MOORHEAD - Southwest Minnesota State pulled off a thrilling fourth-quarter comeback to defeat Minnesota State-Moorhead 27-20 in the closing seconds Saturday at Alex Nemzek Stadium.
Anthony Dean caught a 23-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Kern with 3 seconds remaining to give the Mustangs (1-1 overall) the lead. Lance Schuveiller followed with a PAT kick as SMSU went ahead 27-20.
"There were 10 seconds on the clock and, a few plays before the touchdown, we knew that we wanted to take a couple shots into the end zone," junior quarterback Kern said. "Earlier in the game, we had tried an extra point and the snap was very tough. We knew that we had to score a touchdown to win. So, we threw a ball up into the right corner of the end zone and Anthony outjumped his defender and he made a great play on it."
Photo submitted by Kelly Loft
Southwest Minnesota State running back Tyler Tonderum (22) takes a handoff during a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game against Minnesota State-Moorhead on Saturday at Alex Nemzek Stadium in Moorhead.
Both teams were forced to run for most of their yardage as the contest was played during a heavy downpour of rain that turned the grass field into mud.
Kern compared the soggy field conditions to "playing in a cow pasture." Still, the 6-foot-2 Dean was able to leap over what Kern said were "smaller cornerbacks" to catch the fade pattern.
Tyler Tonderum fought the weather conditions to the advantage of the Mustangs, rushing for an SMSU record 343 yards on 42 carries. He scored the Mustangs' first three touchdowns on runs of 71, 10 and 13 yards.
"The weather made us a one-dimensional team because we could only run the ball," Tonderum said. "With the rain, throwing wasn't really an option. I would rather have a dry surface underneath me."
As for the single-game rushing record, Tonderum gave credit to his teammates.
"It means that it was a great job up front by the linemen and that our wide receivers were throwing some great blocks on the outside," Tonderum said. "There were some great holes. I was just trying get enough footing and build up some speed to make some big plays with the holes that I was given."
Tonderum, who said the mud slowed down his ability to make cuts and get a solid footing, helped SMSU win the battle of total yardage 493-264. The Mustangs broke a team record by rushing for 416 yards.
SMSU grabbed a 6-0 first-quarter lead on its third possession. With a first-and-10 from the Mustangs' 29, Tonderum burned the Dragons' defense on the first play of the drive, taking the ball 71 yards to the end zone at the 9:46 mark.
But MSU-Moorhead (0-2 overall) turned an SMSU mistake into a 7-6 lead 2 minutes later. The Dragons kept their drive alive after the Mustangs' Jay Schneider fumbled away an MSU-Moorhead punt.
With the Dragons at the perched at the SMSU 12, Jake Hodge threw a touchdown pass to Shaun Hollenkamp on first down. Wes Kramer's PAT kick gave MSU-Moorhead a one-point edge.
In the second quarter, the Dragons' defense took advantage of the Mustangs' special teams once again. On fourth-and-9 from the SMSU 30, Schuveiller ran for no gain during a punting situation.
Two plays later, Hodge handed the Dragons a 14-6 lead after his 21-yard touchdown run came with 11:13 left in the first half.
But the Mustangs answered behind Tonderum before the break. He capped SMSU's eight-play, 64-yard drive with a 10-yard touchdown run as 8:31 remained in the first half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Hodge extended the MSU-Moorhead lead to 20-6 after a 4-yard touchdown run with 14:02 left. The Dragons' touchdown came one play after Mustangs' cornerback Andrew McReynolds was cited for pass interference on MSU-Moorhead's fourth-and-4 from the SMSU 10.
After a stalled Mustangs' drive, SMSU regained the ball at its own 35 with 10:46 left. Tonderum, who picked up a pair of first downs with runs of 23 and 25 yards, ended the six-play, 65-yard drive after a 13-yard touchdown run as 8:52 remained.
Kern's run on the 2-point conversion tied the game at 20.
With 1:11 left, the Mustangs took over at their own 35 and handed the ball to Tonderum four times for 49 yards during the 11-play possession that helped to set up Kern's 23-yard, game-winning TD strike to Dean.
"On the last drive, it was about trying to get a score," Tonderum said. "We needed a score and it was about trying to make anything happen. Both teams were dog tired. It was a long, grueling game. I tried to do whatever I could to get as much yardage."
Kern believes this win builds some confidence in the Mustangs.
"Even though it's going to be a short week, we are looking forward to the challenge of Minot State," Kern said. "Hopefully, we can get above that .500 mark."
Defensive end A.J. Page and linebacker Blake Pennock each collected an SMSU-high 12 tackles.
The Mustangs host Minot State at 6 p.m. Friday at The Schwan Regional Event Center.
NOTE: SMSU's previous single-game rushing record was set by David Whitten on Oct. 25, 2003, when he had 243 yards on 43 attempts versus MSU-Moorhead in Marshall. The previous school record for rushing yards was set just two years ago - also at Moorhead - on Oct. 8, 2011, when SMSU had 397 in a victory.
SMSU 27, MSUM 20
SMSU - Tyler Tonderum 71 run (Lance Schuveiller kick blocked), 9:46.
MSUM - Shaun Hollenkamp 12 pass from Jake Hodge (Wes Kramer kick), 7:46.
MSUM - Jake Hodge 21 run (Wes Kramer kick), 11:13.
SMSU - Tyler Tonderum 10 run (Charlie Kern pass intercepted), 8:31.
MSUM - Jake Hodge 4 run (Wes Kramer run fumbled), 14:02.
SMSU - Tyler Tonderum 13 run (Charlie Kern run), 8:52.
SMSU - Anthony Dean 23 pass from Charlie Kern (Lance Schuveiller kick), 0:03.
Time of Possession30:0129:59
RUSHING - SMSU (Tyler Tonderum 42-347, Charlie Kern 17-87, Ashanti Payne 5-13, Lance Schuveiller 1-0, TEAM 1-0); MSUM (Brandon Schell 30-134, Jake Hodge 13-70, Austin Stone 6-11, Korey Jacobsen 2-6).
PASSING - SMSU (Charlie Kern 9-20-77-1-0); MSUM (Jake Hodge 9-19-59-1-1).
RECEIVING - SMSU (ANthony Dean 3-24, Britt Wickett 2-2, Cody Condon 1-28, Tyler Tonderum 1-14, Adam Olson 1-7, Ashanti Payne 1-2); MSUM (Cory Ambrose 3-3, Adam Jiskra 1-21, Korey Jacobson 1-14, Shaun Hollenkamp 1-12, Wade Youngblom 1-9, Brandon Schell 1-4, Jalen Ham 1-minus 4).