SIOUX CITY – Morningside University football coach Steve Ryan looked up to the scoreboard following a 30-29 victory over Northwestern at Elwood Olsen Stadium Saturday night, and recalled one play that might have been the difference in a one-point win.
Less than three minutes into the second half, the top-ranked Mustangs and third-ranked Red Raiders were tied at 14. Northwestern, backed up on their own two-yard-line, had a third and long play.
Quarterback Blake Fryar dropped back to pass and the Mustangs brought a blitz. One guy was left untouched with a free shot at Fryar. Spencer grad and Morningside junior Isaac Pingel.
“We brought some pressure, and the running back stepped out to take the other linebacker and I was like, ‘oh, I got a free shot,’” Pingel said. “Sure enough, the quarterback wasn’t looking, got him down, safety.”
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At the time, the safety by Pingel gave Morningside a 16-14 advantage and the ball on the following possession. Despite a comeback effort from the Raiders, the two points on the safety proved to be a difference maker.
“It’s unbelievable, you just never know what’s going to happen on the next play, and he got after the quarterback, he’s fast and he just made big plays for us,” Ryan said. “We won by one point, that safety is worth two, so that safety was huge.”
Pingel was versatile all night for the Mustangs, finishing with 11 tackles, three tackles for a loss and two sacks.
“He was all over the field, and when he wasn’t rushing the quarterback, he was covering some really good receivers man-to-man,” Ryan said. “We know that’s what he’s capable of and he’s really growing into that role for us.”
The safety was the second sack of the night for Pingel. The first came on another pivotal play in the first half.
In the second quarter, with the two sides tied at 14, Northwestern had moved the ball back into scoring position, but the drive stalled out. On fourth down from the Morningside nine-yard-line, Northwestern head coach Matt McCarty and the Raiders decided to go for it, needing two yards for a first down.
Pingel once again found himself in the backfield chasing after Fryar. Pingel brought down Fryar and the Raiders were held off the board.
“Those plays were huge momentum plays,” Pingel said. “Quite honestly, it was more luck of the draw. I mean, (the blockers) all slide the other way and I happened to be the one that got the sack. It was more of a team sack, great coverage on the back end, it was a team sack pretty much.”
Northwestern also missed a field goal to end the first half, keeping the score tied at the half.
Pingel was the top tackler for the Mustangs defense. Northwestern’s Parker Fryar was the only player on the field with more tackles Saturday, tallying 16 for the Raiders defense.
The two teams traded touchdowns early in the first half, with the Raiders finding paydirt first on a 26-yard pass from Fryar to Michael Storey and scored again in the opening quarter on a Logan Meyer rush.
Joe Dolincheck threw for a pair of scores in the first half, a 60-yard ball to Zach Norton and a 44-yard dart to Michael Payne.
The safety put Morningside ahead for the rest of the game at 12:34 remaining in the third quarter. Dolincheck threw his third touchdown of the game on the ensuing possession and the lead was two scores, 23-14.
Northwestern was able to get within two late in the third quarter thanks to a Jalyn Gramstad rush, but Morningside’s Ryan Cole extended the lead back to nine again.
After a late score by the Raiders, a Fryar throw to Blake Anderson and a two-point conversion throw between the two again made it a one-point game, the Mustangs ran out the final four minutes for the win.
Dolincheck finished with 351 yards, three touchdowns and an interception for the Mustangs. Cole added 56 rushing yards. Norton was the top receiver for the Mustangs, tallying five catches for 114 yards. Schweigart added eight receptions for 76 yards.
Blake Fryar threw for 227 yards and two scores for the Raiders. Cade Moser led the rushing attack for the Raiders with 58 yards. Fryar added 56 yards and Gramstad 54 yards.
Morningside is on the road next week, taking on Dordt in Sioux Center Saturday. Northwestern is at home Saturday for the home opener against Dakota Wesleyan.