ST. PAUL, Minn. (10/24/15)--- Matt Ahrndt finished off the win after Brandon Zylstra started the victory as the two made sure Concordia didn't stumble on the road at Hamline.
Ahrndt came up with a team-high nine tackles and forced - and then recovered a fumble - late in the fourth quarter as the Pipers were trying to drive for a score while Zylstra scored three of the Cobbers' four touchdowns in a 30-20 win over fired up Pipers.
Zylstra accounted for 178 total offensive yards as Concordia remained in the hunt for the MIAC championship.
The narrow win ups Concordia's win streak to five games. The Cobbers are now 7-1 overall and, more importantly, 5-1 in league play. CC is in sole possession of second place, just one game behind league-leading St. Thomas, with two games remaining in the 2015 regular season.
Zylstra started the game for the Cobber offense by rambling 44 yards for a TD score on the very first offensive play of the game. The score followed the opening kickoff of the game where Hamline went for an onside kick but lost possession of the ball for an illegal touch penalty. The Pipers recovered the kick but had to give it up on their 44-yard line because of the penalty.
The game looked like it would be a breeze for Concordia but then the Piper offense took the field and set the tone for most of the contest as back-up running back Brendan Nachtrieb became the fourth back to rush for over 100 yards against the Cobber defense this season. Nachtrieb finished with 118 yards on 23 carries.
Hamline scored on their second possession of the game to tie the score at 7-7 after they got the ball back on an interception on the Cobbers' second possession.
Concordia then had to punt after a six-play drive and the Pipers would take the ball from their own 9-yard line and march 91 yards in nine plays to take a 14-7 lead.
Concordia responded with its own nine-play scoring drive. Sophomore quarterback Michael Herzog found Zylstra in the corner of the end zone and CC was within a point at 14-13 after the extra point was blocked.
The Cobbers held Hamline without a score for the remainder of the half and when Herzog plowed over the goal line from 1 yard out with 36-seconds left in the second quarter, Concordia held a 20-14 lead.
After putting up a combined 34 points in the first half, the defensive units would make adjustments and slow down the track meet to only 16 points in the final 30 minutes of play.
The teams traded touchdowns in the first two possessions of the third quarter. Hamline went on a 15-play 77-yard scoring drive and then Concordia countered with a seven-play 87-yard drive that was capped by Zylstra's third TD of the day. He caught an 18-yard TD pass from Herzog but most of those yards were after the catch when he refused to be stopped short of the goal line.
Zylstra's touchdown proved to be the game-winning score on the day. The Cobber defense stiffened in the fourth quarter as they forced the Pipers to turn the ball over on downs and then recovered a fumble in the final two minutes of play.
The final Concordia points in the game came on a Dominic Neameyer 28-yard field goal into the wind after CC ground out over 8-minutes on the clock to go 61 yards on 16 plays.
TOUCHDOWN MAKER: Zylstra entered the game with only three TD's in his first seven games of the year. He matched that total with the three scores at Hamline. He is now tied for second on the team in touchdowns this year and has 20 career TD's in three years for CC.
FIRST PICKINGS: Herzog threw his first collegiate interception in the first quarter. Herzog had thrown 84 passes before being picked off on his very first pass of the game.
AHRNDT HE GOOD: Ahrndt, a junior defensive back from Benson, led the Cobber defense in tackles for the second time in 2015. Ahrndt came up with a career-high nine tackles. He also forced the fumble late in the fourth quarter and then recovered the ball as well. Ahrndt had seven solo tackles on the day marking the second straight game he has had seven solo take downs.
MOVING COMPANY: The Cobber offense amassed 411 total yards in the game. That is the third straight game that CC has gone over 400 total yards. Concordia is averaging 427.6 yards per game in their eight contests which is the fourth best in the MIAC.
FEEL FREE TO LEAVE AFTER THE FIRST DRIVE: Concordia scored on their opening drive of the game against the Pipers. The Cobbers are now 6-0 when they score on their opening drive of the game in 2015.
FIRST QUARTER FAST STARTERS: Concordia has now outscored its opponents 82-28 in the first quarter of games this year. CC trailed the Pipers 14-13 after the first quarter on Saturday marking only the second time this season that the Cobbers didn't lead after the first 15-minutes of play (also vs. St. John's).
FOURTH QUARTER FOUNDATION FINISHERS: The Cobber Black Shirt defense didn't allow a point to the Pipers in the fourth quarter. It was the second straight game that Concordia has blanked their opponent in the final period of play. CC has pitched a shutout in four of the seven fourth quarters this season.
WHAT'S NEXT: Concordia will now have the top of the MIAC showdown with No.7-ranked St. Thomas. The Cobbers will host the Tommies on Saturday, Oct. 31 at 1 p.m. in a game that will go a long way in determining the conference champion.