The #12 Minnesota State Mavericks won their 2017 football home opener by a final score of 56-19, facing off against the Minnesota Crookston Golden Eagles at Blakeslee Stadium. The game featured a record breaking performance from junior kicker Casey Bednarski on the day.
With the win, the Mavericks improve to 2-0 on the season, while the Golden Eagles fall to 0-2. MSU has now won all five of its encounters against UMC.
The contest started inauspiciously as the opening kickoff was fumbled by Maverick senior Corey Brent and returned by the Golden Eagles for a touchdown to give Minnesota Crookston the early lead. The extra point was blocked by senior Larry Moore which limited the UMC lead to 6-0.
Minnesota State would waste no time retaliating as they moved down the field with sophomore Nate Gunn rushing for a three-yard touchdown and Casey Bednarski scoring a two-point conversion to take the 8-6 lead with 11:18 remaining in the first quarter. The drive was highlighted by a beautiful 46-yard pass from sophomore Ryan Schlichte to senior Ty Dennis.
Both teams struggled to move the ball for the remainder of the first quarter but with Minnesota Crookston pinned back on offense, senior Jerry Nash III intercepted the ball giving the Mavericks a first and 10 at the Golden Eagle 17-yard line. On the first play of the drive, freshman Nyles Williams took a reverse to the end zone to give Minnesota State a 15-6 lead after a successful extra point from Bednarski.
On the next Minnesota State drive, the running game got the Mavericks down the field after redshirt freshman Justin Taormina busted a 37-yard run to the outside and Gunn broke a 23-yard run up the middle. Freshman quarterback JD Ekowa then tossed the ball to sophomore Justin Arnold who made the catch outside of the end zone and willed his way passed the tacklers for the score. MSU added another two point conversion to go up 23-6 with 11:19 remaining in the second quarter.
After a quick defensive stop the onslaught continued as Schlichte nailed sophomore receiver Vance Barnes along the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown with a made PAT from Bednarski to push the Maverick lead to 30-6. Minnesota State added three more points on a 37-yard field goal from Bednarski with 3:06 remaining in the first half. Then with three second remaining in the first half and the wind at his back, Bednarski drilled a school, and an NSIC record, 63-yard field goal to extend the lead to 36-6 at the half. The previous record for the NSIC was a tie held by Tom Obarski of Concordia-St. Paul against Augustana on October 27th, 2012, and Carter McConley of Wayne State against Southwest Minnesota State on November 14th, 2015.
In the first half, the Mavericks gained 421 yards, 258 of them on the ground, and converted on all four of their red zone attempts. Taormina led the way with 78 yards on five attempts, Gunn added 75 yards with 12 rushes, and Williams had 55 yards on two carries.
To start the second half Bednarski converted another long attempt, this time a 50-yard field goal to push the Maverick lead to 39-6. After forcing the Golden Eagles into a three and out Minnesota State drove down the field before Schlichte hit sophomore Shane Zylstra for an 11-yard touchdown before junior Tucker Hague made the extra point to push the lead to 46-6 in the third quarter.
Minnesota Crookston responded with a touchdown drive but before the quarter could end Minnesota State moved methodically across the field and resulting in an 11-yard touchdown pass from Ekowa to Williams which pushed the Maverick lead to 53-13 at the end of the third quarter.
Bednarski added another field goal from 27 yards out to give Minnesota State a 56-13 lead with 9:27 remaining in the game. The Golden Eagles added a touchdown with 6:49 remaining in the game before sophomore Will Whiton blocked the extra point keeping the Maverick lead 56-19 which would be the final score of the game.
Schlichte led the Mavericks in passing completing 10 passes for 172 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception while Ekowa completed five passes for 49 yards and two touchdowns.
As a team Minnesota State rushed for 445 yards on the day and were led by sophomore Ian Pribyl who gained 133 yards on 10 carries. Gunn carried the ball 16 times for 104 yards and a touchdown, Taormina finished with 92 yards on eight carries and Williams ended with 55 yards and a touchdown on his only two carries.
Zylstra led the Mavericks in receiving, hauling in five catches for seventy yards and a touchdown while Arnold made four catches for 36 yards and a touchdown.
Senior Brendan Chrystal led the Maverick defense with seven tackles. Chrystal, along with junior Michael Palme, senior Evan Perrizo and freshman Chance Bowen each recorded a sack. As a unit, the MSU defense recorded 10 tackles for a loss.
Minnesota State continues its season on Saturday, Sept. 16, as it hits the road to take on #21 Minnesota Duluth. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m.