Ryan Kasdorf tied a school record with seven touchdown passes, including three to Connor Niles, when Morningside crushed Doane 55-7 to win a fifth consecutive GPAC Championship. Photo / Gene Knudsen

Connor Niles

Ryan Kasdorf

The anticipated showdown for the GPAC football championship between No. 1-ranked Morningside and undefeated and fourth-ranked Doane turned into mismatch when Morningside blew out the Tigers 55-7 on Saturday in Sioux City to put the finishing touches on a fifth consecutive conference title.

The Mustangs finished the regular season with a perfect 9-0 record in the GPAC and a 10-1 mark overall. Doane, which entered the contest as the NAIA national leader in scoring defense with an average of 11.7 points per game, finished the regular season at 9-1.

Morningside had little difficulty against the nation’s top ranked defense as it amassed 616 yards total offense to go over the 600-yard mark for the 16th time in the last 24 games. The Mustang defense, meanwhile, gave up only 203 yards against a Doane team that played without Nate Meier, the nation’s third leading rusher with an average of 135.8 yards per game, who suffered an injury in the Tigers’ previous game against Briar Cliff. Morningside’s defense forced six turnovers with four interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

The battle for the GPAC title quickly turned into the Ryan Kasdorf show. Kasdorf, the All-America quarterback who sat out the Mustangs’ previous game against Concordia due to an injury, came back with a vengeance. All Kasdorf did in his return was complete 22 of 32 pass attempts for 459 yards and tie a school record with seven touchdown passes. Kasdorf, who also threw seven touchdown passes in the Mustangs’ 76-20 victory against Dakota Wesleyan earlier this season, tied a record that was first set by Ian Gilworth twice during the 2008 campaign.

The seven touchdown passes raised Kasdorf’s career total to a school-record 112 TD throws.

Jason Vander Kooi

Michael Whitehead

Kasdorf’s 459 yards passing was the second highest total of his Mustang career and the fifth highest single-game total in Morningside history. Three different Morningside receivers finished with over 100 yards. Connor Niles finished with a career-high nine catches that went for 146 yards and three touchdowns, Jason Vander Kooi had career highs of six receptions for 153 yards and two touchdowns, and Michael Whitehead had a career-high five receptions that went for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Kasdorf’s first touchdown pass came on the Mustangs’ opening possession of the game when he hooked up with Jason Vander Kooi on a 57-yard play to open the scoring with 12:24 left in the first quarter.

Doane tied the score at 7-7 on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Stuart to Holden Wetzler with 7:59 left in the first quarter.

After that is was all Morningside, as the Mustangs scored touchdowns on five of their next seven possessions to build an insurmountable 42-7 lead by the intermission. Kasdorf hurled touchdown passes of 29, 35, and 28 yards to Niles to put the Mustangs in front 28-7 midway through the second quarter. Tyler Kavan added a four-yard touchdown run before the Mustangs’ capped their first half scoring on a 29-yard touchdown pass from Kasdorf to Kendall Lindeman.

Christian Walker

Ethan Stofferan

Morningside expanded the lead to 49-7 when a quick out pass from Kasdorf to Whitehead turned into a 77-yard touchdown with 9:51 left in the third quarter. Kasdorf hurled his final touchdown pass of the game on a 25-yard completion to Vander Kooi on the first play of the fourth quarter to finish the scoring.

Kavan, who entered the contest as the NAIA national leader with 22 touchdowns, rushed for 74 yards and a touchdown in 17 attempts to go over the 1000-yard mark for the season with 1033 yards.

Ethan Stofferan led the Mustangs’ defense with seven tackles, including two tackles in the Tigers’ backfield for losses of four yards, and had one of Morningside’s four interceptions. Derrick Dison, Christian Walker, and Chas Reis had the Mustangs’ other pass thefts. The interception by Walker was his team-high third pass theft of the season. Logan Rozeboom and Austin Allen had the Mustangs’ other defensive takeaways with fumble recoveries.

Morningside will make its NAIA leading 12th consecutive post-season appearance in the NAIA Championship Series that will begin with first round games on Saturday, Nov. 21. First round matchups will be announced late Sunday afternoon.

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