Turnovers hurt Wildcats in 48-27 loss to No. 1 Mavericks

Turnovers plagued the Wildcats early as top-ranked Minnesota State defeated Wayne State 48-27 in Northern Sun Conference football action Saturday afternoon in Mankato, Minn.

Two early first-half turnovers allowed Minnesota State to build a 20-0 lead with 10:20 remaining in the second quarter.

Minnesota State scored on their first possession of the game when Casey Bednarski converted a 43-yard field goal on a seven-play 26-yard drive.

The Mavericks were able to score less than a minute later after redshirt freshman quarterback Mitchell Hansen fumbled at the Wildcat 20. Minnesota State capped the three-play drive with a two-yard rushing touchdown by Justin Taormina to take a 10-0 lead with 9:32 left in the opening quarter.

Another Wildcat turnover led to Maverick points as Hansen was picked off at the Wayne State 44-yard line, leading to another rushing touchdown for Taormina to push the score to 17-0. Minnesota State added another field goal with 10:20 remaining in the first half to make it 20 unanswered points to start the game.

The Wildcats found life in the final minutes of the first half as Houston Huss blocked a punt and recovered the ball at the MSU 10. Aaron Bleil threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Willie Walton on the next play to cut the Minnesota State lead to 20-7 after Ethan Knudson converted the PAT.

The Mavericks responded with a touchdown of their own as Ryan Schlichte completed a 27-yard strike to Ty Dennis to make the lead 27-7 with 1:17 remaining in the half.

On the following drive, the Wildcats marched 57 yards down the field and used another touchdown pass from Bleil to Walton to make the score 27-14 at the half.

Wayne State got on the board first in the second half after MSU muffed a punt with Emile Hope recovering the ball at the MSU 10-yard line. The Wildcats used a 23-yard field goal from Knudson to make the score 27-17.

The following Wildcat possession saw Wayne State drive 60 yards down the field. Wayne State would settle for another field goal, a 32-yard conversion from Knudson, making the score 27-20.

Wayne State tied the game 27-27 with 12:24 remaining in the game when Bleil connected with Nate Rogers on a 45-yard pass for a touchdown. The touchdown pass capped a six-play 80-yard drive for the Wildcats.

Minnesota State responded with a touchdown drive of their own. Ryan Schlichte completed a 35-yard touchdown pass to Trevor Nissen to complete the 76-yard drive and retake the lead 34-27.

The Maverick defense forced a three-and-out to take over possession at their own 46-yard line.  Another touchdown pass from Schlichte to Tyler Schmidt with 5:10 left in the game made the score 41-27. They found the end zone one more time with less than one-minute remaining in the game after a two-yard rushing score by Taormina. 

Minnesota State finished with 580 yards of total offense while the Wildcats gained 320 yards.  The Mavericks had 397 yards rushing and 183 passing while the Wildcats were held to 63 yards on the ground and 257 yards through the air.

Bleil completed 16-of-36 passes for 253 yards and three touchdowns. Rogers had six receptions for 92 yards and one score followed by Willie Walton with six receptions for 73 yards and two touchdown catches. Running back Rashad Trimble was limited to 25 yards rushing on seven carries.

Defensively, sophomore Ian Ailts had 11 tackles followed by Aaron Wright and Ben Elznic with eight each.

The Wildcats (5-5, 3-3 NSIC South) will close out the season at home next Saturday, hosting Upper Iowa in a NSIC South Division contest starting at 1 p.m. at Bob Cunningham Field in Wayne.

The Wayne Herald

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