Morningside posted a 10-2 record during the 2016 football season to extend its streak to 13 consecutive winning seasons.
Morningside College continued its run of outstanding success on the football gridiron during the 2016 campaign when the Mustangs posted a 10-2 record for their 13th consecutive winning season, won a sixth consecutive Great Plains Athletic Conference Championship with an unblemished 8-0 league record and made a 13th consecutive post-season appearance in the NAIA Football Championship Series for the nation’s longest active streak. Morningside demolished Tabor College 65-17 in the NAIA Championship Series First Round before a 42-35 setback in the quarterfinals against eventual NAIA National Champion University of Saint Francis.
The Mustangs had one of the most explosive offensive attacks and one of the stingiest defensive units in the nation. Morningside led the nation in total offense with an average of 578.4 yards per game and ranked second in the nation in scoring with a norm of 51.1 points per contest. Morningside finished second in the nation in total defense and third in scoring defense by yielding averages of only 263.2 yards and 13.9 points per game.
The Mustangs are one of the nation’s most successful football teams since the start of the 2004 season with a record of 134-27 for an .832 winning percentage. Morningside has advanced past the opening round of the NAIA Championship Series 11 times in the last 13 years, highlighted by a four-year run from 2012-15 where it advanced to at least the semifinals each year, including an appearance in the 2012 Russell Athletics-NAIA Football National Championship Game.
2016 Morningside Scoreboard (10-2 Record)
Morningside 62, Ottawa 0
Morningside 87, Dordt 14
Wisconsin-Whitewater 35, Morningside 21
Morningside 55, Concordia 13
Morningside 69, Doane 7
Morningside 34, Midland 17
Morningside 70, Briar Cliff 0
Morningside 39, Dakota Wesleyan 6
Morningside 62, Hastings 3
Morningside 14, Northwestern 13
NAIA Championship Series
Morningside 65, Tabor 17
Saint Francis 42, Morningside 35
All-Time Touchdown Leader
Tyler Kavan, a 5-11, 205 lb. senior running back from Weston, Neb., scored 26 touchdowns, including 23 by rushing, to become Morningside’s all-time leader with 65 career touchdowns and 58 career rushing touchdowns. He broke the former school records of 52 career touchdowns and 48 career rushing touchdowns set by Brandon Wegher over the 2013 and 2014 campaigns. Kavan was the Mustangs’ leading scorer this season with 156 points and was the nation’s second leading scorer with an average of 13.0 points per game.
Kavan was the Mustangs’ leading rusher with 1353 yards and 23 touchdowns in 230 attempts for an average of 5.9 yards per carry. His 1353 yards rushing was the third highest single-season total in Morningside history. Kavan was the nation’s 10th leading rusher with an average of 112.8 yards per game. He rushed for over 100 yards in seven of the Mustangs’ 12 contests, including a career-high 197 yards in a 62-3 blowout victory against Hastings College. Kavan tied a Morningside post-season record when he rushed for three touchdowns in the Mustangs’ 65-17 victory in the NAIA Championship Series First Round. Kavan also rushed for three touchdowns in playoff wins against Saint Xavier University and Southern Oregon University during the 2015 season.
Kavan had 15 100-yard rushing performances during his Morningside career to tie a school record first set by Wegher. Kavan rushed for 3421 yards over his Mustang career to finish as the second leading rusher in Morningside history.
Solsma Excels In First Season As Starting Quarterback
Trent Solsma, a 6-0, 215 lb. sophomore quarterback from Dakota Dunes, S.D., enjoyed a standout season in his first year as the Mustangs’ starting quarterback. Solsma completed 223 of 336 pass attempts (66.4 percent) for 3298 yards and 32 touchdowns and suffered only three interceptions all season. Solsma ranked second in the nation with a pass efficiency rating of 178.5 and finished the season with a streak of 235 consecutive pass attempts without an interception. He was the seventh leading passer in the nation with an average of 299.8 yards per game and ranked ninth in total offense with an average of 299.2 yards per game. Solsma’s 3298 yards passing was the seventh highest single-season total in Morningside history.
Solsma broke Morningside’s single-game record for yards total offense per play when he averaged 20.8 yards per play in the Mustangs’ 62-3 victory against Hastings to shatter the previous school record of 17.3 yards per play by Tim Richard against Dakota Wesleyan University during the 2009 season. Solsma passed for a career-high 500 yards in the Mustangs’ 35-21 loss against the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater to finish one yard shy of a school record for passing yards in a game.
Solsma, who passed for 938 yards as the Mustangs’ backup quarterback in 2015, is already the sixth leading passer in Morningside history with 4236 career yards.
Caden McDonald, a 5-11, 210 lb. junior linebacker from Logan, Iowa, was the Mustangs’ leading tackler with 38 solos and 40 assists for 78 total tackles, including a team-high 22.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 93 yards to shatter the former Morningside single-season record of 78 tackle yards for a loss set by Marshall Barney in 2011. His 22.5 tackles for a loss was the sixth highest total in the nation. McDonald also topped the Mustangs with five forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries and ranked third on the team with four quarterback sacks and four quarterback hurries.
McDonald had two fumble recoveries in the Mustangs’ 87-14 victory against Dordt College to tie a school record that had been achieved many times before, most recently by Sean Elliott against Montana Tech in the 2012 NAIA Championship Series First Round.
Amundson Ranks Among NAIA Kick Scoring Leaders
Jared Amundson, a 6-3, 220 lb. sophomore kicker from Sioux City, made eight of 11 field goal attempts with a long of 42 yards and converted 75 of 78 PAT attempts to finish second on the Mustangs’ scoring chart with 99 points. Amundson tied a Morningside post-season record when he kicked nine PATs in the Mustangs’ 65-17 win against Tabor in the NAIA Championship Series First Round to match a feat previously accomplished by C.J. Gradoville against Baker University in 2008.
Amundson ranked third in the nation in kick scoring with an average of 8.3 points per game and ranked 13th nationally in scoring with his 99 points.
Spann Ties Playoff Record
Xavier Spann, a 6-1, 185 lb. sophomore defensive back from Lakeland, Fla., tied a Morningside post-season record with three pass breakups against Saint Francis in the NAIA Championship Series Quarterfinals. Spann tied a Morningside record that had been achieved five times before, most recently by Sean Fitzgerald against Saint Xavier in 2015.
Spann ranked second on the Mustangs with three interceptions and nine pass breakups.
Jason Vander Kooi, a 6-3, 205 lb. senior wide receiver from Hinton, Iowa, led the Mustangs in pass receptions and reception yards with 58 receptions for 986 yards and five touchdowns for an average of 17.0 yards per catch. Vander Kooi was the Mustangs’ leading receiver in five of their 12 contests and closed out his career with the most productive game of his career with 10 catches for 195 yards against Saint Francis in the NAIA Championship Series Quarterfinals.
Vander Kooi finished his career with 132 receptions for 2328 yards and 16 touchdowns for an average of 17.6 yards per catch. His 2328 career reception yards is the sixth highest total in Morningside history, while his 132 career catches is the 12th highest total in the Mustangs’ annals.
Quarterback Sack Leader
Luke Gibbs, a 6-3, 245 lb. junior defensive lineman from Maxwell, Iowa, was a big play specialist for the Mustangs’ defense and the team’s top pass rusher with team-high totals of 7.5 quarterback sacks and eight quarterback hurries. Gibbs also led the Mustangs with three blocked kicks and ranked second on the team with three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 14 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 75 yards. He was the Mustangs’ sixth leading tackler with 21 solos and 23 assists for 44 total tackles.
Gibbs has collected 27 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 152 yards during his Morningside career to put him on pace to break the school record of 205 career tackle for loss yards set by Brett Nickolite from 2006-09.
Whitehead Climbs Career Receiving Lists
Michael Whitehead, a 5-11, 190 lb. senior wide receiver from Le Mars, Iowa, was the Mustangs’ second leading pass receiver with 51 receptions for 733 yards and a team-high 12 touchdowns for an average of 14.4 yards per catch.
Whitehead finished his career with 121 receptions for 1859 yards and 20 touchdowns for an average of 15.4 yards per catch. His 1859 career reception yards and 121 career receptions are the 13th and 14th highest totals, respectively, in Morningside history.
Turk Leads Defensive Secondary
Darrian Turk, a 5-8, 170 lb. senior defensive back from Silsbee, Texas, led the Mustangs’ pass defense with team-high totals of five interceptions and 11 pass breakups. His five interceptions was the 14th highest total in the nation. Turk collected 29 tackles, of which 23 were solo stops.
Tanner Ver Steeg, a 5-11, 180 lb. junior wide receiver from Little Rock, Iowa, was the deep threat in the Mustangs’ passing attack with a team-high average of 20.8 yards per catch. Ver Steeg had 46 receptions for 955 yards and six touchdowns, including a nine-catch, 272-yard performance against Wisconsin-Whitewater for the third highest single-game pass reception yardage total in Morningside history.
School Records In 2016
Yards Total Offense Per Play In A Game – 20.8, Trent Solsma vs. Hastings, 11-15-16
Punts In A Game – 14, Spencer Wyant vs. Northwestern, 11-12-16
Fumble Recoveries In A Game (Tie) – 2, Caden McDonald vs. Dordt, 9-17-16
Tackle For A Loss Yards In A Season – 93, Caden McDonald
Rushing Touchdowns In A Career – 58, Tyler Kavan, 2013-16
100-Yard Rushing Games In A Career (Tie) – 15, Tyler Kavan, 2013-16
Touchdowns In A Career – 65, Tyler Kavan, 2013-16
Rushing Touchdowns In A Game (Tie) – 8 vs. Briar Cliff, 10-22-16
Touchdowns In A Game (Tie) – 12 vs. Dordt, 9-17-16