It's the first Saturday of October GPAC Football and we are now halfway into the 2012 campaign. Once again there will be four league games this week and one non-conference match-up. B. Lynn Fouts breaks down the games in this week's GPAC Football Preview.
Some separation in the standings started last weekend. Five league teams enter October ranked in the NAIA Top-25. Each game going forward will have more and more at stake as the GPAC title is still up for grabs. Northwestern nipped Nebraska Wesleyan in overtime, the 5th time in the last meetings in Lincoln the game has been decided by 6 points or less. Doane handled Midland 27-7 on the road while Hastings stopped Dakota Wesleyan 40-30 to remain undefeated. Briar Cliff snagged its first win 33-29 over Dordt in the final 10 seconds and Concordia went out of conference to win 28-7. Nebraska Wesleyan has a bye week this week, after 4th ranked Morningside was off last Saturday.
Concordia is at Briar Cliff and looks to level its league mark at 2-2. The Bulldogs look nothing like the 2011 version on offense. Quarterback Von Thomas is the leading rusher as well as throwing for nearly 200 ypg. The Bulldogs are scoring over 30 points per game. On defense Derrick Blessing and Dylan Heithoff have been solid. All of Concordia's losses have come at the hands of top 25 teams. The Chargers have also been close all season and this time finished the game. Quarterback PJ Quiroga has played well since Keith Van Egdom went down and running back Robert Wilson gained over 100 yards on the day at Dordt last Saturday. The key to watch is the BCU defense and if they can corral Thomas.
Fourth ranked Morningside visits #18 Doane for the Tigers' homecoming. Last year when they met, the records were reversed as the Mustangs had lost an early game and Doane was undefeated. This is one of the key games of the title chase and one not to be missed. Quarterback Joel Nixon has used a variety weapons on his way to 12 touchdown tosses as well as over 300 total yards per game. The Mustang defense leads the nation in scoring defense (six points per game) and 2nd in rushing yards allowed. Doane will counter with a balanced attack that showcases quarterback Jeff Weander and running back Clayton Moore who has gained over 220 yards with three scores the past two weeks. Linebacker Jeremy Wallace is 6th in the nation in tackles at 12 a game.
Dordt looks again for their initial victory on the seasons as they head to #25 Dakota Wesleyan. Dordt showed some punch in getting into the endzone Saturday, narrowly losing in the final minute. Running back Trai Pickney ran for 104 yards and quarterback Kyle Hendricks was 6-10 for 97 yards in split-time duty. The defense did allow BCU to pile up nearly 300 passing yards and they will be tested against the DWU passing offense. Tiger quarterback Jonathan Bane was back at the helm last weekend and threw for 457 yards & three scores against #21 ranked Hastings. Running back Josh Endres still leads the nation in rushing. The defense will need to bear down on the Defenders run game that still gains 200 yards per game.
Midland looks to break a two game losing streak at #11 Northwestern. The Warriors will try to shake off its streak behind a run game led by running back Dominic Blood and new signal caller Mike Karls (13 of 27 for one score). The defense, after two strong games to open the season, has been unable to slow down the opposition the last two weekends. Red Raider quarterback Davis Bloemendaal has thrown for over 200 yards per game and ten scores while Brandon Smith and Theo Bartman are a powerful 1-2 punch in the backfield. The defense has played lights out at times, leading the nation in sacks though they've allowed a few points.
#21 Hastings heads outside the conference to meet up with Dakota State. The Broncos are leading the pack at 4-0 in league play and have done it behind quarterback John Dostal and running back Keenan Ballage. They've helped put Hastings at 9th in total offense in the NAIA, over 450 yards per game. The new faces on defense have stepped up for the Broncos. Dakota State is led by quarterback Brandon Large who started his career at D-I Eastern Illinois and has put up top-20 numbers. The Trojan defense will be stretched at home against a powerful Bronco offense.