Game 4 Preview: Concordia at St. John's

Game 4 Preview: Concordia at St. John's

Last Week:
Concordia used a pair of big swing plays to outlast St. Olaf 33-29 in the conference opener for both teams. The two biggest plays of the game for Concordia came directly after St. Olaf had seemed to take control of the game. The first play was a zig-zagging 85-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Bryce Hentges at the start of the second quarter immediately following an Ole TD that brought the score to 13-7. Hentges' momentum changer helped Concordia take a 26-14 lead into halftime.

The second, and probably biggest, game-changing play came at the 10:06 mark of the fourth quarter. Trailing 26-21, St. Olaf was driving for the go-ahead score. The Oles marched 80 yards and had the ball first-and-goal on the Cobber 7-yard line. A pair of running plays moved the ball down to the 2-yard line and that is when a host of CC defenders swarmed the St. Olaf ball carrier on third down and stripped the ball loose. The football caromed into the end zone where senior defensive back Pedro Peterson fell on it for a touchback. 

The two significant statistical areas where the Cobbers had an edge came from special teams and turnovers. The CC special teams accounted for a touchdown and gave Concordia an average starting position on their own 46 and 43-yard lines in the first and third quarters. Hentges finished the game with four kickoff returns for 166 yards and a 41.5-yard average.  CC punter Brett Harmelink also played a key role in the game as he punted five times with a 42.6-yard average. He had a game-high 56-yard punt and had a pair of punts downed inside the 20-yard line.

St. John's pulled off one of its biggest wins in the past couple of season as they upset No.2-ranked 20-18. The Johnnies survived a last-second game-winning field goal attempt by the Tommies to hand UST its first loss in 27 conference games.

The Johnnies made their hay in the second quarter when they outscored the Tomcats 14-3. The other big difference in the game was the five turnovers the St. John's defense forced. SJU forced three fumbles and picked off a pair of passes. Both Johnnie TD's in the second quarter came from fumbles and 17 of their 20 points came off of St. Thomas miscues.

St. John's had a pair of big individual performances from sophomore skill players. Wide receiver Josh Bungum caught 12 passes for 104 yards and running back Sam Sura ran the ball 25 times for 88 yards and one TD.  

GameDay Multimedia Preview Links:
- Fargo Forum feature on Cobbers playing Gagliardi-less Johnnies
- WDAY-TV feaure preview on Cobber WR Brandon Zylstra
- St. Cloud Times feature on SJU DE Matt Workman
- St. Cloud Times GameDay preview
- St. John's GameDay preview

GameDay Preview Statistics Links:
- Concordia Season Statistics
- St. John's Season Statistics
- MIAC Statistics
- Concordia NCAA Ranking Summary
- St. John's NCAA Ranking Summary

Pick 6 - 6 Items To Help You Take It To The House:
Concordia is off to its second consecutive 3-0 start. The Cobbers have outscored their opponents 93-56 which includes 72-24 in the first half of play. CC is averaging 31.0 points per game and is one of four MIAC teams that are putting up an average of at least 30 points per game.

2. Saturday's game will feature two of the best wide receivers in the conference. One of the biggest impact players for Concordia this season has been junior transfer Brandon Zylstra. Zylstra has scored at least one touchdown in all three games this season and currently leads the MIAC in yards per catch (23.2) and is third in receiving yards per game (92.7). St. John's has its own impact wide out in Josh Bungum he has posted back-to-back 100-yard receiving games and currently leads the MIAC in receptions (27) and receiving yards per game (108.3).

3. Speaking of Zylstra he came away with the first-ever MIAC Play of the Week. The conference rolled out a new feature on its website and Zylstra squared off against three other highlight-reel plays from last Saturday. His 28-yard pitch reverse for a TD in the fourth quarter sealed the win for CC. What made the play so special is that he "posterized" a St. Olaf defender by jumping over the Ole on the goal line and landing in the end zone. Zylstra's play earned 46% of the vote and beat the runner-up play – SJU's Sam Sura's TD run by 73 votes.  

4. Saturday's game also features two of the three MIAC Players of the Week. Concordia's Bryce Hentges was named the MIAC Special teams Player of the Week while St. John's safety Nolan Lortz was named the MIAC defensive Player of the Week. Hentges had four kickoff returns for 166 yards including a huge 85-yard return for a TD in the second quarter. He currently leads the MIAC in kick return yardage. Lortz had 10 tackles and an interception in the Johnnies' win at St. Thomas.

5. For the second straight week the key match-up for the Cobbers will come from their all-senior defensive secondary. Concordia's quartet of Pedro Peterson, Hentges, Nathan Boie and Kenyon O'Brien will have its hands full against a Johnnie passing game that features the top receiver in the league in Josh Bungum. The CC defense ranks last in the conference in passing defense as they are allowing 247.7 passing yards per game.     

6. The Cobber GameDay staff is predicting that the game in Collegeville which will be Homecoming for the Johnnies will be won or lost in the turnover department. We know it's tremendously trite to go with this "key" in this game but whenever CC and SJU get together it's usually a very close game and one turnover deep in your own end could be the difference. The Johnnies have forced five turnover in each of their past two games while the Cobbers have caused seven miscuues in their first three games of the year.
7. Just because the Cobber GameDay staff is a tad superstitious we will finish off this week's "Pick 6-plus the point after" like the three previous weeks with the Wagner Watch. Cobber senior kicker Ben Wagner continues his streak of perfection on extra points. Wagner was a perfect 44-for-44 on extra points last season and is 10-for-10 this season. That brings his two-season streak to 54 straight PAT's. Against St. Olaf last week he also connected on a pair of field goals. He is currently second on the team in scoring with 19 points and leads the MIAC in PAT percentage and is second in field goals made (3).          

Last Year:
Last year Concordia ended a 25-year home losing streak against St. John's by downing the Johnnies 31-21. Like No.6 in above Pick 6 feature, the game turned on four Johnnie turnovers. One of the key plays in the game came at the end of the first half when Kenyon O'Brien stripped the ball from a St. John's wide receiver and linebacker Peter Hvidston scooped up the ball and ran it back to the St. John's 15-yard line. Concordia scored on the very next play and suddenly a 17-7 nail biter turned into a comfortable 24-7 halftime lead.

Concordia limited the St. John's offense to just 152 total yards through three quarters of play. In the end, the CC defense allowed only 26 rushing yards. St. John's was able to gain 215 yards in the fourth quarter after the outcome had already been determined. The Cobber offense put up 347 total yards on the day. CC had 251 rushing yards and threw for 96 more. Concordia fullback Brett Baune ran the ball 32 times for 126 yards and Matt Peterson added six more rushes for 99 yards.   

Cobbers vs. Johnnies Series History:

Series started: 1923
Johnnies lead overall series: 42-31-6
Johnnies lead in Collegeville: 22-12-4
Series Synopsis: The Johnnies have won the last three of the last four games in the series and six of the last eight. St. John's has also claimed 16 of the last 20 contests. Concordia's lone wins during that stretch (the other was a tie) came last year and then in 2008 and 2004 at SJU...CC head coach Terry Horan is 3-9 against the Johnnies.

Cobber vs. Johnnie Complete Series History (pdf)

Last 10 Meetings
Year Score
2003 Concordia 12 at St. John's 24
2004 Concordia 21 at St. John's 20 
2005 St. John's 20 at Concordia 16
2006 St. John's 14 at Concordia 12
2007 Concordia 21 at St. John's 52
2008 Concordia 9 at St. John's 6
2009 St. John's 31 at Concordia 19
2010 Concordia 28 at St. John's 40
2011 St. John's 28 at Concordia 21 OT
2012 St. John's 21 at Concordia 31