clayberg, who appeared in 11 games as a safety and special teamer at the University of Iowa in 2017. Clayberg is throwing the football much better than he did a year ago (67.5 completion percentage) and has piled up 1,507 total yards and 16 total touchdowns through five games. The Defenders rank No. 4 nationally in total offense. The program has also improved significantly on the defensive side of the ball and is allowing just over 300 yards per game. A blueprint similar to last week may be what Concordia needs, but it will have to take advantage of all opportunities on offense (while keeping Dordt out of the end zone and finding ways to cause turnovers).