The 21st-rated Minnesota State football team wrapped up its north division schedule on a high note Saturday afternoon as it defeated MSU Moorhead 28-14 at Blakelsee Stadium.
With the win, the Mavericks improve to 3-1 on the season. With the loss, the Dragons fall to 2-2.
Both teams were held under 400 yards of total offense on the day, with the Mavericks edging out the Dragons with 356 yards of offense compared to 329 yards by the Dragons. The Maverick offense featured a balanced attack of 176 yards on the ground and 180 yards through the air.
Senior Nick Pieruccini led the Maverick rushing attack with 118 yards and a touchdown, marking the second time this season and fourth time in his career he has rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. Senior Virgil Hammond ran in a touchdown of his own as well.
Pieruccini also finished the day completing 13-of-26 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Ty Dennis caught two passes, including a 27-yard touchdown catch, while freshman Shane Zylstra led the Maverick offense with 88 receiving yards, including a 74-yard touchdown catch.
The Maverick defense, which held the Dragons to just 329 yards and 14 points, came away with four turnovers, including three interceptions. Seniors Marcus Gooden and Mat Andriano, along with junior Corey Brent, each recorded an interception, while freshman Alex Goettl recovered an MSU Moorhead fumble.
Senior Ruben Ibarra led the Maverick defense in the tackle department once again as he tallied 11 tackles. Junior Larry Moore, who finished the game with nine tackles, also broke up two MSU Moorhead passes.
The Dragons reach the scoring column on their opening drive of the first quarter. After forcing a Maverick three and out, the Dragons took over on the Maverick 46 yard line. The Dragons then reached the Maverick one yard line before Austin Stone ran into the end zone to put the Dragons up 7-0.
After being pinned down on their own three yard line after a 59-yard punt from Jake Hodge with 6:09 to go in the first quarter, the Mavericks marched all the way down the field in 10 plays, including a 52-yard rush by Pieruccini. The drive was capped off by a 27-yard touchdown pass from Pieruccini to Dennis, which knotted up the score at 7-7 with 2:42 to go in the first.
The Mavericks then took the lead at 14-7 with 7:46 to go in the second after Hammond powered his way into the end zone from five yards out. Hammond’s five yard touchdown carry finished a nine-play, 48-yard drive.
After a scoreless third quarter the Mavericks notched a pair of touchdowns to go up 28-7 with 6:58 to go in the game. Pieruccini recorded a one-yard touchdown run with 14:53 to go in the game, before he connected with Zylstra on a 74-yard touchdown pass with 6:58 to go in the fourth.
The Dragons were able to get into the end zone one more time off a 19-yard touchdown pass from Demetrius Carr to Cory Ambrose, but that was all they could muster as the Mavericks finished with a 28-14 win.
Carr finished the game completing 20-of-40 passes for 165 yards and a touchdown for the Dragons, but he also threw three interceptions. Stone tallied 102 rushing yards for the Dragons as well, while Damon Gibson caught seven passes for 67 yards.
The Mavericks open the south division portion of their schedule on Saturday, Oct. 1, as they take on the Winona State Warriors on the road. The opening kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. on The FAN Mankato AM 1230 and FM 103.1.
Post-game interview with Todd Hoffner.
(Photo courtesy of MSU Athletics)