Open skies at quarterback for Concordia Cobbers

Moorhead - Concordia showed off its new home football threads Thursday morning at Jake Christiansen Stadium - a dark maroon jersey with solid gold numbers and striping on the sleeves.

Concordia College quarterbacks
Concordia College quarterbacks, from left, Griffin Neal, Mark Dunham and Mitch Tauer are vying for the starting spot with the Cobbers this season. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Moorhead - Concordia showed off its new home football threads Thursday morning at Jake Christiansen Stadium - a dark maroon jersey with solid gold numbers and striping on the sleeves.

That's not the only new look the Cobbers will have this fall.

"Your security blanket for three years has been Mike Dunham," Cobbers coach Terry Horan said, referring to his former quarterback.

Not anymore.

A three-year starter, Dunham completed his playing career last fall and set a number of school records, including career passing yards.


Three players are in competition to replace the departed Dunham, Horan said during the team's annual media day.

Sophomores Griffin Neal and Mitch Tauer along with junior Mark Dunham (Mike's brother) are all vying for the starting spot. Finding a capable No. 1 QB will be paramount for the Cobbers if they hope to improve on last season's 6-4 record. Concordia went 4-4 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

Neal is the only one of the three QB prospects to attempt a pass in college. Neal had four pass attempts as a freshman.

"All three of us want that starting position, and we're going to put up our best effort to get that starting position," said the 6-foot-4, 200-pound Neal, a former Fargo South standout.

All three QB candidates have shared reps with the first team through the early part of fall camp. The Cobbers open their season on Sept. 1 at Jamestown College, an NAIA school. Horan said he would like to name a starter the week before the opener.

"We came into camp knowing it would be a three-way battle. It's just trying to win day-by-day," said the 6-foot-4 Tauer, who is from Atwater, Minn.

Neal has the best arm of the three QB options, Horan said. Tauer and Mark Dunham are both strong at running the team's option attack.

Mark Dunham also sat behind his brother Mike in high school before taking over the starting QB spot at Willmar (Minn.) High School.


"Going back to high school, it was kind of like the same situation," Mark Dunham said.

Offensive tackle Tom Knowlton said building chemistry with whoever emerges as the starter will be one of the challenges during fall camp. The 6-foot-3, 300-pound senior, who played his high school football at Fargo South, thinks all the prospects have good qualities.

"They all bring their own special thing to the table," Knowlton said. "It's just who's going to be the most balanced."

In addition, Concordia has returning experience in other areas on offense. The Cobbers have three starting offensive linemen coming back, including Knowlton. Senior fullback Brett Baune led the team in rushing last season and scored 16 touchdowns.

Concordia has a total of seven offensive starters coming back. That should help the new QB.

"Whoever gets that starting job doesn't need to carry the team," Horan said. "They have good pieces around them."

All three also got a chance to watch one of the best QBs in program history operate a season ago.

"It was nice to watch Mike play football, because when I came from high school I thought it wasn't going to be too hard to make the transition," Neal said. "But ... I got here first day (last fall) and I was three steps behind. ... It was pretty easy to watch him and pick up the game from him."


Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson's blog can be found at

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Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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