DWU football can’t find response in loss to Hastings
Dakota Wesleyan University’s promising start quickly turned into a 45-7 rout by Hastings (Neb.).
Even with a shorter offseason and star linebacker Cody Reichelt missing the second half with a lower leg injury, it’s hard to pin all of DWU’s mistakes on those factors. The Broncos, who were picked slightly ahead of DWU in the Great Plains Athletic Conference preseason coaches poll, looked more disciplined and outplayed the Tigers for the final two and a half quarters on Saturday.
It turned into a sixth loss by at least 30 points since the start of the 2018 season, one that could’ve been worse if Hastings scored on its final possession at the goal line. For the fifth straight year, DWU dropped its season and GPAC opener.
“I don’t know if (a shortened offseason) had much to do with it,” DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. “We had a rough game, for a lack of a better way of describing it.”
A lack of discipline turned into six penalties, giving the Broncos two first downs. The Tigers (0-1, 0-1 GPAC) had a delay of game on its first offensive play of the season, and for a team that failed to string together first downs or get key defensive stops, the penalties only added to its struggles.
“We need to make sure we’re being disciplined on what we’re seeing and what we’re looking for,” Cimpl said. “… Really, overall, a lack of discipline is what I’d attribute it to.”
Hastings also controlled the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. It opened holes for Tyree Nesmith to rush for 108 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries, which helped the Broncos avoid third downs and capitalize on good field position.
“I thought their offensive line did a tremendous job of being physical and moving us off the ball,” Cimpl said. “I thought their defensive line was really good at holding us up and letting their linebackers run clean to the play.”
Whether it be a long punt return, an interception or fumble, Hastings started in DWU territory five times and had three more possessions at its own 40-yard line or better. Meanwhile, DWU had two drives start inside the 5-yard line and its best starting position (45-yard line) came on its first possession of the game.
DWU didn’t show enough consistency to sustain long drives, and going 3-for-15 on third downs didn’t help. Emery native Jamin Arend broke off a 21-yard run and had a 35-yard reception, while Zach Lester connected with Chance Sorensen for its only touchdown of the game, a 60-yard connection after Lester overthrew a would-be touchdown to him a couple of plays earlier.
The big plays showed flashes, but Lester finishing 13-for-25 for 192 yards, a touchdown and interception and Arend running for 43 yards on 13 carries highlights how much the Tigers relied on home run plays. It led to senior transfer quarterback Jimmie Garewal, despite being listed behind Mitchell native Kiel Nelson on the Week 1 depth chart, and other second-team players taking snaps to end the game.
“It’s a matter of our coaches putting those guys in good positions and our guys have to execute,” Cimpl said. “We dropped too many balls offensively.”
Hastings had long completions and Brett Simonsen had a 39-yard run, but much of its offense centered around Nesmith wearing down the defense. Nesmith’s longest run was 11 yards.
Cimpl pointed to missed tackles, and of course the injury to Reichelt didn’t help. But Hastings started to break the game open in the second quarter when Lester was intercepted on the drive following the Broncos’ go-ahead touchdown. A couple of plays later, Nesmith scored his second of four touchdowns to extend the lead to 21-7.
DWU didn’t score again and Hastings added three more touchdowns and a field goal. It’s not the response Cimpl hoped to see from his team.
“We really couldn’t respond, and I think that’s what we needed to do in certain situations, whether that be a stop or a first down,” Cimpl said. “We weren’t able to do that.”
DWU plays Northwestern (Iowa) at 1 p.m. Saturday in Orange City, Iowa.