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Eric Peterson, Published September 27 2013

Cobbers to face Gagliardi-less Johnnies for first time since 1952

Moorhead - Concordia hasn’t faced a St. John’s team like this since the 1950s when a guy nicknamed “Blood” was the Johnnies head football coach.

During the 1952 season, Jake Christiansen led his Cobbers to a 32-6 home win against the Johnnies and Johnny “Blood” McNally.

That was the last time Concordia played a St. John’s team and John Gagliardi was not the head coach – until today.

“To me it’s a little bit like he hasn’t left because of the similarities,” said Cobbers head coach Terry Horan. “It’s pretty much his entire staff.”

The Cobbers play St. John’s at

1 p.m. today at Clemens Stadium. Gary Fasching is the new lead man for the Johnnies. Fasching was a longtime assistant for Gagliardi and took over the program in December.

Both teams are unbeaten (3-0) this fall, and each won its Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference openers last week.

“I know the figure of John Gagliardi is not going to be there. I mean he’ll be there, he’ll be up in the box or wherever,” Horan said. “It’s still St. John’s and the great tradition that they have.”

Three games into his head coaching gig, Fasching already has a signature win. The Johnnies earned a 20-18 victory at No. 2-ranked St. Thomas last Saturday. The Tommies had won 36 consecutive games in the regular season and also 27 in a row in the MIAC.

“They have momentum in their favor, and they are a good football team,” Cobbers senior wide receiver Mark Whiting said of the Johnnies. “It should be pretty packed. I think we are all really excited for that.”

Whiting has played at Clemens Stadium twice in his career. Once during his senior year in high school and once in his freshman season with the Cobbers. Concordia lost at St. John’s when Whiting was a freshman. But, Whiting had seven catches for 92 yards in that 40-28 loss before 8,479 fans.

Gagliardi took over for McNally in 1953. “Blood” was credited with saying this on his way out:

“Nobody could ever win at St. John’s.”

Gagliardi proved that to be false, becoming the winningest coach in college football history.

He finished his career with a 489-138-11 record, which includes a 465-132-10 mark at St. John’s.

“I think he definitely kept everyone humble,” St. John’s senior offensive lineman Kevin Battis said of Gagliardi. “He’s the winningest coach in college history, and he’s still living in Collegeville, Minn. That is awesome to me.”

Battis said not much has changed under Fasching in the sense that St. John’s has the same practice style and the structure remains the same.

“Gary has brought more energy and more intensity to practice,” Battis said.

The Cobbers scored a 31-21 victory against St. John’s last season at Jake Christiansen Stadium.

Concordia is looking to beat the Johnnies in back-to-back games for the first time since the 1980 and 1981 seasons. The Cobbers also went 2-0-1 vs. St. John’s from 1988 to 1990. But the tie came in 1999, splitting the victories.

“Last year we played with a lot of confidence and we have to continue to do that this year,” Horan said.

“It’s their (St. John’s) homecoming. They’re coming off a big win over St. Thomas. There could be over 10,000-plus there.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com