Warriors Pluck Golden Eagles On Opening Night

The Winona State University Football team started their 2016 season with a dominating 68-0 win over Minnesota-Crookston on September 1 at Maxwell Field at Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium. Check out the game highlights here: https://youtu.be/FZCMRZw3hvs

Things started on a sour note, when Paul Preston mishandled the opening kickoff and the ball went out of bounds at the 9 yard line.  The Warriors marched down the field 51 yards, but their opening drive was stalled on an incomplete 4th and 16 pass.

Minnesota Crookston took over on downs, and appeared to be on their way to a score, but Mike Maw’s 42-yard field goal try was blocked by Jarrett Wood.

Winona State took advantage of the short field after the field goal block by putting together an 8-play, 53 yard drive capped by Paul Preston’s 1-yard touchdown run to take a 6-0 lead.

Preston would find the endzone again on the next Warrior possession.  The Senior running back scored his second touchdown of the evening on a 39-yard run with 1:42 remaining in the first quarter, to give the Warriors a 12-0 lead.  Preston would end the night with 13 carries for 123 yards.

WSU would strike again before the end of the 1st quarter, when Jack Nelson found Cameron Johnson for a 52-yard touchdown pass that expanded the Warrior lead to 19-0.

After another strong series by the Warrior defense, the offense pick up where they left off in the first quarter.  Jack Nelson completed his second touchdown strike of the night, finding Nick Margiotta 9 yards downfield for a 26-0 lead.

On the next drive, Minnesota-Crookston quarterback Nathan Cole fumbled at his 12-yard line, and the ball went out of the back of the endzone for a Warrior safety.

After the free kick, the Warriors completed another scoring drive, capped by the second Nelson-to-Johnson touchdown pass of the day, this time a 37-yard score for a 35-0 lead.  Johnson was able to rest much of the second half, but not before hauling in 6 catches for 153 yards.

The Warriors would put together one more scoring drive in the first half, an 8-play, 48-yard drive finished by an Eric Birth 7-yard touchdown score with 3:12 to go in the second quarter.  The Warriors would head into the halftime break up 42-0.

The day got a little longer for Golden Eagle fans, as Minnesota Crookston took possession first in the second half.  That drive ended when Stephen Day’s punt attempt failed, as the he mishandled the snap, and the ball once again went out of the endzone for another Warrior safety.  Day punted 9 times in the game for the Golden Eagles.

The first offensive unit for the Warriors would take the field one more time, on a 7-play, 43-yard drive that saw Eric Birth get his second touchdown of the season on a 3-yard run.  Birth had 9 carries for 52 yards.

Special teams stood tall again for the Warriors on the next possession.  After 5 plays, the Golden Eagles were forced to punt.  Freshman Jake Balliu took the punt on the Warrior 18 yard line, and ran down the field 82 yards for a score, expanding the Warrior lead to 58-0.  The punt return was the second-longest in Warrior history, topped only by Curtis Dewberry’s 84-yard return in 2010.  Balliu would get into the Warrior record book later in the game, though.  On the evening, Balliu had 5 punt returns for a record 190 yards.  That broke Kevin Curtin’s 16-year-old record of 125 yards in punt returns in a single game.

Two Warrior back-up quarterbacks were able to see action in the game, as Darren Beenken and John Rumpza were able to get valuable game snaps with the large Warrior lead.  Jack Nelson was 12-of-17 on the night for 209 yards, and 3 touchdowns.

In the fourth quarter, Patrick Bauman scored on a 39-yard touchdown run to expand the Warrior lead to 65-0, and Carter McCauley, celebrating his 21st birthday, capped the scoring with a 25-yard field goal, to give the Warriors a 68-0 win over Minnesota Crookston.

The Winona State defense was stingy, giving up just 91 yards of total offense to the Golden Eagles, just 6 of which coming from the run game.  WSU also sacked Crookston quarterbacks 4 times during the evening.

Winona State will go on the road next week, taking on Minnesota-Duluth in a 6:05 pm game.  The next Warrior telecast on Channel 25 will come on September 17th, when the Warriors return home to host Northern State.  Pre-game will be at 12:45 pm, kickoff at 1 pm.

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