Cougars Fall on Senior Day to No. 1 MSU, 52-17
Using a balanced offensive attack and a stifling defense, the top-ranked Minnesota State University, Mankato Mavericks (10-0, 6-0 NSIC South) defeated the University of Sioux Falls 52-17 on Senior Day in front of a crowd of 2,103 at Bob Young Field.
MSU scored on eight of their eleven offensive possessions and outgained the Cougars (5-5, 3-3), 563-346.
“They’re for real; they have the size, speed and a very good quarterback,” said USF head coach Jed Stugart. “I liked our fight, but we were just out-matched today.”
“I hope MSU wins the national title for our conference and I think they have the team to do it,” he added.
USF freshman quarterback Matt Young completed 18-of-38 passes for a career-high 225 yards with one touchdown and one interception, while Carrington Hanna was 3-for-7 and was picked off once. Maverick senior signal caller Jon Wolf finished 12-for-14 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. Both Young and Wolf were sacked three times in the game.
Connor Thomas (17 carries, 135 yards, 1 touchdown), Wolf (13 carries, 82 yards) and Andy Pfeiffer (9 carries, 66 yards) led a MSU rushing attach that churned out 346 yards on the ground.
The No. 1 Mavericks put the game away early. After forcing the Cougars to punt away the game’s opening possession, MSU took over at its 26-yard line with Wolf ripping off runs of 17 and 25 yards to quickly move the Mavericks into USF territory. Moments later, Wolf connected with Dennis Carter for an eight-yard touchdown strike.
On the second snap of the ensuing USF offensive series, Justin Otto picked off Carrington Hanna for the Mavericks’ 20th interception of the season.
Starting at the USF 36, Wolf carried the ball for a two-yard gain before Cougar defensive lineman Evan Gentry sacked him for a four-yard loss. Wolf then hooked up with Carter again for a 28-yard gain before Andy Pfeiffer plunged into the end zone from 10-yards out to put the Mavericks up 14-0 with 6:57 left in the opening quarter.
After the teams traded punts, MSU added another touchdown on Pfeiffer’s six- yard run after a USF failed fourth down conversion at the Maverick 23 to build a 21-0 first quarter advantage. Wolf’s 71-yard pass to Carter, his favorite target, in double coverage to USF’s 6 earlier was the play that seemed to seal the Cougars’ fate and also contributed to 356 first-half yards for the Mavericks.
Matt Young moved under center with three minutes to go in the first quarter, which allowed Carrington Hanna to move back to the slot receiver position for the first time in the last four games.
Things went according to form as the Cougars found little ground against the nation’s fifth-ranked defense and managed only one first half score, Bradley Hatfield’s 32-yard field goal early in the second quarter that got them within 21-3.
MSU continued to control the ball and the clock, as they held the ball for nearly two-thirds of the first half (19:23-10:37) and tacked on two more scores for a 35-3 halftime lead.
The Mavericks received the ball to start the second half and again found the end zone as Connor Thomas capped the nine-play, 75-yard drive with a two-yard run.
USF replied with a 63-yard scoring drive of its own highlighted by Brady Rose’s 14-yard burst to the MSU 1. Rose, who picked up 26 of his team-high 42 rushing yards on the drive, barreled in for the score. The point after was blocked and USF would trail 42-9 after three quarters of play.
On their first possession of the fourth quarter, the Cougars began to move the ball down the field with back-to-back rushes by Young that put the ball at the USF 21. Staring at 3rd-and-4, Young targeted Wes Smith, but Jared Gillespie intercepted a tipped pass and returned it for eight yards to the USF 34.
MSU backup quarterback Mitch Brozovich started the Mavericks’ next drive with a 19-yard pass to Matt Murphy. He picked up 14 yards with his feet on the next play to give to Mavericks 1st-and-10 at the USF 1. The Cougars held Brozovich and Chad Zastrow for no gain on the next two snaps before Zastrow eluded the tackle on 3rd-and-goal and scampered to end zone to give the Mavericks a 49-9 lead.
Sioux Falls put together its final scoring drive on the next series, an eight-play, 63-yard effort that saw Young go 4-for-5 on the series, including three passes for a combined 41 yards to Hanna, who hauled in the 18-yard touchdown pass and tacked on two more with the successful two point conversion.
MSU added a late field goal to create to final 52-17 margin.
Hanna finished with 11 catches for 128 yards and a score. Wes Smith earned game-high honors for all-purpose yards for the second straight week, racking up 235 yards (82 receiving-147 KR-6 PR). Austin Vanhove had three catches for 19 yards.
An always-improving Evan Gentry was perhaps the brightest spot in defeat for Sioux Falls. Gentry tallied his team-leading fourth and fifth sacks and he was also credited with five tackles, including two for a loss of 12 yards.
“Evan keeps coming on and getting more confident with his pass rush,” said Stugart. “I’m really proud of Evan and he’s another one of our true freshmen that has a very bright future in our program.”
Today's game was the last at Bob Young Field for 17 seniors: Carrington Hanna, Wes Smith, Khiry McDonald, Aaron Hanna, Thomas Marshall, Jordan Johnson, Dakota Fiene, Jonathan Talbot, Tyler Swanson, Korben Leegaard, Chris Harris, Shane Hyronimus, Sam Dooyema, Joel Martens, Austin Vanhove, Jerry Brady and Tait Johannsen.
USF will close out the 2013 season next Saturday at Wayne State (2-8). The Cougars (5-5) need a victory to give the program 20 straight seasons with a winning record.
“I told the team that we’re either going to have a winning season or a losing season,” said Stugart. “I bet you we bounce back; I don’t see us going in the tank.”