It proved to be a back-and-forth contest Saturday afternoon at Warrior Stadium Saturday afternoon, but it was the Winona State Warriors who scored on a last-second field goal to defeat #19 Minnesota State 34-31.
With the win, the Warriors improve to 4-1 on the season, including a 1-0 NSIC South Division record. With the loss, the Mavericks fall to 3-2 on the season, including a 0-1 record in the south division. This is the first time since the 2011 season that the Mavericks have lost at least two conference games in a season.
The first quarter and the opening part of the second quarter belonged to the Warriors as they built a 17-0 lead with 9:32 to go in the second. The scoring began at the 10:44 mark of the first quarter as Jack Nelson connected with Will Claussen on a 47-yard touchdown pass. An interception by WSU’s Sir’Vegias Steele then gave the Warriors the ball at the MSU six yard line. On the following play, Nelson threw a touchdown pass to Nick Margiotta to put WSU up 14-0. WSU’s third score came courtesy of Carter McCauley, who kicked a 34-yard field goal to put Winona State up 17-0 with 9:32 left in the second.
The Mavericks then responded with 17 points of their own to tie the game at 17 heading into halftime. Freshman Anders Gelecinskyj got the Mavericks on the board with a 33-yard field goal, before senior Nick Pieruccini threw a two yard touchdown pass to junior Erik Fuller to pull the Mavericks within seven of the Warriors at 17-10. With 0:55 left in the second quarter the Mavericks took over on the WSU 40 after a 10-yard punt by the Warriors. Seven plays later, Pieruccini completed his second touchdown pass of the game, this time a 17-yard strike to junior Ty Dennis, to knot up the score at 17.
Early on in the third quarter the Mavericks found themselves with a first and goal on the WSU five yard line. Four Minnesota State rushing attempts failed to reach the end zone however, as the Warriors took over on their own four yard line with 9:01 to play in the third. Following their goal line stand, the Warriors then march 96 yards down field, behind a 54-yard pass to Paul Preston and a 20-yard touchdown pass to Zach Olstad, to put WSU up 24-17.
The Mavericks were able to answer right back on their next drive as they knotted up the score at 24. MSU began the drive on its own 33 and proceeded to go 67 yards on five plays, in 1:27. MSU’s drive was capped off by an eight-yard touchdown pass from Pieruccini to senior Connor McKeen.
With 1:11 left in the third quarter, the Mavericks then began a 13-play drive that went 82 yards in 6:19 to give them their first lead of the game at 31-24. The drive saw Pieruccini complete eight passes, including a one-yard touchdown pass to Dennis with 9:52 remaining in the game.
Each team would go three and out on their next drives, before Winona State took over on its own 17 with 8:06 left in the game. The Warriors marched 83 yards down to the end zone to knot up the score at 31 with 2:44 left. WSU used 15 plays during their drive, including a five-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Cameron Johnson.
MSU went three and out on its final drive of the game, before punting it to Winona State, where the Warriors took over on their own 35 with 1:23 remaining. WSU was able to reach the MSU 12 after three passes from Nelson, including a 25-yard and a 21-yard pass to Johnson. With three seconds left, Winona State called a time out and sent in McCauley who connected on a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give the Warriors the 34-31 win.
Pieruccini finished the game completing 22 passes for 228 yards and four touchdowns, compared to two interceptions. Senior Virgil Hammond led the Mavericks rushing attack with 49 rushing yards, while Dennis led the receiving corps with seven catches for 111 yards, including two touchdown catches. This is the fifth time in his career Dennis has tallied more than 100 receiving yards in a game.
Senior Marcus Gooden paced the Maverick defense with 13 tackles, while junior Evan Perrizo added seven tackles, including four for a loss, and two sacks.
Minnesota State returns to Blakeslee Stadium for its annual homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 8, as it hosts the Concordia-St. Paul Golden Bears. The opening kickoff is scheduled for 2:00 p.m. on The FAN Mankato AM 1230 and FM 103.1.