And we’re at it again on Day 3 of our trip around the MIAC, taking a look at how the other teams in the conference could stack up in 2013.
Once again, it all leads up to the full St. John’s preview package that runs in Wednesday’s newspaper.
And this leg of the trip takes us to Moorhead and Minneapolis for looks at Concordia and Augsburg.
So away we go:
Head coach: Terry Horan (12th season)
2012 record: 6-2 MIAC, 8-2 overall
General: One loss is probably all that kept Concordia from earning a berth in the Division III playoffs last season, and that loss was a heartbreaking one from the Cobbers’ standpoint.
Playing on the road, Concordia led Bethel 14-7 with 1:24 remaining before the Royals were able to drive 71 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a 15-14 victory.
The pivotol moment of that drive came with one second left and the ball at the Cobbers’ 17, Bethel quarterback Erik Peterson was stripped of the ball. But it was ruled (and the tape seemed to show) that Concordia players came onto the field before a Cobber player gained possession.
The result was an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty – Concordia’s lone penalty of the game – and Bethel got one last chance for the game-winning score from the Cobbers’ 9. The win meant the Royals got an NCAA at-large berth while Concordia stayed home for the postseason.
Now head coach Terry Horan and his team seek to change that this season. But with many key contributors from last season’s squad – especially offensively – having graduated, the task will not be an easy one. Though Concordia has proven year in and year out that it will always be a team to be reckoned with.
Offense: The Cobbers return just three starters on offense from a year ago. The losses include fullback Brett Baune, who rushed for 1,050 yards and 13 touchdowns a year ago to claim MIAC MVP honors.
But Concordia does return its starting quarterback in junior Griffin Neal, who threw for 1,489 yards and 16 touchdowns while rushing for 327 yards and four touchdowns in 2012.
“A lot is going to be expected of him,” Horan said. “He had a great sophomore year and he’s had a heck of an offseason. He’s a great athlete and a real student of the game.”
Senior Matt Peterson, who rushed for 263 yards a year ago, returns as well. And classmate Trent Johnson was expected to try to return after injuries kept him out of football all of last season. Senior Zach Southwick, whose father Jim is a member of the school’s hall of fame, and senior fullback Luke Gotta could all factor into the always hard-nosed Concordia running game as well.
Senior wide receiver Mark Whiting had 21 catches for a team-best 515 yards and seven touchdowns last year. And junior wide receiver Brandon Zylstra transferred from Division II Augustana (S.D.) in time to compete in track and field for the Cobbers last spring – clearing 6-foot-10 in the high jump.
But the entire offensive line must be replaced.
Defense: Senior Tyler Berling, an All-MIAC second-team pick who had 45 tackles a year ago, is the lone returner from what was a very talented group of linebackers.
All-MIAC first-team pick Mark Wychor, a senior nose guard, is the lone returner on a defensive line that loses All-MIAC first-team pickPaul Streich and All-MIAC second-team pick Reed Hefta at the defensive ends. Juniors Nick Leen and Sam Lastovich are top contenders to take over. Nate Adams, a transfer from Division II Bemidji State, and junior Carl Nelson, who saw action at nose guard as a sophomore, could figure in as well.
The secondary is more experienced. Seniors Kenyon O’Brien, Bryce Hentges (a Sauk Centre graduate) and Luke Peterson all return to starting spots there.
The Cobbers have St. Olaf, St. John’s, Augsburg and Bethel all among their first five conference games. So they will be battle-tested before they arrive at a road matchup against St. Thomas on Nov. 9.
Concordia also enters the season needing just five victories to reach 500 in program history.
Head coach: Frank Haege (ninth season)
2012 record: 5-3 MIAC, 7-3 overall
General: The Auggies have been a team on the rise the past couple of seasons and now stand out as a legitimate darkhorse contender in the conference race this season.
Last year’s 7-3 record was the best finish at the school since the Auggies went 10-2 and captured the MIAC title in 1997. And it came on the heels of a 6-4 mark in 2011.
This season, a deep core of talent returns, including some offensive skill position players with the potential to be among the best in the league.
Offense: Things are likely to start with All-MIAC first-team quarterback Ayrton Scott, who rushed for 1,436 yards and 12 touchdowns while throwing for 2,245 yards and 26 touchdowns in his first season in the league a year ago.
“I think we knew he’d be good, but we didn’t know he’d be that good,” Haege said. “Now he’s gotten bigger, faster, stronger and more mature. He just continues to get better.”
That could be bad news for the rest of the league, especially on an offense that also returns All-MIAC first-team and preseason All-American tight end senior Adam Carl.
At running back, the Auggies seem loaded. Tyler Maxwell, who rushed for 849 yards and 13 touchdowns as a freshman in 2011, but sat out all last season with a knee injury, is now back. So is senior Phil Putratz, who was the starter before injury shortened his season a year ago. And junior Jerise Washington returns after rushing for 610 yards and eight touchdowns last fall. That depth means Augsburg might at times veer from its primarily one-back offensive scheme.
Also back is Hakeem Bourne-McFarlane, who began his career at wide receiver and has played steadily there, though hus first focus this season will be as the team’s starting free safety. Haege said the goal is for him to play on about one-third of the team’s offensive plays this season. But Joey Sonnenfeld, who spent the past two seasons at Division I-AA titan and Division I giant killer North Dakota State, and senior Jordan Freeman add depth there. And both Washington and sophomore Erickson Saye could see time at either running back or wide receiver.
Two starters return on the offensive line in All-MIAC second-team center Chad Thompson, a senior, and sophomore guard Zach Swingen.
Defense: All-MIAC second-team defensive end Chris Devet, a junior, and senior Lincoln Buege return at nose guard and defensive end.
Senior Enrico Barrozo is the lone returner in the linebacking corps. But the defensive backfield returns all four starters in Bourne-McFarlane, junior strong safety Felix Coleman, senior cornerback Avery Dorsett and junior cornerback Brandon Hunter.
The Auggies lost a pair of talented players at the kicker and punter position. Wesley Waytashek, who also started at wide receiver, was 3-for-6 on field goal attempts and 45-for-49 on PATs a year ago while punter Chris Elbert averaged 37.7 yards per kick.
Preston Hurd, a transfer from Itasca Community College, looks to be the favorite to take over at kicker. Meanwhile, backup quarterback Ali Kanan is expected to compete with freshmen for the punting job.