MOORHEAD, Minn. (9/01/18)---From the brand new $1 million scoreboard to the suffocating play of the defense to the 91-yard touchdown run to the two touchdown passes – everything was "artistically well done" in the Cobbers' 28-3 season-opening win over Neb. Wesleyan.
Playing in the shadow of a brand new state-of-the-art video scoreboard the Concordia Black Shirt defense held the Prairie Wolves to 195 total yards while the offense racked up 438 yards which included a 91-yard TD scamper from sophomore running back Rylie Sheridan and a pair of touchdown passes from junior quarterback Blake Kragnes.
It's the second straight season-opening win over Neb. Wesleyan for the Cobbers and CC has now won eight of its last nine season openers.
Concordia stumbled out of the gat as they received the opening kick and proceeded to fumble twice on the opening drive of the game.
The Cobbers then held the Prairie Wolves to a three-and-out in their first possession before Sheridan took the very first play on the second drive, broke free around the left end and outraced the secondary for a 91-yard touchdown run. The play is believed to be of the Top 3 longest runs in program history.
Neb. Wesleyan cut the lead to four points with a 42-yard field goal at the start of the second quarter but then CC was able to take a 14-3 lead into the break when Kragnes hit senior Kevin Marzolf in the corner of the end zone with a 7-yard TD strike with only 26-seconds left on the clock.
Concordia added a pair of tuddys in the third quarter to put the game out of reach as Kragnes connected with Ryan Cihak for a 9-yard score and then he powered his way over the goal line on a 2-yard TD.
The Cobber Black Shirts held the Prairie Wolves to just 18 rushing yards and 88 passing yards in the second half. Concordia only gave up 5 first downs in the final 30 minutes of play as they held NWU to just three points.
FIRST START, WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL?: Rylie Sheridan finished with 128 yards on six carries in his first-ever start for the Cobbers. Sheridan replaced MIAC MVP Chad Johnson in the backfield and picked up where Johnson left off. Last year Johnson rushed for 134 yards against Neb. Wesleyan.
BUT WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THE FINAL 9 GAMES?: Blake Kragnes pitched a pair of touchdown passes which was one shy of the total that Concordia for all of the 2017 season. While that might be a good omen, there is a similarity between the last two season openers. In 2017, Michael Herzog connected on two passing touchdowns in the opener against NWU but then the team had just one more the rest of the season. The Cobbers are hoping history doesn't repeat itself.
HE LOVES THE PRARIE WOLVES: Senior wide receiver Kevin Marzolf has two touchdown receptions in his career and both have come against the Prairie Wolves. Last year he hauled in a 40-yard pass and run score in Lincoln. Marzolf also tied his career high for receptions in a game. He grabbed four passes which was the same as his game in 2016 against Wis.-Eau Claire.
BLACK SHIRT BALLING: The Cobber defense held Neb. Wesleyan to only three points which is the fewest points scored by NWU in a game since the 2014 season – a span of 36 games.
TAKEAWAY TOTAL: Concordia forced four turnovers in the game. CC picked off a pair of passes and fell on two Prairie Wolves' fumbles. CC only turned the ball over once – on a fumble in the fourth quarter.
WILL AND JAKE: Defensive backs Will Berning and Jake Erholtz stepped in front of NWU passes and had the two INTs for CC. It was Berning's second career INT – and first since 2016 while Erholtz picked up from last year's team-leading INT total. Both players also made four tackles in the game.
CAN'T ELIMINATE THE MIDDLE MAN: Cobber senior middle linebacker Andrew Thompson led team in tackles in the opener. He finished with six total tackles (2 solo-4 assisted). Thompson, and fellow MLB Alex Berg, tied for the team in tackles in 2017.
UP NEXT: The Cobbers travel east to Whitewater, Wis. to take on Wis.-Whitewater who were ranked 12th in the D3football.com preseason national rankings and beat Dubuque 38-6 in their opener on Saturday.
CONCORDIA vs. NEB. WESLEYAN HIGHLIGHTS: