MOORHEAD - Likely needing to be perfect to upset third-ranked St. Thomas, Concordia's football team was anything but Saturday afternoon at Jake Christiansen Stadium.
An NCAA Division III game many thought would be close fell well short of expectations, as the Cobbers fumbled three times in their own territory in the first quarter and fell into an early three-touchdown hole, losing their 11th straight game to the Tommies 46-7.
Concordia's defense made a big stop early, turning St. Thomas over on downs after quarterback Blake Kragnes fumbled at the Cobber 26 on the opening possession.
But after Kragnes fumbled again on the next series, this time at the Cobber 48, the Tommie offense wouldn't be denied. Three plays after Jackson Fine made a 16-yard catch on 4th-and-1, running back Josh Parks rumbled in for a 4-yard touchdown. It was the first of three touchdown runs by Parks, who finished with 101 rushing yards.
Down 14-0, the Cobbers endured a back-breaking turnover on the final play of the first quarter, when a Ryan Cihak fumble ended up in the arms of linebacker Adam Brandt, who raced uncontested for a 40-yard touchdown.
"It snowballed fast," Cobber Coach Terry Horan said. "You can't turn the ball over against really good teams. They're a great football team but (they're) not 46-7 better than us. We just dug ourselves too deep of a hole and it was tough to get out of it."
Giveaways weren't the only thing that hurt the Concordia offense in the first half, as they also dropped three passes, helping the Tommies pull ahead 36-0 at the break.
Concordia quarterback Kragnes, who left briefly in the third quarter with a leg injury, returned in the fourth, connecting with Kevin Marzolf for a 10-yard touchdown, the Cobbers' only score of the day.
Kragnes finished the day 12-of-26 for 106 yards and an interception to go along with his touchdown pass. Marzolf finished with team-best six receptions for 58 yards.
Though not shut for good, Horan knows his team's postseason window closed considerably Saturday, and expects his players to play with the proper motivation, now that they have no margin of error.
"We've got a bunch of big boys here," he said. "They've just got to pull up the bootstraps. We weren't very good today and we need to be better next week. We've got to forget this one fast. Gustavus isn't going to feel sorry for us, and that's where we go next and that's not an easy place to play."
Cobber players share Horan's eagerness to move on from Saturday.
"I wish we could go back on the field right now," said senior linebacker Andrew Thompson, who had a game-high 13 tackles. "I'm looking forward to seeing how the guys respond come Monday when we get back on the field. We've got to put it to bed. There's nothing we can change about what happened here today. All we can do is move forward."
Next Saturday's game at Gustavus Adolphus kicks off at 1 p.m.
ST 21 15 10 0-46
C 0 0 0 7-7
ST-Parks 4 run (Knutson kick)
ST-Wagner 8 pass from Perra (Knutson kick)
ST-Brandt 40 fumble return (Knutson kick)
ST-Parks 38 run (Parks run)
ST-Loeffler 1 run (Knutson kick)
ST-Parks 10 run (Knutson kick)
ST-Knutson 37 field goal
C-Marzolf 10 pass from Kragnes (Kostelecky kick)