Morningside crushed Sterling 63-7 to advance past the NAIA Football Championship Series First Round for the 12th time in the last 13 years.
Third-ranked Morningside advanced past the NAIA Football Championship Series First Round for the 12th time in the last 13 years when the Mustangs throttled No. 16 Sterling 63-7 on Saturday at Elwood Olsen Stadium.
The Mustangs will take a 12-0 record into next Saturday’s quarterfinals against No. 8 Saint Xavier in Sioux City.
Morningside scored at will against a Sterling team that was this year’s Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference (KCAC) co-champion with Tabor, who the Mustangs destroyed 65-14 earlier this season in the GPAC/KCAC Football Challenge.
The Mustangs rolled up 548 yards total offense with 283 yards on the ground and 265 yards through the air.
Mustang quarterback Trent Solsma, named the Offensive Player of the Game, completed 14 of 21 pass attempts for 255 yards and six touchdowns to raise his season’s tally to 48 touchdown passes to move within one of matching the Morningside single-season record of 49 TD passes set by Joel Nixon in 2012.
Three of Solsma’s touchdown passes went to former Sioux City Bishop Heelan Catholic prep teammate Connor Niles on scoring strikes of 20 and 55 yards in the first quarter and eight yards in the second quarter. Niles finished the day with eight receptions for 132 yards.
Solsma also threw touchdown passes of nine yards to Chad Berg in the second quarter and seven yards to Reid Jurgensmeier and six yards to Sam Akins in the third quarter.
The Mustangs’ rushing attack also had its way against the Warriors’ defense. Bubba Jenkins, the nation’s leading rusher, went over 100 yards for the 11th game in a row with 153 yards in 26 carries, including touchdown runs of one and two yards in the second quarter. Jenkins raised his season’s totals to a whopping 1904 yards and 26 touchdowns to close within 96 yards of joining Brandon Wegher (2610 yards in 2014) as the only 2000-yard rushers in Morningside history.
Freshman Taylor Meints just missed posting the first 100-yard performance of his collegiate career when he came off the bench to rush for 96 yards in only 13 attempts.
The Mustangs’ defensive standout was linebacker Joel Katzer, named the Defensive Player of the Game after he collected a game-high 12 tackles to go along with a quarterback sack and three pass breakups.
Logan Rozeboom was next with eight tackles. Deion Clayborne and Caden McDonald each had interceptions, while Jason Lupkes, Brad Wolf, Alex Paulson and Dominic Barrett all had quarterback sacks as the Mustangs finished with five sacks to finish one shy of a school record.
After turning the ball over with a fumble on their first possession, the Mustangs scored touchdowns on each of their next six offensive possessions to put the game away early. Morningside led 14-7 after the first quarter before expanding their advantage to an insurmountable 35-7 by the intermission.