Mavericks to host Mustangs in Thursday night matchup

Heading into week eight of the season, Minnesota State University-Mankato will be facing off against divisional foe Southwest Minnesota State University tonight. The Mavericks are currently 5-2 (2-1 NSIC South) on the season and are currently on a two-game win streak where they defeated Concordia-St. Paul and Augustana.

The Mavericks’ offense has been right around the middle of the pack in the conference. They display a well-balanced type of system trying to establish the run early in the game. They’re seventh in scoring, averaging 34.7 points per game. They rank tenth in passing offense as they average 229.6 yards per game through the air. They rank sixth in the conference in rushing yards per game with 188.9.

The impact players to watch for the Mavs’ offense consist of senior quarterback Nick Pieruccini, senior running back Virgil Hammond, and junior wide receiver Ty Dennis. Pieruccini leads the team in both passing and rushing. Hammond is second on the team in rushing and Dennis leads the team in receiving.

The Mavericks’ defense has been stout compared to the rest of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. They rank third in scoring defense, giving up 22.4 points per game, and fourth in total yards given up with an average of 390.3. One stat that does stand out for the Mavs’ defense is that they have a total of 19 sacks on the season which puts them at fifth in the conference.

The Mustangs post a 4-3 (1-2 NSIC South) record so far this season. They are currently on a two-game losing streak with their most recent loss coming from Wayne State where they lost 41-39.

SMSU has a high-powered offense compared to the rest of the conference. They are second in scoring offense averaging 42.4 points per game. They have the most touchdowns scored in the conference. This team can put up points in bunches. They seem to have an air-raid style of offense as they are second in passing yards per game, averaging 325.4. While they are second in total yards passed, they do have the most efficient passing offense in the country with an efficiency rating of 159.0.

The leader of this offense is junior quarterback Blake Gimbel. He’s completed 187 passes for 2,131 yards and 20 touchdowns. Gimbel’s top target is junior Nate Huot. He has 44 catches for 658 yards and five touchdowns. There are three more receivers for the Mustangs who have made significant contributions for the offense; redshirt freshman Gabriel Galamue, senior Ty Steffensen, and senior Raphael Lawson-Gayle.

Southwest’s defense has been spotty at best this season, as they rank around the bottom of the conference in all defensive categories. They are giving up an average of 36.4 points per game, 242.1 pass yards per game, and 221 rush yards per game. They are also last in the conference in sacks with 6 on the season.

The defense for the Mustangs is led by senior Gene Germain who leads the team in tackles. Senior defensive back Michael Everett leads the team in interceptions, so the Mavericks should be cautious throwing his way.

Pieruccini had this to say about the Mustangs: “[They] have a solid defense and they mix up their looks to confuse offenses, so we are going to need to be locked in and focused from the start to come away with a win.”

This game against the Mustangs marks the fifteenth time these two teams have faced each other. The Mavericks have won all the previous 14 games. The most recent win came last year in Marshall as they won 55-17.

Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.

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