Wartburg hasn’t simply survived a rigorous opening three weeks of Iowa Conference football, it’s dominated.
The Knights have outscored the other three programs that have won conference championships since 1997 121-23.
The latest triumph was a 42-9 victory over Dubuque in front of a Homecoming crowd of 3,540 at Walston-Hoover Stadium on Saturday.
“We have a mature football team that has great focus to it. They understand how to prepare for each game,” Wartburg head coach Rick Willis said. “That’s not always the case with teams, but that’s a trait that this team has.”
The Knights gained a season-low 326 yards of offense, but rarely needed to move the ball extensively to score. Only one of Wartburg’s scoring drives started inside its own 40.
Brandon Domeyer rushed for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries, an average of 6.8 yards per attempt.
His 54-yard burst less than a minute into the second half put the Knights in control, 27-9. Domeyer started to his right, then cut back across the field, juking tacklers on his way to the pylon.
“I think that was big,” said Domeyer, who got the Knights on the board with a 17-yard run with 11:06 left in the first quarter. “That was one thing we were talking about at halftime was how we needed to come out and put some points on the board.”
A 26-yard run by punter and former all-conference basketball player Mitch Michaelis kept a responsive UD drive alive in the opening quarter, and Zach Fry hit Tyler Rutenbeck for a 25-yard score on third down to tie the game.
After the teams traded three-and-outs, Wartburg put a scoring drive of its own together, capped by Logan Schrader’s 25-yard toss to Robbie Anstoetter.
The two hooked up for a five-yard score in the third that put Wartburg up 20-7 after a missed extra point. Schrader finished the day 11-of-20 for 133 yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
Wartburg was balanced offensively again, finishing with more rushing yards than passing for the first time this season (193-133).
“We’re so explosive in the pass game, but we’re still able to stay consistent in the run game,” Domeyer said. “Being so good in the pass game helps the run game and vice versa, so I think we’ve done a good job doing that.”
Dubuque earned a safety when Wartburg punter Grant Zimmerman stepped out of bounds in the back of the endzone with 2:01 left in the half, cutting the lead to 20-9.
Wartburg’s defense stood tall, forcing a three-and-out when the Spartans got the ball back on their own 45. Andrew Ganshirt tackled tight end Lee Jones for a two-yard loss on third-and-four.
Then, the offense began to put it away with Domeyer’s long, video-game-like run.
“Whichever team came out and scored first in the second half, that was gonna be huge. Coming out and getting on the board quickly like that, I think, was a huge play,” Willis said. “We felt like we needed to run the ball better in the second half. I think we did that.”
Taylor Jacobsmeier and Jake Haberman capped the win with seven and and nine-yard touchdown runs, respectively.
Fry finished the game 20-for-38 passing for 141 yards and a touchdown. The original defensive game plan was to put pressure on the 6-4, 250-pound quarterback before a late adjustment.
“We were supposed to put some pressure on him, but then we heard earlier that week that Dubuque thought we were gonna kill them with some pressure, so we thought our d-line could get enough,” said linebacker Will Janssen, who had 10 tackles. “The d-line did a great job of doing that.”
Alec Arvanitakis carried the ball 25 times for 90 yards for the Spartans.
It’s Wartburg’s eighth straight victory in the series. The three prior to this one were decided by a combined 13 points, including a 34-31 Homecoming win two years ago.
Dubuque (2-4, 1-2) 7 2 0 0 — 9
Wartburg (6-0, 3-0) 14 6 15 7 — 42
W — Domeyer 14 run (Bohlke kick) (11:06 1st, 0-7)
D — Rutenbeck 25 pass from Fry (Prull kick) (5:18 1st, 7-7)
W — Anstoetter 23 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick) (0:16 1st, 7-14)
W — Anstoetter 5 pass from Schrader (Bohlke kick failed) (7:41 2nd, 7-20)
D — Safety (2:01 2nd, 9-20)
W — Domeyer 54 run (Bohlke kick) (14:02 3rd, 9-27)
W — Jacobsmeier 7 run (Holsteen pass from Frerichs) (2:57 3rd, 9-35)
W — Haberman 9 run (Bohlke kick) (5:15 4th, 9-42)
Rushing — Dubuque: Arvanitakis 25-90, Michaelis 1-26; Wartburg: Domeyer 19-130-2, Richardson 7-23
Passing — Dubuque: Fry 20-38-141-1; Wartburg: Schrader 11-20-133-2, Jacobsmeier 0-1
Receiving — Dubuque: Bagley 9-80, Rutenbeck 3-38-1; Wartburg: Anstoetter 3-42-2, Jacobsmeier 2-42
Tackles — Dubuque: Schwer 7, Stauner 7 (1 TFL); Wartburg: Tranel 11 (1 TFL), Janssen 10
Attendance — 3,540