It's OK to blame Saturday morning's blast of early-winter snow on visiting Morningside College football. The Mustangs are used to it here.
Morningside football coach Steve Ryan has directed the Mustangs three times at the University of Jamestown's Taylor Stadium in his 20 years at the helm, and snow has been on the ground in all three games. The other constant has been a Mustangs' victory.
Morningside College, the NAIA's two-time defending national football champion, extended its current winning streak to 33 games with a 54-7 victory over the Jimmies. Snow also "highlighted" Morningside victories in Jamestown in 2018 and during the NAIA playoffs in 2007.
"I love the campus, and talking to the guys they're always like, 'How do you even know this campus without snow?'" Ryan said. "Well, one time when Jamestown played Valley City I just went up to watch them play and it was a beautiful day.
"But I do think it's a beautiful campus and a beautiful school, it just always snows."
No amount of snow was able to cool down the nation's top receiver: Reid Jurgensmeier. The 6-foot-3 senior entered Saturday leading the NAIA in receiving yards per game (159.0) and touchdowns (10) and he put up five catches for 123 yards and three TDs in the first half.
Just another day at the office.
"It's starting to be that way," Jurgensmeier said. "I'm able to just find holes in the defense. I've got a great quarterback throwing the ball to me and a great offensive line that gives him time to throw the ball back there, so just no complaints."
Jurgensmeier has played in 44 games for coach Ryan and the Mustangs since his freshman season.
"He's just played in so many games, and so many big games, that he's just clutch," Ryan said. "He runs good routes and he's got really good hands. He catches the ball well and he knows how to use his body to do it."
Morningside collected 622 yards of total offense, 392 yards through the air, while Jamestown didn't find much luck offensively. The home team moved the football 169 yards and struggled on the ground, finishing with seven rushing yards on 27 carries.
Jamestown quarterback Cade Torgerson was sacked four times for a loss of 35 yards, part of 10 tackles for loss recorded by the Mustangs for 56 negative yards.
"(Morningside's) kids are really technique-driven and they're big strong kids," said UJ head football coach Brian Mistro. "It's hard to create seams when those guys know where the seams are gonna be and they're getting in those seams. We've just gotta do a better job of owning up front. I know that we have the ability to, we just gotta have it in our minds right that, hey, we're gonna go out there and we're gonna move these guys."
But strides were made against the country's top team. Jamestown allowed 50 first-half points in last week's 66-13 loss at Dordt and didn't turn the ball over against the Mustangs, a team that had nine interceptions and five forced fumbles through three games.
"We've been able to create turnovers and we just weren't able to create turnovers today," Ryan said. "That was the one thing about our defense that was a little bit disappointing, but I think turnovers have a lot to do with the other team."
The Jimmies also had five new defensive starters on the field due to quarantines related to COVID-19 close contact protocol. Linebackers Ezra Belingheri, Manuel Najera, Levi Scribner, cornerback Jeremy Hautau and defensive end Damon Heidorf were all plugged into the starting lineup to help fill the void.
"One of the unique things about this year is you don't understand what the other guy's going through," Ryan said. "I think Brian's had it pretty tough up here this year and I thought his kids played really well, and I thought they were better than they were last week which is really a lot of the times your goal."
The UJ offense ended the game with something on which to hang its hat: an eight-play, 69-yard drive that included three first downs and a trip into the end zone. Torgerson ended the drive by connecting with freshman receiver Ryan O'Brien for a 26-yard touchdown pass and catch.
Torgerson connected with 12 receivers on the day, finishing with 162 yards passing. Freshman running back Jayden McCombs led the Jimmie backfield with 26 yards on nine carries, while UJ senior safety Ross Monson recovered a fumble on defense.
"We're not winning football games, but we're battling and we're playing until the whistle's blown, and our guys are believing in each other," Mistro said. "We've just gotta be more consistent. There's no quit in our guys and I love that."
The Jimmies (0-3) travel to Midland (3-2) next Saturday (Oct. 24). The Warriors defeated Dakota Wesleyan 50-14 on Saturday.
"There's no magic potion. We've gotta go in there and believe that we can win the football game and then go do it," Mistro said. "Hat's off to Morningside. That's a damn good football team."
Morningside 54, Jamestown 7
MOR 20 14 13 7 -- 54
JAM 0 0 0 7 -- 7
M: AP Ponder 4 run (Chase Carter kick), 12:27.
M: Reid Jurgensmeier 17 pass from Joe Dolincheck (Carter kick), 9:48.
M: Jurgensmeier 16 pass from Kaden Ladwig (kick failed), 7:00.
M: Ponder 1 run (Carter kick), 7:52.
M: Jurgensmeier 40 pass from Dolincheck (Carter kick), 5:22.
M: Jamal Albousafi 3 pass from Dolincheck (Carter kick), 9:45.
M: Anthony Sims 3 pass from Dolincheck (kick failed), 1:29.
M: Sims 10 run (Carter kick), 14:47.
J: Ryan O'Brien 26 pass from Cade Torgerson (Izaak Myles kick), 1:19.
STATISTICS MC UJ
Yards 622 169
Passing 392 162
Rushing 230 7
Total plays 83 68
First downs 31 14
Third down eff. 8/12 6/18
Fourth down eff. 1/2 1/4
Red zone eff. 7/8 0/1
Possession time 30:43 29:17
Turnovers 1 0
Fumbles lost 1 0
Penalties/yds. 6/53 6/50
Passing: M, Joe Dolincheck 25-35-0 358, Kaden Ladwig 3-5-0 34. J, Cade Torgerson 21-41-0 162.
Rushing: M, Anthony Sims 13-103, AP Ponder 20-90, Davon Brees 7-35, Matt Strecker 2-3, Ladwig 1-(-1). J, Jayden McCombs 9-36, Tanner Mathern 2-6, Jeremy Williams 1-0, Josiah Cage 4-(-2), Frankie Ingraldi 4-(-2), Izaak Myles 1-(-9), Torgerson 8-(-22).
Receiving: Reid Jurgensmeier 5-123, Jamal Albousafi 6-84, Ponder 5-48, Drake Partridge 2-33, Caleb Schweigart 2-33, Sione Tuifua 3-29, Jake Knott 2-18, Zach Norton 1-17, Jake Taute 1-4, Sims 1-3. J, Ryan O'Brien 3-42, Javon Bowie 3-19, Steven Justice 2-18, Williams 2-18, Sidney Luna-Long 3-16, Trenton Freitag 1-15, Micah Madyn 1-10, Ingraldi 1-7, Nick Davis 1-7, Jonah Lietz 1-6, Marcus Giles 2-4, McCombs 1-0.
Tackles (solo): Jalen Portis 12 (5), Tyler Wingert 7 (4), Nino Mastromatteo 6 (4), Drew Bessey 6 (2). J, Manuel Najera 14 (3), Jordan Olson 11 (5), Jeremy Hautau 7 (1), Ezra Belingheri 7 (2), Ross Monson 6 (1), Levi Scribner 6 (1).
Sacks: M, Wingert 2.5, Mastromatteo 1, Seth Maitlen 0.5. J, Najera 0.5, Chandlar Cork 0.5.
Fumble recoveries: J, Monson.
Records: Morningside 4-0, 4-0. Jamestown 0-3, 0-3.