The Minnesota State Mavericks turned around their season and delivered an impressive road win against the St. Cloud State Huskies after an embarrassing home opener the week before.
For the 80th time, the Mavericks and Huskies would meet up once more in their long-run rivalry. After a loss that shocked not only the Mavericks football team but the fans as well, this game was going to play into how the Mavericks would be able to respond from adversity. Coming out fast and strong was necessary in getting the team off to a fast start against St. Cloud, but the players had plenty of internal motivation after last week’s home opener to get off to the start Head Coach Todd Hoffner wanted.
“We were embarrassed the week before when we played Bemidji.” Hoffner said. “We got a huge wake up call from them, and our players were very motivated and driven all week long and I think that led to a very strong performance against St. Cloud.”
The strong performance as Hoffner mentioned would not have been possible without junior quarterback Nick Pieruccini leading the way. While Senior quarterback Ricky Lloyd was sitting out the game, Pieruccini lead the Mavericks to a 45-12 victory over the Huskies.
“I thought Nick did a great job.” Hoffner said. “It was like riding a bike, he made a lot of quality decisions and I think that’s important at the quarterback position, but I think more importantly his pinpoint accuracy is what was really impressive.”
Pinpoint accuracy is exactly what Pieruccini exhibited against the Huskies in completing 18 of 21 passes for 282 yards and four touchdowns. Not only did Pieruccini find success in throwing the ball, but he also lead the team in rushing for 109 yards and a touchdown. Four of Pieruccini’s five total touchdowns came in the 2nd quarter, where the Mavericks opened up things and set the tone.
Pieruccini’s performance earned him Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Offensive Player of the Week, as this is the second time he has earned the award in his career. The last time was during the 2014 season against Wayne State.
The Mavericks were able to put together six straight scoring drives stretching from the first to the third quarter. After a first quarter that was led 7-6 by the Mavericks, Minnesota State was able to pile on the scoring in the second quarter. After 28 more points to close out the half, the Mavericks were sitting pretty with a 35-6 lead. Senior wide receiver Brent Esser and junior wide-out Ty Dennis made major contributions in the win Saturday. Esser had four receptions for 32 yards and two touchdowns, leading the team in receptions. Dennis led the Mavericks in receiving yards with 106 on just two receptions, including a 48-yard touchdown.
The defense was highlighted by an interception returned for a touchdown by Senior Jared Gillespie. The Mavericks would force three interceptions in the game. Senior Alec Vesper lead the team in tackles with nine, including half a sack. Junior Larry Moore would add seven tackles, and Senior Rueben Ibarra would record seven tackles and one and a half sacks.
With all the success the Mavericks saw on offense, it is going to be hard for Hoffner not to start Pieruccini at quarterback once again coming off of an incredible performance against St. Cloud State.
“It’d be tough for him not to be the starting quarterback, something unfortunate would have to happen to where he would not be the guy moving forward at least this week.” Hoffner said. “We’re looking to prepare and we think we have a lot of quality at that position.”
Hoffner is right about the amount of quality at MNSU’s quarterback position. Though the Chicago, Illinois native Pieruccini was the highlight of the game against St. Cloud, the Mavericks defense only allowed 59 yards on the ground and a snagged an interception for a touchdown. It was a well-executed game against St. Cloud and both offense and defense played well in a bounce-back game that was well needed.
The Mavericks move to 2-1 on the young season and will be coming home to play the Minnesota State University-Moorhead Dragons at 1 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium. The last time these two teams matched up was in 2014, when the Mavericks defeated the Dragons on the road 69-13. MSU-Moorhead is 2-1 heading into the matchup, coming off a close two-point victory against Upper Iowa.