SIOUX CITY, IOWA – Meeting milestones athletically is always a great experience.
Double and triple that when it comes to doing so in a playoff setting.
Junior running back Arnijae “AP” Ponder made Saturday, Nov. 23, a day to remember. He went over the 50-touchdown mark with a pair of rushing scores early on in a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ first-round contest at Elwood Olsen Stadium. To the delight of a partisan fan base for the nation’s top-ranked team and defending national champions, he wasn’t done there. As the second-quarter clock wound down, a seven-yard carry to midfield spotlighted his name permanently in the program’s annals, as he passed former standout Brandon Wegher for the career rushing record. At day’s end, a 22-carry, 132-yard day had him at 3,846 yards for his three-year collegiate campaign.
Ponder’s amazing afternoon helped lead head coach Steve Ryan‘s Mustangs to a 57-14 victory over North Star Athletic Association champion Dickinson State University. Another balanced and blitzkrieg-like offensive attack, coupled with a bedrock-style defense, typified Mside moving on to national quarterfinal round action.
Sophomore quarterback Joe Dolincheck (SO/Bellevue, NE) (Bellevue, Neb.) registered his 11th straight 200-yard-plus passing game, going 26 of 35 for 346 yards and four touchdowns. Sophomore wide receiver Austin Johnson (SO/Sioux Falls, SD) (Sioux City, Iowa), the offensive player of the game, was one of two Maroon receivers to reach yardage triple digits, hauling in eight catches for 148 yards and bringing in one touchdown. Senior wide receiver Bo Els (SR/Erie, CO) (Erie, Colo.) was just as impressive with nine receptions for 115 yards and also continued to prove his top-ranking in punt return yardage with two attempts for 51 yards while taking four kickoffs to the tune of 77 yards. Defensively, the Kansas Katzer brothers (Joel and Jacob of Baldwin City) each produced eight tackles, as Joel gained defensive Player of the Game honors. Juniors David Rios (JR/Sioux Falls, SD) (Sioux Falls, S.D.) and Carter Anderson (JR/Blair, NE) (Blair, Neb.) proved a difficult task for the Blue Hawks’ offensive front, as they combined for three-and-a-half tackles for losses, and the Morningside secondary, facing one of the region’s top passers in Hayden Combs, turned in four break-ups and limited the visiting passing game to only one passing score. Special teams got in on the act of sending Mside’s record to 11-0 with freshman Joshua Miller (FR/Lincoln, NE) (Lincoln, Neb.) getting his hands on a second blocked punt of the year which led to a safety; freshman place-kicker Chase Carter (FR/Knoxville, IA) going a perfect seven-of-seven in extra points and averaging a booming 55.1 yards per kick average; and senior punter Addison Ross (SR/Carroll, Iowa) (Carroll, Iowa) pinning DSU inside the 20 once as part of two kicks that averaged 41.5 yards.
An early 9-0 Mustangs’ run proved pivotal. The defense got things rolling for the home team early, stiffening on a potential Dickinson State opening-possession scoring drive, holding the Blue Hawks on downs inside the 25. It was just the push needed, as six efficient plays and 76 yards later, Ponder was in the end zone. After an ensuing three and out for Dickinson State’s offense, Miller and the special teams stepped in with the blocked punt that bounced out of the back of the end zone, and Morningside was off to the races.