Morningside played turnover free football in a 35-30 win against NCAA II Truman State.

Addison Ross

Caden McDonald

One of the NAIA’s perennial national powers moved up a division of competition when fourth-ranked Morningside knocked off NCAA Division II Truman State 35-30 on Saturday at Elwood Olsen Stadium.

The Mustangs, who have made 13 consecutive post-season appearances in the NAIA Football Championship Series for the nation’s longest active streak, defeated a talented Truman State team that had an 8-3 record last season and was the co-champion of the Great Lakes Valley Conference (GLVC).

Morningside improved its record to 3-0 heading into next Saturday’s Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) opener against Dordt, while Truman State suffered its second straight defeat after it had opened the campaign with a 38-14 loss at Michigan Tech.

The Mustangs’ win against Truman State came in their first game against a NCAA Division II opponent since they opened the 2002 season with a 24-21 double overtime victory at Wayne State in their first game as a member of the NAIA.

Chad Berg

Connor Niles

Morningside played turnover free football, which played a major role in the outcome. The Bulldogs suffered two interceptions, one that Mustang senior linebacker Caden McDonald returned 24 yards for a touchdown to give the hosts a quick 7-0 lead with 12:14 left in the first quarter. The other came early in the fourth quarter when Steven Evans picked off a Jaden Barr pass after the Bulldogs had driven to the Morningside 20-yard line.

Jordan Salima rushed for 110 yards and Barr passed for 239 yards, including 12 completions to Jordan Jorgenson for 199 yards and two touchdowns, to lead Truman State to a 442 to 346-yard advantage in total offense. Jorgenson’s 199 yards was the fourth highest individual total the Mustangs have ever yielded to an opposing receiver, while Salima became only the 12th player to rush over 100 yards against the Morningside defense over the last 75 regular season games dating back to 2009.

Bubba Jenkins rushed for 101 yards in 23 carries and Trent Solsma passed for 204 yards and three touchdowns to lead Morningside. Solsma completed 17 of 19 pass attempts and hurled touchdown passes of 11 and 18 yards to Addison Ross and one yard to Chad Berg. Berg led the Mustangs with six catches for 96 yards, while Ross had five receptions for 75 yards.

Klayton Nordeen

Trent Solsma

Truman State’s defense held down one of the NAIA’s most prolific pass catchers in Connor Niles, who finished with only two receptions for two yards. However, Niles still put his stamp on the game when he returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown with 45 seconds left in the first half to send the Mustangs into the intermission with a comfortable 28-10 advantage.

The Bulldogs’ first offensive possession of the game ended in disaster for the guests when McDonald intercepted Barr’s first pass attempt of the game and raced 24 yards to the end zone for his second “pick six” in the last two games.

Morningside led 7-3 after the first quarter and increased its lead to 21-10 after Solsma fired an 11-yard touchdown pass to Ross and then found Berg with a one-yard TD flip with 6:10 left in the first half. Niles’ TD punt return made it 28-10 at the half before the Bulldogs rallied to give themselves a chance in the second half.

The teams traded touchdowns in the third quarter when Barr connected with Jorgenson on a 13-yard pass and Solsma threw an 18-yard pass to Ross for their second TD connection of the game.

Salima scored on a six-yard touchdown run with 9:17 left in the fourth quarter and then caught a 20-yard touchdown pass from Barr to bring the Bulldogs within 35-30 with 3:08 left in the game.

Jesse Faltys

Steven Evans

Out of timeouts, Truman State took itself out of the game when it was penalized for too many men on the field to give Morningside a first down and the chance to run out the clock.

Klayton Nordeen collected a game-high 13 tackles for Morningside’s defense with four solos and nine assists, followed by McDonald with eight tackles and his touchdown interception return. Jesse Faltys had seven tackles and two quarterback hurries and Xavier Spann had seven tackles and two pass breakups. Evans had five tackles to go along with an interception and two pass breakups, Dominick Barrett had a quarterback sack and Logan Rozeboom blocked a Truman State field goal attempt.

Truman State, which set a record with 35 quarterback sacks last season, got to Solsma three times after he had been sacked only once in the Mustangs’ first two games.

Solsma, who has thrown only one interception in 326 pass attempts over his last 11 games dating back to last season, completed 17 of 19 attempts against the Bulldogs to raise his season’s completion rate to a staggering 80.2 percent.