Warriors Upset #19 Minnesota State
The long and storied history of Winona State vs. Minnesota State-Mankato had a few more pages, if not a new chapter added to it, as the Warriors defeated the #19 team in the country, 34-31 on a last-second field goal.
The Warriors jumped out to an early lead, when Will Claussen, Mankato native, hauled in a 47-yard touchdown pass from Jack Nelson to give Winona State a 7-0 lead less than 5 minutes into the game. For Nelson, it was his 11th touchdown pass of the season, and his 37th consecutive game with a touchdown pass. That’s every college game he has played in. Neither would be finished.
Nelson added another touchdown pass to his impressive career, connecting with Nick Margiotta for a 6-yard strike, to expand their lead to 14-0. The TD was set up by an interception from Sir’Vegias Steele. Cam Gavin would give the Warrior D their second pick on the next Maverick drive.
The second quarter started out well for the Warriors, with a drive finished off with a 34-yard field goal from Carter McCauley. However, the rest of the quarter would belong to Minnesota State.
Anders Gelecinskyj put the Mavericks on the board with a 33-yard field goal, to cut the lead to 17-3.
The Mavericks would fight to even the score late in the quarter. Maverick Quarterback Nick Pieruccini, the definition of mobile quarterback, who started the first 2 Minnesota State games this season at tailback, flexed his arm for a 2-yard pass to Erik Fuller, and a 17-yard connection with Ty Dennis with 19 seconds left in the half to tie the score at 17.
After the break, the Warriors took the lead back on Jack Nelson’s third touchdown pass of the game, this one to tight end Zach Olstad from 20 yards out.
The Mavericks would answer when Pieruccini found Connor McKeen for a 8 yard score with 5:26 left to go in the third quarter to even the score again at 24.
With 9:52 left in the 4th quarter, the Mavericks took their first lead of the game when Pieruccini notched his 4th TD strike of the game, finding Dennis for his second score of the day.
But, the Warriors would have the final momentum swing. Nelson also had 4 touchdowns on the day, his last to Cameron Johnson from 5 yards out to tie the game at 34. Johnson would have 7 catches for 108 yards, and became the 12th receiver in Winona State history to amass 2000 yards in his career.
Winona State’s defense halted the next Maverick drive, and gave the ball back to the offense. Thanks to a few key catches from Cameron Johnson, the Warriors were able to get down the field, and set up McCauley for the 29-yard game winner. For his efforts, McCauley was named NSIC Special Teams Player of the Week.
For the second consecutive year, the Warriors snapped a Maverick winning streak. Last season, at Mankato, the Warriors stopped Minnesota State’s 40-game NSIC winning streak. Saturday, the Warriors ended Minnesota State’s 24-game NSIC road winning streak. Both streaks dated back to 2011.
Watch game highlights here: https://youtu.be/ZoDAOIzjV7Q
Winona State is now 4-1 on the season, 1-0 in the NSIC South. The Warriors will travel to Fayette, Iowa this Saturday to take on a Peacock team tougher than their 1-4 record. The Warriors will return home on October 15 for their Homecoming game against current #12 Sioux Falls. You can watch the game against Sioux Falls on HBC TV 25. Pre-game will be at 2:15 PM, with kickoff set for 2:30 PM.
(Game photo by Lindsay Oien)