Warriors Shut Out Peacocks
From Winona State University Sports Information
Photo: Brian Russell
WINONA, Minn. – Winona State University had a lot to prove on Thursday night at Altra Federal Credit Union Stadium, and the Warriors answered the call.
After three shutout quarters in the season opener against Wayne State two weeks ago, the Warrior defense looked vulnerable in a road loss at Sioux Falls just five days ago. Winona State’s defensive unit proceeded to silence the murmurs on a short week by blanking Upper Iowa University, 28-0.
On the other side of the ball, Sam Santiago-Lloyd not only rushed for one score with a career-best 131 yards, but the junior running back threw the Warriors’ first touchdown pass in the opening quarter of the rout.
Both teams went three-and-out on their opening drives before WSU broke the scoring seal. Santiago-Lloyd took a pitch from Owen Burke and looked to the endzone where he found sophomore Ethan Wittenburg for the wideouts’ first career touchdown reception at the 9:33 mark of the first quarter.
The Warriors and Peacocks possessed the ball for 30 minutes apiece in the affair with Upper Iowa running seven more plays than the home team. However, Winona State out-gained UIU, 334-261, and had the luxury of a short field for seemingly the entire night thanks to the relentless Warrior defense. WSU also owned a 3-1 advantage in the turnover battle.
Burke bounced back from a three-interception game at Sioux Falls with an efficient night by completing 62 percent of his passes with one touchdown. The junior quarterback’s scoring strike came late in the first quarter on a 10-yard pitch and catch to Tyler Anderson as Winona State padded its lead to 14-0.
Defense on both sides took over in the second frame before the Warriors crossed the goal line once again late in the quarter. Landon Jacobson capped a six-play 80-yard drive with a touchdown run to give WSU a 21-0 lead right before halftime.
With the outcome still up for grabs entering the second half, neither team scored in the third quarter. The result was no longer in question though when the Warrior defense reminded its faithful that they’ve ranked inside the nation’s top 10 in takeaways in each of the past two seasons for a reason. Romario Gayle intercepted Upper Iowa’s Myles Herrera early in the fourth quarter, which the offense quickly converted into a touchdown, and redshirt freshman Clay Schueffner tallied his first career interception later in the frame to finalize the shutout.
In a night of firsts and career highs, Santiago-Lloyd broke free for a 59-yard touchdown scamper following Gayle’s interception – a new career long for the bruising running back.
On special teams, it was redshirt freshman Sean LaPlante (punter) and true freshman Dmitri Shpak (kicker) who also made their presence felt in the contest. LaPlante totaled 259 punt yards on seven attempts, including a long of 45 yards, with three landing inside the 20-yard line. Shpak handled the kickoff duties and went 4-4 in PATs. Upper Iowa had a pair of missed field goals in the loss.
Following a pair of modest games to begin the year, the Warriors’ captain linebackers really made a difference on Thursday night. Preseason NISC South Defensive Player of the Year, Nick Pridgeon, led the way with seven tackles (2.0 TFL) and forced a fumble while Devon Moore tallied six solo tackles (2.0 TFL). Fellow defensive captain Michael Gomez recorded one sack on the night and Chris Adams sacked the Peacocks’ quarterback twice.
Winona State will face its biggest test of the season next Saturday when the Warriors travel to No. 3 Minnesota State Mankato for a battle of NSIC South heavyweights. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.