As Minnesota State University, Mankato’s homecoming festivities came to a close, the Mavericks football team looked to cap off the week in style as they took on the University of Mary in a back-and-forth thriller that left fans on the edge of their seats until the very last play. The Mavericks were able to prevail by a narrow margin of 31-28, improving to 3-1 on the season.
Despite the inevitable home-sided crowd that filled Blakeslee Stadium, it was the Marauders who were able to put the first points on the board early in Saturday’s contest. Sophomore tight end Luke Bodine connected with senior quarterback Logan Nelson for a 15-yard touchdown to give the Marauders the early 7-0 lead.
The Mavericks were able to put themselves in good field position on the very next drive, but faced fourth down on the UMary 13-yard line, resulting in a field goal attempt. Unfortunately for Minnesota State, sophomore kicker Damien Chowaniec’s 30-yard attempt was no-good, leaving the Mavericks still down seven.
Both teams were unable to put any more points on the board, leaving the Marauders up 7-0 heading into the second frame. Once again, UMary was the first to get on the board as redshirt freshman Gabe Levy rushed for the 9-yard touchdown and ultimately the 14-0 lead.
Nearly two minutes later, the Mavericks were finally able to break through and put up seven points of their own. Freshman quarterback Camden Dean waltzed into the endzone for a 4-yard rushing touchdown, cutting the UMary lead in half.
Later in the second quarter, junior defensive-back Trey Vaval would put MSU in great field position at the UMary six-yard-line after returning a punt for 43 yards. The very next play, junior runningback Shen Butler-Lawson barreled through the defensive-line of UMary for the 6-yard touchdown, tying the game up 14-14.
The Marauders put themselves into field goal position with seconds remaining in the second quarter, but missed the field goal attempt to keep the game deadlocked at 14-14 heading into the break.
“For a second I actually forgot we were down 14,” MSU coach Todd Hoffner said. “We fought back, and that’s a good thing. But taking care of the football and putting our foot on the gas was really important.”
As the Mavericks received the ball to start the second half, Vaval was able to return the kickoff for 51 yards into Marauder territory – a recurring theme this season with Vaval. It didn’t take long for MSU to get in the endzone, as Dean connected with redshirt freshman wide receiver Isaiah Emmanuel for a 32-yard touchdown only four plays later, giving the Mavericks their first lead of the game.
The Marauders were unable to convert on fourth down on the next drive, putting the ball back into the hands of MSU with nearly 11 minutes remaining in the third quarter. Chowaniec was able to knock down a 34-yard field goal attempt later in the drive, giving MSU the 24-14 lead.
As the theme of the game would say, the Marauders would cut into the Mavericks’ lead on the very next drive. Senior wide receiver Danny Kittner laced a pass to sophomore wide receiver for a 5-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 24-21 heading into the final quarter.
UMary started out with possession in the fourth after a quick three-and-out by MSU in the third. The Marauders moved quickly down the field in the opening drive, capitalizing with a 21-yard rushing touchdown by senior runningback Dave Small Jr. and gaining a 28-24 lead over the Mavericks.
With less than six minutes remaining, MSU was able to move quickly down the field and inside the UMary ten yard line. With a glimpse of déjà vu, Butler-Lawson grinded his way into the endzone for the 6-yard touchdown, putting MSU up 31-28 with 1:57 remaining in the quarter.
After some long passing plays and costly penalties by the Mavericks, the Marauders were set up at the Mavericks’ one yard line facing third and goal. Determined on going for the win, UMary ran a pass-play that got deflected by junior leftback Trent Carpenter into the hands of sophomore leftback Jacob Daulton, sending the crowd into chaos and elation.
“For Camden to start in his first collegiate start and lead our troops, I thought he played a phenomenal game,” Hoffner said. “Jacob was one of our captains for the game and his leadership throughout his journey here at Minnesota State has been nothing short of amazing. And him making that interception off a deflected ball was nothing short of amazing as well. We’re really excited as a football program to win.”
Minnesota State seeks to improve to 4-1 this Saturday as they take on Concordia-St. Paul on the road. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m.
Header Photo: The Mavericks were able to prevail by a narrow margin of 31-28, improving to 3-1 on the season during the annual Homecoming game at Blakeslee. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)
Write to Karson Buelow at Karson.Buelow@mnsu.edu