Football tries to get back in top 25 at Upper Iowa

A loss to now ranked No. 23 Wayne State in the most recent AFCA Division II Coaches Poll, has Minnesota State’s football team scrambling to stay in the rankings after their first loss at home since 2016. It was a 20-game home winning streak against NSIC opponents for the Mavericks, which now returns to zero as the Mavs fall out of the top 25.

Fortunately for Minnesota State, they will be able to put this one behind them and move onto their next opponent, Upper Iowa. The Mavericks come into this game as huge favorites, but will have to pay close attention and not overlook any opponent going forward if they want a chance at the NCAA Division II playoffs.

History has been kind to Minnesota State against NSIC opponent Upper Iowa, who holds a 14-0 record against the Peacocks since 2004. MSU has had no problem putting up points this season, averaging over 40 points per game.

Going into a matchup against the Peacocks, the Mavericks should be able to continue their offensive dominance as they have averaged nearly 50 points per game against Upper Iowa since 2004. Upper Iowa also comes into this game with an overall record of 0-6 with losses against several teams Minnesota State has beat handedly this season.

The Mavericks should surely not overlook the Peacocks in this one, but are poised and ready to return back home to Blakeslee Stadium 5-2 for Family Weekend.

With a bigger sample size coming week to week, the Mavs find themselves still highly ranked within the NSIC for overall offense and defense. Minnesota State is ranked first in overall offense, managing to just over 469 yards of offense per game while the defense finds themselves ranked second only behind Duluth.

One of the biggest reasons Minnesota State is ranked first in overall offense is their unstoppable running attack. The Mavericks average 250 yards on the ground per game, and are the only team in the NSIC who averages over 200 yards per contest.

The Mavs do so through mobile quarterbacks and a deep running back room behind a great run-blocking offensive line. Minnesota State specializes their running attack behind sophomore Kaleb Sleezer, a quick downfield runner with elite tackle breaking.

Unfortunately, the Mavericks have been without Sleezer the past two weeks due to injury, but once he returns, the Mavs will regain NSIC’s fourth ranked rusher to add on to their already great rushing attack.

In the quarterback room are senior JD Ekowa and redshirt freshman Hayden Ekern. Ekern currently ranks inside the top 25 in rushers while Ekowa ranks No.13 in scoring per game with his nose for the endzone.

Junior wide receiver Jalen Sample leads the Mavs wide receiver corps in yards and catches by a decent margin, totaling 30 catches for  486 yards so far this season. Sample is also tied for first in receiving touchdowns with three.

On the defensive side of the ball Minnesota State has found a recent splash by sophomore Trent Carpenter and junior Bedale Naba. The two are ranked first and fourth on the team in total tackles respectively.

Carpenter leads the team with 21 tackles, while Naba is a force on the defensive line. Naba leads the team in tackles for loss with seven and sacks with five. The two have proven to be dangerous defensive players in recent games, and will look to continue their prowess against Upper Iowa in Fayette this weekend.

When it comes to the Peacocks, they have been a slightly below average team within the NSIC to this point. Upper Iowa ranks 11th in total offense and eighth in total defense. 

These rankings have not translated well for the Peacocks, who find themselves winless and dead last in the NSIC standings with Minot State at this point in the season. If they are to compete toe to toe with the Mavericks squad this weekend, they will need to outperform their current expectations.

Feature photo by Mansoor Ahmad/The Reporter

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.