Cobbers roll Nebraska Wesleyan in season opener
MOORHEAD — On his first touch of the 2018 season, Concordia's Rylie Sheridan made an explosive play, only to have it nullified by a penalty.
His wait for redemption would be a short one.
The sophomore running back ran for 119 yards, including a 91-yard tone-setting touchdown run on the first play of the second series, kick-starting the Cobber offense in a 28-3 win over Nebraska Wesleyan in a college football opener opener Saturday at Jake Christianson Stadium.
Sheridan seemingly put the Cobbers in prime scoring position right out of the gate, bursting free for a 50-yard gain on the opening kickoff. But the play was nulified by a block in the back, and after a disastrous series where they fumbled twice, the Cobbers were forced to punt.
But after the defense forced a three-and-out, Sheridan immediately changed the tenor of the game, finding a big hole on the left side of the Prairie Wolves' line and racing uncontested for a long score.
"It was great blocking," Sheridan said of the play. "I just saw some green, put my foot in the ground and tried to get what I could. I didn't even get touched."
Sheridan was the top gainer for a run game that finished with 373 yards.
After turning the ball over on downs twice in Wesleyan territory, the Cobbers punched it in the end zone again just before halftime.
A 14-play, 83-yard drive that ate up 6:47 concluded when Blake Kragnes rolled right and found Kevin Marzolf for a 7-yard touchdown with 26 seconds remaining in the second quarter, giving the Cobbers a 14-3 lead at the break.
Kragnes then handled all the scoring in the second half, accounting for two touchdowns in the third quarter.
He hit Ryan Cihak for a 9-yard score, then ran it in himself from 2-yard out on the ensuing possession, a drive that began at the Wesleyan 15 following a Jake Erholtz interception.
Kragnes, who finished with 81 yards on the ground and 65 through the air, needed just one game to double his touchdown pass total from a season ago. Wanting to make major strides through the air, he felt the offense took positive steps Saturday.
"It helps confidence a lot, not just with me, it helps with (receivers) and also the lineman," he said. "Them seeing we can execute the passing game gives the a lot more confidence to block for our passing game."
The offense got plenty of help from a defense that forced four turnovers in the second half, with Ernholtz and Will Berning recording interceptions.
Though wanting to clean up a few things, Cobber Coach Terry Horan had mostly positive things to say about Saturday's performance.
"It wasn't the prettiest of wins, but it's a win," he said. "When you can go out in your first game and do some of the things we did, that's a positive. We've got a lot to build on though."
Concordia's new $1 million video board made its debut at Jake Christiansen Stadium Saturday.
The board, which displayed replays during the game and several forms of video entertainment during breaks, is expected to provide a serious boost not only to the in-game atmosphere, but in coaches' attempts to sell the program to prospective recruits.
"There are a lot of Division I programs that would love to have what we have," Horan said. "It's a huge recruiting tool for us (and) a commitment to excellence by our administration to go ahead and improve this."
NW 0 3 0 0— 3
C 7 7 14 0— 28
C-Sheridan 91 run (Kostelecky kick)
NW-Bennett 42 field goal
C- Marzolf 7 pass from Kragnes (Kostelecky kick)
C-Cihak 9 pass from Kragnes (Kostelecky kick)
C-Kragnes 2 run (Kostelecky kick)