Mavericks put the clamps to the Bulldogs with big second half
Minnesota Duluth football coach Bubba Schweigert joked last week that the UMD grounds crew might need to turn the lights on for Saturday's North Central Conference game against Minnesota State-Mankato, even though the contest featuring two pass-h...
Minnesota Duluth football coach Bubba Schweigert joked last week that the UMD grounds crew might need to turn the lights on for Saturday's North Central Conference game against Minnesota State-Mankato, even though the contest featuring two pass-happy teams started at 1 p.m.
While the lights never came on, it took 1 hour, 45 minutes just to get to halftime. With the teams combining for 21 penalties and all those passes -- including several that fell incomplete to stop the clock -- it took 3:26 to complete.
Both teams have a penchant for passing, but Minnesota State outplayed UMD in the second half by scoring 21 unanswered points on three Ben King touchdown passes to win 35-14 before 2,982 spectators at Malosky Stadium.
The teams combined for a whopping 121 passes -- just 10 off the NCAA Division II record -- and completed 69 of them.
"I would have liked a few more completions than attempts," joked King, the Mavericks senior quarterback who became the school's all-time passing leader after completing 34 of 55 passes for 341 yards and four touchdowns. "I don't think we changed up anything scheme-wise in the second half, but we just did a better job of matching their intensity. The record is nice, but that never really even crossed my mind. All I cared about was getting the win."
The game was tied 14-14 at the break, but the Bulldogs (3-4 overall, 2-3 NCC) felt like they should have had a lead after intercepting King three times in the first two quarters. The key play in the half occurred midway through the second quarter when the Bulldogs failed to convert a fourth-and-inches play at their own 31, leading to the Mavericks' second score.
The second half was a different story, however, with Minnesota State (4-3, 2-2) taking advantage of its opportunities to gain control early in the third quarter. Passing almost exclusively, the Mavericks gave the Bulldogs ample opportunities to get back into the game by using little time off the clock and turning the ball over on King's fourth interception, but their defense stiffened as the Bulldogs continued to misfire. UMD turned the ball over three times in the second half and had 10 penalties for 84 yards in the game.
"We had been doing a good job with penalties all year, but not [Saturday]," Schweigert said. "It might be a three-score game at the end of the day, but a couple plays made all the difference. We had to get out in front when given the opportunity, and then we just made too many mistakes in the second half, and you can't do that when you're going against a good football team."
The Bulldogs had two quarterback sacks, but found getting to King difficult, with the senior hurting the Bulldogs with 11 rushes for 55 yards. UMD safety Jim Johnson, who had two interceptions, said stopping the Mavericks' spread offense was difficult, even though he sees a similar version of it every day in practice.
"We knew they were going to complete some passes. That's what they do," Johnson said. "We wanted to force them to dink-and-dunk the ball and eventually make a mistake. It's tough to keep the quarterback from running with it. The linemen are trying to pressure him while the defensive backs and linebackers are busy trying to lock on guys in coverage. Sometimes that leaves open space to run underneath."
Minnesota State won for only its second time in its last eight games against UMD. The win was particular gratifying for Mavericks' coach Jeff Jamrog, who said last week's 38-34 homecoming setback to second-ranked North Dakota was the most gut-wrenching of his coaching career. His team had to work overtime on Saturday to give him some relief.
"This was a big win for our program, and we needed something like this after last week," Jamrog said. "I told those refs after the game that if they are in a union, they better be getting some extra pay after this one."
JON NOWACKI covers college sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached weeknights at (218) 723-5305 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org