The two teams that have the longest winning streaks in NCAA Division-II football entered the field in Mankato on Saturday, but only one of them played like a winner of 13-straight games. The Minnesota State Mavericks put up an offensive show that was unstoppable, and they dominated the clock while scoring on every one of their first six possessions of the game. Meanwhile, Concord University could not get their high-powered offense going, and as a result the Mavericks came away with the 47-13 victory.
Minnesota State got on the board on their first drive of the game. Starting on their own 17-yard line the combination of quarterback Ricky Lloyd and running back Connor Thomas helped the Mavericks to move the ball down the field for the score. Thomas carried the ball five times for 22 yards and Lloyd completed 4 of 6 passes, including a 21-yard pass to Jeff Burns to make it 6-0. On the extra-point try the Mountain Lions took a penalty moving the ball up a yard, and so Minnesota State Head Coach Todd Hoffner decided to go for two, and Thomas took it up the middle to make it 8-0.
On their next possession, the Mavericks were right back in the end zone. Thomas and Lloyd continued to move the ball down the field. This drive Thomas had three carries for 14 yards, and Lloyd rushed twice for 8 yards of his own, while completing 4 of 5 passes for 39 yards. His last pass was a perfect strike to Kyle Riggott for a 20-yard touchdown, and as the first quarter came to an end MSU was up 15-0.
On their first drive of the second quarter the Mavericks went on another long drive. It was going to be Thomas and Lloyd again, but the Mountain Lions simply had no answer on how to stop the two. Lloyd seemed to be able to make completions at will, and this drive was no exception. The Mavericks QB completed 4 of 5 passes, two of them to Thomas, including a 7-yard swing pass to the running back that made the score 22-0.
Down 22, Concord was finally able to get on the scoreboard. The Mountain Lions looked like their drive was going to stall when a 7-yard pass to the MSU 47 fell two yards short of the first down. Concord decided to go for it, and opted for the big play, with Brian Novak throwing a 41-yard pass to Jemeil Douse for a first down at the MSU 6-yard line. On the next play Ben Nesler scored to cut the deficit to 22-7.
With 4:58 left in the half, the Mavericks continued to dominate play. Starting from their own 25, Minnesota State moved to the Concord 32-yard line in 8-plays, but penalties set up a fourth and 11, and it looked like the Mountain Lions may finally stop the Mavericks offense. Coach Hoffner decided to go for it, and went with a little razzle-dazzle. With both of his quarterbacks in the game, Lloyd under center and Nick Pieruccini lined up as the wide out, Lloyd pitched to Pieruccini, but then Pieruccini passed to Lloyd who ran for 19 yards and the first down. Three plays later Pieruccini kept the ball and ran up the middle to score. Another penalty gave the Mavericks better field position on the point after attempt, and they went for two again, making it 30-7.
Four first half possessions resulted in four touchdowns. MSU was completely dominating this game, and were shutting down the high-powered offense of Concord. The Mavericks had 133 yards rushing to just 40 for Concord. What was a huge difference maker in the game was that MSU converted 9-10 third conversions, and the one they did not convert they got the 19-yard play from Lloyd on fourth down. The Mountain Lions could not get the Mavericks offense off of the field.
Minnesota State got the ball first to start out the second half, and once again their offense delivered. Thomas rushed for 38-yards on the first play of the drive, and four plays later he scored from 8-yards out to make it 37-7.
Concord needed a big play to get their offense going, but it was the Minnesota defense that came up big. Novak’s pass on third and 14 was picked off by Rumeal Harris and returned 22-yards to the Concord 8-yard line. Three plays later Lloyd passed to Bryce Duncan for a 5-yard touchdown, and it was 44-7 just five minutes into the third quarter.
On the Mavericks next possession they methodically moved down the field again, using a 14-play drive to add three more points to their score. On third and 8 at the Concord 11 the Mountain Lions finally were able to stop the Mavericks from reaching the end zone, but Minnesota State still got a 28-yard field goal out of Alden Haffar to make it 47-7.
On the Mountain Lions next possession they would finally get back into the end zone on a 5-play, 71-yard drive. Novak’s pass to Douse for 38-yards was the big play of the drive, and Ben Nester scored form 2-yards out to make it 47-13 after the extra-point attempt was blocked. The Mountain Lions then recovered the onside kick, but turned the ball over at the Minnesota State 12-yard line when Novak was stripped of the ball by Bryan Keys. Harris recovered the ball to end the threat. From there the Mavericks simply ran out the clock to walk away with the 47-13 win.
Minnesota State had a balanced attack that saw them gain 268 yards on the ground and 230 through the air. Lloyd finished 14-18 for 177 yards and 4 touchdowns. He also had 8 carries for 36 yards and a pass reception for 19. Thomas gained 123 yards on 14 carries and had a touchdown on the ground and added 4 catches for 30 yards and a touchdown receiving. Dorian Buford had 7 catches for 99 yards.
For the Mountain Lions, Novak was 18-29 passing for 228 yards. Cal Jones rushed 12 times for 70 yards, and Douse has 3 catches for 90 yards receiving.
The difference in this game was the inability of the Mountain Lions to stop the Mavericks offense and the three turnovers. MSU converted 13-17 third downs, and added 2-3 fourth down conversions. They also had two interceptions and a fumble recovery for a plus-3 takeaway day.
The Mavericks defense had a huge day, with no performance bigger than that of Harris who had an interception and a fumble recovery. MSU held the potent Mountain Lions to 299 total yards of offense, and they converted just 2 of 9 third downs.
Next Saturday the Minnesota State Mavericks will be looking for their first national championship. You can read a preview of the NCAA Division-II Championship game in the Minor League Sports Report on Thursday.
By Robert Pannier