SIOUX CITY – In what has become a weekly tradition, top-ranked Morningside put up points, broke records and dominated an opponent last week.
Mustangs head coach Steve Ryan has a concise but effective explanation for success like his team enjoyed during last week’s 77-21 humbling of Midland.
“A lot of it was (quarterback) Trent (Solsma) was on and you hope for that each and every week, and he just threw some really good footballs,” Ryan said. “I was pleased with how guys executed.”
Solsma became Morningside’s career touchdown passing leader, firing seven TD passes. Receiver Connor Niles set a new school record in single-game receiving with 307 yards on just eight catches with four touchdowns.
It is a duo no one has been able to slow so far this season, but they are setting the bar to a level their teammates are equal to.
“I think it is their last year and they know this is it, this is their last go-around,” Ryan said. “Up until now they prepare very well and they have been able to stay focused and play very well inside football games and that is the result of it.
“One of the things you have with Trent and Connor is when you have two guys that are as talented as they are and they are put in the positions they are they come prepared to practice well. It leaves the rest of us, ‘well, if they can do it, I can do it.’ So I think from that standpoint the fact they give their best in practice, and I think even more so their film watching and preparation for that is going to come their way.
“When you have guys that do those things you sit back and it is hard for the rest of the players not to think if they can work like that I can work like that.”
Ryan said the other key aspect is that both players share and want their teammates to be successful and have the best careers they can have.
Saturday it will be Doane’s turn to try to slow down Morningside as the Mustangs celebrate homecoming.
Morningside has a 14-2 record against Doane, but the Tigers handed the Mustangs their last GPAC loss in the regular-season finale in 2014, 49-48.
“I never felt homecoming has quite the distractions in college that it does in high school,” Ryan said. “It is more with school and where this game lies with midterm exams and some of those things.”
Ryan believes his team will be locked in with a matchup against No. 3 Northwestern looming next Saturday.
“I think our guys understand how good a team Doane is and it is someone they have to take seriously and prepare for,” he said. “We try to always communicate to our guys ‘this is the only game we have control over.’”
Morningside ranks first in the nation in total offense, accumulating 3,602 yards in six contests for an average of 600.3 yards per game. The Mustangs are also first in the nation for passing offense, averaging 431.3 yards per game. Morningside ranks second behind Kansas Wesleyan in scoring offense (58.0), fifth in the nation for total defense (240.5) and sixth in scoring defense (12.0).
Solsma continues to lead the Mustangs offense, ranking first in the nation for passing offense (412.2 yards) and total offense (403), passing for 2,473 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Niles has tallied 16 touchdowns, has 63 receptions and 1,224 receiving yards for the season. He leads the nation in all-purpose yards (1,434), receiving yards per game (204) and total receiving yards.
Doane is coming off a 22-19 loss to Hastings last week as it was unable to hold on to a 12-0 lead in the third quarter. It was the Broncos' first GPAC win and came a week after No. 3 Northwestern had to hold on for a 28-25 win over the Tigers.
“They were up on Northwestern and Hastings and No. 1, it is one of the reasons we didn’t let up on Hastings because we felt Hastings played hard and had those capabilities of coming back,” Ryan said. “No. 2, Doane’s quarterback got banged up a little bit and didn’t play much in the second half. I don’t know where that sits going forward.”
Doane quarterback Jack Kalina has thrown for 1,087 yards, 12 touchdowns and four interceptions. Garrett Sonderup leads the rushing attack with 351 yards and two scores.
Joel Katzer leads Morningside with 46 tackles along with one sack. His brother Jacob Katzer and Klayton Nordeen each have 42 tackles while linebacker Chase Nelson leads the team with three sacks.