MOORHEAD, Minn. (9/17/11)—The site was the same, the distance was the same, the down was the same, the end zone was the same, the drama was the same and unfortunately for Concordia the outcome was the same as the Cobbers came up one yard short against St. John's and lost 28-21 in overtime in Moorhead on Saturday.
The loss was reminiscent of Concordia's defeat against the Johnnies in 2006 when CC was stopped one yard shy of the goal line on a fourth-and-goal situation heading into the same west end zone. On Saturday, Brett Baune plowed through the line on a fourth-and-four but was gang tackled after three yards and fell just short of the game-tying touchdown in the first overtime period.
The game was the conference opener for both teams and the first loss of the season for Concordia. The Cobbers are now 2-1. St. John's rebounds from a blowout loss against UW-Eau Claire last week and also moves to 2-1 on the year.
The game was a tale of two halves and one big play for Concordia. The Cobbers allowed 21 points in the first half and trailed 21-10 at the break but then came roaring back in the second half. The CC defense did not allow a point in the final two quarters while the CC offense racked up 232 yards in the final 30 minutes of play and tied the game with 8:38 to play in the fourth quarter. Concordia also held a significant advantage in time of possession in the second half as they held the ball for 18:59 as compared to only 11:01 for SJU. The big play occurred at the end of the first half when SJU defensive back Bobby Fischer stepped inside an out-route pass, picked off a pass and outran everyone to the end zone for an 85-yard interception return. Concordia had been driving before that "pick" and looked like they would cut into the 14-7 Johnnie lead just before the break.
Concordia held the statistical advantage in almost every offensive category. The Cobbers outgained St. John's 444-342 in total offensive yards. That included a 270-135 edge in rushing yards. It marks the third straight game this year that CC has gained at least 390 total offensive yards and the third consecutive time the Cobbers have rushed for more than 230 yards.
Baune continues to punish opposing defenses from his fullback spot for CC. He had a career-high 152 rushing yards on 27 carries and also scored one TD. Baune has now broken into the end zone at least once in all three games this year.
Cobber quarterback Michael Dunham went 11-for-25 for 174 yards on the day. His favorite target was senior wideout Bronson Shepherd. Shepherd caught a game-high eight passes for a career-high 106 yards.
The Johnnies did most of their damage through the air, coming up with clutch first-down conversions – and the game-winning touchdown – from the arm of John Ries. Ries was an impressive 21-for-25 for 207 yards on the day. Brent Graboski put a dagger in the Cobbers for the second straight year. He caught two TD passes on Saturday, including the game winner in OT, and has now caught four scoring strikes in the past two seasons.
The two defenses had stellar individual performances throughout the afternoon. CC was led by the linebacking tandem of Peter Hvidston and Matt Moenkedick. Both players dished out punishing hits during the course of the game and both came away with career-high tackle totals. Hvidston had a team-high 14 tackles including 1.0 tackles for a loss while Moenkedick added 13 total tackles and 2.0 tackles for a loss. Robin Wisner had a pair of huge QB take downs in the second half.
St. John's had a pair of players with more than 10 tackles on the day. Taylor Dammermann had a game-high 11 solo tackles and 14 total tackles and Ben Hillman came away with 11 total tackles. Hillman was the instigator on the final tackle of the game as he shed a blocker and was able to grab Baune around the knees to preserve the win.
After Concordia was stopped on the opening possession of the game, the two teams traded scoring drives to finish out the first quarter. St. John's capped a 12-play, 69-yard drive with a Stephen Johnson two-yard TD run while the Cobbers finished off a 12-play, 74-yard drive with a Dunham 3-yard pass to Shepherd in the right corner of the end zone.
St. John's scored on their very next possession to grab a 14-7 lead but then both defense stiffened and neither team would score until the fateful interception with :28 to play in the first half. Concordia showed their character in the final seconds of the second quarter as they fielded a pooch kick off, then ran a hook-and-latter play for 36 yards and came away with a 32-yard field goal from Porfirio Diaz to cut the margin to 21-10 at the half.
Concordia was able to dial up more pressure on Ries in the second half which led to five sacks and limited the SJU offense to just 32 rushing yards. The CC "Blackshirts" also came up with three key fourth-down stops in the third and fourth quarters.
The Cobber offense had a scoring drive in each of the third and fourth quarters. CC connected on a 33-yard Diaz field goal after a seven-play 64-yard drive at the end of the third quarter and then tied the game with a nine-play, 67-yard drive midway through the fourth quarter. Baune scored the TD on a 26-yard power scamper through the SJU defense and then Dunham connected with Chris Gilson for the two-point conversion that knotted the score at 21-21.
Concordia had a chance to win the game the next time they got the ball. After forcing a three-and-out on the Johnnies' next possession, Concordia marched the ball 54 yards on 11 plays and set up for a potential 30-yard game-winning field goal with 1:57 left to play in regulation. Unfortunately the snap from center was low and Diaz was never able to approach the ball in stride – and his kick fell short and left of the upright.
Concordia then held SJU on in the final two minutes of play to set the stage for overtime.
The Cobbers will stay at home and host No.4-ranked St. Thomas on Saturday, Sept 24 at 1 p.m. as part of the Family Weekend celebration.