Tigers turn to ground game early in loss at Northwestern
Dakota Wesleyan University embraced its gameplan of relying on redshirt-freshman running back Jamin Arend in the first quarter of a 50-16 loss at Northwestern College (Iowa) on Saturday.
After a 13-carry debut in which he showed flashes of the type of runner DWU envisioned when he signed out of Bridgewater-Emery/Ethan, Arend carried the ball 13 times in the first quarter against the Red Raiders. The run-heavy approach helped counter the wind, and while six of DWU’s 21 first downs came in the first quarter, it also was held scoreless for the fourth of now five scoreless quarters this season.
“We were able to do some different things and move the football,” DWU coach Ross Cimpl said. “Now we need to break a big run and be able to get things blocked up even a little bit more. Break a tackle and have a few more yards, and conversions and points associated with that.”
DWU relied on chunk-yardage plays against Hastings, which were the same ones that could’ve turned sustained drives into scoring drives against Northwestern. The Tigers had drives of nine and 10 plays end with no points in the first quarter.
In a 23-carry, 56-yard game, Arend only lost yards on two runs. But the big gains that highlighted his debut were also absent, with only two runs of five yards or more. His longest run was seven yards.
Still, Arend has been a reliable receiver out of the backfield and through two starts, it’s as much on an improving offensive line that had to start two freshmen in Iowa and needing to diversify the play-calling at times. Zach Lester was 3-for-5 in the first quarter.
“I think there’s times where we need to throw the ball to loosen teams up so we can run it,” Cimpl said. “... I don’t know if there’s a pinpoint situation where we can say, ‘If we improve this part of it, all of a sudden (the run game is) going to be a lot better.’ ”
Along with going against the wind in the first quarter, part of the run-heavy approach centered around keeping Northwestern off the field. The Red Raiders had the ball for 2 minutes, but turned it into 10 points in the opening frame.
Cade Moser caught the first of four Tyson Kooima touchdowns in the first quarter, bringing it 73 yards to the end zone. On Northwestern’s next possession, Moser caught a 70-yard touchdown. Two drives later, Kooima connected with Shane Solberg for a 91-yard touchdown. All three drives lasted two plays.
Along with Logan Meyer rushing for a 73-yard touchdown on his first collegiate carry, the defense allowed four touchdowns of 73 yards or longer. It was a mixture of broken tackles and getting behind the secondary.
“Two of the touchdowns, they’re just playing catch,” Cimpl said. “The fact guys are wide open, whether that’s we missed a guy on our blitz -- we had two guys coming clean and didn’t get the quarterback down on the ground, and all of a sudden he’s out of the pocket and we’re not where we need to be.”
All seven of Northwestern’s touchdowns came on first or second down. Through two weeks, the Tigers have been able to get off the field on third down. It held Northwestern to 1-for-9 on third down and Hastings to 3-for-10.
DWU now needs to get teams to third down, especially third-and-long at 1 p.m. Saturday against Dordt (Iowa), which likes to run the football. Similar to improving on the offensive side of the ball, Cimpl points toward the coaches and execution on the field to make it happen.
“The thing we got to be able to do is continue to mix it up defensively with our run pressure and pass pressure, and keep teams guessing,” Cimpl said. “We can’t become predictable, and at times, we are predictable.”
Notes: Cimpl said there is no timetable for the return of Mitchell native linebacker Cody Reichelt, who is out with a lower leg injury.