#4 MSU turns in strong second half to blow out SWMS 54-7

The #4 Minnesota State football team turned in another dominant performance Thursday evening on the road as it upended Southwest Minnesota State 54-7.

With the win, the Mavericks improve to 8-0 on the season, including a 4-0 NSIC South Division record. With the loss, the Mustangs fall to 2-6, including a 0-4 division record.

MSU’s opening drive, which went 63 yards in 5:14 seconds, culminated in a 19-yard field goal from junior Casey Bednarski to give the Mavericks an early 3-0 lead. MSU’s added to its lead on the following drive as sophomore Ryan Schlichte connected with sophomore Shane Zylstra on a 33-yard touchdown pass to put the Mavericks up 10-0 with 4:28 left in the first quarter.

MSU’s first drive of the second quarter saw the Mavericks go 71 yards in 16 plays, while using up 7:41 of the clock. Bednarski capped off the drive with a 27-yard field goal to put MSU up 13-0.

In the closing minutes of the first half, SMSU was facing a fourth and two at the MSU 39 with 1:19 to go. SMSU elected to go for it but Boyer Bouman was stopped by senior Corey Brent just one yard shy of the first down. The Mavericks then took over on their own 38 with 1:12 to go in the half. Four plays later, MSU drove down to the SMSU 34, which set up a 51-yard field goal by Bednarski that put the Mavericks up 16-0 heading into halftime.

The Mavericks tallied 287 yards of offense in the 1st half, including 158 rushing yards. SMSU was held to 75 yards of offense in the first half, including 56 passing yards.

The opening drive of the third quarter saw SMSU work its way down to the MSU one yard line, but a goal line stand by the Mavericks on fourth down prevented the Mustangs from getting onto the scoreboard. On MSU’s first play of the following drive, freshman Justin Taormina broke an 89-yard touchdown run to put MSU up 23-0.

After forcing a three and out on SMSU’s next drive, the Mavericks took over on the SMSU 41. MSU’s first play of the drive saw sophomore Justin Arnold throw a 39-yard pass to Zylstra, before freshman JD Ekowa finished the drive with a two-yard touchdown pass to Zylstra to put the Mavericks up 30-0 with 7:49 to go in the third quarter.

MSU added a third touchdown in the third quarter less than three minutes later. The Maverick defense forced the Mustangs to send in the punt unit. On the punt, sophomore Zach Robertson managed to get into the backfield to block the punt, which gave MSU the ball on the SMSU four yard line. Three plays later, Schlichte connected with sophomore Tyler Schmidt with a three-yard touchdown pass to increase MSU’s lead to 37-0.

On the final play of the third quarter, MSU blocked its second punt of the game, this time courtesy of sophomore Austin Behm, to give the Mavericks the ball on the SMSU one yard line. Freshman Jace Franklin then forced his way into the endzone to give MSU a 44-0 lead.

MSU added two more scores in the fourth quarter, including a 38-yard touchdown run by Ekowa and a 25-yard field goal by junior Tucker Hague as the Mavericks finished the game with a 54-7 win. SMSU’s lone score came courtesy of a 15-yard touchdown run from Max Simmons.

As a team, Minnesota State finished the game with 541 yards of total offense, including 347 rushing yards. Southwest Minnesota State finished the game with 230 yards, including 133 passing yards.

Taormina led the MSU rushing attack with 154 yards and a touchdown. Both Ekowa and Franklin each tallied a rushing touchdown as well, while sophomore Nate Gunn added 60 rushing yards. Zylstra paced the Maverick receiving corps with 84 yards and two touchdown catches.

Juniors Michael Palme and Keyshawn Davis led the Maverick defense with six tackles, while junior Jayme LaPlante recorded one sack.

Minnesota State returns to Blakeslee Stadium for a two-game homestand beginning on Saturday, Oct. 28, against #11 Winona State. Kickoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m.

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