NCAA FOOTBALL: Strong start, big win
MARSHALL – For much of three quarters, Southwest Minnesota State dominated Minot State in the Mustangs’ 37-21 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference win Friday night.
The Mustangs improved to 2-1 overall and in the NSIC South by using a balanced offense and a defense that held the Beavers in check until late in the contest.
“This was a great team victory. I thought we did some great things on offense, on defense and on special teams,” SMSU head coach Cory Sauter said. “It was a complete win, even though we didn’t play too well going down the stretch. I wasn’t happy with the finish but, for three quarters, we played some good football.”
NSIC rushing leader Tyler Tonderum ran for 135 yards and three touchdowns on 29 carries, while quarterback Charlie Kern threw for 250 yards and two touchdowns on 21-of-29 passing as SMSU’s offense set the pace early.
“Minot State was stacking the box, trying to take away our running game,” Kern said. “So, we started throwing the ball from the start to get their defense to back off and open up some running lanes. We just used a balanced attack and it was good to get this win.”
Tonderum appreciated the holes that were created for him.
“There were some big holes and the guys up front did a great job,” said Tonderum, who scored on runs of 2, 46 and 2 yards. “Credit our wide receivers with some great blocking, which has just been incredible the last two games.”
The Mustangs took a 24-0 lead during the first 23 minutes of the game. SMSU scored on four of its first six possessions before beginning the second half with a pair of touchdown drives.
“The whole goal of this game was to play fast and to get as many plays in as possible, Sauter said. “I think we had 38 plays in that first quarter and our defense shut down Minot State early on.”
Tonderum capped the Mustangs’ game-opening drive with a 2-yard touchdown run and, after SMSU’s Jared Twedt and Donovan Woods intercepted Zac Cunha on the Beavers’ next two drives, the Mustangs drove to the Minot State 3 late in the first quarter.
Lance Schuveiller kicked a 25-yard field goal as SMSU grabbed a 10-0 lead with 20 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Mustangs’ defense, which allowed the Beavers to gain only one first-quarter yard, created SMSU’s first scoring opportunity in the second quarter.
Linebacker J.J. Bobrowicz recovered a Minot State fumble with 13:27 left in the first half. On the next play, Tonderum burned the Beavers’ defense on a 46-yard dash to the end zone that handed the Mustangs a 17-0 lead.
About six minutes later, Kern connected with Jordan Cross for a 31-yard TD strike for a 24-0 SMSU lead. The touchdown came with 7:14 left before halftime and was the first of Cross’ collegiate career.
The only first-half blemish against the Mustangs’ defense was an eight-play, 72-yard drive Minot State’s Randel Barber ended with a 2-yard touchdown run.
“The momentum that we built up at Moorhead really helped us to come together as a defense,” SMSU linebacker Deshawn Miller said. “We have been together for a while, we know each other well and we trust each other. We just wanted to prove the point that we can stop opponents.”
Miller had an outstanding effort for SMSU, recording six tackles, three sacks and three tackles for lost yardage. Adam Iverson and Jacob Levtzow also collected sacks as the Mustangs dumped Cunha six times.
Miller said the Mustangs did a great job of scouting Minot State earlier in the week.
“In our scouting reports, we saw that Minot State’s offensive linemen were big and slow,” Miller said. “They were not conditioned enough and we could see that they were tired.”
Enter Mustangs’ defense end A.J. Page, who led SMSU with seven tackles, two-and-a-half stops for lost yardage and a sack. He helped the Mustangs build its 24-point lead by tackling Leon LaDeaux for a 13-yard loss at Minot State’s 42.
Two incomplete passes later from Cunha (23 of 39, 280 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs), the Beavers were forced to punt the ball.
The Mustangs increased their lead to 37-7 after scoring on their first two third-quarter drives.
Kern threw a 30-yard touchdown dart over the middle to Anthony Dean, but the extra-point kick failed at the 9:35 mark.
Dean set up Tonderum’s third touchdown run by making an acrobatic catch that gave SMSU a first-and-goal from the Minot State 7. One play later, Tonderum crossed the goal line from the Beavers’ 2 at the 4:13 mark.
Both of those Mustang drives were kept alive by Minot State penalties for personal fouls on fourth down with SMSU in its punting formation.
Twedt ended with two interceptions as his second pickoff of Cunha came with 6 minutes left after the Beavers had scored a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to close their deficit to 37-21. Twedt added five tackles for SMSU.
With 12:53 left, Cunha hit LaDeaux with a 27-yard TD pass before hooking up with Wayne Peters on a 2-yard touchdown strike as 9:18 remained.
The Mustangs travel to play Bemidji State on Saturday.
SMSU 37, MINOT STATE 21
Minot State 0 7 0 14 – 21
SMSU10 14 13 0 – 37
SMSU – Tyler Tonderum 2 run (Lance Schuveiller kick), 11:32.
SMSU – Lance Schuveiller 25 field goal, 0:20.
SMSU – Tyler Tonderum 46 run (Lance Schuveiller kick), 13:20.
SMSU – Jordan Cross 31 pass from Charlie Kern (Lance Schuveiller kick), 7:14.
MSU – Randel Barber 2 run (Brian Gutierrez kick), 4:17.
SMSU – Anthony Dean 30 pass from Charlie Kern (Lance Schuveiller kick), 9:35.
SMSU – Tyler Tonderum 2 run (Lance Schuveiller kick), 4:13.
MSU – Leon LaDeaux 27 pass from Zac Cunha (Brian Gutierrez kick), 12:53.
MSU – Wayne Peters 2 pass from Zac Cunha (Brian Gutierrez kick, 9:18.
Time of Possession28:0831:51
RUSHING – MSU (Randel Barber 12-75, Jarvis Mustipher 8-37, TEAM 1-minus 4, Leon LaDeaux 1-minus 13, Zac Cunha 9-minus 35); SMSU (Tyler Tonderum 29-135, Caleb Burns 12-58, Ashanti Payne 6-48, Charlie Kern 13-44, TEAM 1-minus 1).
PASSING – MSU (Zac Cunha 23-29-280-2-3); SMSU (Charlie Kern 21-29-250-2-1).
RECEIVING – MSU (Leon LaDeaux 9-131, Wayne Peters 7-76, Porter Sturm 5-65, Kwajo Bonsu 1-7, Jarvis Mustipher 1-1); SMSU (Jordan Cross 7-78, Cody Condom 5-32, Tyler Tonderum 3-28, Anthony Dean 2-67, Britt Wickett 2-27, Adam Olson 1-10, Will Kurka 1-8).
MISSED FIELD GOALS – MSU (Brian Gutierrez, 31, wide left); SMSU (none).