The Minnesota State University Mavericks took home the win in the inaugural Harvest Bowl on Saturday against the No. 10 Winona State Warriors, 27-6.
Thanks to a balanced offensive attack, a dominating defensive effort and a home field advantage, the Mavericks are now ranked number two in the Super Region Four rankings after defeating Winona State soundly. The Warriors have dropped to the fourth spot in the same Region.
Head coach Todd Hoffner was incredibly pleased and had a few words for his defense after the performance they had Saturday, which included sacking the quarterback six times and forcing four interceptions.
“We did a lot of things well Saturday on the defensive side of the football,” Hoffner said. “Our defensive line diverted running lanes and applied tremendous pressure, forcing throws to sail a little bit giving our defensive backs time to get to the football and make a play. It was a good collective team effort on Saturday.”
The Warriors actually got on the board first after a 77-yard drive resulted in a 28-yard field goal to take the lead 3-0 early in the first quarter.
The Mavericks were up to the challenge however, as the very next drive MNSU took the 7-3 lead on a six-yard touchdown run by running back Justin Taormina, set up by a 47-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Schlichte to senior wideout Ty Dennis to give the Mavericks first and goal.
After another Winona State field goal, the defense ramped up the pressure and forced a strip sack from senior Larry Moore, and fellow senior teammate Evan Perrizo picked the ball up and returned it 13 yards to put the Mavericks up 14-6. This play served as the momentum changer in favor of Minnesota State.
MNSU added another field goal before halftime from Casey Bednarski, giving the Mavs the 17-6 lead heading into the locker rooms.
In the third quarter, the Mavericks were once again presented with favorable field position after a Warrior turnover. They took full advantage, as Schlichte found his favorite target Shane Zylstra who hurdled a defender and eventually scored from 28-yards out to give the Mavericks the lead at 24-6.
With time expiring in the third, the Mavs extended their already sizeable lead. Bednarski made a 27-yard field goal to push the score to 27-6. This is where the score would stay as the Mavericks shut out Winona State the rest of the way.
According to the latest D-II overall rankings, the Mavericks currently sit at the first-place position. Hoffner wants to make sure this team stays grounded, as Wayne State comes to town this weekend, but hinted at this Winona game being a revenge game.
“The team that took away our number one ranking two years ago was the Winona State Warriors,” Hoffner said. “So, the ranking was lost with Winona State and ironically it was restored with a win against them. I’m very proud of our players for getting us to this standpoint but we must stay hungry to prove that we are worthy of it in our next match against Wayne State on Saturday,” Hoffner said.
Minnesota State plays Wayne State on senior day at Blakeslee Stadium, Saturday at noon.