After a disappointing and hard-fought loss this past weekend against the NSIC’s top football program, Augustana, Minnesota State University now finds itself on the verge of playoff elimination.
With three games remaining the Mavericks can only control what is in front of them. Factors beyond their control could decide their playoff fate.
Next up for the Mavs is the University of Sioux Falls Cougars, another team with a 5-3 overall record through eight games.
The Sioux Falls defense comes into the contest holding the top spot with a mere 18.8 points allowed per game.
Minnesota State finds itself quite a bit farther down the list in team defense, currently ranked fifth. But counter their above average defensive play with the top ranked scoring offense in the NSIC. The Mavericks may let up points, but they come in as the second ranked overall defense in the NSIC, giving up a few yards to opposing offenses when all goes well.
The Cougars are middle of the pack in both scoring and total offense, ranking ninth and eighth in each of the categories.
Despite the wide range of differences in the rankings, each team comes into the contest with a 5-3 overall record.
Sioux Falls is a familiar opponent for the Mavericks, and another roadblock in the team’s path to the playoffs. The Cougars have been historically nice to the Mavs, only winning one of the past eight meetings between the two teams since 2012.
Minnesota State has won the past three and now get the chance to extend the streak to four with a win over the Cougars at Blakeslee Stadium. The games have been generally close between both teams in recent years, with the biggest margin of victory being only 10 points while the closest has been three in the past three years.
The two teams will definitely bring a competitive showdown to Mankato this weekend.
In recent news for the Mavericks, they have begun to move towards a single quarterback approach.
After several weeks of using their senior quarterback JD Ekowa and redshirt freshman quarterback Hayden Ekern equally on every two drives, Ekowa now finds himself as the lone sheriff in the MSU backfield.
It was not a winning of the job between the two that granted Ekowa two straight full starts, but a gain in trust from the Minnesota State coaching staff that now finds Ekowa as the straight up QB1.
“JD had a fantastic game the week before. He was confident and explosive and scored a lot of points. … 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,” said Mavericks coach Todd Hoffner in the post-game press conference last week.
The Mavs now seem to be looking to ride behind their senior quarterback the rest of the way despite any changes that we might not see coming.
Minnesota State also regained full strength at the running back position in its previous contest, where sophomore Kaleb Sleezer played his first full game of reps since coming back from injury.
Sleezer had been great for the Mavs before going down with injury, and now the Mavericks get the chance to reload Sleezer in the offensive game plan heading into the weekend.
It is great news for the Mavs, and with Sioux Falls allowing over 100 rushing yards per game, look for a bounce back game from Sleezer.
It is winding up to be a great contest this weekend and should be an exciting one to watch.
Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Staurday at Blakeslee Stadium for Military appreciation day.