SIOUX CITY | Briar Cliff’s defense will be challenged Saturday afternoon to discover a way to create a takeaway.
Defensive lineman Omar Dyles’ fumble recovery led to Elijah Brown's third-quarter 28-yard touchdown catch in last Saturday’s 34-32 Great Plains Athletic Conference loss at Jamestown. Linebacker Caleb Wilson’s fumble recovery began a drive that resulted in quarterback Jacob Diaz’s fourth TD pass of the game, a 14-yarder to Khamren Davenport with 4:53 remaining.
Coach Dennis Wagner’s Chargers host a key GPAC football game against Concordia. The two teams are among five in the league with 2-2 records and a win for Wagner’s squad will equal a school-record five wins established in 2006.
Simply put, Concordia rarely turns the ball over. The Bulldogs have been turnover-free since a season-opening 27-20 win over Buena Vista when quarterback Jake Kemp (525 yards, 5 TDs) issued two interceptions.
“Ball security is so important,” said Wagner. “Concordia’s offense hasn’t turned the ball over since the first game. We have to cover their passes, contend on passes and try to make the big hit. On special teams, we have to get them to turn the ball over.”
Concordia’s offense ranks 10th in the GPAC in both scoring (16.2 ppg) and total yardage (276.6). However, an offense that includes the league’s second-leading rusher in Ryan Durdon (525 yards, 5 TDs) has converted 8 of 18 fourth-down chances.
Kemp (525 yards passing, 5 TDs) directs an offense that at times, offers a bit of the unknown. Wagner has seen film of the Bulldogs taking an occasional wildcat formation. He’s also aware of the squad’s trickery.
Injured and not able to play in last Saturday’s 14-9 GPAC win over Dakota Wesleyan, Kemp saw quarterback Andrew Perea complete a flea-flicker when he threw an 82-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Schardt in the first quarter.
“Concordia is very sound,” said Wagner. “They’re not overly complicated. They run trick plays, which to me, is amazing they haven’t turned the ball over. I think this is going to be a game that will be decided by turnovers. Special teams will play a big role. We want to make long drives and score. We need to be efficient on third and fourth down, which is the strength of their defense.”
At plus-8, Concordia ranks among the nation’s top five in turnover margin. This impressive ratio includes six interceptions and four fumble recoveries for a defense that ranks fourth in scoring (23.0) and sixth in total yardage (380.8).
The game could also be decided by the success of running backs Durdon and the Chargers’ Noah Ylagan (506 yards, 1 TD).
Durdon, who averages 105 yards rushing, is coming off an 85-yard effort against Dakota Wesleyan which included a 31-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. He rushed for 192 yards and a touchdown last season as Concordia crushed Briar Cliff, 35-7 at Seward, Nebraska. Ylagan gained 138 yards in the same game.
The two have something in common. Ylagan, the program’s career rushing leader (2,734 yards) had six efforts of 100 yards or better a year ago and finished with a school-record 1,334 yards. Durdon had five triple-digit games en route to 1,247 yards.
However, Briar Cliff has better running back depth. Kwame Johnson (189 yards, 2 TDs) carried for 111 yards against Jamestown.
Plus, the Chargers have a budding freshman who has gained 82 yards in three games, Adonte Maxie, who has impressed Wagner.
“Maxie gives us something different,” said Wagner. “At 5-foot-6, he gets lost between the tackles. He is so compact, but he is strong and athletic. He’ll hit the hole, bounce and make things happen. The other two are downhill, physical types of runners who make you miss. Noah and Kwame complement each other, but Maxie is a different guy.”