Heading into week three of Division II college football brought many uncertainties within Minnesota State’s locker room. The Mavericks have not had the start they were looking for when opening the season.
The Mavs found themselves 1-1 through two games, only heading toward what looked to be a tough Bemidji State team who had two solid wins coming into this game. If the Mavericks were to lose this contest, they would have been under a .500 win percentage for the first time since 2011.
Luckily Minnesota State seemed to be the most prepared they have been all season. The Mavericks were able to defeat the Beavers 45-24 to improve their record to 2-1.
The Mavs were able to lean on their top offensive performers this game, as running back Kaleb Sleezer and wide receiver Jalen Sample had monstrous games. Sleezer was able to find the endzone in this one, while also taking on 114 yards rushing.
Sample was just as dominant as Sleezer, but by doing it through the air. Jalen Sample finished the game with five catches and 117 yards. He looked unstoppable out there, catching quite a few balls in tough coverage.
The Mavericks have also seemed to find their groove at the quarterback position. Although there is not a true QB one on the team, the Mavs find themselves using JD Ekowa and Hayden Ekern equally.
Each quarterback provides their own set of skills, and it may help as a secret weapon, keeping opposing defenses on their toes throughout the game.
The first half was not necessarily a work of art for the Mavericks, but they did gain a lot of momentum heading into halftime. Cornerback Ty’Shonan Brooks made the highlight of the half in the first quarter, picking off Bemidji quarterback Brandon Alt at the 50 yard line and returning it for a touchdown to put the Mavs up 10-3.
The Beavers were able to catch back up to the Mavericks, but on the last drive of the half, Minnesota State was able to punch in a four yard passing touchdown from Ekern to Nyles Williams to go up 24-17.
Coming out of halftime the Beavers were able to put points right back up on the board, putting together an 84 yard drive to tie the game at 24. From there on out, it was all Mavericks.
On the proceeding Beaver drive, Mavs senior linebacker Eli Thomas got his first interception of the year that set up a 67 yard scoring drive. The Mavericks never looked back, adding two more rushing touchdowns from Ekowa and Sleezer to seal the game.
The name of the game this week: taking advantage of momentum. After the Thomas interception, the Mavericks were able to take the lead and never look back.
In a post game interview, Mavericks coach Todd Hoffner added his insight on the Mavs’ new-found momentum and how they took advantage of it. Hoffner said, “We did a lot of things well, but we’re far from tremendous, excellent, and we got a lot of work to do… Our will to win was really strong and competitive.”
Coach Hoffner explained his Mavericks team did what they needed to do, and their will to win was what got them there. He also explained, “Eventually we wore them down… the offensive and defensive line of scrimmages were being won by the Mavericks.”
The Mavs will to win and physical and mental conditioning seemed to have got this one done for them to improve to 2-1. Minnesota State is now ranked No. 20 in division two college football, one spot lower than the week prior despite their victory against Bemidji.
The No. 20 Mavs have a lot of work to do, but the players and coaches are all in on getting right back where they want to be by the end of the season. The Mavs are set to face the 0-3 Minot State Beavers Sept. 25, in Minot.