It proved to be a close battle Saturday afternoon at Blakeslee Stadium but the fourth quarter belonged to #1 Minnesota State as it scored 21 unanswered points to lock down the 48-27 victory against Wayne State.
With the win, the Mavericks improve to 10-0 on the season, including a 6-0 NSIC South Division record. With the loss, the Wildcats fall to 5-5, including a 3-3 division record. MSU also claimed at least a share of the NSIC Championship and the NSIC South Division Championship.
The Mavericks notched 580 yards of total offense, compared to 320 yards by the Wildcats. MSU did most of its damage on the ground as it tallied 397 rushing yards. Freshman Justin Taormina proved to be the biggest offensive threat of the game as he tallied 203 rushing yards and three touchdown carries. Taormina is the sixth Maverick to rush for more than 200 yards in a game since 1981 and the second to do so this season. Sophomore Nate Gunn tallied 229 rushing yards against Minnesota Duluth back on week three.
Sophomore Ryan Schlichte finished his day completing 13-of-22 passes for 160 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Ty Dennis led the Maverick receivers with six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. Junior Trevor Nissen and sophomore Tyler Schmidt each caught a touchdown pass as well.
Senior Larry Moore paced the Maverick defense with six tackles and two broken up passes. Both senior Evan Perrizo and sophomore Jordan Bergren recorded a sack, while sophomore Jack Curtis posted one interception. Senior Brendan Chrystal recovered a fumble as well.
The first 27 minutes of the game saw the Mavericks dominate as they built a 20-0 lead off of two touchdown runs from Taormina and two field goals from junior Casey Bednarski from 43 and 24 yards out.
The final three minutes of the second quarter saw three touchdowns, including two touchdown passes from WSC’s Aaron Bleil to Willie Walton. WSC’s first touchdown of the game was set up after a blocked punt by Houston Huss that gave the Wildcats the ball on the MSU 10. MSU’s score late in the second quarter came courtesy of a 27-yard touchdown pass from Schlichte to Dennis.
The only scoring in the third quarter came courtesy of WSC’s Ethan Knudson as he connected on field goals from 23 and 32 yards out to pull the Wildcats within seven of the Mavericks at 27-20. An MSU fumble on a punt return gave the Wildcats a first and goal on the MSU 10 that led to Knudson’s 23-yard field goal.
Wayne State was finally able to knot up the score at 27-27 on its opening drive of the fourth quarter. WSC went 80 yards in six plays, including a 45-yard touchdown pass from Bleil to Nate Rogers.
With the score tied at 27, the Mavericks reasserted control quickly as they scored three touchdowns on their next three possessions, en route to claiming the 48-27 win. A 35-yard touchdown pass from Schlichte to Nissen, put the Mavericks up for good at 34-27, before Schlichte hooked up with Schmidt on an eight-yard touchdown pass on MSU’s following drive. Minnesota State’s final score of the game came via a two-yard touchdown run from Taormina.
Minnesota State concludes its regular season schedule on Saturday, Nov. 11, as it travels to #13 Sioux Falls. Kickoff is scheduled for 12:00 p.m.