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SMSU FOOTBALL: SMSU opens season hosting No. 3 MSU in annual Ag Bowl tonight

Independent file photo SMSU’s Max Simmons catches a touchdown pass during their “Ag Bowl” game against Wayne State College on Sept. 8, 2018. The Mustangs will host No. 3 MSU Mankato tonight for their season opener.

MARSHALL - Southwest Minnesota State University opens its 52nd season of football tonight hosting No. 3 ranked and defending Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference champion Minnesota State University with kickoff slated for 6 p.m. at Mattke Field at the Schwan Regional Event Center.

• SMSU returns 42 letter winners including six starters on offense and seven on defense from last season’s team that finished 4-7, including 1-6 in the NSIC South Division. The 2019 roster includes 24 seniors, 21 juniors, 14 sophomores, 16 redshirt freshmen and 33 freshmen.

• SMSU, which won three straight games and four of five during the middle of the 2018 season, lost its final three games of the season.

• MSU, ranked No. 3 in the preseason American Football Coaches Association (AFCA) poll, advanced to the NCAA national semifinals last season and finished with a 13-1 overall record.

SMSU coach Cory Sauter said after multiple weeks of practice, they’re ready to get the season underway and knows their first matchup is a challenging one.

“We’re ready to play a game; we’ve been practicing for a couple of weeks already and it’s that time of year where we just have to play somebody. We certainly play a very talented Mankato team, one that is a national championship contender and they bring back a lot of starters, so we’re going to be playing as good as we can find in this league,” Sauter said. “We’ll find out where we sit in a lot of different areas but our focus, as always, is on us and making sure that we do what we’re supposed to do.”

SMSU vs. MSU

series notes

Southwest Minnesota State and Minnesota State meet for the 18th time today with MSU leading 17-0 in a series that began on Sept. 4, 1971 … MSU has been ranked in the Top 10 in seven of the last eight meetings (including this season) … MSU is 7-0 all-time in games played in Marshall, including earning a 54-7 win on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017 … Saturday’s game will be the 15th time the two schools have met as members of the same conference … SMSU has been held to 17 or less points in 11 of the 17 games … MSU has scored 34 or more points in the last 12 meetings … MSU won 49-13 in last season’s opener played in Mankato.

Annual Ag Bowl –

Presented by Ralco

•Saturday’s 13th annual Ag Bowl concludes a day of celebration of agriculture in Minnesota and features numerous events for both kids and adults prior to the game.

•Proceeds generated by the Ag Bowl will fund scholarships and programming for worthy SMSU student-athletes and young people who will dedicate their careers to business success in agriculture, environmental science and the food industries.

Broadcast info

•Saturday’s game will be broadcast on 105.1 FM KARL with Ryan Rohlik handling the play-by-play duties for the seventh straight season.

•Live stats and video can be found at SMSUmustangs. com.

For openers

•SMSU is 22-29 all-time in season openers.

•SMSU has lost its last two season openers including a 49-13 setback at No. 1 Minnesota State last season.

•Saturday’s game is the third time SMSU has opened a season versus MSU but the first in Marshall. SMSU lost in both 1971 and last season.

•SMSU’s last season-opening victory came on Sept. 1, 2016, with a 42-38 victory over No. 19 Minnesota Duluth.

•SMSU is 3-6 in season openers under Sauter.

SMSU vs.

ranked opponents

•SMSU is 1-23 versus Division II Top 25 teams since the 2008 season including 0-3 last season.

•SMSU’s lone victory versus a Division II Top 25 team came in the 2016 season opener versus No. 19 Minnesota Duluth (42-38) in Marshall.

Team captains

named for 2019

•Four players–two on offense and two on defense–serve as team captains for the 2019 season.

•The offensive team captains selected were senior quarterback Boyer Bouman and senior offensive lineman Nick Guzman.

•The defensive team captains are junior safety Lucas Fisher and sophomore linebacker Onte Burns.

•The team captains were selected by a vote of the Mustang players.

Davis headlines

returning

wide receivers

•Senior wide receiver Daniel Davis returns after catching 79 passes for 1,113 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018. •A first team all-conference and third team All-American honoree, Davis led the NSIC in both receptions and yards during his first season on the team and had six 100-yard receiving games.

•Davis’ 1,113 receiving yards ranks fifth in team single-season history.

•Senior wide receiver Aaron Murphy started all 11 games and ranked fifth on the squad with 26 catches for 356 yards and four touchdowns in 2018.

•Senior wide receiver Gabe Galamue finished with 246 yards receiving on 22 receptions and two touchdowns.

Depth returns at

running back

•Senior running back Max Simmons rushed for a team-high 543 yards and three touchdowns on 132 carries a season ago.

•Simmons also caught 27 passes for 166 yards and two touchdowns.

•Simmons enters his final season with 1,892 yards rushing which ranks ninth in team history while his 25 career rushing touchdowns ranks third in program history.

•Sophomore running back Trey Sachs will return after starting the first three games last season before suffering a season-ending injury in week three. He finished the season rushing for 67 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries.

•Sophomore Codie Meinen appeared in five games as a true freshman and recorded 71 rushing yards and one touchdown on six carries.

New signal-caller

in 2019

•SMSU will have a new signal-caller this fall as three-year starter Blake Gimbel graduated after setting numerous passing records during his tenure.

•Senior Boyer Bouman will be one of the top candidates to assume the role after starting four games in 2017 in place of an injured Gimbel.

•Also competing for the job are junior college transfers, Steven Nava and Paul Herrera.

Bouman battles for starting spot

•Senior quarterback Boyer Bouman returns for his fifth season and will battle for the starting position.

•Bouman has played in 19 career games including making four starts to close the 2017 in place of an injured Blake Gimbel. He made his first career start versus Minnesota State on Oct. 19, 2017.

•In Bouman’s four starts, he completed 100 of 168 pass attempts for 799 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions.

•In the final game of 2017, Bouman completed 37 of 55 for 316 yards and one touchdown in a road loss to Concordia-St. Paul.

•In 2018, Bouman was 8 of 14 passing for 32 yards and one touchdown.

Offensive line returns three starters

•The Mustangs return three starters on an offensive line that helped an offense average 26 points and 390 yards per game last season.

•Senior left tackle Zach Stratmoen anchors the line having started every game the past two seasons while earning All-NSIC South honorable mention honors in 2018.

•Senior Zach Thissen started all 11 games at right tackle a season ago while senior center Nick Guzman started all 11 games at left guard.

Defense looks to

replace top

two tacklers

•On defense, SMSU must replace its top two tacklers from last season in linebackers Shane Ratkovich and Alex Ney.

•SMSU does return four of its top six tacklers from last season including senior cornerback Cory Hollowell who ranked third on the team with 64 stops last season.

•Hollowell led the team with 13 pass break-ups and also recorded two interceptions.

•Junior safety Lucas Fisher led the team with three interceptions and ranked fourth with 53 tackles.

•Senior safety Peyton Sanders is another returning starter after compiling 43 tackles and five pass break-ups last season.

Two starters return at linebacker

•Senior Brad Bahlmann and sophomore Onte Burns both return as starters at linebacker.

•Bahlmann finishing with 24 tackles and one interception while Burns had 48 tackles and added one interception as a true freshman.

•Senior linebacker Tahjee Smith is also back after racking up 38 tackles with 5.5 tackles for loss.

Several veterans

return on

defensive line

•Senior defensive tackle Richard Ayers returns after registering 19 tackles with 3.5 for loss in his first season in 2018.

•Junior defensive end Kyle Richter played in nine games and registered 19 tackles including four for loss.

•Senior defensive end Job Dallien played in 10 games and had six tackles in 2018.

Sauter said defensively this week, they’ve been working on making sure runners aren’t gaining that extra yard or two on plays and being aggressive and trying to force the offense into making mistakes.

“First and foremost, Mankato is going to try and run the football. We have to find ways to get a number of defenders in the box near the ballcarrier; they just have kids that are strong and physical, backs that are physical and even if you are in good position, they always tend to find an extra yard or two and those add up,” Sauter said. “We’ve got to be the aggressor and be in a position to force them to take snaps and hopefully they make a mistake and throw us a ball or put a ball on the ground where we have a shorter field to operate.”

Scouting Minnesota State

•Todd Hoffner is entering his 10th season as head coach at MSU with a career record of 92-21. He has led the Mavericks to six NCAA playoff appearances including an NCAA championship game appearance in 2014.

•MSU finished 13-1 a season ago and advanced to the NCAA semifinals before losing at home to Ferris State.

•The Mavericks averaged 40 points and 461 yards of offense while allowing just 17 points and 300 yards per game in 2018.

•Senior running back Nate Gunn has led the team in rushing the past two seasons including amassing a school single-season record 1,705 yards and 22 touchdowns on 356 carries in 2018.

•Junior running back Justin Taormina, who rushed for 1,140 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2017, finished with 469 yards and four touchdowns last season.

•Senior quarterback Ryan Schlichte passed for 1,914 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions while completing 120 of 220 attempts.

•Junior quarterback JD Ekowa completed 68 of 148 pass attempts for 1,130 yards and 10 touchdowns and also rushed for 380 yards.

•Senior All-American wide receiver Shane Zylstra led the team with 66 receptions for 1,261 yards and 14 touchdowns.

•Senior linebacker Alex Goettl returns after pacing the defense last season with 87 tackles including 13.5 for loss with a pair of interceptions.

•Senior linebacker Zach Robertson ranked second on the squad last season with 74 tackles including 9.5 for loss.

– Content courtesy

of SMSU Athletic

Communications

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