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Kevin Schnepf, Published October 12 2013

Schnepf: Cobbers dealt another tough pill to swallow against Bethel

Moorhead - Mark Wychor was never more excited to play a football game in his life. For he and his Concordia teammates, a win over Bethel would mean more than beating rival St. John’s.

The motivation for Saturday’s homecoming game at Jake Christiansen Stadium was simple: Erase the memories of last year’s devastating loss at Bethel.

Murphy’s Law (“Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”) reared its ugly head in last year’s 15-14 loss. It made an encore appearance Saturday when Wychor and the No. 22-ranked Cobbers lost to No. 5-ranked Bethel 45-22.

“Last year, it was more heartbreaking,” Wychor said. “But this year, it’s not good to get your butt kicked, and that’s just what happened.”

After last year’s loss, Wychor did not talk to anyone for two days – numb from one of the wildest finishes in college football history.

Leading 14-7 with 1.9 seconds remaining, Concordia sacked Bethel quarterback Erik Peterson, forced a fumble, picked up the ball and raced the length of the field for what appeared to be a game-ending score.

But thinking the game was over, Concordia players started celebrating – some running onto the field. Concordia was flagged for having too many players on the field.

Getting one more play with no time remaining, Bethel scored a touchdown. Then the Royals converted on a 2-point conversion to win the game, basically ending any playoff hopes for the Cobbers.

“It was complete utter pain,” said Wychor, a senior nose guard from Moorhead. “I could barely talk. I had water in my eyes. We had won the game. I had seen us win. To see them walk away with a win … I don’t know. I just kind of sat there.”

Flash forward to Saturday when Wychor was sitting on the bench getting his injured left knee examined. That was about the time Concordia fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half – one of seven turnovers for the Cobbers.

When the Cobbers fumbled the ball away again with five minutes left in the game, Wychor – sitting by himself on the Concordia bench – could only bury his head in his hands, much like he did when he saw last year’s touchdown run called back.

Against Bethel, it seems “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

“When it rains, it pours … no kidding,” said Concordia head coach Terry Horan. “It’s just unfortunate how it all happened today.”

Here’s what happened in the first half:

After nearly intercepting a third-down pass in the end zone, Concordia was flagged for roughing the quarterback. Seconds later, Bethel led 7-0.

After Concordia had two holding penalties and fumbled the ball away, Bethel jumped to a 14-0 lead.

After intercepting an overthrown pass, Bethel scored on a third-and-8, 75-yard touchdown pass to make it 21-0. Bethel led 28-7 at halftime.

“We got ourselves into too deep of a hole,” Horan said.

Even so, the Cobbers made it somewhat interesting when – trailing 31-14 early in the fourth quarter – had Bethel in a third-and-23 situation. That’s when Peterson’s pass went through the hands of one receiver, only to end up in the hands of Jay Hilbrands for a first down.

Two plays later, Bethel scored to make it 38-14.

“It was just one of those days,” Horan said.

Make no mistake. Bethel is a very good football team. And when you have seven turnovers against a team like that, your chances of winning are small – about as small at Bethel’s chances were last year.

So what’s tougher to swallow: Last year’s loss or Saturday’s loss?

“I don’t know,” said senior cornerback Kenyon O’Brien. “Last year was pretty rough. We would’ve went to the national tournament. I guess we’ll see at the end of this season what this loss means.”

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or kschnepf@forumcomm.com