SIOUX CITY – Some meanderings about some Big Games on Big Stages, primarily the one along the Florida sifting sands of Daytona Beach:
Morningside’s football team has played in far larger stadiums than the 9,601-capacity Daytona Stadium. However, the Mustangs or Maroon Chiefs of the past have never played in a more significant setting.
Morningside will tangle with Benedictine (Kan.) in the NAIA title game Dec. 15 in Daytona Stadium, the regular-season home of Bethune-Cookman, a Football Championship Subdivision program that lost a game this season at Nebraska.
The Mustangs play in their own 10,000 capacity Olsen Stadium and in the past Morningside played in the past in venues at North Dakota State and Nebraska-Omaha, for two, that drew crowds of that size.
But, on the third week of November in 1987, Morningside lost a 24-7 decision to the University of Central Florida in Orlando’s Citrus Bowl.
Attendance at the game was 10,112 in a stadium that has drawn crowds of 50,000 to 73,000 in the past to what is now named Camping World Stadium, site of the Citrus Bowl.
Central Florida still plays its home games the Orlando stadium, but UCF will try to wrap up its second straight season in the Fiesta Bowl against LSU on New Year’s Day.
Meanwhile Penn State and Kentucky meet in the Citrus Bowl the same day.
In 1987, UCF was an NCAA D2 program like Morningside, but headed to the D2 playoffs.
Morningside’s defense in the UCF game was coordinated by present Oregon defensive coordinator Jim Leavitt.
And, the then-Chiefs roster included 13 Floridians. A special charter flew at least 50 Morningside fans to the game.
- The very first NAIA national football coach of the year was Morningside’s Dewey Halford in 1956, in the days when the school held dual NAIA-NCAA membership.
Northwestern’s Larry Korver won the honor in 1973 and again in NAIA Division II in 1985 and current Morningside Coach Steve Ryan was recognized in 2012.
Korver is one of three Iowa college coaches in the NAIA Hall of Fame along with John “Doc’’ Dorman of Upper and Frosty Westering of old Parsons and others.
Larry Wilcox, in his 40th season at Benedictine (Kan.), was inducted in 2016.
Benedictine and Morningside, as you know, collide in the NAIA national title game on Dec. 15 in Florida.
Wilcox, with 290 wins, ranks second among active and all-time winningest NAIA coaches.
- Almost going home:
Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew has no qualms, unlike his school’s athletic director, about “playing down’’ to Iowa State in the Alamo Bowl.
Minshew is a graduate transfer from East Carolina after playing at the junior college level at Northwest Mississippi Community College.
Minshew is merely another Big 12 gunslinger the Cyclones will face after passing for 4,477 yards this season, completing 433 of 613 throws.
He’s a native of Brandon (Miss.) and passed for over 11,000 yards as a prep before guiding his junior college team to back-to-back national championships.
- The Green Bay Packers can solve their problems, whatever they may be, with one simple decision. Just name quarterback Aaron Rodgers the player-coach.
Rodgers led his team to a glittering 4-7-1 record (before Sunday) by calling the plays anyway (according to the inside experts on sports talk radio and TV).
- Some things you probably didn’t know about Benedictine, the Atchison, Kan., college that meets Morningside in the NAIA football title game Dec. 15 in Florida:
Benedictine is a merger of old St. Benedict’s College (all men) and Mount St. Scholastica (all women) in 1971.
St. Benedict’s wasn’t fully accredited in 1881 when Chris Rutt graduated, but he used his home ec skills to later invent Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix.
Bob Veale, a ’58 grad of St. Benedict’s, pitched 13 seasons in the Major League’s for the Boston Red Sox and Pittsburgh Pirates. He made the National League All-Star team twice with the Pirates, won a World Series ring with the Bucs in 1971, posted a 120-95 won-lost career record and led the NL in strikeouts with 250 in 1964, nicking Bob Gibson for the honor.
Irv Comp, a 1942 St. Benedict’s grad, quarterbacked the Green Bay Packers to the 1944 NFL championship. Curly Lambeau coached the Packers to a 14-7 win over the New York Giants in the 1944 title game.
Andy Yost, a former head football coach at Sioux City West and assistant at West Sioux, is in his second year as a Benedictine assistant coach. Yost, a grad of Dakota States, was also an assistant with the indoor Sioux City Bandits and served as head football coach at Omaha Creighton Prep for two seasons before joining the college ranks at Benedictine.
- More on Morningside football:
There never seems to be a right time of the year to discuss the issue of retiring the football jersey numeral of NCAA Division II and Associated Press Little All-America running back Dave Bigler.
Along with Connie Callahan, another AP Little All-American, the duo rank as the best two running backs in school history.
Interestingly, Bigler, who graduated in 1972, wasn’t inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame until 1993.
And, while on the subject of Morningside’s football Hall of Fame, is noted here that one of the premier linebackers in school history, Tim McCabe, has yet to be inducted into the honored category.
A linebacker on some of Morningside’s most competitive NCAA Division II teams, McCabe once made 20 tackles in a North Central Conference game.
McCabe was a starter on the big stage in Orlando mentioned earlier.