MOORHEAD, Minn. (9/09/17)---The first drive set the tone and the last drive slammed the door.
Concordia used an 8-minute opening drive to take a 7-0 lead over No.15-Wis.-Whitewater – a lead they would only relinquish for 19-seconds – and then junior preseason All-American linebacker Alex Berg sealed the win by making an open field tackle on a 4th-and-1 situation from the Cobber 1-yard line.
Concordia's goal line stand in the final minute was the "glorious" end to a 25-18 win for the Cobbers against the six-time national champion.
Concordia is now 2-0 on the year while the Warhawks fall to 0-2 for the first time since the 1999 season.
"This is as big as it comes," said Cobber head coach Terry Horan. "The belief our players had and the way they executed the game plan was inspiring. It took a total team effort to beat a great program."
While the defense came away with three key turnovers and a dramatic goal line stand, it was the offense which gave the Cobbers momentum on the very first drive.
Concordia won the toss, elected to receive and proceeded to take the fight right to the Warhawks. The Cobbers started at their own 25-yard line and methodically went down the field for the first score of the game. CC chewed up 8:08 on the clock on a 15-play drive. Of those 15 plays, 11 were of the running variety and senior Jason Montonye finished off the drive with a 4-yard scamper around the left end.
The Cobbers then forced one of their three turnovers on the very next possession. Whitewater fumbled the ball and junior linebacker Andrew Thompson fell on the loose ball to give Concordia a 1st-and-10 at the UWW 26-yard line.
Concordia wouldn't be able to push it over the goal line but a 25-yard field goal from Tony Kostelecky gave the Cobbers a 10-0 lead with 3-minutes left in the opening quarter.
Whitewater would get on the board early in the second quarter with a 23-yard field goal but that would end the scoring in the first half.
The third quarter started with a bang and led to one of the defining moments of the game. Whitewater took the kick and sprinted to the end zone with a 4-play, 62-yard drive that tied the game at 10-10.
The very next play from scrimmage for the Cobbers showed their character and resilience. Senior running back Chad Johnson took an inside handoff, broke free into the second level and sprinted untouched for 71 yards to the end zone. The long TD run gave the momentum back to the Concordia sideline, brought the crowd of just under 5,000 to its feet and gave CC the lead for good.
The extra point went from potential disaster to a great play thanks to the quick thinking of sophomore Blake Kragnes. Kragnes, the holder on special teams, took a tough snap, decided to make a run for it, rolled to the right and then lofted a perfect pass to junior to Evan Defer who had broken free of his block after seeing Kragnes run the ball.
The teams traded touchdowns in the final five minutes of the third quarter and first 5:02 of the fourth quarter.
Johnson plowed his way into the end zone for the second time on the day when he capped a 2-play, 8-yard drive after Dallas Raftevold forced a fumble inside the Warhawk 10-yard line.
That set the stage for the final-minute defensive heroics. The Cobbers led 25-17 and were forced to punt the ball with 3:06 left on the clock.
Whitewater was able to drive the ball down the field and moved inside the Concordia 10-yard line with under 1-minute play. That's when the Cobber defense stiffened. The first-down play was a rush and brought the ball to the 3-yard line. A second-down carry brought the ball to the 1-yard line before Concordia jammed the line of scrimmage and held UWW out of the end zone.
After a Whitewater timeout, the Warhawks tried to beat the CC defense around the right end. However, Berg was in the right spot at the right time as he shot the gap between the guard and tackle and was able to make a diving stop that tripped up the Whitewater running back.
Concordia finished the game with 336 total offensive yards as compared to 363 for Whitewater. The teams were geared to different parts of the offensive scheme. The Cobbers rushed for 240 yards while the Warhawks threw for 241 yards.
CONCORDIA vs. WIS.-WHITEWATER HIGHLIGHTS
QUOTABLE: "We had David vs. Goliath today and David said, 'let's go'. We got the slingshot out and did it." – Cobber head coach Terry Horan.
QUOTABLE 2: "Today was glorious." – CC assistant coach Brian Mistro.
QUOTABLE 3: "I couldn't be more proud of our players. We took it one play at a time, tried to win the line of scrimmage and competed for a full four quarters." – Concordia co-offensive coordinator Aaron Willits.
TWEETABLE: Minneapolis Star & Tribune esteemed writer Patrick Reusse
HISTORY: Concordia is only the third school from the MIAC to beat Wis.-Whitewater in the history of the UWW program. CC is the first to do it since the 2002 season.
DALLAS STAR: Concordia senior defensive back Dallas Raftevold had a career game against Whitewater. He led the team with 15 tackles, forced a fumble and made an interception. His INT in the second quarter in the end zone stopped a potential touchdown for the Warhawks. Raftevold leads the Cobbers in tackles this season with 23.
THE BUS DRIVER: Chad Johnson continues to drive his way to 100-yard games. After opening the year with 134 rushing yards at Nebraska Wesleyan, Johnson pounded out 146 yards against Whitewater. Johnson has now rushed for over 100 yards in four straight games and now has an MIAC leading 280 yards this year. He also posted his second straight 2-TD game and is tied for the league lead in touchdowns.
A MEMORABLE FIRST: Cobber sophomore Blake Kragnes made the most of his first collegiate completion. Kragnes played in two games last year and made only one passing attempt. In his first attempt of the season in 2017 he connected on the crucial 2-point conversion in the third quarter.
NOT THIS TIME: Alex Berg had an interception slip through his fingers last season with the Cobbers leading nationally-ranked St. Thomas late in the game. On Saturday, against another purple clad team, Berg made sure nothing would elude his grasp in the final minute. Berg made the game-deciding tackle on 4th-and-goal but he also made the stop on the second and third down plays.
NOT AGAIN: Whitewater has now been held out of the end zone from the 1-yard line in the final minute of play in both their games this year. The Warhawks had a chance to tie Illinois Wesleyan in the final minute of the fourth quarter of the opener. They had the ball at the IWU 1-yard line but fumbled the snap and lost 17-10.
WHAT'S NEXT: Concordia will look to continue its winning ways when they host Bethel in the MIAC opener on Saturday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. The Royals are 0-2 on the season after losing to Dubuque in double overtime in the opener and to Carthage in week No.2.