Home Opener Success: Mavericks handle Bulldogs and improve to 2-0

After a nail-biting 37-34 opening-night win against Bemidji State on Sept. 1, the Minnesota State University, Mankato football team returned to Blakeslee Stadium this past Saturday to open their home season against the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs. The Mavs were able to ride a hot start Saturday-night to a 17-10 win and improve to a 2-0 overall record.

The Maverick defense started the game off on the right track as they were able to hold the Bulldogs to their own 49 and forced a punt. Junior defensive-back Trey Vaval shined for the Mavs on the punt return as he took it to the house for an 85-yard touchdown, putting Mankato up by 7. 

Minnesota State head coach Todd Hoffner commented after the game about the importance of getting out to a hot start against Duluth. “I thought it was crucial,” said Hoffner. “Trey’s huge return ignited us and helped us settle down and do a lot of good things on offense.”

Later in the first quarter, the Bulldogs would see their first points go up on the board as redshirt-junior kicker Curtis Cox chipped in a 19-yard field goal to cut the Maverick lead to 7-3. With 3:44 left in the first quarter, Minnesota State regained momentum after a forced and recovered fumble by junior defensive tackle Maven Kretche. 

The fumble recovery by Kretche paid off two plays later when sophomore quarterback Mitch Randall waltzed into the endzone for a 21-yard rushing touchdown. Mankato took a convincing 14-3 lead heading into the second quarter. 

The Mavs were able to add to their lead early in the second when sophomore kicker Damian Chowaniec managed a 44-yard field goal to take a 17-3 lead. Both teams’ defenses kept the scoring at zero the remainder of the first half.

The Bulldogs were the first to get on the board late in the third quarter when redshirt-freshman quarterback Kyle Walljasper powered into the endzone for a 1-yard rushing touchdown to cut the Maverick lead to 17-10. Both defenses held the scoring to 0 the remainder of the quarter.

The game remained at 17-10 with Duluth in possession and 2:07 left in the fourth quarter. Sophomore linebacker Jacob Daulton came up clutch for the Mavericks as he took down the Bulldog running-back on fourth down. 

Minnesota State went on to win the game by a final score of 17-10. Randall played in every snap Saturday-night due to an injury sustained by sophomore quarterback Hayden Ekern in their game against Bemidji State.

Randall commented following the game about the opportunity he had stepping up and making a name for himself in Saturday’s game. “It’s huge; you never know when your moment is gonna come,” Randall said. “I found a better way to control the offense tonight and you gotta be ready to step up when the moment comes.”

Minnesota State will be back in action Sept. 17 in Aberdeen, S.D. as they take on Northern State at 6 p.m.

Header Photo: The Mavericks celebrated their win over the Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs in their home opener at Blakeslee Stadium Saturday Sept. 9.

Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu

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