SIOUX CITY – Theoretically, Morningside vs. Briar Cliff should be a football rivalry.
However, until BCU can close the large gap dividing the programs, it should be considered an annual rite of passage for Morningside to ride the saddle.
Some years ago, shortly after Briar Cliff added football to its list of intercollegiate sports, it was decided that the yearly game between the schools located in the same city be dubbed the “Battle for the Saddle.”
Therefore, the winner each season gets to keep the saddle and its players and coaches celebrate by taking postgame rides.
On Saturday, the first person to be lifted in the air aboard the saddle was Morningside Coach Steve Ryan.
That constituted a milestone of sorts. Until now, Ryan hadn’t taken a turn on the saddle. But he had a big reason to on an absolutely gorgeous fall afternoon at Memorial Field.
Ryan joined an elite list with his 200th coaching victory in Morningside’s 84-7 drubbing of the Chargers.
Morningside ran its record against Briar Cliff to 19-0 and Ryan became the 97th coach in the history of college football to reach 200 wins.
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In his 20th season, Ryan is the fourth fastest (including all divisions of college football) to the 200-victory plateau.
“I’m just proud of our guys today,” Ryan said. “This is a great school and I’m kind of excited for all of the guys who’ve played here. I haven’t really thought about in terms of my regard, but just looking around here and seeing some former players is special.”
Ryan was asked which games he remembers the most up to this point.
“One of the big ones was beating Wayne State in the very first game,” Ryan said. “Beating Sioux Falls to win our first conference championship and obviously the national championships.”
As for his maiden voyage on the saddle?
“That is my first time on the saddle,” Ryan said. “I said I would do it if it was my 200th win and it happened to fall that way.”
It turned into a day of milestones for Morningside.
Anthony Sims played sparingly, but long enough to eclipse 3,000 yards for his career. He did so on a 4-yard burst for Morningside’s first touchdown and is the fifth player in school history to accomplish that feat.
Quarterback Joe Dolincheck, meanwhile, went over 10,000 passing yards, becoming the fourth in school annals to do so.
Morningside, ranked No. 3 in NAIA football, racked up a whopping 710 yards while improving to 6-0 both overall and in the Great Plains Athletic Conference.
The Mustangs limited Briar Cliff (1-6, 1-5) to 154 total yards.
In its six games this season, Morningside has scored (in order) 63, 56, 56, 59, 62 and 84 points. The 84 points were the most ever scored against Briar Cliff.
Moreover, the Mustangs ran their regular season winning streak to 53 straight.
“Coming off that loss to Northwestern (in the playoffs last spring) was kind of heartbreaking to all of us,” said Sims, who last week set the single-game touchdown record. “I’m pretty sure everyone on this football team wants to work hard each and every week. Our goal is to take each week one by one, practice hard and work hard.
“It feels good to contribute to Coach Ryan’s 200th win. He’s an amazing guy and I would say he’s been a mentor to me during my five years here. He teaches us great things, most importantly how to be a man. Being able to celebrate with him means a lot to me.”
Dolincheck passed for 263 yards and three touchdowns before leaving the game for good late in the second quarter. Morningside was able to completely empty its bench, giving plenty of players valuable experience.
Michael Minor was the leading rusher for the Mustangs with 147 yards on 15 carries. The Mustangs rushed for 378 yards and passed for 332.
To his credit, Briar Cliff freshman quarterback Luke Davies stood strong under a ferocious pass rush. Davies passed for 193 yards and had a touchdown toss to Spencer George.
Morningside recorded five sacks and three interceptions.
The Mustangs led 28-0 at the end of the first quarter, 56-0 at half and 77-7 after three quarters.
The game ended with Morningside taking a knee inside the BCU 5-yard line.