In the thick of a dense fog, the 8th-ranked Minnesota State University football team shined against the 20th-ranked University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs on Saturday night, defeating the Bulldogs on the road 38-23. The Mavericks are now 3-0 to begin the season and remain ranked as the 8th-best team in the latest NCAA Division-II polls.
The game started off rather lackluster for MNSU, as they failed to find the end zone the first couple of possessions. Minnesota Duluth even took the lead early, as the Bulldogs scored on a 15-yard run by Anthony Wood to top off a nine-play drive spanning over 65 yards. The Bulldogs surprisingly went for a two-point conversion and was successful, making the score 8-0 halfway through the first quarter.
The Mavericks finally got their legs under them during the second quarter as sophomore quarterback Ryan Schlichte found sophomore tight end Tyler Schmidt for the touchdown with just over ten minutes to go in the first half. The next possession gave way for redshirt freshman quarterback J.D. Ekowa, as he led the Mavs down the field for six, hooking up with sophomore Shane Zylstra on a 14-yard strike to take their first lead of the game, 14-8. The Mavericks then added a 42-yard field goal with under a minute to go in the first half to extend the lead to 17-8 heading into the locker rooms.
Receiving the ball to begin the third quarter, the Mavericks were determined to extend their lead early in the second half. They did just that as it only took five plays and 72 yards to put the ball across the pylon. This time it was a 24-yard pass from Schlichte to Zylstra again to give both of them two touchdowns for the game and the Mavericks the lead, 24-8.
Pressed to answer the score and make it close again, the Bulldogs answered on the very next possession to bring the score back to a single-digit deficit with over ten minutes remaining in the third.
Zylstra picked the perfect time to have the best game of his young career. The true sophomore caught his third touchdown pass of the game in the middle of the third quarter to extend the Mavericks lead to 31-15.
The Bulldogs scored in the fourth to cut it to a one-score game, but Maverick running back Nate Gunn delivered the dagger when he scampered 47 yards for a touchdown to put MNSU up 38-23 with just minutes remaining.
The stat sheet was stuffed, starting with wide receiver Shane Zylstra, who caught eight passes for 204 yards and three touchdowns. Zylstra went on to win Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) Player of the Week honors for his performance. Leading the way on the ground was sophomore running back Nate Gunn, who rushed for 229 yards and a touchdown. Both quarterbacks had a good game as well, led by Ryan Schlichte who completed eight passes for 156 yards and three touchdowns, followed by J.D. Ekowa, who completed four passes for 97 yards and a touchdown.
The Mavericks will come home for their next game, hosting Northern State University (1-2 overall, 1-2 in NSIC play) at Blakeslee Stadium. The game is scheduled for September 23 at 4:00 p.m. The Wolves are coming off a home loss against Upper Iowa 31-14, and have lost their last two games. The last time these two teams met up was in 2015, when the Mavericks traveled to Aberdeen, South Dakota and defeated Northern State 27-10. In their last four meetings, the Mavericks have gone 4-0 while outscoring the Wolves 122-48.