This was not the rematch envisioned.
At least not by the Central College football team, which was overwhelmed in record-breaking fashion as Whitworth University (Wash.) relished its first-ever trip to Iowa with a 56-13 season-opening runaway Saturday.
The two teams waged an overtime shootout in Spokane, Washington last year with Central emerging a 50-49 winner. But while Whitworth was able to find an even higher gear Saturday, the Dutch offense was stymied at every turn.
Pirates senior quarterback Ian Kolste attained a performance level never previously witnessed at Ron and Joyce Schipper Stadium, firing with precision to an equally in-sync receiving corps. Kolste completed 37 of 45 passes for 473 yards and six touchdowns. Kevin Thomas had 10 receptions for 142 yards and three touchdowns while Garrett McKay had nine catches for 125 yards and a score. Backup quarterback Leif Erickson added a TD toss, leaving Whitworth at 48-of-61 for 561 yards and seven scores, the most completions, yards and touchdown passes ever surrendered by Central. And the final 43-point margin of defeat was the second-highest in school history, exceeded only by a 61-6 setback against St. Ambrose in 1951.
A 28-point second-quarter blitz ended any suspense and the Pirates never even glanced in the rear-view mirror after that. The teams each came up empty on their first two drives before Whitworth put its foot on the accelerator, finishing with touchdowns the next seven times it had the ball. It was 35-0 at halftime and 49-0 midway through the third quarter before Central could regain its footing.
The Dutch gamely fought on, as running back Pat Gray (junior, West Des Moines, Waukee HS), on the field for the first time since 2015 in rebounding from a second major injury, scored from 2 yards out with 7:19 remaining in the third quarter, completing an 11-play, 75-yard drive.
Running back Donny Groezinger (junior, Sulphur Springs, Texas; Eastland, Ill. HS) burst free up the middle for a 40-yard score and it was 49-13 with 14:11 left in the game. But Whitworth answered with its final score and an additional Central threat ended with an interception in the end zone.
Coach Jeff McMartin said he could only tip his cap to the Pirates and move on.
"This was tough," he said. "We didn't get off to the start we wanted to. We got knocked down and we worked hard to get back up again, but they were a very good football team and we weren't able to execute the things we needed to execute."
Central was outgained, 630 yards to 346. The Dutch rushed for 185 yards on 32 carries. Junior quarterback Nate Boland (Iowa City, West HS) went the distance, completing 22 of 40 passes for 161 yards with one interception.
Gray finished with 94 yards on 13 carries while Groezinger rushed for 59 on nine attempts. Kohle Helle (senior, Guttenberg, Clayton Ridge HS) had six pass receptions for 21 yards while Division III's top receiver in 2016, Sam Markham (senior, Atlantic), garnered lots of defensive attention and settled for five grabs for 50 yards.
Cornerback Trevor Smith (junior, Audubon) had a hectic afternoon, with 11 tackles, including eight solos and one for loss. Linebackers Sam Norgaard (senior, Naperville, Ill., Neuqua Valley HS) and Tyler Olson (senior, Mapleton, Minn., Maple River HS) each had nine stops and cornerback Danny Anderson (sophomore, Boone) had eight.
McMartin said there's no area of the team that will escape scrutiny as the Dutch prepare for a visit next Saturday by Augustana College (Ill.).
"I think when you get beat the way we did today, you can look at every angle and there are going to be things we need to improve upon.
"The big focus for us is to get ready for next week now. You've got to learn from this and evaluate it and make sure that the pieces are in place that need to be there and get ready to play Augustana."
The day left the Dutch with some bruises, but McMartin remains confident better days are coming.
"I hope that we can find out some good things about this football team in the weeks ahead," he said. "I really think that we can. We've got a good group of players. It's one day at a time and one week at a time. Now we need to have a good day with our coaching staff, evaluating the film and putting together a good game plan for Augustana."
The Vikings (0-1) also ventured outside of their region, falling at Cortland State (N.Y.) 34-32 Saturday on a 31-yard field goal with 18 seconds left.