It is a big week for Minnesota State Mavericks. Homecoming week means plenty of events, and a big football game.
The Mavericks will take on the Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs this Saturday, highlighting a big game in D-II football. As of now, MSU is ranked No. 3 and UMD is just behind them at No. 12.
Overall the Bulldogs have had the Mavericks number, as the Mavericks are just 17-20-1. However, despite not having a winning record against the Bulldogs, MSU has won the last four games they’ve played against each other.
MSU last played against the Bulldogs in 2017, where they won at Duluth, 38-23. During this win streak, Mankato’s biggest margin of victory came back in 2014 (44-17) – the year they went to the national championship.
This season, the Bulldogs have had a lot of success, which is evident from their ranking in the D-II polls. Beyond the game against St. Cloud Sept. 21, UMD has steamrolled all of its opponents, scoring 40 or more points.
By this time last year, MSU was regularly scoring 30-40 points per game. This season, they’re yet to hit the 40-point mark. A large part of its success comes on the defensive end and it’ll be a difficult task against this offensive powerhouse.
UMD’s quarterback, John Larson, is having himself a great season. He’s competed 58 of his 108 passes, including 869 passing yards, nine touchdowns and three interceptions.
He has had the held from a variety of receivers, as the team has five players with at least 100 yards on the season.
They have had success passing the ball, but they also have been using a variety of players in the run game. Larson has been a dual-threat quarterback, having just as much success running the ball. He leads the team in rushing attempts and yards as well – picking up 299 yards and a touchdown on 49 attempts.
Running backs Wade Sullivan and Cazz Martin have combined for 459 yards and seven touchdowns.
MSU will have its hands full on defense, but they’ve had a lot of success in that department. After giving up 23 points to Southwest Minnesota State, MSU hasn’t allowed over seven points in its next three games.
Senior Zach Robertson and junior Jack Leius have led the way in tackles for the Mavericks. The two have combined for 52 tackles, four sacks and 13.5 tackles for a loss. Leius has also added two interceptions.
Junior Cole Schroedermeier leads the team in interceptions with three. Unable to get one last week for the first time all season, he will be looking to get back on track against Larson and the Bulldogs. He also is third on the team in tackles with 19.
As good as things have been defensively, the Mavericks have had success through its usual offensive weapons.
Senior Nate Gunn has 602 yards and six touchdowns this season, gaining over 100 yards in every game – including his 242-yard performance against SMSU.
As good as Gunn has been, the Mavericks will need to gain more success in the passing game. Junior JD Ekowa has been the most successful, collecting 387 yards and two touchdowns. He has also been able to pick up 188 yards on the ground – the second most on the team behind Gunn.
Seniors Shane Zylstra and Justin Arnold have been the main attackers in the passing game. Zylstra has picked up 313 yards and three touchdowns. Arnold has seen 199 yards but will looking to get in the end zone for the first time this season.
Header photo by Mansoor Ahmad | MSU Reporter.