Football falls to Augustana, playoffs in question

A disappointing season to say the least for the Mavericks this year. After years and years of recent success including an appearance in the National Championship in their last full season, the Mavs now find themselves on the verge of elimination.

It is not completely over yet for the Mavs in their search for a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs,  but all seems over with in their recent loss to Augustana. Minnesota State has three remaining games left on the schedule including games against similarly overall Winona State and Sioux Falls at 5-3, and bottom half Southwest Minnesota State at 2-6.

Winona State and Sioux Falls will both prove to be difficult matchups for the Mavericks, despite recent success against both teams. The Mavs must win both matchups including the one against Southwest Minnesota State and have several other implications go their way if they are to make the playoffs.

From here on out, it is a must win situation for the Mavericks, so we are surely going to see the best of them over the next few games.

Augustana was a tough matchup for Minnesota State this past weekend, with the Vikings coming into the game 6-1 and ranked highly overall through NSIC standings. The Mavericks also brought a nine-game winning streak at Blakeslee Stadium versus the Vikings into Saturday’s game, which now returns back to zero.

The game script was not kind to the Mavs in this one, especially in the beginning of the game. Augustana did a great job on defense against the Mavericks and were able to chew clock on each of their possessions. 

The first quarter was absolutely abysmal for the Mavs, who were unable to get any points on the board while also only having run six offensive plays. 

It seemed the defense was out there for the whole quarter, with Augustana controlling the whole game.

It did not get much better throughout, only seeing the Mavs come close to Augustana’s lead once, at the start of the third quarter. 

Minnesota State scored on their opening drive to tie the game at 21 but Augustana pulled away again on their proceeding drive. 

It was a great offensive showdown to say the least, however, where both teams recorded over 400 yards with the Vikings holding the edge at 567. Both quarterbacks were fantastic, despite interceptions. 

Augustana quarterback Kyle Saddler threw for 438 yards and five touchdowns while Minnesota State quarterback JD Ekowa threw for 369 yards and five touchdowns. 

Outside of the quarterback matchup it really came down to the run game, where Augustana held the edge by a dominant margin.

The Mavericks were only able to collect 43 rushing yards against Augustana’s front seven, while the Vikings totalled 129 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Both defenses were great as well, but the Mavericks inability to get going early eventually cost them down the stretch when trying to climb back into the game.

Up until their last game against Upper Iowa, Minnesota State had used a two-quarterback approach, using Ekowa and redshirt freshman quarterback Hayden Ekern equally. 

Coach Hoffner went back to Ekowa again against the Vikings, explaining “JD had a fantastic game the week before. He was confident and explosive and scored a lot of points.” 

Hoffner went on to say, “we thought it was the right thing to do to give our senior quarterback every opportunity to be in that inherent leadership role and take our team and hopefully guide us to victory.”

It was yet another tough loss for the team but another learning experience for all of the players. “They came back and responded… Really good teams find a way to win,” coach Hoffner explained when commenting on Augustana’s take over in the second half. 

“We gotta regroup as coaches, and we gotta do a much better job at giving our student athletes a chance at winning a football game.” 

The Mavericks will surely have to do so against their next conference opponent Sioux Falls, who comes into their upcoming contest with the same overall record of 5-3.

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