SMSU FOOTBALL: SMSU preps for season finale vs. Augustana
By Shannon Rathmanner
MARSHALL With the Southwest Minnesota State Mustangs at 5-5, they will look to finish off their season with a winning record as they host the Augustana Vikings today at 1 p.m. at the Schwan Regional Event Center.
SMSU coach Cory Sauter knows the game will be tough, but knows his guys are ready to give it their all.
“This is the last go around, so there’s no such thing as saving it for anything more,” said Sauter. “We’ve got a bunch of seniors that are playing in their last football game, and on top of that, we’re playing Augustana and we have a chance for a winning season. There’s reasons galore to get excited about playing in this game, but we’ve got a big challenge. If we find a way, it would be an awesome way to end the season and I know our kids will be jacked up about it.”
Here are a few things to look for in the game:
The Vikings are led by senior quarterback Trey Heid, who is having a stellar season. Heid leads the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in passing yards with 3,318, which is over 500 yards more than the next closest quarterback and is tied for third in Division II. His 37 touchdown passes is 11 more than the next closest in the conference, and is tied for second in Division II. He is also the only QB in the NSIC that averages more than 300 yards passing a game (331.8).
“(Augustana) has arguably the best quarterback in the conference that’s playing really well,” said Sauter. “He’s about as good as they come. He’s the real deal and it’s going to take a heck of an effort to slow him down. Every single time he gets the football in his hands, everyone’s crossing their fingers hoping that he’ll make a mistake because there’s not a whole lot you can do to slow him down.”
Heid is also a threat on the ground as he has 658 yards rushing and nine touchdowns. The next highest rusher on the team is Jackie Davis, who has 422 yards on the ground with six touchdowns.
The Vikings also have a handful of threats through the air. Wide receiver Matt Heller leads the NSIC in receiving yards (1,353 first in Division II), touchdowns (18 second in Division II) and receiving yards per game (135.3 first in Division II). He is also second in the conference with 71 catches.
Also having a good season is wideout Charlie Hayes, who has 51 catches for 743 yards and five touchdowns. The Vikings have nine other receivers with at least one touchdown this season.
As a team, Augustana has the third-highest scoring team in the conference as they average just over 43 points and 516.5 yards a game. They also lead the conference in 3rd-down conversions (52.7 percent) and 4th-down conversions (63.2 percent).
Defensively, linebacker Kirby Hora leads the NSIC in tackles (99) while also recording 5.5 tackles for loss, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. LB Matt Wagner leads the team with four forced fumbles (tied for first in the NSIC), LB John Waters has two interceptions and defensive lineman Bryson Hamilton has a team-high seven sacks (sixth in the NSIC).
SMSU BY THE NUMBERS
Freshman running back Max Simmons is continuing to have a historic season. His 18 rushing touchdowns is first in the NSIC, tied for fourth in Division II and is first amongst freshmen in all levels of college football. It is also a single-season SMSU record for touchdowns by a freshman, and is one shy of the single-season SMSU rushing touchdown record set by Tyler Tonderum in 2013. Simmons has also compiled 827 yards (seventh in the NSIC) on the ground on 147 carries (5.6 average).
Quarterback Blake Gimbel has slowed down the couple of weeks, but still leads the NSIC in completion percentage (68.2). His 2,668 passing yards is fourth in the conference and his 22 TD passes is tied for sixth.
Wideout Nate Huot leads the team with 61 catches for 819 yards (sixth in the NSIC) and six touchdowns. Gabriel Galamue has 39 catches for 449 yards and three TDs and Raphael Lawson-Gayle has 31 catches for 489 yards and five touchdowns. Ty Steffensen also has five TD catches.
As a team, SMSU is ranked fifth in the NSIC in scoring (37.2 points per game), yards per game (464.9) and third in passing offense (288.3 yards per game).
Sauter knows that the Mustangs’ offense is going to have to get going to keep up with Augustana.
“The first thing that comes to mind right away when you think of Augustana football this year is their really good offense,” said Sauter. “The only thing that concerns me is you don’t want us on offense to do anything different than what we do. You don’t want to be getting tight or in a situation where we’re out of sync and we’re trying to chase them as far as points. I just hope that we can stay within range, where we’re within a score, maybe 10 points where we have a chance at the end.”
Defensively, Tyler Flud is 4th in the conference with 84 tackles. He also has nine tackles for loss, two sacks, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. Defensive backs Michael Everett and Dallin Finley lead the team with three INTs a piece while Finley also has three forced fumbles. Both Everett and Caleb Leichtnam are second on the team with 61 tackles.