It was a day for defense as the Central College football team racked up a record 11 sacks and came up with three interceptions—more than the rest of the season combined—in shutting down Loras College 27-6 Saturday.
The No. 18 Dutch (7-1 overall, 5-1 Iowa Conference) limited an opponent to negative rushing yardage for the second time this year as Loras was held to minus 20 yards on the ground and just 101yards total offense. Defensive back Jake Petersen (junior, Gladbrook, Gladbrook-Reinbeck HS) picked off two passes and returned them 84 yards, including a 58-yard dash for a first-quarter touchdown. Defensive back Adam Petz (junior, Williamsburg) made a diving grab for a fourth-quarter interception that set up Central's final score to seal the win.
Central generated just 17 yards of offense in the first quarter, yet held a 14-0 lead. But the Dutch eventually picked up the pace, rushing for 105 yards and passing for 154.
"We got to the quarterback and that hurried his throws," Petersen said. "We got a lot of tipped balls and that is how I got two picks. Adam Petz made a great break on the ball for our third pick."
Meanwhile the Dutch pass rush was in high gear. Defensive end Holden Blythe had 2.5 sacks, defensive lineman Austin Hill made two sacks and blocked an extra point and defensive lineman Aaron Steenhoek had two sacks.
It was the kind of defensive showing coach Jeff McMartin wanted to see.
"I love it," he said. "They did a great job and we needed them to. We were in a situation where we wanted to get off to a fast start and get things going and our defense got us off to a fast start. They set up a score and they scored in the first quarter. Fourteen points were on the shoulders of our defense. I thought they played amazingly well and stepped up when they needed to, beyond expectations. It was great."
It started with controlling the Loras running game.
"We knew they were a rushing team," Hill said. "One of the focuses we had today was to stop the run, everyone doing their job and focusing on what they had to do. Once everyone does that, it's easy."
Central showcased some offensive depth as well. Running back Ross Doehrmann, who sat out much of last week's game at Luther because of a nagging injury, was held out of Saturday's action while quarterback Nate Snead was limited. Snead scored Central's first TD on a 1-yard run, but Zack Bandow played most of the way at quarterback. He connected on 14 of 26 passes for 154 yards with one interception and one touchdown. Preston West and Kyle Wood handled the bulk of the running back chores. West gained 60 yards on 14 carries, one yard shy of his career best, while Wood rushed for 43 yards on 12 carries.
McMartin was impressed with Bandow, who stepped in after spending much of the season as a wide receiver.
"Zack is a good quarterback," McMartin said. "We have a luxury of having two good quarterbacks here this year. Zack is a senior and has played a lot of football for us. This year he has played a lot of wide receiver, but he knows the passing game and knows the offense. Just being on the field as a wide receiver has continued to help him grow and develop. Now he gets back under center and takes off from where he left off. He did a great job."
Jeremy Snead hauled in a game-high five passes for 39 yards. Brett Wilkin snagged a 17-yard touchdown pass for Central's final score. The Dutch also got a pair of field goals from Jake Viggers, from 25 and 27 yards.
"Offensively, we took advantage of our opportunities, controlled the clock, and made some key plays when we needed to," McMartin said.
Linebacker Greg Best made a team-high seven tackles while defensive back Ryan Schmidt had six stops with 1.5 tackles for loss and linebacker Seth Carson made five tackles. All three defenders had a pass breakup as the Dutch broke up five Loras passes.
It was also a big day for all-conference punter Kurtis Brondyke, who unleashed a career-best 86-yard punt, two yards shy of the school record. The punt actually rolled an additional 10 yards out of the Loras end zone.
"He's got the leg to do it," McMartin said. "We changed our protection a little bit. A lot of times when we run the protection we ran on that punt you don't get a ton of yardage out of it, you just get it off. We were backed up there and we wanted to make sure they didn't block it. I wasn't thinking it was going to go that far, even though he's capable of that. We rolled him out a little bit and he got a hold of it and got it going in the wind. He's a special punter and he's been doing this for four years now. I can't say enough about the job that he does."