SEWARD, Neb. | Morningside is one win away from crossing off a big to-do on its 2017 checklist.
The third-ranked Mustangs can complete a perfect regular season, win their seventh straight GPAC title outright and put themselves in the best possible postseason position with a victory over Concordia on Saturday.
"I don't think it is life or death if we win or lose, but to give us the best chance to host in the postseason we need to win this game," Morningside Coach Steve Ryan said. "The guys have put in a lot of work in the offseason and have continued to get better throughout the season."
The Mustangs (11-0, 8-0), with a 57-3 record in the GPAC since the start of the 2011 season, have not had a conference game decided by fewer than 21 points this season. Their victory over Doane last week combined with a loss by Baker (Kan.) moved the Mustangs up one spot in the rankings.
A win Saturday would give the Mustangs their first perfect regular season since 2012 when they finished as the national runner-up.
The Morningside defense is coming off a strong game against Doane where it gave up just 228 yards and no touchdowns in a 41-10 victory. It is allowing just 18.3 points a game to sit sixth in the nation as no team has scored more than 16 points over the past four games.
Junior wide receiver Connor Niles became Morningside's all-time career pass reception yardage leader last Saturday when he caught seven passes for 101 yards and a touchdown. He now has 190 receptions for 3,367 yards in his career.
Running back Bubba Jenkins recorded his ninth straight 100-yard game going for 154 yards to raise his season total to 1,618. He is averaging a robust 6.6 yards per carry. He will be counted on even more as backup Arnijae Ponder will miss the remainder of the season after breaking his leg.
"That is a tough thing for AP but we will have to rely on Bubba and guys like Taylor Meints to step up who has had to battle his own injuries," Ryan said.
Quarterback Trent Solsma has thrown for 3,128 yards this season and is completing 72 percent of his passes. That would set a new standard in the program with the previous mark of 69.5 percent set by Ryan Kasdorf in 2014.
Concordia (6-3, 5-2), which has won 10 straight games at home, comes into the game at 6-3 under first-year head coach Patrick Daberkow having won four conference games in a row.
"They went into their bye week a couple of weeks ago and worked on some things and that is what they have been sticking to and they are playing as well as anyone right now," Ryan said.
Bulldog quarterback Riley Wiltfong has thrown for 975 yards, 13 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has a pair of running backs coming off 100-yard efforts against Briar Cliff last week. Sophomore Ryan Durdon has run for 1,248 yards and T.J. Austin, a senior has 296.
Durdon is 18 yards shy of setting the Bulldogs's single-season rushing recoard currently held by JaMaine Lewis who graduated in 2007.
Wide receiver Jared Garcia, like Niles, set Concordia's career yardage mark last game as he passed former All-American Ross Wurdeman with 2,495 yards.
"Garcia is a dangerous wide receiver that we will have to try to contain, but their offense is able to do it with a strong running game and through the air," Ryan said.
Morningside leads the all-time series with the Bulldogs 14-1 with Concordia's lone win coming in 2003.
Postseason pairings will be announced on Sunday. The move up in the poll gives Morningside a better chance of hosting more rounds at Olsen Stadium.