SIOUX CITY — Some of the focus in NAIA had already turned to next week’s game between No. 1 Morningside and No. 5 Northwestern.
Morningside wasn’t ready to skip over Concordia on its schedule, though.
Concordia was the opponent for the Mustangs this week, not Northwestern, and Morningside took care of its business against the Bulldogs on Saturday at Olson Stadium.
“We don’t overlook anyone,” Morningside senior linebacker Chase Nelson said. “We know what’s next week but we were focused on Concordia and we came out and did the business that we had to do.”
A 35-point second quarter by Morningside (9-0, 8-0) led to a 52-7 win over Concordia (3-7, 3-6) on Saturday.
“I thought (Concordia) had a really good gameplan and took away some things, especially in the running game early on,” Morningside coach Steve Ryan said. “It took our guys on offense a little bit to figure out what they were doing but I felt once they did, we were alright. And the whole half, the defense was playing well.
“It was just a matter of figuring things out with our offense and we were alright.”
Morningside went on to gain 490 yards of total offense with 363 of those coming through the air.
Joe Dolincheck was 20-of-28 passing for 339 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Bo Els had six receptions for 59 yards and a score, Reid Jurgenmeier had 98 yards receiving, Addison Ross had 83 yards receiving and Austin Johnson had 81 yards receiving.
Arnijae Ponder, who had a rare fumble in the first quarter, finished with 70 yards and three touchdowns. Ponder moves into a second-place tie in career rushing touchdowns (48) with Brandon Wegher and passes Tyler Kavan, who had 3,421 yards, for second in career rushing yards.
While it took about a quarter for Morningside’s offense to find a groove, the Mustangs defense was locked in from the start.
Morningside only allowed 11 yards in the first quarter and by the end of the game, Concordia only had 126 yards of total offense.
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The Mustangs forced one fumble, intercepted a pass and had four sacks in the game.
“I think we played pretty well. The (defensive) line was after the quarterback the whole time and we were just trying to take the run down,” Nelson said. “We blitzed a couple of times but it was mostly our defensive line beating guys one-on-one and making the sack. Our defensive line was just eating out there.”
However, Nelson and the rest of the defense wasn’t completely satisfied. Concordia had most of its yards on one possession. Midway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs went 81 yards in 15 points for its only score of the game, a six-yard run by Exavier Jackson.
“I was disappointed with that drive in the second half but we will get that fixed,” Nelson said. “We don’t take any drives off but it looks like we did on that one. We will address it, get it fixed and it won’t happen again.”
Jacob Katzer led the Mustangs with nine tackles and Joel Katzer and Niklas Gustav each had seven. Gustav finished with two sacks and three tackles for a loss.
Nelson finished with seven tackles, forced a fumble and recovered it, which set up a touchdown late in the first half. Nelson now has nine forced fumbles in his career, the most ever in Morningside’s history.
“I didn’t even know that. That’s cool. It’s cool that I got that but I would rather just keep winning,” Nelson said. “We wrote down goals this week and that was one of my goals, to take the ball from the running back. I was working it a little extra hard in practice, so I just stripped it out and glad I got it today.”
After failing to score on its first three possessions, Morningside went on to score on its next six possessions.
Ponder put Morningside on the board with a two-yard run with 1:05 left in the first quarter and then he added a three-yard run with 11:27 left in the second quarter. Two minutes later, Ponder scored on a two-yard run.
With 4:06 left in the half, Dolincheck hit Johnson for a 16-yard touchdown and on the next possession, he found Els for a 38-yard touchdown.
Nelson’s forced fumble and recovery right before the end of the half led to a one-yard touchdown run by Anthony Sims for a 42-0 halftime lead.
Concordia got its score in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Chase Carter hit a 33-yard field goal and then after an interception, Tate Robards hit senior Brandy Holmes, who had his parents in the crowd, for a touchdown for the 52-7 victory.