Football makes playoff push at home against Vikings

Blowing out the less difficult matchups and struggling to win the difficult ones seems to be the unfortunate truth so far this season. The Minnesota State football team might as well be undefeated up to this point of the season based on the magnitude of dominance they bring against bottom conference teams, yet when it comes to the top teams, they struggle to finish the job.

The Mavericks are 3-0 when playing bottom half teams in the NSIC, but only hold a 2-2 record against top half opponents. It does not help that the Mavs lost to two teams who have received top 25 recognition from the AFCA coaches poll, but it does become concerning when the team was ranked No. 2 at the start of the year.

Expectations were high for Minnesota State coming into the season, and it may just be the pressure of being one of the top programs in the nation that has them struggling to win tough matchups up to this point. However, it is crunch time now.

After losing to Wayne State on Oct. 9, the Mavericks are done with this whole losing thing. Heading to Fayette, Iowa this past weekend might be the fuel the Mavs need to start winning tough games, as they defeated the Peacocks of Upper Iowa convincingly, 58-0.

Offense, defense, and special teams were clicking on all cylinders against Upper Iowa, seeing the defense come up with two interceptions, the offense scoring seven touchdowns, and special teams hitting a field goal and returning a punt for a touchdown. If the Mavs can bring the same determination to Blakeslee Stadium this weekend for what might be their toughest matchup of the year, they can prove it is time to call them legit again.

Augustana is the opponent for Minnesota State this weekend, a tough interconference opponent where the Vikings find themselves in first in the NSIC, and the Mavericks, fourth. Augustana is currently 6-1 overall this season and defeated No. 23 Wayne State in their past contest to remain No. 22 in the AFCA coaches poll.

The Mavericks and Vikings hold an almost even game split when playing each other, dating all the way back to 1931. The Mavs currently hold the Minnesota State-Augustana split 27-23, and will look to push their win total to 28 this weekend for Family Weekend.

Minnesota State has also not lost to Augustana since 2010, holding a nine game winning streak against the Vikings with a chance at making that number double digits. One thing the Mavs have going for them is the certainly obvious home field advantage each team brings to the table in the teams’ history.

When at home, the Vikings and Mavericks combine for a 33-14 record in which the Mavs are 18-7 seeing their last home loss to the Vikings in 2003.  After getting their NSIC home game winning streak snapped by Wayne State earlier this year, the Mavs do not have that to worry about anymore and can now focus on maintaining home dominance against Augustana.

The Vikings are certainly a tough matchup for the Mavs, but after seeing a convincing win against Upper Iowa this past weekend, the Mavericks are certainly not going to be counted out. 

Along with the win, Minnesota State got to see their starting sophomore running back Kaleb Sleezer hit the field for the first time since late Sept. 

Sleezer was Minnesota State’s leading rusher in touchdowns and yards before going down with an injury, but finally saw some action against the Peacocks where he rushed five times for 39 yards and caught one pass for 32. If Sleezer continues to get healthy before their matchup with the Vikings, the Mavericks might be able to see him return to full form on gameday. 

Minnesota State and Augustana are set to compete this weekend, Saturday Oct. 23 for Minnesota States’ family weekend at Blakeslee Stadium.

Feature photo by Mansoor Ahmad/The Reporter

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