MARSHALL - It takes more than a good effort to beat a great football team.
The Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs looked good for stretches of Thursday's season opener against No. 2-ranked Minnesota-Duluth, but the Bulldogs wore SMSU down in the second half by grinding away on the ground and coasted to a 45-20 victory at Mattke Field at the Regional Event Center.
The Mustangs got off to the start they had hoped for, getting a defensive stop and then scoring on their first possession when quarterback Tyler Peschong connected with receiver Anthony Dean for a 21-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline. Once UMD got its offense rolling, the Mustangs had a pair of answers and were still within striking distance down 25-20 after a Warren Matthews touchdown with 5:53 left in the third quarter. But from then on, SMSU had no more answers.
Photo by Matt Dahlseid
Southwest Minnesota State receiver Anthony Dean, right, eludes Minnesota Duluth defenders Cameron Harper (27) and Kenny Chowa (29) after making a catch along the sideline in the first quarter of Thursday’s season opener at Mattke Field at the Regional Event Center. The play resulted in a 21-yard touchdown to put SMSU up 7-0.
"Going into the game, as a team we talked about how we had to out-execute them," Peschong said. "They didn't do anything that surprised us. They weren't flashy and they did what we thought they were going to do, we just didn't execute well enough.
"When you play the No. 2 team in the country, you have to out-execute them. Personally, I didn't do that tonight."
Peschong didn't play poorly. He completed 28 of 47 passes for 304 yards and a touchdown. He also avoided throwing an interception in a game where neither team committed a turnover.
UMD quarterback Chase Vogler also had a solid game, completing 17 of 29 passes for 236 yards and two scores. But while Peschong had to try to win the game with his arm, Vogler had the help of a running game that simply wore out the SMSU defense. The Bulldogs finished with 243 rushing yards. SMSU was held to 82.
"They just ran out of gas more than anything," SMSU head coach Cory Sauter said of his defense. "They're just a bigger, more physical team up front than we are right now and it just wore on us towards the end."
Freshman running back Logan Lauters led the Bulldogs' rushing attack with nine carries for 104 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Austin Sikorski added 57 yards and two scores, and sophomore Brian Lucas had nine carries for 42 yards.
UMD's first score came through the air. Down 7-0 in the first quarter, the Bulldogs got a quick strike when Vogler connected with receiver Justin Fowlkes down the right sideline for a 42-yard touchdown with 3:51 on the clock. Vogler ran in a two-point conversion to put his team up a point.
SMSU was in position to retake the lead early in the second quarter, but the Bulldogs' defense blocked a 44-yard field goal attempt by Lance Schuveiller, who was kicking for injured starter Mike Wenk.
Lauters had a 60-yard run on UMD's next possession that set up a four-yard touchdown run by Sikorski. SMSU responded near the end of the half on a seven-play, 51-yard drive that was capped by a six-yard quarterback keeper by Peschong for a score. The Mustangs failed on a two-point conversion attempt and trailed 15-13 with 2:19 left in the half.
UMD put together a 10-play drive to close the second quarter and went up 18-13 when Andrew Brees hit a 23-yard field goal as time expired.
The Bulldogs looked to put the Mustangs away to start the second half and scored within the first five minutes thanks to back-to-back 20-yard runs by Sikorski and Lauters, with Lauters slicing through the defense and up the middle of the field for a 22-yard touchdown. SMSU had one more answer, going 75 yards in 11 plays and scoring on a seven-yard rush by Matthews with 5:53 left in the third.
From there, UMD was just too much. Vogler hit a wide-open Zach Zweifel in the middle of the field for a 28-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing possession to put his team up 32-20 and the Bulldogs just ran over the Mustangs' defense from there.
"We came out with a lot of fire, but in the end we knew they were just going to try to run it down our throats and we had to be able to stop it, and we didn't," said SMSU safety Joe Stupka, who had a game-high 11 tackles, including a sack.
The Mustangs' first game of the season went as many would expect, with the team's experienced offense that returned 10 starters able to put up nearly 400 yards and the defense that struggled mightily last year giving up 45 points. But Sauter said he's not going to overreact about anything that happened in the first game of the season against the No. 2 team in the nation.
"Our effort was really good, but our execution isn't where it needs to be yet," said Sauter, whose team plays at Northern State Sept. 8. "I think we did some nice things overall, but when we look back I think there were several easy plays that we didn't make, which was uncharacteristic.
"All in all, for the first game, I think we did a lot of positive things and we have a lot of games ahead of us, so there's no reason to get down on ourselves. Half of the teams in our conference are 0-1 right now, so I'm not going to push the panic button."
|UMD||8 10 14 13—45|
|SMSU||7 6 7 0—20|
|SMSU-Anthony Dean 21 pass from Tyler Peschong (Lance Schuveiller kick), 10:14|
|UMD-Justin Fowlkes 42 pass from Chase Vogler (Vogler run), 3:51|
|UMD-Austin Sikorski 4 run (Andrew Brees kick), 13:41|
|SMSU-Peschong 6 run (Warren Matthews run failed), 2:19|
|UMD-Brees 23 field goal, 0:00|
|UMD-Logan Lauters 22 run (Bress kick), 11:57|
|SMSU-Matthews 7 run (Schuveiller kick), 5:53|
|UMD-Zach Zweifel 28 pass from Vogler (Brees kick), 4:21|
|UMD-Sikorski 1 run (Vogler run failed), 10:39|
|UMD-Steve Ierulli 5 run (Brees kick), 1:16|
|Rushing: UMD-Logan Lauters 9-104, Austin Sikorski 12-57, Brian Lucas 9-42, Jeron Johnson 2-17, Chase Vogler 4-14, Steve Ierulli 2-9; SMSU-Warren Matthews 9-38, Gannon Moore 8-31, Tyler Peschong 5-13.|
|Passing (comp-att-yards-int): UMD-Vogler 17-29-236-0; SMSU-Peschong 28-47-304-0.|
|Receiving: UMD-Zach Zweifel 6-96, Justin Fowlkes 3-75, Joe Reichert 3-18, Kris Olson 2-20, Sikorski 1-9, Jeremy Reierson 1-8; SMSU-Tyler Erickson 7-89, Abe Kos 5-58, Moore 5-27, Anthony Dean 4-62, Matthews 4-18, Condon 3-50.|
|Tacklers: UMD-Nate Zuk 7, Blake Rogers 6, Cameron Harper 6; SMSU-Joe Stupka 11, Patrick Oliver 8, J.J. Bobrowicz 7, A.J. Page 6, Donovan Woods 5, Dashawn Miller 5.|
|Sacks: UMD-none; SMSU-Stupka 1.|