NCAA FOOTBALL: SMSU holds off Peacocks in fourth

FAYETTE, Iowa – Southwest Minnesota State used a defensive stand, stopping Upper Iowa on four plays inside the 14-yard line in the game’s final 2 minutes, to earn a 52-48 victory on Saturday.

SMSU improved to 4-4 overall,

2-2 NSIC South, while UIU dropped to 4-4 overall, 1-3 NSIC South.

The Peacocks blocked a Mustangs’ punt with 2:38 left and moved the ball down to the SMSU 14-yard-line three plays later. Following back-to-back 4-yard runs by Chris Smith, UIU moved the ball to the 6-yard line, but the SMSU defense stuffed Smith for no gain to set up fourth down.

After a Peacocks penalty moved the ball back to the 11-yard-line, the Mustangs’ Donovan Woods intercepted Cole Jaeschke in the end zone to secure the victory. It was Woods’ team-leading third interception of the season.

SMSU’s Tyler Tonderum, who entered the game ranked second in Division II in rushing, piled up a game-high 282 yards rushing and two touchdowns on a school-record 50 carries. The previous record was held by Zach Wysong, who rushed 46 times in a win at Minnesota State-Moorhead in 2008. Tonderum also set the program’s single-season record for rushing touchdown with 15, breaking the previous mark of 13 held by Robert Lipsey in 1988 and Gannon Moore in 2009.

Charlie Kern, who missed most of the second half last week due to an injury, completed 25 of 33 pass attempts for 248 yards and four touchdowns. He also rushed for 34 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.

Britt Wickett caught a team-high eight passes for 68 yards and one touchdown, while Anthony Dean had six receptions for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

SMSU finished the game with 570 yards of total offense, including 322 rushing yards. The Mustangs had 35 first downs and ran 97 offensive plays. The Mustangs have rushed for 2,068 yards this season, setting a new school single-season record. The 1973 team held the previous record of 1,945 rushing yards.

UIU also had a big offensive game, rolling up 628 yards of offense and 31 first downs.

SMSU opened the game’s scoring as Kern connected with Wickett on the Mustangs’ opening drive of the game on a 16-yard touchdown pass to give SMSU a 7-0 lead with 9:51 on the clock.

Following punts by both teams, the Peacocks tied the game late in the quarter on a Jaeschke 11-yard touchdown pass to Lucas Hefty.

The Mustangs countered with back-to-back touchdowns to build a two-touchdown lead as Kern fired a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dean late in the first quarter and then found Cody Condon for a 14-yard touchdown to make the score 21-7 with 12:04 left in the first half.

The Peacocks scored on a 2-yard run by Smith to make the score 21-13 and then tied the score on their next possession with Jaeschke firing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Derek Giesking to make 21-21 with 3:11 left following the two-point conversion.

SMSU answered quickly on its next possession with Tonderum completing a 71-yard, 11-play drive with a 1-yard run to make the score 28-21 with 27 seconds left in the first half.

UIU wouldn’t take a knee to end the half and, in two plays, tied the game. On the last play of the first half, Keaton Hosch took a pitch from Giesking on a perfect hook-and-ladder and ran the final 43 yards to tie the game at 28 at halftime.

SMSU regained the lead on its first drive of the second half with Lance Schuveiller booting a 26-yard field goal at the 12:42 mark of the third quarter.

The Mustangs defense forced the Peacocks to turn the ball over on downs on their next possession and the SMSU offense answered the call with a 79-yard drive as Kern broke free for a 9-yard run on third-and-five to push the lead to 38-28.

Following a 50-yard touchdown pass by Jaeschke to Hefty that trimmed the lead to 38-35, SMSU had another big answer when Kern found Dean on a fourth-and-goal from the 27-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter to extend the lead back to a 10-point margin at 45-35.

The teams exchanged punts before UIU pulled to within 45-42 midway through the fourth quarter as Jaeschke found Giesking on a 1-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal.

The Mustangs answered again with Tonderum breaking free on a 31-yard touchdown run to give SMSU a 52-42 advantage with just 3:41 remaining.

UIU wouldn’t quit and made the score 52-48 just 26 seconds and three plays later. Jaeschke found Hefty for a 51-yard touchdown pass with 3:09 remaining, but the Peacocks missed the extra-point kick, which proved to be a big factor minutes later.

SMSU took over at the 50-yard line, following an on-side kick, but was forced to punt following three rushing attempts. On the ensuing punt attempt, Mike Wenk had his attempt blocked and the Peacocks took over with a first-and-10 at the SMSU 33 with 2:38 left. UIU earned one first down, before the SMSU defense held strong deep in its own end to seal the victory.

Smith led the UIU offense with 215 yards and one touchdown on 41 attempts, while Jaeschke passed for 396 yards and six touchdowns.

Dashawn Miller racked up a team-high 12 tackles with one for loss, while A.J. Page had another strong game with 11 tackles, including two for loss, one sack and two pass break-ups.

NOTE: Southwest Minnesota State head coach Cory Sauter was unavailable for comment.