MSU football falls in second round of playoffs 

The 2022-23 football season ended abruptly for Minnesota State. Last Saturday, the Mavericks lost 48-45 to Colorado School of Mines in round two of the NCAA tournament. 

This was the first time that these two schools met each other. Both sides have never crossed paths until now, in the NCAA tournament. Both teams looked to make history in the long traditions of school competitions. In the end, the Orediggers made sure the Mavericks will never forget them.

The opening quarter saw the Orediggers score the opening touchdown pass from senior John Matocha. However, once the Mavericks got the ball and proceeded to run on full aggression on the offense. Junior running back Shen Butler-Lawson notched two touchdowns and was followed by a touchdown pass from sophomore Hayden Ekern, ending the first quarter with a score of 21-7 in favor of the Mavericks.

Entering the second quarter, the once-hot start was quickly extinguished by their opponent. While Ekern threw another touchdown pass to sophomore DJ Barber, the lead slipped rather quickly. Matocha connected with Josh Johnston on three successful drives to tie the contest 28-28 to end the second quarter. Once considered to be a blowout after the first slowly turned into a grudge match.

Receiving the ball to start the third quarter, MSU continued to struggle to maintain the lead that they started with. The offense and defense struggled to break out and take control of the game. However, all they could do is score a field goal at the halfway point in the quarter. The Orediggers took advantage of Maverick mistakes as Matocha led two more touchdown drives, marking his sixth game this season with four or more touchdowns in a single game. 

In the final quarter of play, the Mavericks attempted to mount a last-minute comeback to keep their season alive. Ekern led two successful touchdown drives to keep MSU within striking distance. However, a touchdown from the senior running back maintained the Orediggers lead. Entering the final minutes with a score of 48-45, MSU attempted an onside kick to regain possession. The attempt was unsuccessful as the Orediggers recovered the ball and burned the rest of the clock, ending the game with a final score of 48-45 victory for the Orediggers.

Colorado School of Mines advances to the quarter-finals of the NCAA tournament for the second time in the program’s existence, the first being last year when they beat Bemidji State. As for Minnesota State, its season ended at 10-3. Its winning streak ended at six. 

Header Photo: Hayden Ekern (above) reached a career-best Saturday, Nov. 26 with 377 passing yards and four touchdowns while playing against Colorado School of Mines. (Dylan Engel/The Reporter)

Write to Charlie Groebner at Charles.Groebner@mnsu.edu

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