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MIAC Football: A Perfect Start

floated rightby Rich Mies, CSN Mapping the MIAC Columnist

While the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference football season does not get underway until September 19, the league made its presence known by sweeping six non-conference battles under ideal weather conditions. Highlighting the list of wins was Concordia’s 24-17 upset of eighth-ranked Willamette. Elsewhere, Bethel flattened Concordia of Wisconsin 52-10, St. Olaf dispensed with Luther 33-13, St. Thomas hammered Macalester 54-14, Saint John’s rallied to nip UW-River Falls 28-24 and Augsburg battered Crown College 44-13.

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CONCORDIA 24, WILLAMETTE 17
The Cobbers dominated play for most of the first three quarters and then held off a fourth quarter rally to upset the eight-ranked Bearcats 24-17 in front of a sun-drenched crowd of 4,240 at Jake Christiansen Stadium in Moorhead.

There were questions about the Cobber offense entering the game, as they had lost the program’s all-time leading rusher and a three-year starting quarterback to graduation. However, Concordia’s triple-threat option offense operated smoothly under the leadership of Andrew Larson. A two-year starter at defensive back, Larson returned to his primary position and paced the Cobber offense with 167 yards in total offense.

Things did not start well for Concordia. On the game’s second play from scrimmage, the Cobbers fumbled the ball. It was recovered by Willamette’s Cory Lowe, who scampered 38 yards to the end zone.

Later in the opening stanza, the Cobbers capitalized on a roughing the kicker penalty that allowed them to retain possession and sustain a 17-play drive that burned 7:41 off the clock. Of those 17 plays, 14 were on the ground including a one-yard plunge by Justin Branter into pay dirt, tying the game, 7-7.

Concordia strung together a nine-play drive early in the second quarter. Larson capped the drive with a two-yard scoring run, putting the Cobbers in the lead, 14-7. On their next possession, the Cobbers put together another lengthily drive. This one stalled at the Bearcats’ four-yard line, but Carl Hauser drilled a 21-yard field goal, upping the lead to 17-7.

After the defense held, the Cobbers sealed the game as Zach Debeltz fielded the Willamette punt at Concordia’s 26. He raced downfield 74 yards for a touchdown with just 0:18 left in the half.

After a scoreless third quarter, Willamette mustered a 21-yard field goal and a four-yard touchdown run to close the gap to 24-17, but could not draw closer, to the delight of the festive Cobber crowd.

Concordia (1-0) travels to Valley City State on Saturday before returning home to kickoff the MIAC schedule, hosting Saint John’s.

BETHEL 52, CONCORDIA (WI) 10
The Royals unleashed their vaunted ground attack early and often, jumping to a 28-0 first quarter lead en route to a 52-10 thrashing of the Falcons in Mequon, WI. The Royals scored on five consecutive possessions to break the game open.

Logan Flannery put on a display that showed why he ranks among the top running backs in Division III. He scored four touchdowns in the first 18 minutes of the game, rushing for 52 yards while playing less than half of the contest. Quarterback Josh Aakre added 54 rushing yards, a pair of TDs and 230 yards through the air while playing three quarters. Joel Quick led the Bethel receivers with six catches for 136 yards.

Flannery punched the ball into the end zone less than three minutes into the game. On BU’s next possession, Aakre scampered in from eight yards out. Flannery followed with TDs of 15 and three yards before the end of the first quarter. He opened the second quarter with another three-yard scoring run. Aakre scored from one-yard out late in the first half, sending the Royals into the intermission with a 42-0 lead.

Dusty Wahl broke loose for a 42-yard scoring run midway through the third stanza, before Concordia got on the scoreboard with a field goal.

Matt Wetherell added a 42-yard field goal to close out the scoring for Bethel.

The Royals (1-0) now set their sights on sixth-ranked Wheaton, which invades Royal Stadium on Saturday. Following that, Bethel enters MIAC play on Sept. 19 at Carleton.

ST. OLAF 33, LUTHER 13
The Oles reeled off 26 consecutive points and dominated play throughout the game, as they breezed past the Norse 33-13 before a crowd of 3,629 at Manitou Field in Northfield.

Carson Jones, who had played defensive back the past two seasons, led all receivers with six catches for 148 yards. He hauled in three touchdown passes, including one for 83 yards. Jon Haberman completed 10-of-15 passes for 178 yards, while Leon Clark paced the ground game with 197 yards, including an 81-yard TD.

St. Olaf scored quickly. On the third offensive play of the season, Haberman dropped back, spotted Jones open and rifled the ball to him. Jones hauled in the pass and scurried 83 yards for the score.

Luther countered with a seven-yard touchdown pass from Chris Reynolds to Kris McAllister, but the Oles put together a nine-play drive that wound into the second quarter. The Haberman-to-Jones duo capped the drive with a 32-yard scoring play.

Later in the quarter, Clark broke free for an 81- yard run to the end zone. However, the PAT kick was blocked, keeping the Oles’ lead at 20-7. The Oles added another second quarter TD as Haberman connected with Clark from 21 yards out. The kick failed, but the Oles took a 26-7 lead into the intermission.

After Haberman left the game with an apparent injury, reserve quarterback Clay Garrett closed out the scoring by finding Jones open for a 14-yard scoring play.

St. Olaf (1-0) travels to Tacoma, WA to tangle with Pacific Lutheran on Saturday. They open MIAC play at St. Thomas on Sept. 19.

SAINT JOHN’S 28, UW-RIVER FALLS 24
The Johnnies, ranked 13th in the nation, rallied from a 17-0 deficit to take home a 28-24 win over the Falcons at Ramer Field in River Falls.

UW-RF jumped out to a 17-0 lead. Ryan Luessenheide teamed up with Wade Schlichting for a four-yard touchdown; four minute later, he hooked up with Connor Graves for a two-yard scoring play. Chad Blair added a 37-yard field goal with less than eight minutes remaining in the second quarter, and things looked grim for the Red Machine.

SJU got on the board as Joe Boyle connected with Ben Vanderheyden for a 24-yard touchdown. The defense held, forcing the Falcons to attempt a 34-yard field goal, which failed. Another Boyle-to-Vanderheyden connection, this one covering 46 yards, capped a four-play, 80-yard drive. The PAT allowed the Johnnies to head into the locker room trailing 17-14.

After the two teams battled through a scoreless third quarter, the Falcons pushed their lead to ten, 24-14, as Ahmad Palmer rushed in from five yards out.

The Johnnies responded with a nine-play, 73-yard scoring drive that ended with a six-yard scamper by Kellen Blaser. Russell Gliadon drilled the third of his four PATs to cut the deficit to 24-21 with 8:38 remaining in the game.

On the first snap of UWRF’s ensuing drive, SJU’s preseason All-American defensive lineman Nick Gunderson notched his second forced fumble of the game. SJU recovered at the Falcon’s 30-yard line. Successive penalties pushed SJU back to a first-and-25. Boyle got the offense on track and five plays later, he rifled the ball to Josh Overman from three yards out, lifting SJU to its first lead of the day.

The Johnnie defense clamped down the rest of the game, sealing the win.

Boyle completed 17-of- 27 passes for 278 yards and three touchdowns. Vanderheyden had four catches for 98 yards and two TDs. Jakob Reding led the SJU running game with 74 yards. He also had a pair of catches for 49 yards.

Saint John’s (1-0) hosts UW-Eau Clare on Saturday in a final tune-up before their Sept. 198 MIAC opener, at Concordia.

ST. THOMAS 54, MACALESTER 14
The Tommies racked up 489 yards in total offense and scored touchdowns on four plays of over 50 yards to cruise past the Scots in the Battle for Summit Avenue. It was UST’s 72nd win in 94 meetings between the two schools.

Ben Wartman and Colin Tobin rushed for 119 and 1147 yards, respectively as UST rolled up 327 yards on the ground. Greg Morse completed eight-of-19 passes for 115 yards.

But the key to the game for UST was a pair of second quarter punt returns by Fritz Waldvogel. He took the first one back 74 yards for UST’s second touchdown of the day. Four plays later, he raced 68 yards for another TD, lifting UST to a 20-0 lead.

On Macalester’s next possession, UST’s Alex Haas stepped in front of the intended receiver and picked off the pass. He sprinted downfield 51 yards for a touchdown. UST added another second quarter score as Morse connected with Jake Friederichs from eight yards out.

Wartman scored twice from five yards out early in the game and again from two yards out midway through the third quarter.

Mac got on the board in the third quarter on a 20-yard return of a blocked punt by Jake McDonnell. They added a TD on a one yard run by T. Joe Loiselle.

Tobin broke free for a 61-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter. UST closed out the scoring with a six-yard pass from Dakota Tracy to Jon Nelson.

The Tommies (1-0) are idle until their MIAC opener on Sept. 19, when they host St. Olaf.

AUGSBURG 44, CROWN COLLEGE 13
The Auggies scored the game’s first 31 points and amassed 537 yards in total offense as they cruised past the Storm 44-13 in front of 1,075 at Edor Nelson Field in Minneapolis.

Marcus Brumm, a transfer from Division II Minnesota State-Mankato, answered any questions about the Auggie quarterback slot with a 19-for-31 night, totaling 335 yards and throwing for three TDs. Muneer Al-Hameed stepped into the role of top receiver, hauling in five passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Josh Pronschinske added five catches for 79 yards and Mike Nourie hauled in four balls for 88 yards as ”Air Auggie” picked up where it left off last season.

Despite its high-powered offense, Augsburg’s first touchdown of 2009 came from the defense. On Crown’s first possession, Adam Mead forced a fumble near midfield. He scooped the ball up and scurried 59 yards for the game’s first score.

Augsburg’s offense stalled on its next possession, but Jack Christopherson split the uprights from 22 yards out, putting the Auggies out front, 10-0.

They extended that lead to 17-0 before the end of the first quarter as Brumm hooked up with Nourie from six yards out. Waylon Hartwick broke loose from 234 yards out for a TD on the Auggies’ next possession and Brumm found Cameron Krugerud open for a 13-yard scoring strike, running the lead to 31-0.

Crown quarterback Steve Boger, who threw for 201 yards on 18-of-31 passes with two touchdowns, connected on a nine-yard pass to Drew Milner for the Storm’s first points. He threw a 30-yard TD pass to Robert Yang later in the second quarter, cutting the Auggie lead to 31-13 at the intermission.

Brumm hooked up with Al-Hameed for a 51-yard bomb early in the second half, throttling any momentum Crown may have built.

James Strand added a 25-yard TD run in the fourth quarter to close out the scoring.

Augsburg (1-0) travels to Wartburg on Saturday in a final preparation for the MIAC opener at St. Olaf on Sept. 26.

Upcoming Games
September 12, 2009 (all non-conference)
Coe @ Gustavus (1PM)
Concordia @ Valley City State (1 PM)
Cornell @ Carleton (1 PM)
Martin Luther @ Hamline (1 PM)
UW- Eau Clare @ Saint John’s (1 PM)
Wheaton @ Bethel (1 PM)
St, Olaf @ Pacific Lutheran (2:30 PM)
Augsburg @ Wartburg (7 PM)