Wisconsin-Whitewater defeated Morningside 35-21 in a battle of football giants.
Tanner Ver Steeg
Wisconsin-Whitewater extended its winning streak at Perkins Stadium to 27 games when it defeated Morningside 35-21 in a battle of football giants on Saturday in Whitewater, Wis.
The Warhawks prevailed in a marquee matchup between the second ranked teams in the nation in the NCAA Division III and NAIA ranks by holding the prolific Morningside scoring machine to just 21 points. The Mustangs, who have set NAIA national scoring records each of the past two seasons, were held to their fewest points in a regular season game since a 21-10 victory against Northwestern in the second game of the 2011 campaign.
It was a frustrating defeat for the Mustangs, who piled up 610 yards total offense, but came up empty on six drives that ended inside the Warhawks’ 40-yard line either by turnover, missed field goal, or downs.
Morningside passed for 507 yards to finish 132 yards shy of a school record, while individually Trent Solsma and Tanner Ver Steeg both approached record totals. Solsma completed 33 of 57 pass attempts for 500 yards to finish one yard shy of the Morningside standard of 501 yards passing by Craig Fobbe against Evangel in the 2005 NAIA Championship Series Quarterfinals. Ver Steeg had nine pass receptions that went for 272 yards to finish 15 yards shy of the Mustangs’ single-game record of 287 reception yards by Trae Johnson against St. Ambrose in 2005 and Beau Kildow against Dakota Wesleyan in 2009.
Wisconsin-Whitewater had some offensive standouts of its own, most notably quarterback Chris Nelson, who passed for 234 yards and four touchdowns, and Marcus Hudson, who had four receptions that went for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Jason Vander Kooi
The Warhawks capitalized on a Morningside turnover to take an early 7-0 lead they never relinquished. The turnover came on the Mustangs’ first offensive possession of the game when Bennett Young intercepted a Solsma pass and returned the theft 43 yards to the Morningside eight-yard line to set up a five-yard touchdown run by Drew Patterson with 8:50 left in the first quarter.
Wisconsin-Whitewater scored again the next time it had the ball on a 56-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Patterson to go up 14-0 with 4:39 left in the opening quarter.
Morningside scored its first touchdown on a three-yard run by Addison Ross, but missed the extra point to trail 14-6 with 13:55 left in the second quarter.
Nelson threw his second touchdown pass of the game when he hurled a 42-yard scoring pass to Canton Larson with 4:23 left in the second quarter to put the hosts up 21-6.
The Mustangs staged an impressive 99-yard touchdown drive that featured a 48-yard pass from Solsma to Ver Steeg late in the second quarter to make it a one-score game at the intermission. The touchdown came on 10-yard pass from Solsma to Tyler Kavan with 51 seconds left in the half to pull the Mustangs within 21-13.
Wisconsin-Whitewater scored on its first offensive possession of the second half on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Tony Gumina to take a 28-13 lead with 12:09 left in the third quarter.
The Mustangs used their longest offensive play from scrimmage so far this season to close within 28-21 with 3:26 left in the third quarter on a 93-yard touchdown pass from Solsma to Ver Steeg followed by a two-point conversion pass from Ross to Vander Kooi.
Morningside threatened to take the lead when it drove to the Warhawks’ four-yard line early in the fourth quarter before a false start penalty stalled a drive that eventually ended with a missed field goal attempt.
The Mustangs were turned away again on their next possession when Colin Buck intercepted a Solsma pass and the Warhawks scored three plays later on a 34-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Hudson to increase their lead to 35-21 with 9:49 left in the game.
Morningside finished with 507 yards passing and 103 yards rushing. Aside from the 272-yard performance by Ver Steeg, the Mustangs also had big games from Vander Kooi with 10 catches for 107 yards and Michael Whitehead with seven receptions for 71 yards.
Kavan led the Mustangs’ infantry attack by rushing for 66 yards in 20 carries.
Caden McDonald led the Mustangs’ defensive effort with a game-high 12 tackles, including 3.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 14 yards. Austin Allen had three tackles in the Warhawks’ backfield for losses of nine yards and also blocked a Wisconsin-Whitewater field goal attempt. Britton Barrier had an interception and Jesse Faltys had a quarterback sack.
Morningside hopes to rebound when it entertains Concordia at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 1, for Homecoming 2016.