Morningside rushed for a school-record 475 yards in a 50-7 romp against Dakota Wesleyan.
No. 1-ranked Morningside used a record breaking rushing performance to overpower No. 16 Dakota Wesleyan 50-7 on Saturday at Elwood Olsen Stadium.
The Mustangs (6-0) rushed for a school-record 475 yards, including a school record 327-yard performance by Brandon Wegher. The Mustangs broke their former single-game standard of 467 yards rushing set against Wartburg College during the 1980 season, while Wegher toppled the Mustangs’ former individual record of 284 yards by Jake Peterson against Dana College during the 2009 campaign.
Wegher was at 284 yards after he broke loose for a 40-yard touchdown run, his fourth TD of the game, with 7:14 left in the fourth quarter. He broke the record on his next and final carry with a 43-yard dash when Dakota Wesleyan had the Mustangs pinned on their own one-yard line.
Wegher raised his season’s rushing total to 1146 yards for an average of 191.0 yards per game. Wegher’s four touchdown runs put him at 19 to tie a school record previously set by Peterson in 2009.
Wegher vaulted into second place on Morningside’s all-time rushing list with 2351 career yards and moved within striking distance of the Morningside record of 2877 career yards set by Dave Bigler from 1969-71.
Morningside averaged a whopping 10.3 yards per carry against a Dakota Wesleyan defense that had yielded averages of only 107.7 yards rushing per game and 2.9 yards per attempt prior to the contest. Wegher wasn’t the only Mustang runner to have a big day as Tyler Kavan ran for 110 yards in only nine attempts for an average of 12.2 yards per carry.
Morningside finished with 793 yards total offense, just one game after it set a NAIA national record with 916 yards total offense in a 76-14 triumph against Hastings. The 793 yards was the second highest total in school history for a Morningside team that entered the contest as the NAIA national leader with a norm of 714.0 yards per game.
Aside from having two running backs run for over 100 yards, the Mustangs also had a pair of 100-yard receivers. Devin Thomas led the Mustangs with six receptions that went for 117 yards, while freshman Connor Niles had the biggest game of his young collegiate career with 144 yards on four receptions.
Mustang quarterback Ryan Kasdorf passed for 318 yards and two touchdowns, but suffered an uncharacteristic four interceptions, two of them by Tiger linebacker Anthony Cervantes. Kasdorf, the NAIA leader in pass efficiency, had thrown only one interception over the Mustangs’ first five games.
Even with their record breaking rushing performance and second highest total offense total in school history, the Mustangs were held to their lowest scoring total of the season.
The Mustangs, who averaged a whopping 71.0 points per game over their first five contests, led 23-7 at the intermission before they broke the game open with a 27-point second half.
Morningside had a rare three-and-out on its first offensive possession of the game before it marched 70 yards in five plays the next time it had the ball and took a 7-0 lead on a 26-yard touchdown pass from Kasdorf to Niles with 8:25 left in the first quarter.
The Mustangs added a seven-yard TD run by Wegher to take a 14-0 lead with 1:48 left in the first period.
Dakota Wesleyan closed within 14-7 on a six-yard touchdown run by Francois Barnaud at the 12:16 mark of the second quarter to cap an 11-play, 68-yard match.
Morningside answered less than two minutes later on a 31-yard touchdown run by Wegher with 10:51 left in the half and made it 23-7 on a 21-yard field goal by Zach Decker with 1:37 left before the intermission.
The Mustangs increased their lead to 30-7 on a nine-yard touchdown pass from Kasdorf to Jason Vander Kooi with 36 seconds left in the third quarter and finished things off with fourth quarter touchdown runs of 20 and 40 yards by Wegher and 33 yards by Kavan.
Dakota Wesleyan’s Barnaud, one of the NAIA’s most productive runners over the past two seasons, rushed for 130 yards in 20 attempts against the nation’s top ranked defense against the run. Barnaud became only the fourth back to top the 100-yard mark against Morningside’s defense over its last 49 regular season contests.
The Tigers weren’t as successful when they took to the air, however, as Dillon Turner completed 13 of 32 pass attempts for 117 yards and was sacked five times.
Darrius McMullin had two of the Mustangs’ sacks and combined with Zac Schleuger for another. Luke Gibbs also had a sack and combined with Ethan Stofferan on another.
Schleuger finished with four solos and 12 assists for a career-high 16 tackles, while Stofferan, Logan Gibbs, and Bryce Bostwick also made double figures with 12, 10, and 10, respectively. Chad Berg intercepted a pass and broke up three others, while Xavier Spann blocked a Dakota Wesleyan field goal attempt.
Jared Van Winkle had 14 tackles, including nine solo stops, for Dakota Wesleyan. Brady Bonte added 10 tackles.
Morningside will travel to Vermillion, S.D., on Saturday, Oct. 25, for a 7:30 p.m. game against Briar Cliff in the DakotaDome.