Morningside placed four players on the Victory Sports Network 2017 All-America Football Team.
Morningside placed four players on the Victory Sports Network (VSN) 2017 All-America Football Team.
The Mustangs’ VSN All-Americans are running back Bubba Jenkins, linebacker Caden McDonald, wide receiver Connor Niles and quarterback Trent Solsma. Their exploits helped lead Morningside to one of its greatest seasons in school history. The Mustangs posted a 13-1 record, won a seventh consecutive Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) championship with a perfect 8-0 league slate and made a 14th consecutive post-season appearance in the NAIA Football Championship Series, where they lost 43-36 against eventual NAIA National Champion University of Saint Francis in the semifinals.
Morningside and Saint Francis each placed four players on the VSN All-America team to lead all schools.
Jenkins, a 5-10, 205 lb. senior running back from Springfield, Mo., led the nation in rushing with 2160 yards and an average of 154.3 yards per game. Jenkins rushed for 28 touchdowns and an average of 6.2 yards per carry. Jenkins, who had 18 pass receptions for 178 yards and a touchdown, ranked fifth in the nation with an average of 167.0 all-purpose yards per game and third in scoring with an average of 12.9 points per game.
Jenkins rushed for over 100 yards in 12 of the Mustangs’ 14 contests, including a season’s high 238 yards in a 56-16 win against Hastings College for the seventh highest single-game rushing performance in Morningside history.
McDonald, the 2017 Hauff Mid-America Sports/GPAC Defensive Player of the Year, topped the Mustangs’ defense with 57 solos and 45 assists for 102 total tackles, including a team-high 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 54 yards. He led the Mustangs with five interceptions and two blocked kicks, finished second on the team with eight quarterback hurries, and had 4.5 quarterback sacks, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery. McDonald returned his five interceptions for 196 yards for an average of 39.2 yards per return and had touchdown returns of 50 yards against Tabor College and 24 yards against NCAA Division II Truman State University. McDonald had five double figure tackle performances, including a season’s high 14 tackles when the Mustangs opened the season with a 41-24 victory against St. Francis University.
McDonald was named the GPAC Defensive Player of the Week four times and was the NAIA National Defensive Player of the Week after he had 11 tackles, two quarterback sacks, an interception and a blocked field goal attempt in the Mustangs’ 48-20 victory against nationally ranked Northwestern College to hand the Red Raiders their only loss of the regular season.
Niles, a 5-11, 195 lb. junior wide receiver from Sioux City, set a school record with 96 pass receptions that went for 1449 yards and 17 touchdowns for an average of 15.1 yards per catch. His 1449 pass reception yards is the third highest single-season total in Morningside history. Niles had a career-high 263 reception yards in a 41-24 victory against St. Francis for the fourth highest single-game total in Morningside history. He had a career-high 12 receptions that went for 151 yards in a 76-21 victory against Dakota Wesleyan University. Aside from his pass catching exploits, Niles was the Mustangs’ top return specialist with 17 kickoff returns for a 24.7-yard average and six punt returns for a 29.2-yard average with one touchdown.
He ranked fifth nationally with averages of 7.4 pass receptions and 111.5 pass reception yards per game and eighth with an average of 158.7 all-purpose yards per game.
Niles has 214 receptions for 3700 yards and 39 touchdowns during his Morningside career. He is Morningside’s all-time leader with 3700 career pass reception yards and ranks second in the Mustangs’ record book with 214 career receptions and 39 career touchdown catches.
Solsma, a 6-0, 210 lb. junior quarterback from Dakota Dunes, S.D., passed for 4406 yards and 55 touchdown passes to tie a NAIA national record for touchdown passes in a season. Solsma led the nation with a 186.9 pass efficiency rating and had a 68.1 completion percentage with a school-record 309 completions in 454 attempts and only six interceptions. His 4406 yards passing was the second highest total in Morningside history. Solsma set a school record for passing yards in a game when he threw for 528 yards in the Mustangs’ 65-14 victory against Tabor.
He was the nation’s sixth leading passer with an average of 314.7 yards passing per game and also ranked sixth in total offense with an average of 323.9 yards per game.
Solsma ranks third in Morningside history with 8642 career yards passing and second with 93 career touchdown passes.
Click here for the complete 2017 VSN All-America Football Team.