MARSHALL - After a record-setting performance in Week 2, Southwest Minnesota State running back Tyler Tonderum has risen to the top of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
Tonderum, the reigning NSIC Offensive Player of the Week, ran for 343 yards and three touchdowns on 42 carries last Saturday as SMSU (1-1 overall and NSIC) came from behind to win 27-20 at Minnesota State-Moorhead. That effort on the ground pushed him into the league lead with 426 rushing yards.
Now, Tonderum and the Southwest Minnesota State offense, which ranks second in the NSIC at 485.0 yards per game, hosts Minot State at 6 p.m. today at The Schwan Regional Event Center.
"It all starts up front with the offensive line. But having a good rushing attack last week and a good passing game in Week 1, it makes us a two-dimensional offense that our opponents have to stop," Tonderum said. "We feel like our opponents won't have the opportunity to key-in on what we're doing. We're playing sound in all aspects right now."
The Mustangs, who are sixth in the league in scoring at 31.0 points per game, will be facing a Beavers defense that is fifth in NSIC by allowing 23.0 points per game. Minot State ranks eighth in the league by giving up 348.5 yards per game.
SMSU quarterback Charlie Kern is seventh in the league in passing while averaging 192.0 yards per game by completing 45 of 75 attempts. He has thrown for 384 yards with three touchdowns and one interception.
"I love our offense because it's a fast-paced offense," Kern said. The offensive line has done a great job, the running game has been out of this world and the receivers have been making plays. It's a fun offense to play in. A lot of people would regard a spread as a passing offense, but we like to run out of this formation, too."
After adding Kern's 121 rushing yards, he has 505 total yards and is fifth in the NSIC in total offense at 252.5 yards per game. Tonderum is ninth in the league in total offense, averaging 213 yards per game.
Kern has spread the ball around to four different receivers, including Cody Condon (nine catches, 103 yards), Anthony Dean (nine catches, 66 yards, two touchdowns), Tonderum (seven catches, 60 yards) and Britt Wickett (seven catches, 25 yards).
"It's pretty exciting to have an offense ranked second in the conference," Mustangs center Brandon Puffer said. "We expected a lot from this offense, but we have responded by running almost 100 plays every game. On our line, we're all seniors and we have gelled very well together because we have played together for quite a while."
Minot State's defense stepped up in a huge way during the Beavers' 23-17 home victory in triple overtime against Augustana last Saturday. Minot State held the Vikings on two straight plays from their own 1 on Augustana's third overtime possession.
Linebacker Chad Marshall and defensive lineman Logan Jones stopped the Vikings short on 3rd-and-goal from the 1 before defensive back Jeff Buchert halted Augustana on 4th-and-goal to set up the game-winning drive.
Marshall led the Beavers with 13 tackles. He has made 17 tackles in 2013 and ranks 18th in the NSIC.
Minot State (1-1 overall and NSIC) earned its win against the Vikings when wideout Wayne Peters caught a 22-yard pass after it was tipped by an Augustana defender while he was lying flat on his back in the end zone to cap a wild night. Peters topped the Beavers with eight catches for 93 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in the overtime periods last Saturday.
Ranking 14th in the league in total offense, Minot State averages 248.5 yards. The Beavers are 16th in the NSIC in scoring at 11.5 points per game. The SMSU defense is 11th in the league in total defense by allowing 392.5 yards per game. The Mustangs allow 34.5 points per game, which ranks 14th in the NSIC.
"After the loss to St. Cloud State, we wanted to see how we could bounce back from that against MSU-Moorhead," SMSU defensive end A.J. Page said. "I think we showed what we can do in allowing 20 points after giving up 49."
Page said the Mustang defenders changed their attitude in Week 2.
"We played like we had a chip on shoulder," Page said. "We did what we had to do to improve. This is going to be our attitude for the rest of the year."
Beavers quarterback Zac Cunha is tenth in the NSIC in passing efficiency, averaging 169.5 yards per game. He is 32 of 59 for 339 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Peters, who has 16 receptions for 151 yards and two touchdowns, is Cunha's top target. His eight catches per game rank third in the league.
Jarvis Mustipher tops rushing attack with 94 yards on 19 carries for Minot State, which gets 64 yards on 24 carries from Randel Barber. The Beavers have not rushed for a touchdown in their first two games.
Linebacker Blake Pennock (21) and Page (20) are the top two tacklers for SMSU. Pennock is tied for fourth in the league, while Page is eighth overall. Other top tacklers for the Mustangs include linebacker Deshawn Woods (17), cornerback Donovan Woods (15) and safety Tate Bunkers (13).
Page has four tackles for loss and two sacks this season.
NOTE: This game was moved to tonight because SMSU hosts an annual large regional band competition on Saturday night. The SMSU women's soccer also plays at home on Saturday afternoon versus Minot State. The Mustangs lead the Beavers in the all-time series 3-1. The last meeting between SMSU and Minot State occurred in 1997, when the Mustangs defeated the Beavers 16-14 at Minot, N.D.