Through one offensive half and one defensive half, the No. 4 Mavericks focused on themselves using the team’s mantras to bring them to victory in a homecoming nail biter versus Minnesota State University, Moorhead Saturday.
As the clock ticked to the final seconds, MSU’s Mathew Jaeger secured the homecoming win of 24-21. The third largest attendance at Blakeslee Stadium of 6,851 fans witnessed Jaeger’s kick fly through the uprights from 34-yards out with four seconds remaining to maintain Mankato’s now 6-0 record.
Prior to Jaeger’s walk-off field goal, he missed his first attempt in the first quarter.
“I just had to flush it,” Jaeger said. “I’ve had a couple times in my career where something bad has to go first and then I just have to rebound. I focus on what I can control and the next kick. That one felt pretty good off the foot.”
In the first half, the Dragons scored on their first three possessions while the Mavericks scored on three out of their four. One possession ended early for the Mavericks due to a fumble in Moorehead territory.
Tony Anger found the endzone on all three Maverick scores and completed a two-point conversion. His first was a one-yard touchdown, his second was an 11-yard receiving touchdown and his last was one-yard rushing touchdown. He ended the game with 100 yards rushing.
The second half was pure defense as the only points allowed were from Jaeger’s game winning kick.
“It was one of those games where we struggled to run the ball, and the defense was bending, bending, but didn’t break,” coach Todd Hoffner said. “ You could feel the tension, the anxiety, the whole atmosphere was pretty hyped up and a lot of emotions throughout.”
The Mavericks defense had continuous stops for whatever the Dragons threw at them. The Maverick defense had a huge stop on fourth and five on the goal line when Dakota Smith recovered a fumble in the red zone.
Smith had a “flush” mentality after the first half of scoring, whenever something good or bad would happen, he kept reminding his teammates to forget about it, to “flush it.”
“We pride ourselves on never quitting,” Smith said. “We know that if we play that next snap we have a chance. It’s that never quit mentality. A common theme we keep repeating is bend and don’t break.
In the following Moorhead drive, they managed to get back in Maverick territory before getting stopped for a fourth down on the 11-yard line. Again the Dragons failed to execute as they missed a 28-yard field goal.
Smith came up big once again for the Mavericks defense. They kept bending as they allowed Moorhead to take another shot at a field goal in their next drive but Smith never broke. Smith blocked their 38-yard field goal attempt.
“I’m never going to take credit,” Smith said. “It is all eleven guys out there that go mach speed out there when given the opportunity. If it happens to be me, it happens to be me. It’s this whole team’s mentality, it’s what happens on Wednesdays and Tuesday.”
The Mavericks held up one last time on defense and forced a turnover on downs on their own 11 with 2:59 to go.
“They were doing some things up front to stymie our run game,” Hoffner said. “We had to go to some other options, and Plan B and Plan C didn’t work either. Finally we had to go with five receivers on that final drive.”
“Big time plays are made for big time players in big time moments.”
In the last drive of the game, the Mavericks worked their way down the field slowly. Isaiah Emanuel had one reception, Grant Guyett had two and TreShawn Watson received three to put the Mavs in field goal range. All they needed was a clutch kick from Jaeger, the rest is history.
Header Photo: Whether it was for his game-winner or his overall performance on the game and on the year, MSU kicker Mathew Jaeger took home NSIC Special Teams Player of the Week this week. (Lilly Anderson/The Reporter)
Write to Luke Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org