SIOUX CITY | Positive vibes surrounded Memorial Field on Saturday as the Briar Cliff Chargers returned “home” for the first time since the 2014 season.
Dakota State, however, had little interest in that fact and outscored the Chargers 49-33, handing Briar Cliff its third football loss in as many games.
BCU showed some signs of promise on offense, but its inability to stop the Trojans’ offense and key mistakes took away some of the luster of performing on Memorial Field’s new field turf for the first time.
“Any time you lose it’s unacceptable so I really don’t have a lot of good things to say,” said first-year BCU Coach Dennis Wagner, a veteran coach who has taken the responsibility of trying to turn the fortunes of this program. “I’m not sure that praise in losing is where we need to be. We turned the ball over five times and we didn’t tackle well, so we’re going to focus more on those things.”
Dakota State quarterback Jacob Giles passed for 354 yards and five touchdowns while Brodie Frederiksen rushed for 190 on 17 carries. The Trojans racked up 628 total yards and also scored a touchdown on a blocked punt.
On the bright side, a nice crowd showed up on a beautiful day for football, many wearing “Home Sweet Home” t-shirts. And, the Charger offense churned out 498 yards, including 240 through the air by true freshman Dillon Ruelas.
Ruelas, who was supposed to be taking a redshirt this season, has been forced into action after injuries have already shelved two other Charger quarterbacks. Ruelas was one of two freshmen to see action at that spot on Saturday, with Diontre’ Collins-Jones also taking snaps.
“We’re proud of the two freshmen who came in and played quarterback but that’s their job and that’s why we brought them here,” Wagner said. “Next man grabs the flag and moves on and that’s the expectation we had for them. They studied hard all week and put us in a position to help us win.
“Third down has been our nemesis all year, we get in third downs and can’t get off the field,” Wagner said. “It comes down to tackling, you have to tackle better than we’re tackling. When you get tired and your body gets out of position it gets harder to tackle so we’ve got to try to keep our guys fresh and get more people in there who can get to the ball so we’re doing a better job wrapping people up.”
After a scoreless first quarter, Dakota State broke the ice by blocking a punt that Austin Opdahl scooped up and ran in from seven yards early in the second quarter. From there it turned into an offensive shootout and DSU had too much firepower for the Chargers,
Noah Ylagan, who moved into second place on Briar Cliff’s all-time rushing list, ran for a pair of second-quarter scores, but Giles fired two touchdown passes, the second a 22-yarder to Frederiksen with 31 seconds left in the half.
That gave Dakota State a 21-14 lead at intermission and after it fumbled the second-half kickoff out of bounds at its own two, took just six plays to march 98 yards for another touchdown.
Ruelas had a 17-yard touchdown pass to Miles Jones while Kwame Johnson scored on a couple of short runs in the second half for BCU. But the Chargers were fighting a losing battle while trying to match the Trojans touchdown for touchdown.
Ylagan finished with 148 yards on 20 carries, moving into second on the BCU all-time rushing list with 1,249.
“We like to run the football and we had a young buck (Ruelas) making plays and keeping drives going,” Ylagan said. “I wish it would turn to success but turnovers will always be big and we left a couple on the ground.”
Giles completed 26 of 42 throws, tossing a couple of touchdown passes to Brandon Waldner, his high school teammate at Madison, South Dakota. Opdahl, another Madison product, had seven catches for 107 yards.
Dakota State (2-1) stunned No. 17 Dakota Wesleyan 56-39 in its season opener before falling to St. Ambrose 27-24 last week on a late touchdown.
Briar Cliff opens Great Plains Athletic Conference play Saturday at Midland.