Once the bad weather had moved east and the game was cleared for takeoff, the Cardinals left the runway with energy, purpose and determination, soaring to an early lead over visiting St. Francis on Saturday afternoon. The Cardinals landed with a dominating 30-7 victory over the Fighting Saints to improve to 3-0 on the season.
Concordia, ranked No. 6 in the NAIA poll coming into the game, played its first two games this season on the road. So having to wait an extra hour for the lightening to move through the area just added to the anticipation of an exciting home opener before a packed house.
“It was a slow start with the weather delay, but we came out with a lot of energy,” said Concordia head coach Joshua Schumacher. “It was a great crowd and a great atmosphere.”
Speaking of great, Concordia was great on both sides of the ball. They racked up 367 yards of total offense while holding the visitors to 287 – with a lot of those yards coming after the game had already been decided.
But it started with the Concordia defense, which has allowed just 35 points in their first three games.
“Their quarterback is a good runner and we did a good job containing him,” Schumacher said. “I think we cleaned up our tackling a little bit from the previous two games.
“Once we started winning the first downs and putting them on second and third and long, I thought we played really well. We got after their quarterback a little bit and our DBs held up in coverage real well.”
Hunter Maynard led the Cardinals with eight total tackles. Prince Alex AyoOla and Reggie Thompson each had seven tackles. Amaan Payne and DaJuan Thomas each recorded interceptions as Concordia won the turnover battle 2-0.
The offense mixed it up all afternoon against the Fighting Saints. They had 241 yards through the air, led by quarterback Peter Morrison (22 of 28 passing), and 126 yards on the ground, led by Keirell Jackson (18 carries for 118 yards).
“We took a nice step forward on offense,” Schumacher said. “Peter started at quarterback and cleaned some things up. He was able to escape the pocket at the right time and find receivers down field. We wanted to win the first downs and I felt like we did a much better job with that this week.”
Roderick Dailey led all receivers with seven catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. Clay Coltson had four catches for 40 yards, Omar Sinclair had three grabs and Parker Graham and Ahmad Clay each had two catches.
Sinclair helped put the game away with a kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half as the special teams contributed in a big way.
Morrison led a three-play, 51-yard scoring drive to give the home team an early 7-0 lead. Jackson broke a 24-yard run, Coltson caught a 19-yard pass down the sideline, and Jackson punched in a 2-yard rushing touchdown for the first score of the game.
The Saints responded with an 87-yard drive down the field but came away empty after Payne’s interception in the end zone.
The Cardinals marched 93 yards back down the field on 11 plays to take a 13-0 lead. CUAA picked up three first downs on the drive, and Morrison eventually rolled to his left and found Sinclair for a 13-yard touchdown.
Concordia led 13-0 at halftime.
Sinclair’s 93-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the third quarter pushed the Cardinals’ lead to 20-0.
After another three-and-out from St. Francis, the Cardinals put together an impressive 7-play, 63-yard scoring drive. Morrison fired a 22-yard pass to Roderick Dailey for a touchdown to give the Cardinals a commanding 27-0 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Wyatt Mast kicked a 35-yard field goal to make it 30-0.
Despite the impressive win and 3-0 start, the Cardinals have some work to do.
“We still have too many penalties and we made a couple substitution errors,” Schumacher said. “We need to clean a few things up.
“Overall, we took a nice step forward. We are a young team and still have some things to straighten out. We just have to keep getting better in all phases.”
The Cardinals return to the road this week with a MSFA crossover game against fifth-ranked Saint Xavier in Chicago. The Cougars (1-1) are coming off a 28-20 loss on Saturday to University of Wisconsin-Whitewater.
“We go back on the road against a team that likes to throw the ball so it will be a good test for our DBs and pass rush,” Schumacher said. “We are excited to see how they do.”
The Cardinals return home on Oct. 5 against Siena Heights University. Kickoff is at 1 p.m.