Doane Falls Behind Early, Scores 37 Unanswered Points to Finish Regular Season, 8-2

Doane fell behind early but rallied back with 37 unanswered points to finish of their season with a 37-13 victory at Concordia University on Saturday.  The Tigers finish the regular season at 8-2 but a playoff bid appears unlikely with the team's current #22 ranking.  Traditionally, a non-conference champion needs to be in the Top 16 of the NAIA poll to receive a bid to the post-season.


The game got off to a rough start for the Tigers with Concordia scoring the first 13 points of the game.  Doane opened with possession of the ball but on the fourth play of the drive, Tiger quarterback Anthony Dunn was sacked and fumbled the ball.  Concordia's Kyle Little recovered the ball and rumbled 42 yards for the first score of the game.


Following a 3-and-out for the Tigers, Concordia drove 78 yards on eight plays and punched the ball in the end zone on a 10-yard pass from Von Thomas to Nate Sindt.  The extra point attempt was blocked by Brandon Saratella for the Tigers to hold the score at 13-0 in favor of the Bulldogs.


“I think we had a little nervousness after the early deficit but the players did not panic,” Doane Head Coach Matt Franzen said.  “Everyone stayed calm and we were eventually able to find our rhythm through the running game.”


Doane's next possession went 12 plays over 6:30 as Dunn found Devon Niewohner for a six-yard touchdown pass.  Alex Dose posted eight rushing attempts during the drive.  The extra point was missed wide right, leaving the Tigers trailing by seven, 13-6.


After an exchange of possessions, the Bulldogs took over and began to drive towards midfield.  On 2nd and 7, Thomas ran an option play and the pitch missed the running back.  Lance Shifflet received a friendly bounce and he scooped up the loose ball and raced 42 yards for the tying score.


The Tiger defense made another stand, holding Concordia to five yards on their next possession and forcing a punt.  Doane responded with a go-ahead touchdown as Dunn found Tyrone Curry for a 19-yard score.  Dunn completed 4-of-6 on the drive.  The Tigers led 20-13 at the break.


Midway through the third quarter, the Tigers started to put together another scoring drive.  On 2nd and 17, Dunn hit Curry for a 20-yard pass for the key play of the drive.  Andrew Nielsen converted a 34-yard field goal to give the Tigers a 23-13 lead.


In the fourth quarter, Doane took over at their 45-yard line with 10:49 left in the game.  Dunn opened the drive with a 13-yard carry and drew a personal foul penalty on Concordia to move the ball deep into Bulldog territory.  After a pair of short runs and a false start penalty against Doane, Dunn hooked up with Curry on third down for a 27-yard touchdown to put Doane in front, 30-13.


“The Concordia defense was not going to let (Jeremiah) Saffold beat them today and that allowed Curry and (Jesse) Ver Velde to find some openings in the secondary,” Franzen said.


The Tigers' leading receiver on the season, Jeremiah Saffold, was limited to a pair of receptions for minus-1 yard.  Curry and Ver Velde finished with 11 combined receptions.


Doane's final scoring drive was set up by an interception by Kameron Lenhart.  Lenhart returned it 15 yards and with the addition of a face mask penalty, the ball was placed at the Bulldog eight-yard line.  Eric Morrison-Smith ran on back-to-back plays and covered the eight yards for the score and a 37-13 lead.


Concordia tried to make one last push in the final minutes.  They strung nine plays together for 61 yards but Lenhart once again made an interception and the Tigers went into the victory formation to close out the game.


“Our defense played really well today,” Franzen commented following the game.  “We had a lot of newer guys on the defensive line and they gained valuable experience last week against Dordt.  They had some struggles a week ago but grew up a little bit today as we saw improvement.  The secondary and linebackers were strong once again today.”


Doane limited Concordia to 215 yards in total offense and only 79 yards through the air.  The Tigers won the turnover battle, forcing three turnovers while committing one.


Dalton Ryba closed out his senior year with eight total tackles and was in on a tackle for lost yards.  Vince Martinez, Jeremy Wallace and Lance Shifflet added five total tackles.  Wallace teamed with Colton Nelson for the team's only sack in the game.  Shifflet added a tackle for lost yards and two quarterback hurries to his touchdown on the fumble recovery.


Offensively, Doane posted 386 yards with a balanced attack.  Doane ran the ball 49 times for 166 yards while throwing 37 passes for 220 yards.


Tyler Davis posted 60 yards on 18 carries while Dose added 18 carries for 58 yards.  Dunn added 36 yards on eight rushing attempts.


Through the air, Dunn completed 22 passes for 220 yards and three touchdowns.  His top receiver was Ver Velde as he grabbed eight passes for 70 yards.  Curry finished with four reception and 72 yards.  Josh Boggs added three catches and 30 yards receiving.


The Tigers close out the regular season with the most wins since 1997 and their highest conference finish since 2002.  Doane posted a 7-2 mark in GPAC play and finished tied for second in the standings.