The Minnesota State football team has a different slogan of the week for each week. This last week’s slogan was “Fortify the Gates” and that’s exactly what the team did against Minnesota State Moorhead last Saturday afternoon.
Coming into their second home game of the season, Minnesota State faced the Dragons in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) game that could have had major implications for the Mavericks on their season. Of recent, home wins have been hard to come by and Head Coach Todd Hoffner knows it.
“We hadn’t done so well at home, and hadn’t won a lot of our recent football games,” Hoffner said. “We lost three of our last four at home and now we’ve got a one-game winning streak going.”
When commenting on the win, Hoffner said, “It’s good, it’s something to build on but I don’t think we’ve played our best football yet. There were certain phases of the game that I thought we did well and there were other phases where we could have done better.”
The Mavericks offense struggled at times to move the football and ball security was lacking early in the game, but an early break in the first quarter on a fumble helped keep the Mavericks in the game.
“We weren’t clicking on all cylinders, but we did enough to win the football game. However, you can never be satisfied even if you do almost everything right there’s still lots of room to get better,” Hoffner said.
Even with the struggles the offensive unit faced, they seemed to rally behind the play of junior quarterback Nick Pieruccini. In the 28-14 win over Moorhead, Pieruccini completed 13 of 26 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns. He was just as dangerous in the run game, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown on 25 rushes.
The position of quarterback requires a leader in its nature. Pieruccini exemplifies that leadership but it’s what he does on the field that makes the rest of his teammates follow his lead. His on-the-field leadership qualities are just as valuable to Hoffner when it comes to game time.
“I think the quarterback position in and of itself is an inherent leadership position, and I think quarterback play and performance can lead just as much as the outside the play leadership opportunities that are inherent in the quarterback position,” Hoffner said. “His ability to lead more with his production and his performance is really a key factor for our offense.”
When the offense was able to move the ball down field it was due to the help their defense provided, who were able to force three turnovers. Off those three turnovers, the Mavericks offense was able to score 14 of their 28 points off of drives following turnovers. The offense seemed to feed off their defense and Hoffner seemed to think so as well.
“We feed a lot off our defense when they generate turnovers from our opponent,” Hoffner said. “That gives our offense momentum, but bottom line you have to generate your own momentum as an offensive unit and take the field like you’re going to score every time.”
Though it would be nice to be able to score every time on offense, the chances of that are low. However, it’s nice to see a defense that can limit the run game and force turnovers in big situations. Defensive players like Ruben Ibarra who led the team in tackles with 11 and Larry Moore who followed with nine really impressed Hoffner and the coaching staff.
“I thought we hit exceptionally well and we really blended together. Lot of guys did a lot of things but it’s one thing to be in the right position, it’s another thing to actually be productive and make a play when you get there,” Hofffner said.
The Mavericks have advanced to 3-1on the season and moved up two spots to 19th in the AFCA week 4 polls. They are set to play on the road at Winona State at 1:00 p.m. Saturday October 1st, in their first game during breast cancer awareness month.