Mavs advance to third round of playoffs to face Tarleton State
The Mavericks defeated the CSU-Pueblo ThunderWolves last Saturday afternoon at home at the Blake, 24-10, in the second round of the NCAA D-II Football Tournament.
A game that CSU-Pueblo was favored in going into the game, MSU was able to defeat the team with ease on Saturday.
At the start of the game, both teams were going back and forth between offense and defense.
The first quarter was a total defensive effort for both teams, trading off a total of five three & outs in the quarter.
Towards the end of the first quarter, the ThunderWolves attempted to go for it on fourth down. What seemed at the time to be an easy converted fourth down rush from CSU-Pueblo tight end Preston Guerra turned into a fumble forced and recovered by MSU senior defensive back Michael Palme.
The Mavericks had the momentum rolling into the second quarter after the fumble, but failed to capitalize on it, and were forced to punt the ball right away.
After CSU-Pueblo was forced to punt again, MSU went back to work on offense.
In what seemed to be a game in which nobody could crack scoreboard, the Mavs were finally able to put points up on the board early on in the quarter after MSU junior quarterback Ryan Schlichte connected on a 52-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Shane Zylstra to put the Mavs up, 7-0.
Following another CSU-Pueblo punt, MSU took the ball back on offense, and marched down to the ThunderWolves’ side of the field. Unfortunately for the Mavs, the drive ended in points, but not the way they wanted the drive to end.
MSU senior kicker Casey Bednarski lasered a 22-yard through the uprights to put the Mavs up on the ThunderWolves 10-0 in the second quarter.
On the Mavericks’ last drive of the quarter, they looked to put the finishing touches on the ThunderWolves early, and they did just that after MSU sophomore quarterback JD Ekowa connected on a pass to junior wideout Justin Arnold to put the Mavs up late in the half, 17-0, which ended up being the score heading into halftime.
What seemed like a one-sided affair throughout the game continued once again, as Mavericks junior tailback Nate Gunn rushed for a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Mavs up 24-0 on CSU-Pueblo, but the Mavericks seemed to have forgotten who they were playing.
After the scoring drive, the ThunderWolves were finally able to respond after CSU-Pueblo senior running back Bernard McDondle ran for a 27-yard rushing strike to cut the MSU lead to 24-7 in the third.
Immediately following the drive, the Mavs offense’s drive was stalled after ThunderWolves defensive back Darius Williams picked off Ekowa.
After the pick, the team finished with a field goal on the following drive by Mitchell Carter to cut the MSU lead to 24-10.
Throughout the rest of the game after that point, neither team was able to tack on to the scoreboard the rest of the way, as the Mavericks locked down the 24-10 win to help the team move on to the second round of the playoffs.
When asked about the team moving forward, Head Coach Todd Hoffner said, “Hats off to how our team played today. It’s great to finally be able to get a win like this, especially against a tough [CSU-Pueblo] team.”
Hoffner then ended, saying, “I think all-in-all, the opponents that are in our region are nothing short of amazing. We’re looking forward to another tough matchup next weekend.”
Minnesota State will continue their season in the third round of the NCAA Tournament this Saturday, as they host No. 6 Tarleton State at Blakeslee Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
Feature photo by Samuel Oluwadoromi | MSU Reporter.