Wildcats even record at 1-1 with win at Southwest
Wayne State held Southwest Minnesota State to 142 yards of total offense to overcome five turnovers as the Wildcats registered a 23-14 road victory Saturday over the Mustangs at Schwan Regional Event Center in Marshall, Minn.
The Wildcats got off to a slow start, turning the ball over on three of its first four drives (two fumbles/sacks and one interception) as the Mustangs took advantage of the short field early to take the lead.
Wayne State quarterback Aaron Bleil was sacked and fumbled on the second play from scrimmage, giving SMSU the ball at the WSC 5-yard line. Trey Sachs scored on a two-yard run for the Mustangs giving SMSU a 7-0 lead at the 13:13 mark of the first quarter.
Later in the first quarter, Bleil fired a 19-yard scoring strike to redshirt freshman tight end Cole Wemhoff with just six seconds left to knot the score at 7-7.
The lone score of the second quarter came on a 38-yard pass play from Bleil to sophomore tight end Conner Paxton, giving the Wildcats a 13-7 lead at intermission.
Southwest Minnesota State took the opening drive of the second half and marched 78 yards on just seven plays, using a 12-yard pass from quarterback Blake Gimbel to Max Simmons to give the Mustangs a 14-13 lead at the 12:02 mark of the third quarter.
Wayne State took the lead for good late in the third quarter when Nate Rogers made a great leaping catch in the end zone on a 20-yard pass from Bleil, putting the Wildcats ahead 20-14 entering the fourth quarter.
Despite a late third-quarter fumble and another fumble in the fourth, Wayne State was able to overcome the miscues on offense thanks to a defense that limited SMSU to just 142 yards of total offense that included eight sacks for 50 yards.
After holding SMSU on downs late in the game and getting the ball at the Mustang 16, the Wildcats added an insurance score with 21 seconds to play on a Ethan Knudson 27-yard field goal.
Wayne State held a sizeable edge in total offense over SMSU 417-142. The Wildcats had 126 yards rushing and 291 passing while holding the Mustangs to just five yards rushing and 137 through the air.
Running back Marlon Warren carried the ball 34 times for 147 yards to lead the Wildcat ground attack. Bleil completed 25-of-39 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Rogers had seven catches for 93 yards and one TD after making just one catch for nine yards in the first half. Paxton accounted for six receptions and 97 yards with one score while Jamal Albousafi had four catches for 38 yards. Wemhoff added three grabs for 36 yards and one score.
Defensive end Jacob Protzman had eight total tackles including five sacks for 34 yards to lead the Wildcat defense. Linebacker Tyler Thomsen had a team-high 10 tackles while MJ Blankenfeld recorded five stops with two tackles for loss totaling 12 yards.
The Wildcats (1-1, 1-1 NSIC SOUTH) return home next weekend, hosting South Division rival Augustana in an NSIC contest starting at 6 p.m. at Bob Cunningham Field in Wayne.