A global pandemic, sickness, postponements, injuries, a cancellation -- a home football game played in Bismarck. The University of Jamestown football team endured a 2020 season that when read aloud sounds more like a story from scripture.
A tumultuous year came to a close for the Jimmies in Orange City, Iowa, on Monday, falling 49-0 to Northwestern College with a backup quarterback thrust under center against a 7-1 conference opponent in a contest that was rescheduled twice.
Jamestown recorded one win -- a 17-10 victory at Briar Cliff on Nov. 7 -- and seven losses in Brian Mistro's second season as head coach. Mistro now has the unenviable job of sifting through the season of discontent to accurately assess the true state of the program.
Regardless, putting a few more leaders in Jimmie orange over the offseason is a top priority.
"There were big holes that we needed to fill this year and we didn't from a recruiting standpoint," said Mistro, as he prepared to watch game tape on the bus back from Iowa. "One of the big things is we need to develop more leaders in our program; guys that can take control of our team a little bit.
"The best-led teams are teams that are led by their players, and so we need to make sure we identify some of those guys."
An entire offseason of team training was supposed to be crammed into less than 30 days beginning last Aug. 15, the day the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics said teams could begin practices. But COVID-19 derailed the Jimmies' season before it started.
The virus, and the related close contacts it brought with it, forced the postponement of Jamestown's first three contests, and when Jamestown finally opened the season on Oct. 3 in Seward, Nebraska, the Concordia Bulldogs were already 3-0. The Jimmies -- rolling 70 freshmen strong -- weren't yet at full-strength, and they wouldn't be the entire season.
"No one else (had an offseason) either, so from that standpoint we had to play the cards that we were dealt," Mistro said. "If we don't get hit with the COVID bug in the very beginning ... Our guys are down and they're wondering if we're even gonna get to play. Now we're in and we play our first game against a team that's got three games under its belt already."
The Jimmies had 12 seniors rostered for its final game. Mistro would like to see that number reach 30-plus in the coming years. But in the meantime, 15 freshmen were listed on UJ's final two-deep roster sent out to the media last week.
"There's a lot more college football that's been played on the other side of the ball," Mistro said. "It's gonna happen with experience and we've gotta keep building what we're doing. But here's the deal with our team, our guys battle."
Swarms of UJ starters would be missing at a time, including five on the offensive side of the football after senior running back Tanner Mathern ruptured his spleen in practice as the 0-4 Jimmies fell to 0-5 hosting Hastings College for homecoming on Oct. 31.
Down senior safety Ross Monson in Week 6 at Briar Cliff, the Jimmies' defense got off the field 12 times on the third down and beat the Chargers 17-10 in Sioux City, Iowa. But the following week -- Nov. 14 -- UJ starting quarterback Cade Torgerson was helped off the field after hearing "a pop" in his right knee in a home loss to Dakota Wesleyan University, a game that was played at the MDU Resources Community Bowl in Bismarck due to renovations taking place at Taylor Stadium.
Instead of facing 2-5 Doane University back in Bismarck the following week, the coronavirus reared its head, the Tigers were forced to cancel, and the Jimmies were off to face Northwestern College, who'd finish the regular season winning eight straight.
Torgerson, a junior, revealed good news about his injury to The Sun. He said although his leg was turned 180 degrees during the play in which he was hurt, an MRI concluded he had only suffered a bone bruise and he should be back to full strength shortly.
"I go see a doctor in Fargo for confirmation sometime next week probably," Torgerson said, "and then just a six-week recovery, so I am good for the spring."
Torgerson finished the season passing for 1,248 yards and seven touchdowns, connecting with freshman receiver Steven Justice -- who missed the final game against Northwestern to injury -- for a team-leading 228 yards and three touchdowns on 24 receptions. UJ, unable to establish a consistent running game in 2020, was led in the backfield by freshman Frankie Ingraldi's 211 yards rushing.
Ingraldi rushed for a season-high 75 yards and a touchdown two weeks ago against Dakota Wesleyan, a game that was 14-10 Tigers at the half before DWU pulled away 35-16, part of three straight wins by the 4-5 Tigers to close the season.
Northwestern's high-flying passing offense was too much for the Jimmies in Orange City last Monday, with Raiders' quarterback Tyson Kooima finding receiver Shane Solberg for three touchdown passes in the opening two quarters.
UJ averaged 503 yards of offense allowed and 253 yards of offense gained in 2020.
"Our guys play hard, they're good teammates, they love each other, they love the program; we're just not there yet with the experience that we need," Mistro said. "We had a bunch of young kids that made a bunch of mistakes this year, and you hope that they learn and they grow from that and they're better next year."
Along with Monson and Mathern, key seniors the Jimmies will be losing include left tackle Carter Hangsleben, guard Christian Martinez, cornerback Cedric Terry and linebackers John Sullivan, Manuel Najera and Levi Scribner.
"Everything that they've poured their heart into and they haven't seen the success in the win column, but, man, these guys really laid the foundation for what we're gonna be," Mistro said. "I'm a big fan of our seniors and what they've done and how they've helped us progress, and it's only going to lead to better things."
UJ's goal of adding more leaders to the locker room in 2021 is already underway.
"We're gonna sit down as a staff and look at the things that we need," Mistro said. "You need to have some leaders that young guys can lean on and we need to do a better job of that."
GREAT PLAINS ATHLETIC CONFERENCE
(FINAL REGULAR SEASON STANDINGS)
Team Conf. Overall
Morningside (Iowa) 8-0 8-0
Northwestern (Iowa) 8-1 8-1
Dordt (Iowa) 7-2 7-2
Midland (Neb.) 5-3 5-3
Concordia (Neb.) 4-4 4-4
Dakota Wesleyan (S.D.) 4-5 4-5
Doane (Neb.) 2-5 2-5
Hastings (Neb.) 2-7 2-7
Jamestown 1-7 1-7
Briar Cliff (Iowa) 1-8 1-8
Northwestern College 49, University of Jamestown 0
UJ 0 0 0 0 -- 0
NW 7 14 21 7 -- 49
NW: Shane Solberg 3 pass from Tyson Kooima, (Eli Stader kick good), 6:31.
NW: Solberg 26 pass from Kooima (Stader kick), 10:17.
NW: Solberg 6 pass from Kooima, (Stader kick) 1:51.
NW: Kobe Lutjens 2 pass from Kooima (Stader kick), 9:25.
NW: Bryce Paulsen blocked punt recovered in end zone (Stader kick), 8:03.
NW: Logan Meyer 1 run (Stader kick), 0:38.
NW: Blake Fryar 3 run (Stader kick), 11:51.
STATISTICS UJ NW
Total yards 150 533
Passing yards 80 307
Rushing yards 70 226
Return yards 55 55
First downs 8 27
Third down eff. 1/12 7/10
Fourth down eff. 1/3 1/1
Red zone eff. 0/0 5/6
Punts/yds 8/254 1/28
Turnovers 1 2
Possession time 22:39 52:21
Passing: UJ, Matt Chauvin 4-16-0 15, Christian Owens 2-5-1 28, Issak Myles 1-1-0 37. NW, Tyson Kooima 15-21-0 255, Blake Fryar 3-3-0 52.
Rushing: UJ, Josiah Cage 11-65, Frankie Ingraldi 5-26, Owens 1-(-6), Chauvin 10-(-15). NW, Konner McQuillan 13-76, Drake Brezina 8-35, Logan Meyer 8-31, Garrett Packer 6-25, Shane Solberg 2-19, Fryar 3-15, Kyle Schiernbeck 1-9, Michael Storey 1-7, Nate Rice 2-6, Kooima 305.
Receiving: UJ, Javon Bowie 2-4, Parker Hager 1-37, Nick Davis 1-23, Micah Madyun 1-9, Ryan Collins 1-5, Owens 1-2. NW, Solberg 8-143, Storey 5-110, Kobe Lutjens 3-44, Blake Anderson 1-10, McQuillan 1-0.
Tackles (solo): UJ, Jordan Olson 8 (5), Brooks Canfield 6 (4), Manuel Najera 6 (3), Vincent Corral 6 (2), Ross Monson 5 (3), Blake Snyder 5 (2), Levi Scribner 4 (4), Paul Vandal 4 (2). NW, Brett MOser 7 (4), Parker Fryar 6 (3), Trevor Rozeboom 5 (2), Tanner Oleson 5 (3).
Sacks (yards): UJ, Aaron Mack 1 (-10). NW, Moser 1 (4), Mitchell Rentschler 1 (6), Peyton Nieuwsma 1 (5), Drake Harder 0.5 (5), Lorenzo Jones 0.5 (5).
Interceptions (yards): NW, Noah Van't Hof 1 (0).
Fumble recoveries (yards): UJ, Canfield 1 (0), Vandal 1 (0).
Records: Northwestern 8-1, 8-1 GPAC. Jamestown 1-7, 1-7.