MARSHALL - With big offensive plays early and game-saving defensive plays late, the Southwest Minnesota State football team held off a late charge by Concordia-St. Paul in a 35-28 victory Saturday afternoon at Mattke Field at the Regional Event Center.
The Mustangs bolted out to a 21-0 lead behind three touchdowns by running back Gannon Moore over the first two quarters, but the Golden Bears rallied to pull within seven points early in the fourth quarter. With CU in prime position to tie the game and facing third-and-goal at the SMSU 3-yard line with 6 minutes, 17 seconds left in the game, SMSU redshirt freshman Donovan Woods picked off a deflected pass from James Peterson in the back of the end zone for a touchback that preserved the Mustangs' lead.
SMSU was forced to punt with 2:40 left in the game, but the Mustangs' punt team forced a fumble by CU returner Corey Cole and SMSU's Dan Timm recovered the ball at the CU 40. The Mustang offense ran out the clock to seal the win and move to 4-6 overall and 3-3 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference South Division. CU dropped to 2-8 overall, 1-5 in the NSIC South.
Entering the game with one of the best turnover margins in the league at plus-6, SMSU had a pair of uncharacteristic turnovers on fumbles in the third quarter that led to CU scores. Thanks to Woods' interception and Timm's fumble recovery in the fourth quarter, SMSU won the turnover battle 3-2, and more importantly, won the game.
"Normally we don't have those [turnovers], but our defense was able to respond and we got that huge interception," SMSU head coach Cory Sauter said. "That was incredible for us to get that play, but it's a game of big plays and turnovers and guys held in there strong and played the whole ballgame. It wasn't always pretty, but it was good to get a win."
The Mustangs seemed to be on their way to a blowout in the first half, with Moore leading the charge. He capped an eight-play, 65-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown on a screen pass from quarterback Tyler Peschong less than five minutes into the game. Early in the second quarter, he added a 23-yard touchdown run, busting through a gaping hole in the middle of the line and going into the end zone untouched. Then, just over three minutes later, he scored on a 69-yard touchdown run, which was the longest rush of his career
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Southwest Minnesota State receiver Abe Kos runs with the ball after catching a pass from quarterback Tyler Peschong in the first quarter of Saturday's game against Concordia-St. Paul at Mattke Field in Marshall.
"The first half was just like wham, bam, bam," said the 6-foot-1, 216-pound senior, who finished with 10 rushes for 115 yards and three catches for 44 yards. "We made a couple of really nice play calls based on what Concordia was doing offensively, and when you have holes open up as big as they were for me on a couple of those plays, it doesn't really matter who you have back there. They'll find a way to get in the end zone when there's so much real estate to work with."
SMSU's defense was also looking strong, forcing a pair of three-and-outs in the first half and geting an interception from safety Joe Stupka in the second quarter that gave the Mustangs a short field. The SMSU defensive line also got heavy pressure on Peterson, with Ben Pedersen recording 2 1/2 sacks and Jacob Levtzow earning 1 1/2.
But things got chippy late in the first half, as SMSU committed four personal fouls on one drive to give CU the ball at the Mustang 1-yard line. Tre Spears punched in the short run for the score with 49 seconds left.
"It started getting out of control," Sauter said. "Both teams were starting to lose it a little bit. We had a coach that got a penalty, too, and the whole deal got out of whack."
Things got worse for the Mustangs to start the third quarter, as Moore fumbled on SMSU's second play and CU scored immediately on a 26-yard pass from Peterson to Dustin Christen.
The Mustang offense answered with a pair of touchdowns, the first a 28-yard run by Warren Matthews and the second on a 2-yard run by Matthews, to go up 35-14 with 4:37 left in the third. That was the last time SMSU sniffed the end zone, as CU mounted its comeback.
The Golden Bears pulled to within a touchdown early in the fourth quarter after Spears scored on a 3-yard run with 12:26 left on the clock. A three-and-out by the SMSU offense gave CU the ball at the SMSU 35 after a short punt and a 15-yard return by Cole. CU got down to the 1-yard line, but a false start pushed them back five yards. Two plays later, Woods made the defensive play of the game, grabbing a deflection off the hands of tight end Nate Thienes in the back of the end zone and keeping his feet in bounds for the touchback.
"Getting down into the red zone there, we knew that they were high percentage in the red zone, something like 90 percent," Woods said. "It kind of helped when we got that 5-yard penalty to give us some breathing room.
"Going back, I'm just dropping into my zone, the quarterback scrambled, and as soon as the ball got tipped I saw an opportunity to get the ball and stay in bounds. I was able to get my feet in by a good foot-and-a-half."
A year after both teams combined for 1,240 yards in a 60-53 CU win in the Metrodome, neither offense was quite as explosive on Saturday. SMSU gained 369 yards of total offense, while CU was at 329.
Peschong finished the game 14 of 22 passing for 184 yards and a touchdown for SMSU. Matthews added 16 carries for 74 yards and two scores.
The Mustangs wrap up their season Saturday at home against Augustana (4-6 overall, 2-4 NSIC South).
CU0 7 14 7-28
SMSU7 14 14 0-35
SMSU-Gannon Moore 20 pass from Tyler Peschong (Lance Schuveiller), 10:31
SMSU-Moore 23 run (Schuveiller kick), 11:04
SMSU-Moore 69 run (Schuveiller kick), 7:40
CU-Tre Spears 1 run (Tom Obarski kick), 0:49
CU-Dustin Christen 26 pass from James Peterson (Obarski kick), 14:01
SMSU-Warren Matthews 28 run (Schuveiller kick), 11:39
SMSU-Matthews 2 run (Schuveiller kick), 4:37
CU-Nate Thienes 29 pass from Peterson (Obarski kick), 1:11
CU-Spears 3 run (Obarski kick), 12:26
First Downs: CU 23; SMSU 15. Rushing Yards: CU 207; SMSU 185. Passing Yards: CU 122; SMSU 184. Total Offense: CU 329; SMSU 369. Turnovers: CU 3; SMSU 2. Penalties (Number-Yards): CU 7-55; SMSU 6-47. Time of Possession: CU 33:58; SMSU 26:02. Third-Down Conversions: CU 8 of 14; SMSU 5 of 12. Fourth-Down Conversions: CU 0 of 0; SMSU 1 of 2. Sacks By (Number-Yards): CU 1-4; SMSU 4-18.
Rushing: CU-Tre Spears 16-114, Jason White 6-43, James Peterson 14-37, Ronald Zollicoffer 7-13; SMSU-Gannon Moore 10-115, Warren Matthews 15-74, Tyler Peschong 7-4, Charlie Kern 2-(-8).
Passing (comp-att-yards-int): CU-Peterson 10-20-122-2; SMSU-Peschong 14-22-184-0.
Receiving: CU-Nate Thienes 3-41, Spears 3-31, Dustin Christen 2-36, Jason White 2-24; SMSU-Moore 3-44, Anthony Dean 2-42, Abe Kos 2-32, Tyler Erickson 2-20, Matthews 2-11, Will Kurka 1-20, Cody Condon 1-15, Britt Wickett 1-0.
Tackles: CU-Abdullah Asad 10, Philip Barlow 8, Zach Moore 7, Mike Willett 5, Jimmy Mireri 5, Jordan Halverson 5; SMSU-Patrick Oliver 12, Joe Stupka 10, Dashawn Miller 8, Blake Pennock 6, AJ Page 5, Mark Schollmeyer 5, Ben Pederson 5.
Sacks: CU-Moore; SMSU-Pederson 2.5, Jacob Levtzow 1.5.
Interceptions: CU-None; SMSU-Stupka, Donovan Woods.