Dakota Wesleyan University had ample opportunities to strike early against Midland on Saturday, but self-inflicted mistakes dug an insurmountable hole.
The Tigers moved the ball into Midland territory four times in the first half, but came away with seven points. Dalton Tremayne returned the opening kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown, but Spencer Neugebauer responded by reeling off an 82-yard kick return to the Midland 4 yard line, only for the drive to end in an interception.
DWU had two turnovers and a blocked field goal in its first three possessions, while the Warriors built on their lead by turning a fumble into a touchdown and a mishandled punt resulted in a safety. Midland grabbed a 22-point halftime lead en route to a 50-14 Great Plains Athletic Conference win at Joe Quintal Field.
“We can’t get out of our own way right now, and at some point we’re going to need to learn how to learn how to play football, win games and not make mistakes or we’re going to keep getting beat like this every game,” DWU head coach Ross Cimpl said.
Offensively, the Tigers found little room to run and Midland (3-2, 3-2 GPAC) forced them into more passing situations than desired. Kiel Nelson earned the start at quarterback with Zachary Lester in isolation due to COVID-19 until Friday and he was called upon to throw 46 passes before Lester was inserted late in the fourth quarter.
The DWU (1-4, 1-4) running game was limited to 2 yards on 28 attempts, forcing the offense to become one-dimensional. Nelson went 22 of 46 passing for 208 yards, a touchdown and interception, with an 8-yard touchdown to Neugebauer serving as one of the few bright spots for the offense in the first half.
“I think we tackled well and we didn’t give up the big play,” Midland head coach Jeff Jamrog said. “(DWU) has some good athletes. You’ve got to be able to stop the run in this league and we were able to do that today.”
Lester threw a 22-yard touchdown to Garrett Determan on his first drive, but ultimately found similar struggles, capped by a 37-yard interception return for a touchdown by Zach Acamo. In total, the Tiger offense 3 yards per play for the game, compared to Midland’s 8.1.
“We only had (Lester) in case of an emergency,” Cimpl said. “But I thought it was an emergency, so he needed to play.”
While DWU struggled to sustain drives, the Warriors capitalized on big plays. The Tigers created two turnovers and came up with a few strong stands, including forcing three punts on the first four possessions.
The defense could not consistently contain the Midland offense, however, as the Warriors had four plays of at least 35 yards in the first half.
On the first play from scrimmage after the safety, River Walker hit Darrin Gentry on a 49-yard touchdown and Maximus Wold ran 61 yards for a touchdown five minutes later to take a commanding 29-0 lead in the second quarter.
“We’ve got to be able to get off the field,” Cimpl said. “Tackling was an issue. We’ve got to be physical, we’ve got to go attack guys. We get two three-and-outs to start the game and then we break down a little bit. That’s an issue we’ve got to get cleaned up.”
Walker finished 14 of 23 for 250 yards, two touchdowns and an interception, while also running leading Midland with 59 yards rushing. Gentry had four catches for 135 yards.
Neuegebauer led DWU with 10 receptions for 85 yards, while Determan had four catches for 49 yards. Jacob Zamora also had his third interception in two games.
The Tigers travel to Morningside at 1 p.m. on Oct. 24 in Sioux City, Iowa.
Midland 50, Dakota Wesleyan 14
M: Dalton Tremayne 87 kick return (Jared Quinonez kick)
M: Jordelle Lacy 9 pass from River Walker (Quinonez kick)
M: Darrin Gentry 49 pass from Walker (Quinonez kick)
M: Maximus Wold 61 run (Run failed)
D: Spencer Neugebauer 8 pass from Kiel Nelson (Tate Gale kick)
M: Keenan Smith 2 run (Quinonez kick)
D: Garrett Determan 22 pass from Zachary Lester (Trevor Lambert kick)
M: Zach Acamo 37 interception return (Quinonez kick)
M: Andrew Miller 11 run (Quinonez kick)