MITCHELL, S.D. – The top three running backs in the Great Plains Athletic Conference will be on the field together Saturday night when the Dakota Wesleyan University football team hosts Northwestern College in a top-25 matchup.
The Tigers boast the league’s top running back in senior Josh Endres and Northwestern has the second- and third-ranked rushers in the league in Brandon Smith and Theo Bartman. The trio will try to carry their respective offenses in a game where league standings and a potential NAIA playoff berth is at stake. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Joe Quintal Field.
Northwestern enters Saturday’s game with the top rushing offense in the league. The No. 16 Red Raiders, who are tied for third in the GPAC with a 4-2 record and own a 6-2 overall mark, are fourth in the NAIA with an average 270.1 rushing yards per game. The No. 25 Tigers – who are also 4-2 in the conference and are 5-2 overall – are hoping to keep pace with the Red Raiders. They are currently sixth in the GPAC in rush offense, averaging 139.9 yards per game.
Leading the way for the Tigers is senior running back Josh Endres. Last week, Endres became the third player in DWU football history to run for more than 3,000 yards in a career. He ran for 124 yards against Doane to bump his career total to 3,014 yards. He is 137 yards shy of the all-time rushing record of 3,151 yards. He is first in the conference and fourth in the nation with an average 141 rushing yards per game.
Running against the Tigers will be Northwestern’s duo of Smith and Bartman. Smith is second in the league and eighth in the NAIA with 118.1 rushing yards per game, and Bartman is third in the GPAC and 16th in the nation with 98.6 rushing yards a game. The pair have scored all 22 of the Red Raiders’ rushing touchdowns this season. Bartman is also the team’s leading receiver with 31 catches for 398 yards.
DWU enters Saturday boasting the one of league’s top passers and the second-best pass offense in the GPAC. Jon Bane has thrown for 1,607 yards and averages 267.8 yards per game through the air. He has helped the Tigers average 263.9 passing yards per game so far this season. The Red Raiders aren’t a one-dimensional team, either, as they have thrown for 1,662 yards and average 207.8 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Davis Bloemendaal is sixth in the GPAC in passing yards per game (197.4).
Northwestern holds an advantage defensively, as it leads the GPAC in total defense (256.3) and passing defense (163.5) per game. Aaron Jansen is third in the NAIA in total tackles for a loss (16.5) and Jordan Carlson is fourth in total sacks (8.5). DWU senior linebacker Mike Barnaud is second in the league in total tackles (81) and freshman Brady Bonte is tied for fifth (69). Junior Josh Thompson leads the league and the NAIA with 13 total passes defended.
The Tigers enter Saturday’s game looking to avenge the 34-0 loss to Northwestern last season in Orange City, Iowa. When the two teams met in 2010, the Red Raiders used a fake punt to run out the clock and escape with a 16-10 win against the unranked Tigers. The last time Dakota Wesleyan beat Northwestern was in 2009 at Joe Quintal Field.
For those unable to make it to Joe Quintal, the game can be heard live locally at 105.9 FM or online anywhere at www.kmit.com. A live webcast will be available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/dwuathletics.