SMSU FOOTBALL: SMSU falls to Augie to finish season

MARSHALL Several Southwest Minnesota State University seniors stepped onto the field for the final time in their careers on Saturday when the Mustangs took on the Augustana Vikings in their season finale. The Mustangs gave it their all, but their efforts fell short as they lost to the Vikings 35-20 at the Schwan Regional Event Center.

SMSU coach Cory Sauter knows how important of a game this was for the seniors.

“It was a lot of fun just watching, especially our seniors,” said Sauter. “I mean, it’s the last time they’re stepping on the field in their entire life; it’s going to mean a lot to them. That was the fun part was just seeing them really take in the moment and give it their absolute best; not that they haven’t been in the past, but just the finality of it.”

The Mustangs have 21 seniors on this year’s roster.

Sauter knows that each and every one played an important role on this season’s team.

“It’s just been fun to just see all those guys contribute,” said Sauter. “That’s probably the biggest message we don’t expect everybody to be a superstar, but everyone’s going to contribute in some shape or form, and that’s what you want; guys that buy in. If they have to play scout team, they’ll play scout team. If we ask them to be on kickoff return, they’ll do that. You know, just whatever you ask, they’ll do. It’s just been fun to see those kids buy in and give us awesome effort. When you have that, everyone watches it and then those underclassmen are going to follow that lead.”

Augustana got the scoring started on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Trey Heid, the leading passer in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC), to Charlie Hayes, putting the Vikings up 7-0.

The score stayed stagnant until there was about two minutes left in the second quarter, when Mustang quarterback Blake Gimbel ran in a TD from five yards out. After a missed extra point, the score read 7-6 in favor of Augie.

The Vikings added one more score with just 25 seconds left in the half on an 8-yard run by Heid to make the score 14-6 Augustana at halftime.

The Vikings extended their lead at the end of the third quarter after a 4-yard floater to the corner of the end zone to Matt Heller, the NSIC’s leading receiver. SMSU added a score of its own on a 24-yard TD pass to Raphael Lawson-Gayle to make it 21-13 Augie going into the final quarter.

Heller caught his second TD of the day in the beginning of the fourth quarter from 21 yards out to extend the Vikings’ lead to 28-13. However, on the next drive, Gimbel aired one out to Lawson-Gayle, who slipped by the defense to catch a 45-yard pass for a score, bringing the Mustangs back within a score at 28-20.

That was all the Mustangs could muster, though, as they couldn’t get on the board the rest of the game. Augie added one more score on a 59-yard pass from Heid to Heller on a 3rd and 21 play to put the game out of reach.

Sauter knew the Augustana offense was going to be tough to slow down.

“We knew they had a really good offense and they were going to score a lot of points,” said Sauter. “Their quarterback and receivers are as good as they get. You have great coverage, but they come down with it. We knew they were going to make their share of big plays, it’s just how they’re geared.”

Gimbel tied the SMSU record for completions in the game for the third time as he went 42 for 56 passing with 362 yards and two touchdowns. He also broke the single-season record for completion percentage also held by him as he completed 69.2 percent of his passes this season, which is nearly three percent higher than the next closest mark of 66.4 percent.

Freshman Max Simmons was the Mustangs’ leading rusher as he ran 31 times for 86 yards. Simmons fell just one score short of the SMSU single-season rushing touchdown record of 19 as he recorded 18 this season. Lawson-Gayle led all SMSU receivers with 111 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches.

The Mustangs finished the season with a record of 5-6.

Sauter thought they could have finished above the .500 mark this season, but they missed some opportunities.

“There were some moments this season that we felt like we could have won, which would have given us a winning season,” said Sauter. “That’s probably the most disappointing thing; not (Saturday’s) loss, but a game or two in there that would have given us that sixth win for a winning season. That’s the part that I want to help with is get us to that next step. We’ve had a few winning seasons over the past several years and we want to get back to that. If you can do that, that’s saying something in this conference. It’s such a competitive league from recruiting to the actual games themselves.”

With the season over, the Mustangs are looking ahead to next year.

Sauter says the next season started Sunday.

“We start next season right now. We’re going to jump into it with a team meeting (Sunday), address a few things and then we’re moving on,” said Sauter. “We’re moving on to next year and ready to recruit the next future Mustangs. That’s the goal is to get out right away and attract the next future players here and ultimately sign a really good class. That’s where it’s all at; you can’t win without players.”

“I’m looking forward to that and finding really not just people, but the right fits; the right fits that are tough, that love football, that are responsible, people that we can trust and really continue to just build what we’re doing already,” added Sauter. “You do that enough with cycles of good classes, you’re going to have a chance to be pretty good.”

Augustana 35, SMSU 20

Augie7 7 7 14 35

SMSU0 6 7 7 20

SCORING SUMMARY

First Quarter

Augie: Hayes 35-yard pass from Heid (PAT good)

Second Quarter

SMSU: Gimbel 5-yard run (PAT no good)

Augie: Heid 8-yard run (PAT good)

Third Quarter

Augie: Heller 4-yard pass from Heid (PAT good)

SMSU: Lawson-Gayle 24-yard pass from Gimbel (PAT good)

Fourth Quarter

Augie: Heller 21-yard pass from Heid (PAT good)

SMSU: Lawson-Gayle 45-yard pass from Gimbel (PAT good)

Augie: Heller 59-yard pass from Heid (PAT good)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

Passing (C-A-Y-TD-I): SMSU (Gimbel 42-56-362-2-2); Augie (Heid 16-31-264-4-0).

Rushing (A-Y-TD): SMSU (Simmons 31-86-0); Augie (Davis 8-77-0; Heid 12-63-1; Steer 8-47-0).

Receiving (C-Y-TD): SMSU (Lawson-Gayle 8-111-2; Simmons 9-31-0; Huot 8-57-0).

Defense (Tackles): SMSU (Flud 8; Bednar 8; Finley 6); Augie (Wagner 17; Hora 11; Waters 10).