Tigers try to knock off unbeaten Morningside

MITCHELL, S.D. – Last season, Morningside College ended the Dakota Wesleyan University football team’s bid for an undefeated season, and did so in frustrating fashion.

The Mustang special teams ran a punt back for a touchdown early in the 2011 game at Joe Quintal Field, and in the second quarter Morningside went up 14-7 on an interception returned for a touchdown. The Tigers fought back and got within two points with 23 seconds left and recovered the onside kick, but the Tigers’ final two passes of the game fell incomplete and Morningside walked away with a 28-26 win.

Saturday afternoon, the Tigers are looking to return the favor and put an end to the Mustangs’ undefeated record and spoil Morningside’s homecoming. The two teams play in a top-20 matchup at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 13, at Elwood Olsen Stadium in Sioux City, Iowa. Morningside is 5-0 overall and 4-0 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and ranked No. 4 in the NAIA. Dakota Wesleyan enters Saturday’s game 4-1 overall and 3-1 in the league and ranked No. 19 in the nation.

Knocking off Morningside – which share’s the league’s top spot with Hastings College – is no easy task. The Mustangs lead the nation in rush defense (43.8) and scoring defense (5.4) per game and have outscored opponents 188-27 so far this season. The Mustangs lead the GPAC in scoring offense (37.6) and total defense (250.8), and are fourth in the league in both rush (180)  and pass (253.8) offense per game.

Joel Nixon leads the Mustangs in both passing and rushing. He is third in the GPAC in total offense per game (299.6) and passing (246.4) and has thrown for a league-high 15 touchdowns. He also averages 53.2 yards per game on the ground. Nixon’s favorite receiver is Joel McCabe, who is third in the league in receiving yards per game (82.4). Chris Calvillo is the Mustangs’ leading tackler and is ninth in the league with 41 total tackles and an average 8.2 tackles per game.

Morningside is coming off a 28-3 win against Doane, which was ranked No. 18 in the NAIA at the time. The Mustang defense gave up just 12 rushing yards and forced Doane to punt 11 times. Doane’s lone score of the game came on a field goal in the fourth quarter.

The Tigers enter Saturday’s game coming off a 45-31 win against Dordt College last week. Dakota Wesleyan ended up on the winning end on the scoreboard despite giving up nearly 700 yards of offense to the Defenders, who never punted last week at Joe Quintal Field. Senior tight end Derek Carlson came up big for the Tigers in the win, catching five passes for 163 yards and four touchdowns. He and quarterback Jon Bane hooked up twice in the second quarter to put the Tigers up 14-10, then once in the third and again early in the fourth to make it 31-17 in favor of DWU.

The Defenders did everything they could to pick up their second league win in five seasons, but Tiger freshman linebacker Brady Bonte recovered a Dordt fumble and ran it back for a touchdown to make it 38-24 and Josh Endres scored on a 56-yard run on a fourth-and-2 play with less than two minutes left in the game to seal the win. Carlson and Bonte both earned GPAC player-of-the-week honors for their roles in the DWU win.

Endres, who leads the NAIA in all-purpose yards (200.4) and rushing yards (164.4) per game, will likely be a target of the Morningside defense, so Bane will need to air the ball out. He is second in the NAIA in passing yards (326.5) and total offense (328.8) per game, and is second on the school’s career passing chart with 6,043 yards. He needs 551 yards to become the all-time leading passer at DWU. Endres is 151 yards away from becoming the third player in Tiger football history to rush for more than 3,000 yards in a career, and he needs 302 yards to become the Tigers’ all-time leading rusher.

Kickoff is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday in Sioux City. For fans that can’t make the trip to Iowa, the game can be heard live locally at 105.9 FM or online at www.kmit.com.