Defense was the name of the game for the Iowa Central football team here Sunday.
Coming off rare back-to-back losses, the Tritons (2-3 overall, 1-3 in the MFC) posted their first conference victory of the season, blanking North Dakota Science by a 16-0 final on a warm Homecoming afternoon at Dodger Stadium.
"We let one slip away last week (in a 14-10 setback at Ellsworth) that we should've won, so it was important for our guys to build some momentum heading into the bye week," said ICCC head coach Kevin Twait, who earned his 128th win at the helm yesterday. "We're disappointed that we didn't run the ball a little better and dominate at the point of attack against (the Wildcats), but after committing six turnovers a week ago, we didn't have any (Sunday)."
Nathan Criswell nailed all three of his first-half field goal attempts in helping Iowa Central build a 9-0 lead at the break. Criswell connected from 30, 28 and 27 yards out, respectively.
"We have as fine of a kicker and punter as any team in the nation," Twait said. "Nathan is a kid we redshirted last year who was voted the top kicker in the Midwest his senior season of high school at Grinnell. (Former West Bend-Mallard all-stater) Mitch Bonnstetter is also a big difference-maker. I thought we really used those two weapons to our advantage."
Kendall Jackson added a 25-yard touchdown pass to Andy Henry at the 5:24 mark of the third quarter for a Triton insurance score. Criswell then booted the PAT for the last point of the contest.
Iowa Central3 6 7 0- 16
ND Science 0 0 0 0-0
Iowa Central - Nathan Criswell (30-yard field goal), 9:12 left first.
Iowa Central - Criswell (28-yard field goal), 11:33 left second.
Iowa Central - Criswell (27-yard field goal), 7:02 left second.
Iowa Central - Andy Henry (25-yard pass from Kendall Jackson), 5:24 left third. Criswell kick.
Rushing - Iowa Central: Kendall Jackson 12-76, DeShawn Johnson 12-55, Zach Minch 4-24, Kippie Ward 2-7, Desmond Van Arsdale 2-5, Vybert Greene 7-4, Trentan Bledson 4-(minus-3), TEAM 2-(minus-7). North Dakota Science: Lamont Osborn 16-56, Josh Hansana 5-46, Marquis Dobbs 1-(minus-6), Markell Odom (1-minus-8).
Passing - Iowa Central: Jackson 6-10-0-54, Van Arsdale 5-7-0-33. North Dakota Science: Hansana 8-18-0-72, Jared Etienne 6-16-0-62, Odom 1-2-0-(minus-5).
Receiving - Iowa Central: Andy Henry 2-38, Brandynn Clark 3-26, Bledsoe 5-15, Greene 1-8. North Dakota Science: Claude Garrett 6-53, Luis Vasquez 3-42, JT Miles 3-24, Osborn 3-10.
Jackson powered Iowa Central's smashmouth ground assault, accumulating 76 yards on 12 carries. DeShawn Johnson also ran 12 times for 55 yards.
"I thought we should've been ahead about 17-0 at the half, but we just didn't execute as well as we needed to in the red zone," said Twait. "With our defense playing like it was, we kind of put the brakes on once we got up 16-0. A lot of teams will run a four-minute drill, but we started at about 12 minutes."
Jackson went 6 of 10 passing for 54 yards, while reserve signal-caller Desmond Van Arsdale was 5-for-7 through the air for 33 yards.
"We have two really good quarterbacks, but we didn't play Van Arsdale enough (yesterday)," Twait said. "He'll continue to see more action as the season goes on."
Tanner Wilson recovered a fumble for the stingy Triton defensive unit, which limited North Dakota Science (1-3, 1-3) to only 217 yards of total offense. Kyle Terlouw and Jareid Combs combined for a sack, as well.
In the punting department, Bonnstetter averaged 44.4 yards on his seven tries.
Lamont Osborn managed a team-high 56 yards on 16 totes for the Wildcats, who fell to the Tritons for a fourth straight time. Starting quarterback Josh Hansana completed 8 of 18 passes for 72 yards.
Aside from a fumble, the Wildcats punted eight times and turned the ball over on downs twice in their other 10 possessions. North Dakota Science's most productive drive stalled out at Iowa Central's 16-yard line following an incomplete pass on 4th and 10 late in the third period.
Yesterday's shutout was the first for the Tritons since notching a 20-0 triumph at Harper during the 2011 campaign.
After being idle next weekend, Iowa Central will host second-ranked and defending NJCAA national champion Iowa Western (5-1, 4-0) on Oct. 12. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. The Tritons dropped a 62-10 decision to the league-leading Reivers in their earlier meeting this year back on Aug. 31.