Saint Xavier at Morningside NAIA football

Morningside's Bubba Jenkins slips past Saint Xavier's Tim Walsh during NAIA quarterfinal football action at Olsen Stadium Saturday.

Jim Lee, Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY | Trent Solsma might have had the best view of anyone and even he couldn't believe what happened.

In the third quarter of Morningside's quarterfinal with Saint Xavier (Ill.) the junior quarterback threw a short screen pass to senior running back Bubba Jenkins. What Jenkins did next was a you-had-to-see-it-to believe-it kind of play.

"I thought it was going to be like a five yard gain," said Solsma as he watched defenders close in on Jenkins as he started to make his move a little less than 30 yards from the end zone. "I am talking to the ref back there and all of the sudden he squirts away and he is running into the end zone and I am sprinting down the field. It was a crazy play.

"The moves he was putting on in the open field is next-level stuff."

So in the end it was a 31-yard touchdown pass in a 52-7 blowout victory for the No. 3 Mustangs to advance to the national semifinals for the fifth time in six seasons, but how did Jenkins turn a 5-yard gain into a touchdown?

"I caught the ball and everybody said I should have gone outside that is what they thought," Jenkins said. "I saw an opening and I went in there and broke a tackle. The safety came down and I made a little move to the outside, made another move and hit the pylon. I wasn't thinking about it I was just letting my talent do the work."

Jenkins' talent has served him and the Mustangs very well this season as he leads the NAIA with 2,087 yards rushing, averaging 160.5 yards a game. He also leads the way in scoring with 28 touchdowns and 174 points scored on the season.

Jenkins ran for 183 yards and added a rushing touchdown Saturday against the Cougars. It was his 12th 100-yard rushing performance of the season, a streak that has also included four 200-yard performances. A strong showing for the transfer from NCAA Division II Southwest Baptist University where he had run for 3,202 yards and 40 touchdowns prior to this season.

"I just give it all to my linemen because I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for them and the wide outs because every defense has to keep an eye on them so holes open for me," he said. "It wasn't easy but (head) coach (Steve) Ryan always told me to keep your head in it and play Mustang football. Never quit never give up.

"It made me work harder, it made me a better player and a better person overall."

Eclipsing 2,000 yards in a season puts him in rare company in the Morningside record books. He joins Brandon Wegher as the only other running back to do that at the school as he finished with 2,610 in 2014 before went on to play in the NFL.

"He is a great back and I look at some of his film and see what he has done," Jenkins said. "Everybody wants to be better than the next man up and that is just what I am trying to be."

Jenkins joined a Morningside team that had lost in the quarterfinals last year to the same St. Francis (Ind.) team it will face on Saturday. The Mustangs had a lot of talented weapons on offense, but with the graduation of running back Tyler Kavan finding a runner to pair with the potent passing attack was key.

The 5-foot-10, 205-pound back from Springfield, Missouri has proven to be more than up to the task, saying he never felt pressure but knew he had to step up.

Solsma has had talented running backs with him in the backfield at Morningside and he knows exactly what Jenkins means to an offense that is averaging 52.3 points a game.

"He is an animal and he makes our life as an offense so easy," Solsma said. "He can find just the littlest hole and just run guys over, and when he runs guys over they don't forget about it."

Jenkins is making the most of his one season in Sioux City. It is what he thought was possible when he made the decision to transfer.

"I knew if I came here I could better the team and they could better me," he said.

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