SMSU FOOTBALL: Strong second half lifts Augie past SMSU

SIOUX FALLS – Before the start of the Southwest Minnesota State game against Augustana on Saturday, a video on the scoreboard showed Vikings’ (4-1, 4-1 NSIC) coach Jerry Olszewski saying his team had to make the Mustangs one-dimensional. One long nightmare of an afternoon later, Augustana had made its coach somewhat of a prophet. The Vikings beat the Mustangs (4-1, 4-1 NSIC) 48-23 and held running backs Davontay Stevens and Ashanti Payne to a combined 102 yards.

For Augustana coach Jerry Olszewski, it was about taking away one major part of the Mustangs’ attack.

“You have to pick your poison with a team like Southwest,” Olszewski said. “They’re one of those fast-moving offenses that can score in bunches. We just hung in there at halftime and told them to keep doing what they’re doing. They did that extremely well in the second half.”

Augustana running back CJ Ham, quarterback Trey Heid and the wide receiver corps made the SMSU defense miss all day long and the Mustang offensive line allowed three sacks on quarterback Blake Gimbel. He had been sacked four times total coming into the season.

SMSU linebacker Tyler Flud knew the team struggled with Ham, who eclipsed 2,000 career yards in the game.

“He was a bigger back then we had played all year and we tried the same things that we had tried with those smaller backs,” Flud said. “We tried too many arm tackles and that isn’t going to work and it didn’t work today.”

Mustangs coach Cory Sauter also felt the team struggled with the size of Ham, who finished with 160 yards and one touchdown on 19 carries.

“They have a nice combination of running backs,” Sauter said. “CJ Ham is a big body that we haven’t seen to this point. He’s tough to bring down and that Greenway kid has amazing speed. They kept us off balance.”

The first half featured a back-and-forth battle that saw Payne score a touchdown to give the Mustangs a 23-20 lead and then Drew McReynolds fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return. The fumble set up a touchdown and Augie took a 27-23 lead at the half. In the second half, the Mustangs recovered a fumble on the second play, but couldn’t make it count and the Vikings responded with a long touchdown pass from Trey Heid to Austin Heller. That made the score 34-23 and momentum was fully with the Vikings.

SMSU opened the game with a gadget play as Stevens found Nate Huot on a 37-yard halfback pass for a touchdown. Huot would go on to catch six passes for 148 yards and two touchdowns. The 148 yards is a career-high.

The teams traded field goals until Ham punched it in from one yard out to get the Vikings a 20-10 lead.

Gimbel responded with a 70-yard touchdown pass to Huot before Payne’s 3-yard touchdown run.

A visibly shaken Stevens stressed the importance of not letting this loss ruin the rest of the season.

“We have to keep pushing,” Stevens said. “We’ve been on both ends of these. It felt good to be on this four-game winning streak, but we can’t be happy or satisfied with that. We have to stick together because this is only one game.”

The Vikings outscored the Mustangs 21-0 off turnovers and put up more than twice as many points as the Mustangs in about half as many plays.

SMSU put up 526 yards of total offense, but put up 325 of them in the first half. The Vikings put up 337 yards of offense in the second half.

Stevens knew the loss was hard for multiple reasons.

“We shot ourselves in the foot and Augie played good football,” Stevens said. “I feel like I let the team down. I didn’t play my best. We have to come together. There’s nothing we can do to change it. We have to go back to work tomorrow and get ready for Wayne.”

Cameron Parus finished with 86 yards on seven catches while Ty Steffensen had three for 38 yards and Raphael Lawson-Gayle finished with 48 yards on three catches.

Gimbel finished the game 24 of 37 for 337 yards with one touchdown and one interception. The 337 yards are a new career-high for Gimbel. Heid completed 15 of his 20 pass attempts for 290 yards and three touchdowns. Charlie Hayes finished with six receptions for 70 yards on the day and Jake Bartscher had 89 yards in three receptions for the Vikings.

Injury bug

Southwest Minnesota State lost two players to injury during the contest. Safety Jared Twedt suffered a knee injury that could keep him out long term but Sauter didn’t know an exact timetable on the injury. Steffensen didn’t play in the second half due to a concussion. He will need to pass the concussion tests before he is able to resume play.

On to Wayne

The Mustangs will play their second consecutive road contest next weekend when they take on Wayne State. The Wildcats lost 59-10 at home against No. 6 Sioux Falls on Saturday.


-Divonte Beale saw action late in the fourth quarter and picked up 48 yards on 11 carries.

– Backup quarterback Connor Wilkie finished 4 of 6 for 32 yards.

– SMSU was the first opponent to gain more than 100 yards on the ground against Augustana

– SMSU committed seven penalties that accounted for 75 yards.

– The Mustangs were 7 for 17 on third down while the Vikings were 4 for 8.