We are down to just two weeks to go in GPAC football. November opens with five conference games on the slate. B. Lynn Fouts breaks down the matchups in the VSN/GPAC Football Preview for Week #10.
As the GPAC heads into November, the days get shorter, the temps get colder but the games still have meaning. The last we saw of October however, Northwestern was heading back into second, winning big on the road but dropping a spot in the polls. Hastings was beginning to hit that loaded up second half schedule with another loss and Doane shook off a nine-year losing streak to the Broncos with a 48-16 win. Nebraska Wesleyan rallied in the second half to beat Briar Cliff 35-14, (it was 7-6 Chargers at the break). Concordia rang up a 5th win for the first time since 2004, downing Midland 23-14 while Morningside expanded on just a 14-0 lead at half to beat Dordt 41-0.
Memorial Stadium in Fremont will be home to two teams looking for another victory as the season winds down. Briar Cliff has had several leads slip away in the second half this fall so a 60-minute game is on top of their list. Wide receiver Bryce Harshman is enjoying a big season, 10th in the NAIA in both receptions (54) and yards (759) as well as first in the league in both categories. Midland has eyes on a .500 mark and it would start with BCU. The Warriors secondary is the defense's heart and soul, led by returning All-American Nick Carlson. He ranks high with 4 interceptions and linebacker Clete Vrbka leads the team with nearly 10 tackles a game.
Concordia, winners of five of their past six games, head into Elwood Olsen to take on the #4 Mustangs. The Bulldogs have won with a gritty defense, holding Midland last week to just 118 yards, and a balanced offense, 1400 rushing yards and 1600 passing. But it may be on special teams where Concordia makes the difference. Kenny Zoeller is the Nation's leader with 15 field goals and Derek Blessing is a terror on punt returns with three scores. #4 Morningside has continued a hard charging defense (just 7.1 ppg allowed) led by linebacker Chris Calvillo and defensive back Jared Goforth. Only two of their eight opponents have scored in double digits. On offense, quarterback Joel Nixon leads the nation with 29 touchdown passes. He has numerous targets in Joel McCabe, Kyle Shuck and Jake Allen, all with at least 28 catches. Concordia will need their offense to control the clock to help their defense keep the scoring to a minimum. Morningside won a share of the league title last week, and looks to clinch their second straight outright title this week on their home turf.
#24 Doane assured itself of a .500 season last week and now travels to Dordt in search of their second win of the year. The Tigers roared in their rivalry match-up with Hastings, opening up a 28-6 lead in the opening half and coasting home. Equally adept on the ground or through the air, Doane is 5th in passing yards and 6th in rushing in the GPAC. That balance has helped keep opposing defenses guessing. Their own defense is sound, ranking 4th in the league in total defense. Dordt counters with a top heavy ground game, 2nd in the conference at 209 yards per game.
The battle of the Wesleyan's has gone to the home team the last four seasons. DWU has alternated wins and losses the better part of the last month and is coming off a loss to #17 Northwestern. Jonathan Bane was not his usual self against the Red Raiders going just 8-29 for 92 yards. With the Prairie Wolves defense in high gear, he will have to perform much better. NWU has a three-game win streak going and have won the turnover battle in each. Quarterback Tyler Francis, just a sophomore, took over in the first game of the streak and has connected on 69% of his throws. The defense as mentioned has held the last three opponents to an average of 9 points per game. There is good reason to think NWU is one of the hottest teams in the league right now.
#17 Northwestern will head into Nebraska again this week for a key road game to open November as they now try to grab second place all for themselves in the GPAC. At DWU the run game was phenomenal with Brandon Smith going for 163 yards and three scores & Theo Bartman with 105 yards and two scores. The defense kept Dakota Wesleyan at bay when the Tigers were given short fields due to turnovers. Hastings has tumbled 11 spots in the polls after suffering defeats to Morningside and Doane by a combined 101-39 mark. Still in contention for a post season bid the Broncos will need to regroup quickly as the Red Raiders are picking up steam.
-B. Lynn Fouts