MSU sneaks past CSU-Pueblo, 16-13

In a blustery-chilled game, the Mavericks did enough to move on

In the first round of the playoffs, the Minnesota State Mavericks beat the Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves in a game that needed extra time to be decided, with the Mavs coming up victorious 16-13.

“Both defenses played exceptionally well, did what they had to do to put their team in a position to win and the game came down to kicking field goals,” Mavericks head coach Todd Hoffner said. “We love Bednarski and had faith he could definitely make one against the wind and put our trust in him and he got the job done.”

It was all defense, especially in the first half for the Thunderwolves, who finished the game forcing three turnovers and scoring 10 points off turnovers. The Thunderwolves’ Austin Micci was able to find the end zone in the second quarter after an interception from the Mavericks’ Ryan Schlichte to take a 10-3 lead headed into the half.

The Thunderwolves had Schlichte’s number from the beginning, holding him to 69 yards on 13 attempts and picking him off twice along with three sacks. Josh Croy lead the Thunderwolves with 12 tackles, while Kyle Rosenbrock recorded 3.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. Tanner Draper was also impressive, recording both picks in a phenomenal defensive performance.

While the passing game was stunted, the running game was alive and well, with a healthy Nate Gunn returning to the starting lineup and promptly racking up 108 rushing yards on a hefty 34 carries.

Quarterback J.D. Ekowa also had a great day running the ball, punching in the lone Maverick touchdown on a 20-yard score, finishing with 34. After field goals in the second and third quarters,

Ekowa’s score gave MSU the first lead of the game at 13-10.

“He had a warrior mentality and was just cleared to go full contact on Thursday, wanted to get hit in practice right away to get that feel back even though we weren’t going to hit him,” said Hoffner on his returning starting running back. “He did what he could today, I don’t think he was 100 percent but he has a very tough demeanor and will go out there no matter what.”

But the Thunderwolves were not to be put away in regulation. The defense came up in a big way to give their offense the ball on an Ekowa fumble with 5:24 left in the game. Running back Marche Dennard heavy load on the drive led to a Mitchell Carter game-tying field goal.

In overtime, the Mavericks simply ran the ball and were perfectly comfortable putting the game on the foot of kicker Casey Bednarski. He promptly sank the 37-yard kick. After CSU-Pueblo missed their 40-yard attempt, the Mavericks had finally finished off the game and claimed the 16-13 victory.

“In warmups, I could kick it about 45-yards into the wind,” said Bednarski after the game. “I don’t really look at the distance when I go out there so for me it is the same kick every time, so when I went out there, it was just the same kick.”

The Mavericks will play the No. 5 Midwestern State Mustangs on Nov. 25 at Blakeslee Stadium in the second round of the NCAA Division-II playoffs.

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