NCAA FOOTBALL: Mustangs expect close game vs. No. 1-ranked MSU

MARSHALL – The Minnesota State Mavericks have spent this week being No. 1-ranked team in Division II.

Today, MSU (6-0 overall, 2-0 NISC South Division) invades The Schwan Regional Event Center to take on Southwest Minnesota State (3-3, 1-1). Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m.

Mustangs head coach Cory Sauter said he didn’t need to much to motivate his players.

“This can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a lot of our players. In a five-year cycle, if they are a true freshman, they may never come across something like this,” Sauter said. “I know our kids are motivated because we have played some good games against Minnesota State over the years.”

Like one season ago at Mankato, when SMSU led the Mavericks in the fourth quarter before losing in heartbreaking fashion, 34-31 in double overtime.

“For the most part, the players on both teams are the same from last year, just being a year older,” Sauter said. “So, I am expecting a good game.

This season, the Mustangs have also had some close loses, including a 41-40 defeat at Bemidji State on Sept. 28 and a 44-59 home loss against Sioux Falls on Oct. 5.

Sauter is looking for SMSU to ride the momentum it created last Saturday, when the Mustangs put forth their most impressive win to date with a 55-16 shellacking of Wayne State in Kearney, Neb.

SMSU will be seeking a variety of ways to attack and defend Minnesota State.

“If Minnesota State has a weakness we haven’t identified it yet,” Sauter said. “I know their defense is very good and its one of the best defenses we will face this season. They don’t make many major mistakes by playing very sound football. When you watch them on film, they do a solid job across the board.”

The Mavericks enter this contest after defeating Augustana, 20-10, last Saturday. At the time, Minnesota State was ranked second in the NCAA Division II poll. MSU became No. 1 in the nation after previously top-ranked Valdosta State lost 40-39 at West Alabama on Oct. 10.

The Mustangs offense begins the week ranked third in the country in rushing (275.7), fifth in total offense (555.8), 22nd in scoring offense (40.3) and 43rd in passing offense (280.2). The SMSU defense ranks 107th in total defense (416.5), 41st in passing defense (200.2), 117th in scoring defense (33.7) and 136th in rushing defense (216.3).

The MSU offense begins the week ranked 19th in the country in rushing, 59th in total offense, 40th in scoring offense and 116th in passing offense. The Mavericks defense ranks fourth in total defense, 28th in passing defense, 12th in scoring defense and seventh in rushing defense.