The team wins against Tarleton State 13-10, advances to national semi-finals
The Minnesota State Mavericks defeated the Tarleton State Texans Saturday, Dec. 1 at the Blakeslee Stadium by a final score of 13-10, in the worst of snowy, blizzard-like conditions.
In the first quarter, the weather conditions were quite fair to start off the game, and the Texans took advantage of that early on.
Tarleton State got on the score board on the first drive of the game, after Texans’ kicker Joanly Martinez hit a 29-yard field goal to put the Texans up 3-0 over the Mavericks early on.
The Mavericks also had their share of chances early on in the game, as senior kicker Casey Bednarski missed a 44-yard field goal attempt that could’ve tied the game up late in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Texans cracked the scoreboard again after Texans’ wide out Zimari Manning caught a pass from quarterback Ben Holmes for a 67-yard touchdown reception to extend the Texans lead to 10-0.
After that score, the Mavericks went back on offense. As they started to drive down the field, the snow started to come down hard.
The conditions looked to be too much at the time, as the Mavericks got to the red zone on the Texans’ side of the field, only to have Mavericks’ junior tailback Nate Gunn fumble near the end zone.
Tarleton State got the ball back on offense, but were not able to do anything with it, as they ended up punting it back to the Mavericks.
As the Mavericks got back on offense, it looked as if the drive would fall flat once again for the team, but thanks to a fake punt by punter Casey Bednarski, the Mavericks were able to extend the drive after Bednarski rumbled across the field for a 31-yard gain on the play to the Texans’ side of the field.
It looked to be the Mavericks’ chance to crack the scoreboard at the time, but unfortunately the team was able to do nothing with it, as the Mavericks’ junior quarterback Ryan Schlichte had his pass picked off at the goal line by Tarleton State linebacker EJ Speed.
The Texans kneeled the ball going into the break, as the Texans were up on the Mavericks 10-0 at halftime.
As the second half began, it was a winter wonderland in Mankato, as 5-7 inches of snow painted the playing surface when the players came out of the locker room after the break.
At the beginning of the third quarter, it looked as if the Mavericks on offense would be in range to score some points, but unfortunately that dream was crushed after a pass thrown by sophomore quarterback JD Ekowa was quickly picked off by Texans’ defensive back Jai Edwards.
After another Tarleton State punt, the Mavericks got the ball back on offense, and never looked back.
A 27-play, 97-yard drive, that lasted 12 minutes and nine seconds ended in a Shane Zylstra 5-yard touchdown reception from Schlichte to trim the Texans’ lead to 10-7 early on in the fourth quarter.
After Tarleton State turned the ball over on downs the following drive, the Mavericks kept the momentum rolling going into their drive later in the fourth quarter.
The Mavericks sealed the game late in the quarter after Gunn ran the ball in from 13 yards out for the touchdown to take the lead for the Mavs, 13-10, to move on to the Final Four of the DII NCAA Tournament.
Gunn was the story of the game for the Mavericks, along with the weather, breaking the school record for most rushing attempts in a game (50), while also rushing for 262 yards and a touchdown in the process.
After his 50 rushing-attempt performance, Gunn said, “I never felt tired carrying the ball. I’ve had various games in the past where I’d carried the ball 30-35 times in a game, so what’s a couple more?” The adrenaline surely was high for this talented running back on Saturday.
The Mavs now hope to carry on that momentum headed into the Final Four. With a re-seeding in the Final Four, they’re now the No. 2-seed in the tournament for the rest of the playoffs.
Their next game will be against No. 3-seed Ferris State this Saturday at 2 p.m. at Blakeslee Stadium. The game will be featured live on ESPN3.
The winner of that game will go on to play the winner between Notre Dame (Ohio) and Valdosta State in the championship game for the D-II tournament title. The Mavericks hope to keep up with the momentum headed into the rest of the playoff season.
Feature photo: Minnesota State Mavericks wide receiver Shane Zylstra (84) runs with the ball as Tarleton State Texans defensive back Prince Robinson (24) attempts to tackle him during an NCAA Division II quarterfinal game. The Mavericks overcame a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter to win the game and advance to the semifinals. (Mansoor Ahmad | MSU Reporter)