SIOUX CITY | Briar Cliff football coach Dennis Wagner isn’t expecting Dylan Desmarais to make a big play every time he throws.
“He needs to not try to do too much and stay within the means of what we’re asking,” said Wagner of his quarterback, who will mark his fourth consecutive start when the Chargers (0-9, 0-6) host Concordia (5-3, 4-2) in a Great Plains Athletic Conference game this afternoon at Memorial Field.
“He doesn’t need to make the big play every time. He can’t be forcing the ball and make plays that aren’t there.”
Quarterback injuries have been part of the story of the winless Chargers. Four different quarterbacks (Desmarais, Phillip Kimble, Chance Barlow, Dillon Ruelas) have started games. Each (with the exception of Ruelas) have suffered injuries at different parts of the season.
Timing between the various quarterbacks and receivers such as Miles Jones (26 catches, 297 yards, 2 TDs) and Joe Heinrichs (21, 227, 4) has been a factor in some of the dropped balls or balls that have slipped through the fingers. Each quarterback, according to Wagner, is different of how the football comes out of his hands, yet the coach has counted 20 of 25 passes by receivers which should have been caught.
The bye week allowed Desmarais (355 yards passing, 4 TDs) time to rest from the knee injury that limited him to just one half in the season-opening loss to Waldorf before his comeback in the 45-14 loss to Hastings on Oct. 7.
“He first said he was out for the season, but he did a good job in rehab,” said Wagner. “I think that says a lot about his character. He’s a competitor. He feels more comfortable.”
The quarterback with the better game will decide the outcome. Both Briar Cliff and Concordia are likely to go with their running back strengths.
Noah Ylagan (1,147 yards rushing, 7 TDs) is coming off a school-record 265-yard performance in a 63-24 loss at Dakota Wesleyan on Oct. 21. In terms of rushing yards, Ylagan, the university’s first-ever 1,000-yard rusher, ranks fourth in the league.
Concordia’s Ryan Durdon (1,056 yards, 7 TDs) is fifth in yardage, but third with a 132-yard average. Durdon carried for 201 yards and a touchdown in last Saturday’s 36-18 win over Dakota Wesleyan, the second time he’s topped 200 in his last three games and his third such effort of the season.
Quarterback Riley Wiltfong (815 yards passing, 10 TDs) passed for 221 yards and two touchdowns against Dakota Wesleyan while also rushing for 87 yards and a score.
On the other side of the ball, Concordia ranks first in total defense (349.4 yards per game). The Bulldogs are second in both rushing defense (153.4) and passing defense (196.0).
“They’re really good in the secondary,” said Wagner. “Their four guys are the best group we’ve seen in the league. They don’t make mistakes. They’re very aggressive to the ball and have good recovery speed. No one stands out. All 11 guys play hard.
“Other teams have thrown so much better than us. That’s why we’ve seen eight or nine in the box almost every game. Same for Concordia the way they’ve run the ball and have not had as much success throwing. Both teams will run to be successful. The team that has the better throwing game between the two of us will make the difference.”