A Successful 100th Season Start

Junior defensive lineman Jess Bucholz (#97) gets big air in snagging his first-ever college interception during the first quarter.
Junior defensive lineman Jess Bucholz (#97) gets big air in snagging his first-ever college interception during the first quarter.

LINCOLN, Neb. (9/02/17)--- Concordia kicked off the 100th season of football by scoring the first 27 points at Nebraska Wesleyan and went on to beat the Prairie Wolves 34-14.

The Cobbers forced six turnovers in the game and used three of those to put up three touchdowns in a span of 8:08 at the end of the first quarter to seize control of the game and claim the season-opening win.

Concordia has now won seven of its last eight season-opening games and head coach Terry Horan is 12-5 in season openers in his tenure at CC.

"It was great to see the different areas of the team pick each other up during different sections of the game," commented Horan. "The defense was really tough in the first half – especially in short-field situations in the first quarter and then the offense started to roll towards the end of the first 15 minutes."   

The Cobber offense used a pair of long TD passing strikes and the legs of senior running back Chad Johnson to account for four of the team's five TDs. Senior quarterback Michael Herzog found Austin Maanum down the sideline for a 56-yard connection to open the scoring in the first period and then junior wide out Kevin Marzolf turned a six-yard pass reception into a 40-yard touchdown to cap the Concordia scoring at the start of the third quarter.

The two passes accounted for 96 of the team's 122 passing yards on the day.

Johnson was the leader of the Cobber ground game which was able to gain yards up the middle and around the edge. He finished with 134 yards on 14 carries and came away with two rushing TDs. Concordia finished the day with 238 rushing yards.

The Cobber Black Shirt defense was solid all game long. They came away with six turnovers and didn't allow the Prairie Wolves to convert a third-down attempt in the first half (0-for-6). The CC defense allowed only 12 yards on third-down plays in the first two quarters and gave up just 57 passing yards in the opening half of play.

Concordia had five different players come away with an interception including junior defensive lineman Jesse Bucholz.  Aaron Ahrndt, Ethan Eagerton, Alex Berg and Jake Erholtz also came away with "picks" as they were the beneficiary of a defensive line that hurried the Nebraska Wesleyan quarterback the entire game.

Junior linebacker Andrew Thompson led Concordia with nine tackles (4 solo, 5 assisted) while senior captain Dallas Raftevold added eight tackles (6,2) and a fumble recovery. Eagerton had an overall good game from his cornerback spot. He had seven tackles (3,4), one interception, recovered a fumble and also had a pass break-up.

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED: Concordia had one of its two turnovers in the game on its very first possession and gave NWU the ball at the Cobber 29-yard line. The Black Shirts then returned the favor three plays later when Bucholz "skied" for his first career INT at the 19-yard line. The defense then held the Prairie Wolves to a four-play drive and then turned the ball over on the second play of the next drive. The Cobber offense would take over from there as they scored on three of their next four drives and went up 19-0.

THREEPEAT: Cobber senior running back Chad Johnson has now rushed for over 100 yards in three straight games. He finished off last year with 116 yards at St. Olaf and then had 103 yards at home vs. St. John's. In his last three games Johnson has scored five TDs, rushed for 353 yards and is averaging 6.9 yards per carry. Johnson's 134-yard performance in the opener is the third highest of his career.    

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO – INTO THE ENDZONE: Johnson, aka The Bus Driver, now has 27 touchdowns in his career. That mark is seven shy of the school record of 34 set by Brett Baune from 2009-12.  

The Cobber special teams resembled the Clint Eastwood movie classic in the opener. The good came from freshman punter Chris Claussen who averaged 35.6 yards in the first five punts of his college career. He came up with a 56-yard special in the third quarter. The 56-yard punt is the longest by a CC kicker since last year when Eddie Clifton had a 61-yard punt against Hamline on Oct. 15. The bad came from the Cobber PAT crew. Concordia was just 1-for-3 in extra points and had a successful 2-point try on their final TD of the first half. The ugly was found in the punt return game where Concordia fumbled away a punt return and also caught the ball inside the 7-yard line on two occasions.

QUOTABLE: "I was really pleased with the way our offensive line responded after the first couple of series," said co-offensive coordinator Aaron Willits. "We were able to hold off their line and get our backs to the second level which made a huge difference in getting positive yardage."   

WHAT'S NEXT: Concordia will welcome six-time national champion Wis.-Whitewater to Moorhead for the home opener. The Cobbers will square off against the Warhawks for the first time in school history on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 1 p.m. Whitewater dropped their season opener on Saturday 17-10 at Illinois Wesleyan.