Dakota Wesleyan University linebacker Tyler Wagner said the defense wanted to make a statement in the season finale on Saturday.
Hastings College received the message.
The Tiger defense limited the Broncos to 87 yards rushing on 2.2 yards per attempt and kept them off the scoreboard until the waning moments of the game to finish the 2019 campaign with back-to-back wins after a 30-7 Great Plains Athletic Conference rout at Joe Quintal Field.
“We usually rotate a lot of guys, but in this game we didn’t really have that plan and it worked out,” DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said, “because we got off the field quickly. We didn’t create many turnovers, but we got some three-and-outs and it helps when, offensively, guys are moving the ball.”
The DWU defense entered the game allowing 36 points per game and 300.7 yards, but the unit had unmistakable fire from the opening possession, which ended with a shanked punt to set up a Luke Loudenburg touchdown run.
The Tigers recorded four sacks -- 1.5 from Alan Murtic -- and forced four three-and-outs, along with another drive in which they forced a punt, only for Hastings to extend the drive on a fake punt. Even when the Hastings put stress on DWU (3-8, 2-7 GPAC), the defense refused to break, punctuated by four consecutive stops with Hastings on the 1-yard line.
“It’s just everyone doing their assignment and doing their job, their piece of the puzzle,” said Wagner, a redshirt senior who finished with 10 tackles and a sack. “When everyone does their job, you can see we’re very successful.”
While the defense kept Hastings (2-8, 1-8 GPAC) off the scoreboard, the Tiger offense was opportunistic when called upon. In his final collegiate game, DWU relied upon Loudenburg to carry the workload.
Loudenburg set up his first touchdown run with an 18-yard reception from Zachary Lester in the first quarter before helping seal the game early in the second half.
With DWU leading 20-0 at halftime, thanks to a 12-yard touchdown run by Lester and a blocked punt by Preston Emerson, Loudenburg caught a screen pass on the first possession of the third quarter and bolted up the sideline for a 39-yard touchdown.
He also had 56-yard run to set up a Tate Gale field goal in the fourth quarter, finishing with 134 total yards and two touchdowns on 18 touches.
“Our receivers do an amazing job in the open field latching on to people,” Loudenburg said. “When we get out in the open field, you know that any play can go to the end zone.”
Lester went 18 of 33 for 243 yards, one touchdown and an interception, while Daniel Libolt had 11 receptions for 108 yards. Zach Gors led DWU with 11 tackles.
Isaiah Jackson was 15 of 33 for 187 yards and a 38-yard touchdown pass to Keiotey Stenhouse with 90 seconds to play for Hastings.
DWU recorded consecutive wins for the first time since Sept. 24 and Sept. 30, 2017. It was the first time the Tigers recorded back-to-back victories to end the regular season since 2016.