DURHAM, N.C. – Unflappable … never nervous … calm … cool … collected.
Any word or phrase that describes toughness under pressure graced a determined 2021 Morningside University football team on Saturday, Dec. 18.
Trailing Heart of America Conference foe Grand View College, 28-21, in latter stages of the third quarter inside Durham County Memorial Stadium, head coach Steve Ryan’s Mustangs produced a 17-point run over the final 21-plus minutes to salt away a third National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics championship in the last four years. The 38-28 victory concluded the program’s third unbeaten campaign in the same span.
Mside’s comeback route was predicated on a bedrock second-half defense. Junior defensive back Lonell Boyd, Jr. (St. Louis, Mo.) and senior defensive back Drew Bessey (Palmyra, Neb.) slowed what had been a red-hot Vikings’ passing attack with a pair of interceptions. Co-defensive coordinators Casey Jacobsen and Nate Turner’s unit stopped the visitors twice on downs to aid the Mustangs’ offense.
Morningside’s offense clicked into high gear with the Grand View offense stalled. After Boyd, Jr.’s takeaway, the home team marched 82 yards to close the third period and begin the final frame with a touchdown. Senior running back Anthony Sims (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) bowled in from a yard out to help knot the score at 28-28. Bessey stepped in front of a Viking aerial on the ensuing Grand View possession to give the ball back to the offense. Seven plays and 66 yards later, a 34-yard scoring strike from senior quarterback Joe Dolincheck (Bellevue, Neb.) to senior wide receiver Reid Jurgensmeier (Wahoo, Neb.) proved to be the eventual winning score. Junior placekicker Chase Carter (Knoxville, Iowa) added the final three points to finish the comeback.
Headliners, as has been the case throughout the year, were numerous. Sims found the end zone three times as part of a 27-carry, 145-yard evening that led him to Offensive Player of the Game accolades. Dolincheck, working around two interceptions, managed a robust 405 yards through the air with two scores, as Jurgensmeier hauled in the game-winning score as part of 13 receptions for 216 yards. Senior linebacker Jalen Portis (St. Louis, Mo.) added his name to the Player of the Game awards, picking up defensive honors with five tackles, a sack, and a forced fumble.
Sims’ three-score outing was his ninth multiple-touchdown effort. He became just the second running back in program history to score 30-or-more rushing touchdowns. He closed his sparkling career with 65, which ranks second.
Dolincheck fired a touchdown pass in a 39th straight game. His 400-yard-plus passing total was his second in the last three appearances, as he extended a personal run of multiple-touchdown totals to 16 in a row.
Bessey’s interception that led the winning touchdown drive was the 10th of his career, making him the 13th Morningside player to total 10-or-more.
Jurgensmeier’s 216-yard total was the second-highest single-game of his remarkable career receiving cadre.