Morningside is in the NAIA Championship Series Semifinals for the third year in a row after Saturday’s 56-28 rout of Missouri Valley.
Brandon Wegher, a 5-11, 210 lb. senior running back from Dakota Dunes, S.D., became the all-time leading touchdown scorer in Morningside history when the Mustangs defeated Missouri Valley College 56-28 in Saturday’s NAIA Football Championship Series Quarterfinal Round contest at Elwood Olsen Stadium.
Wegher scored four touchdowns to give him 50 in his two seasons with the Mustangs to break the former Morningside record of 47 career touchdowns set by 2014 graduate Kyle Schuck.
Morningside improved its record to 11-1 and advanced to the NAIA Championship Series Semifinals for the third year in a row. The Mustangs will host Marian University at noon on Saturday, Dec. 6. The game will pit the two teams that met in the 2012 Russell Athletic-NAIA Football National Championship Game in Rome, Ga., where Marian won 30-27 in overtime.
Morningside had too much offense for a Missouri Valley team that prides itself in defense. The Mustangs amassed 711 yards total offense against a Viking team that had allowed an average of only 15.3 points per game to rank third in the nation in scoring defense. Missouri Valley had allowed an average of only 2.9 yards per rushing attempt, but Morningside ran wild with 396 yards in 49 attempts for an average of 8.1 yards per carry.
Wegher, named the Outstanding Offensive Player of the Game, ran for 311 yards and three touchdowns in 25 attempts for the second highest single-game rushing yardage total in Morningside history. His touchdown runs all came in the second quarter on gains of one, 66, and 79 yards. He also caught a screen pass from Ryan Kasdorf and turned it into a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
Wegher raised his season’s rushing total to 2459 yards to close within 45 yards of the NAIA national record of 2504 yards rushing in a season set by Dave Perrigo of Northwestern College in 2000. Wegher has already set new NAIA national records with 41 touchdowns, 37 rushing touchdowns, and 248 points scored this season.
Kasdorf completed 15 of 21 pass attempts for 315 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 59 yards to finish with 374 yards total offense. He completed a 75-yard touchdown bomb to Connor Niles on the Mustangs’ first offensive play of the game. Kasdorf and Niles hooked up again on a two-yard TD pass in the second quarter. His other touchdown passes included the 75-yard screen to Wegher along with a one-yard strike to Jason Vander Kooi in the third quarter and a three-yard pass to Kendall Lindeman to cap the scoring with 6:54 left in the game. The one-yard TD pass to Vander Kooi actually came on a 42-yard completion to Niles, who fumbled the ball at the one-yard line before Vander Kooi recovered the ball to complete the touchdown.
Niles finished with four receptions for 126 yards to help the Mustangs offset the loss of leading receiver Devin Thomas, who missed the game with an injury.
Missouri Valley had some offensive standouts of its own in Bruce Reyes, who passed for 375 yards and four touchdowns, and Jarrell Davis, who was on the receiving end of nine of Reyes’ completions for 128 yards and two touchdowns, including a 62-yard TD in the second quarter for the Vikings’ longest play of the game.
Reyes’ 375 yards passing was the sixth highest total ever allowed by the Morningside defense.
Although Reyes passed for 375 yards, he was also intercepted three times and sacked five times. Zac Schleuger, named the Outstanding Defensive Player of the Game, had one of the interceptions along with a pair of pass breakups, seven tackles, and a quarterback hurry. Xavier Spann and Chad Berg had the Mustangs’ other interceptions, while Ethan Stofferan topped the Mustangs’ tackle chart with 10 stops, including two quarterback sacks. Luke Gibbs and Caden McDonald also had sacks and Bryce Bostwick and Darrius McMullin combined on another. Britton Barrier just missed double figures with a season’s high nine tackles.
Missouri Valley All-America defensive back Michael Barnes had a game-high 15 tackles for the guests, including eight solo stops. The Mustangs were able to keep Missouri Valley standout Ty Phillips, poised to become a three-time All-American, out of their backfield as he finished with five tackles and only one behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of one yard. Phillips entered the contest with career totals of 42.5 quarterback sacks and 76.5 tackles behind the line of scrimmage for losses of 345 yards.
Morningside led 14-7 after the first quarter before the Vikings tied the score at 14-14 on a four-yard touchdown pass from Reyes to Davis with 12:17 left in the second quarter.
The Mustangs took the lead for good, 21-14, when Wegher crashed into the end zone from one yard out with 7:39 left in the second quarter to cap a 13-play, 77-yard drive.
Morningside added three more touchdowns in the second period, including a 79-yard run by Wegher with 44 seconds left, to take a 42-21 lead into the intermission.
The Mustangs stretched their lead to 49-21 on a one-yard touchdown pass from Kasdorf to Vander Kooi for the only score of the third quarter.