MOORHEAD, Minn. (9/16/17)--- No.23-ranked Concordia ran off 31 unanswered points after giving up a first-quarter touchdown to Bethel and went on to beat the Royals 31-7 in the MIAC opener for both teams.
The Cobbers trailed 7-0 before taking a 10-7 lead at the break and then ran away from Bethel in the second half by scoring a single touchdown in the third quarter and two more in the fourth. All four Concordia scores on the day came via the traditionally strong rushing attack.
Concordia is now 3-0 on the year and has put up at least 25 points in all three games. Bethel falls to 0-3 and has allowed at least 30 points in all three games.
Senior running back Chad Johnson once again proved to be the difference in the game as he rushed for 191 yards on 25 carries and scored three of the team's four rushing touchdowns.
"Chad is a very special player," said head coach Terry Horan. "His combination of speed, quickness and physicality makes him very difficult to contain."
The first quarter belonged to the defense as the teams failed to score in the first five series of the game. Bethel scored its only points on the day when quarterback Jake Marsh hit wide receiver Joel Koenecke on a slant and Koenecke split the Cobber defense with his speed and went 69 yards for the score.
Concordia had to settle for a field goal after having a first-and-goal situation toward the end of the second quarter. CC started the drive at their own 24 and went 73 yards in 16 plays before getting on the board with a 21-yard field goal from Tony Kostelecky.
The Cobber Black Shirt defense forced a 3-and- out and then the offense went 48 yards in five plays capped by a 11-yard run from Johnson that put CC up 10-7 – a lead they would never relinquish.
Concordia survived a huge scare in the final minute of play. The Royal offense marched the ball down the field and had a first-and-goal of their own at the Cobber 7-yard line. The Concordia defense was able to break up a pair of passing attempts in the end zone and then on fourth down, junior Gunnar Kollman burst through the middle of the line and blocked a potential game-tying field goal attempt.
The Cobbers opened the game up in their final two possessions of the third quarter. After the teams traded punts for the first three possessions of the second half, Concordia got the ball at their own 38-yard line and methodically went 62 yards in nine plays with Johnson plowing over from 3 yards out to give CC a 17-7 lead with 4:22 left in the period.
Concordia got the ball back with 35-seconds left in the third quarter. A 12-play, 80-yard drive would put the game out of reach. Senior fullback Dane Ringquist got his first TD of the year when he plunged over from 2-yards out.
The final score of the game came with only 28-seconds left in the game. The Cobber defense turned the ball over on downs and then Johnson burst through the line for a 50-yard gain that brought the ball down to the Bethel 7-yard line. He would then carry the ball three straight times before getting pushed into the end zone from 1-yard out to push the final total to 31-7.
Cobber quarterback Michael Herzog was 13-for-21 for 130 yards.
Concordia had four players with at least 5 tackles in the game and was led by junior linebacker Andrew Thompson who had 10 totals tackles and 1.5 sacks.
CONCORDIA vs. BETHEL HIGHLIGHTS
BIRTHDAY BOY: Chad Johnson made the most of his 22nd birthday. He rushed for over 100 yards for the fifth straight game and put up his third straight multiple TD game. Johnson now leads the MIAC in rushing with 471 yards in three games. He is also the league leader in touchdowns with seven.
BIRTHDAY BOY ON THE BRINK: Johnson now has 32 career touchdowns which is two shy of the Cobber all-time record of 34 set by Brett Baune from 2009-12. Johnson is also one shy of current head coach Terry Horan who had 33 scores in his All-American career.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED: The Cobber Black Shirt defense bent but didn't break in the final minute of the second quarter. Leading 10-7, CC allowed the Royals to drive 58 yards and get the ball down to the 7-yard line. Bethel then clocked the ball on first down to stop the clock. Treyton Austvold and Ethan Eagerton made big plays to break up would-be touchdown passing attempts. Kollman then blocked the field goal on fourth down and Concordia escaped the scare and took a 10-7 lead into the break.
JUST SIT THERE: The Cobber offense held the ball for an impressive 39:11. That is a season best time of possession and the most since the 2014 season when they held the ball for 40:10 against St. John's.
QUOTABLE: "Last week's win (a 25-17 victory over then No.15-ranked Wis.-Whitewater) was big but we are concerned with conference play and to open the league with a win over a solid Bethel team is even more special." – Head Coach Terry Horan
QUOTABLE 2: "We just wanted to wear down their defense. We knew if we could keep running the ball and putting together long drives it would pay off in the fourth quarter." – Co-Offensive Coordinator Aaron Willits.
TASTY TRIFECTA: Concordia's three straight wins to start the season marks the first time since 2014 they have started the year off with a trifecta of victories. The Cobbers have now gone 3-0 in four of the past five seasons.
TURNOVER TIME: Noah Taylor's interception in the fourth quarter extended the Cobbers' streak of games coming away with at least one turnover, The Cobbers have forced at least one turnover in all three games this year. CC leads the MIAC with 10 takeaways this season.
BIG PLAY MONTONYE: Senior running back Jason Montonye had two of the team's three longest plays from scrimmage on the day. He caught a 31-yard pass in the second quarter which set up the Cobbers' first TD and then put up a 20-yard run at the end of the third quarter.
NEXT UP: Concordia will have their "bye" week next week and then return to action when they host Gustavus in the annual Homecoming game on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1 p.m. The Gusties are 2-1 on the year and beat Augsburg 42-37 in their MIAC opener on Saturday.