Mavericks squeak by Augustana, 42-35

The Minnesota State University-Mankato football team pulled out a win against Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) rival Augustana on Saturday. Their 42-35 win spoiled the Vikings’ homecoming party in front of 5,321 fans.

This game was wild from start to finish as both teams combined for a staggering 988 total yards on offense, with 569 yards through the air to go along with 77 points.

The offensive onslaught started with the Mavericks as they capped off an opening drive with a 5-yard touchdown run from senior running back Virgil Hammond. Augustana was able to respond with a 27-yard touchdown pass from senior Trey Heid to wide receiver Matt Heller with three minutes left in the first quarter.

After the Vikings’ touchdown, the Mavericks answered right back the following drive that ended with a 2-yard touchdown pass from junior quarterback Nick Pieruccini to junior wide-out Ty Dennis. Augustana added a field goal in the second quarter to make the score 14-10.

The Mavericks ended the first half with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Pieruccini to redshirt freshman wide receiver Shane Zylstra, adding to their lead and making the score 21-10 heading into halftime.

The Vikings started the third quarter with possession, but two plays later MSU forced a fumble giving the Mavericks offense great field position to start the drive. From that drive, Pieruccini was able to find Dennis in the endzone for a second time from 14 yards out. The Mavs held a commanding 28-10 lead early in the third quarter.

The Vikings quickly struck back the following drive, as Heid threw a touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Chet Peerenboom from 26 yards out. The next possession for the Vikings ended with a field goal to narrow the deficit to eight points late in the third quarter.

Following a punt from Minnesota State, the Vikings had the ball at the start of the fourth quarter. A minute later, Heid found his top target, Charlie Hayes, from 15 yards out. The Vikings then scored a two-point conversion to even the score at 28-all.

The ensuing kickoff was brought back all the way to Augie’s 12-yard line, giving the Mavericks fantastic field position. MSU promptly scored the next play as senior quarterback Ricky Lloyd found junior tight end Erik Fuller in the end zone.

Augustana had the ball with ten minutes left in the game, looking to tie up the score, but they fumbled on their own 8-yard line giving the Mavericks a shot to enhance their lead. And they did just that, as Lloyd ran into the endzone the next play, making the score 42-28.

The Vikings did not panic, however, as they marched down the field the following drive. The drive ended on a 2-yard touchdown run from junior running back Jackie Davis. The Mavericks then fumbled the ensuing kickoff giving the Vikings a chance at tying up the score late in the fourth quarter. The Vikings squandered that chance as they failed to convert on fourth down at the Mavericks’ six-yard line.

The Mavericks had the ball last and never gave it back to the Vikings as they finished the game on a six minute, 14-play drive.

As a team, Augustana had the advantage in yards gained both on the ground and through the air. The Vikings compiled 346 passing yards and 230 rushing yards, while the Mavericks had 223 passing yards and 189 rushing yards. Heid finished the game completing 27 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He also led the Vikings rushing attack with 139 yards. Charlie Hayes caught 15 passes for 214 yards and a touchdown.

Turnovers ended up being the ultimate downfall for the Vikings as they threw an interception and had two crucial fumbles lost.

“We knew a lot of their players carried the ball away from their bodies and we tried to exploit that. We wanted to force turnovers and give our offense short fields, and I think we did a good job with that,” said senior defensive lineman Alec Vesper.

The impact player of the game on the offensive side was Pieruccini, as he threw for 184 yards and three touchdowns. He also added 53 yards on the ground. Hammond led the Mavericks in rushing with 75 yards and a score. Three receivers scored for the Mavericks; Zylstra had three catches for 61 yards and a score, Dennis had four catches for 45 yards and two scores, and Fuller had 4 catches for 37 yards and a score.

Fuller had this to say about the game: “We wanted to air out the ball a little more this game and rely on outside zone knowing how well they could play inside the box. Dennis had a great game breaking out of his shell with two touchdowns, and the offensive line came up huge at the end of the game as we ran out the clock.”

This win puts the Mavericks at 5-2 (2-1 NSIC South) for the season. They have a short week to prepare for their next opponent as they face Southwest Minnesota State Thursday night. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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