Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference favorite Minnesota State-Mankato turned in a workmanlike effort and an opportunistic offense to beat the University of Mary 35-7 Thursday night at the Bismarck Community Bowl.
Sophomore Nate Gunn ran for 165 yards and two touchdowns and redshirt freshman Justin Taormina added 73 yards and two scores for the Mavericks (1-0, 1-0 NSIC).
MSUM piled up 273 rushing yards, to the delight of head coach Todd Hoffner.
“I thought we ran the ball effectively. We had a 60-yard run called back,” Hoffner said. “We wanted to be physical and run the ball and hope that sets up the play-action pass.”
Maverick quarterbacks Ryan Schlichte and JD Ekowa combined to complete 13 of 24 passes for 147 yards.
“Obviously they are a talented team,” U-Mary coach Josh Kotelnicki said. “For us to play better defensively, we have to not screw things up on offense and on special teams. We did that three times and it led to 21 points. That’s the only thing I’m upset about.”
For one series, the Marauders’ offense clicked with junior Colton Farmer under center. Farmer drove U-Mary 65 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown that cut the Mankato lead to 21-7, which was how the half ended.
“That’s honestly what happens, but we were a couple mistakes away on a couple (other) drives to getting that next first down or touchdown,” said Farmer, who ran 17 times for 20 yards.
Farmer also completed 6 of 9 passes for 90 yards.
DeShawn Gay ran 13 times for 64 of U-Mary’s 196 rushing yards. The Marauders (0-1, 0-1) ran 60 times
“That’s a different bird to defend,” Hoffner said of U-Mary’s offense. “There’s a lot of strategy in it. Our guys had to be more disciplined in their assignments.”
Farmer was listed at No. 2 on the depth chart but got the start instead as he had game experience, Kotelnicki said. He rotated in with redshirt-freshman Logan Nelson throughout.
The Marauders dug themselves a hole right away when Gay fumbled a bad pitch by Farmer on the second play of the game at the Mavericks recovered on U-Mary’s 21.
Gunn gained 18 yards on the following six-play drive and scored on a 1-yard run with 11:24 to play in the first.
The Mavericks doubled the lead on their next possession, marching 80 yards on seven plays. Taormina scored on a 26-yard run with 4:51 to play in the quarter.
Ekowa replaced Schlichte at quarterback in the second quarter and led a seven-play scoring drive highlighted by Gunn’s 44-yard run. Ekowa capped the drive with an 8-yard pass to Trevor Nissen with 12:43 left in the half.
After watching Nelson run the offense for two series, Farmer returned to lead the Marauders’ only scoring drive of the game. He ran six times for 29 yards and completed his only pass of the drive for 21 yards and a first down. On third-and-goal, Farmer scored on a keeper and soccer-player-turned-kicker Aaron Brennan added the PAT.
The defenses stiffened at the half ended with the Mavericks up 21-7.
Midway through the third quarter U-Mary stopped the Mavericks at the 3-yard line and forced a field goal. But the Marauders jumped offsides and MSUM sent the offense back on the field where Gunn scored on 1-yard run.
Later, a muffed punt reception after U-Mary had stopped the Mavericks at their own 10 gave MSUM new life on the Marauder 48. In just two plays, MSUM got a 44-yard pass to Ty Dennis and a 4-yard TD run by Taormina to take a 35-7 lead with 3:41 left in the fourth.
“We fumbled the ball on the second play of the game, then we stop them and fumble the punt,” Kotelnicki said, pointing to two key plays that led to scores. “That’s what losing teams do.”
U-Mary is off until Sept. 9 at Wayne (Neb.) State.