Football heads to Winona in finale

Unfortunately all good things must come to an end. Although the Minnesota State football team has not lived up to its preseason hype this year, it was great to see the team back on the field again. 

The Mavericks just completed the first of two final road games to close out the 2021 season this past week against Southwest Minnesota State. 

It was a dominant 52-0 performance against a struggling Mustangs team that currently finds itself without a win since early October.

The Mavs definitely needed a boost in confidence before heading back on the road to Winona this week to close out the season. 

MSU has been hot and cold all season and has struggled against any and all teams currently sitting around or above .500 on the season in the NSIC. 

They now face a Winona State team that holds the same overall 6-4 record as the Mavericks, on away turf. 

The two teams have nearly identical resumes, with the Mavs holding a marginal scoring edge against the bottom half of conference opponents. 

Both the Warriors and Mavericks have struggled to beat good teams this season, both losing to Augustana, Wayne State, and Minnesota Duluth. 

The two teams do trade wins and losses against Sioux Falls and Northern State, however.

Historically Minnesota State has held the edge on Winona State, winning 37 of the total 59 meetings between the two teams, four of which have been ties since 1923. 

The Mavs have won the previous three meetings between the two squads, but nearly all the meetings have been decided within one or two scores. 

The Warriors are led by their graduate student quarterback Owen Burke, who currently averages 248 yards per game through the air. Burke has thrown for 18 touchdowns on the year and 11 interceptions. 

Winona State is very balanced in offensive attack, with no one really breaking away from the field and carrying most of the workload in either the rushing or receiving rooms. 

On the defense, Winona has weapons all across the field, including two ball-hawking cornerbacks in Mitch Snitker and Aarion Lacy. The two corners combine for five interceptions and 11 pass breakups on the season. 

The Warriors’ leading tackler is sophomore linebacker Clay Schueffner, who totals 78 tackles with Snitker right behind him at 77. Schueffner also has one sack and one forced fumble on the season. 

After using senior quarterback JD Ekowa the two previous games exclusively, the Mavericks went back to splitting reps with redshirt freshman Hayden Ekern this past week against Southwest Minnesota State. 

The team’s offense was nearly unstoppable last week, so it should be interesting to see what the coaching staff decides is best moving forward into the team’s last game of 2021. 

Junior wide receiver Jalen Sample has been on an island of his own in the wide receiver room, which finds him as the team leader in yards and catches by a landslide. 

Nyles Williams does however tie up Sample in the receiving touchdowns category at seven, but with nearly 100 yards per game in catches, Sample tops the charts.

The Mavericks defense has been quite good this year despite their struggles against good teams, but that is bound to happen. 

The Mavs love the number five on defense, with both their sacks and interceptions leaders holding the team’s top spot in both categories at five.

Junior defensive lineman Bedale Naba is the sacks leader, while senior cornerback Ty’Shonan Brooks finds himself at the top of the interceptions list. Brooks is also a dangerous return man off punt returns, and has two touchdowns of his own there as well.

The two teams come into this matchup with fairly even resumes, which should make for a great final game of the season. 

With playoff hopes out of the equation for both Winona and Mankato, this should be a great game to watch pride get laid out on the table in hopes of ending the season with a win.

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