ORANGE CITY, Iowa (Northwestern) – Battling not only a top-5 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) team, but also Mother Nature, the No. 1-ranked Northwestern College football team (9-0, 8-0 GPAC) picked up their first regular season win over the Morningside Mustangs (8-1, 7-1 GPAC), 34-20, on a snowy, cold October Saturday afternoon at De Valois Stadium. The Red Raiders take sole control of the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC) football standings.
“The snow was an adjustment. I’m proud of how our kids responded to the adversity and made it a positive,” noted head coach Matt McCarty. “I’m proud of how our guys never wavered and kept battling and found a way to win. That’s a great team we beat today. Our guys responded and played their best football!”
It was the Mustangs who would strike for the first couple of scores in the snow. Morningside held a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter thanks to a Ryan Cole four-yard touchdown run. Cole would punch it in again from inside five yards out for his second score of the day, and after a botched PAT, the Mustangs would lead 13-0 with 11 minutes to play in the half.
A 22-yard connection from Jalyn Gramstad (Jr., Lester, Iowa) to Michael Storey (Sr., Spencer, Iowa) would spark the Red Raider crowd battling the steady snowfall inside De Valois Stadium, and made it a one score game at 13-6 the following drive after Morningside’s score.
The momentum swung after the initial Raider score, but even more so after the Northwestern defense came out on the next possession and forced a Mustang three-and-out to get the ball back to the offense. It would not take the offense long to find the end zone to tie things up, as a seven-play, 79-yard drive would be capped off by a seven-yard touchdown run by Konner McQuillan (Sr., Leavenworth, Kan.) making it 13-13.
Morningside would respond with a quick five-play touchdown drive as quarterback Lennx Brown would make it 20-13 Mustangs with a 61-yard touchdown run down the far sideline. The Mustangs would take that 20-13 lead into the locker room.
“Drake (Harder) was a difference maker on our defensive line and was relentless all day long,” noted McCarty.
The second half would be three scores – and all for the Red Raiders. Gramstad would take the first score of the second half into his own hands, as he breaks free from the Mustang defense for a 38-yard touchdown run to make it 20-20 with 11:22 left in the third quarter. Morningside would have just two possessions in the third quarter, ending in a failed fourth-down attempt and a punt.
As the snow would continue to fall harder and harder in the second half, the two teams would head to the fourth quarter all knotted up at 20-20. The first Red Raider lead of the day would not come until the fourth quarter, but when it came, that’s all the Northwestern defense needed.
For the second time on the day, McQuillan would find the end zone – this time, getting the Red Raider faithful on their feet in the snow as he broke off a 56-yard touchdown sprint on a draw play on a third-and-eight, giving Northwestern their first lead of the day at 27-20 with 10:19 to play.
The Red Raider defense would continue its dominance, proving to make halftime adjustments that were effective, as Morningside had three fourth quarter possessions. The first two ended in punts, while the final possession ended in a turnover on downs.
The game-sealing score would come with two minutes to play. Tossing for his second touchdown of the day, Gramstad would find Austyn Gerard (Fr., Gilbert, Ariz.) in the back of the end zone for his second touchdown reception of the season. Gerard found a way to hold onto the ball despite a pass interference call. Northwestern would extend their lead to 34-20, which would prove to be the final score.
Northwestern snaps a three-game skid to the Mustangs and wins their first regular season contest over Morningside since winning in Orange City back in 2013.
“Konner (McQuillan) and Jalyn (Gramstad) made huge plays when we needed them to,” concluded McCarty. “They willed us to a couple big scores.”
- The win today marks the first over Morningside in the regular season since 2013.
- NWC takes sole control of first-place in the GPAC standings with two weeks remaining.
- Jalyn Gramstad improves to 19-0 as the starting quarterback for the Red Raiders.
- The win streak improves to 22-straight games.
- NWC recorded 466 yards of offense on 240 rushing yards and 234 passing yards.
- Northwestern’s season touchdown total is up to 48.
- Jalyn Gramstad picked up his fifth-career 100-yard rushing game with 146 yards on 21 carries (1 TD).
- He was 15-for-24 through the air for 234 yards and two touchdowns.
- Konner McQuillan picked up his sixth 2+ rushing touchdown game of the season and his third-straight; having 86 yards on 16 carries.
- Michael Storey brought down his 10th TD reception on five catches for 99 yards.
- Austyn Gerard brought down his second touchdown reception of the season (both at home, vs. Doane) for his lone grab of the day.
- The turnover streak (forced by the defense) comes to an end at 26-straight games.
- Drake Harder was a steady presence on the Raider defensive line, leading the team in tackles (7) and sacks (1.5) on the afternoon.
- The Raider defense had 9.0 tackles for loss, tying for the second most on the season.
- They held the high-powered Morningside offense to just 242 yards of offense.
- Morris Hofer recorded 0.5 sacks and was credited with two quarterback hurries.
- Matt McCarty picks up his second-career win over the Mustangs.
Up Next: The Red Raiders will hit the road for the final time in the regular season next weekend (November 4) with a trip to Mitchell, S.D. to battle the Tigers of Dakota Wesleyan University (6-3, 5-3 GPAC).