By Tyler Buckentine
Free Press Staff Writer
Todd Hoffner expected the Concordia-St. Paul football team to come into Blakeslee Stadium and give his Minnesota State team its best effort Saturday, so he wasn’t surprised when the Golden Bears had the Mavericks on the ropes. It’s likely he expected a different outcome though.
Concordia upset No. 11 MSU 28-26 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference game before 4,264 fans. It was the second time in the series history that MSU lost to Concordia.
“They didn’t surprise me at all, we knew they were going to come out and compete,” Hoffner said. “Anytime you lose a close game, it’s tough. This kind of loss can send a team in a downward spiral or we can fight back hard.”
The Mavericks had a chance to take a one-point lead with 33 seconds left in the game but Sam Brockshus’ 40-yard field goal attempt went straight into the MSU offensive line and Concordia was able to run out the clock.
“We have to keep moving and put this one behind us,” said MSU running back Taylor Brookins.
Brookins had a career game, rushing 22 times for 183 yards — seventh best in MSU history for rushing yards in a game — and three touchdowns.
“Our offensive line had a great push all game and I just went off that,” Brookins said. “Offense takes time to get clicking and once it does, you start moving. I wouldn’t be anywhere without the offensive line and my blockers down field.”
Brookins gave the Mavericks a 7-0 lead 4:16 into the game when he powered through the line from 1-yard out. After the Golden Bears tied the score early in the second quarter on a 10-yard Zach Hovey touchdown catch from Spencer Ohm, Brookins put MSU back on top with his longest carry — a 55-yard touchdown run down the Concordia sideline. Brockshus’ extra point attempt was blocked.
“Taylor is a downhill runner and he hit the holes well,” Hoffner said. “He has the speed to take it the distance and he proved that.”
The Golden Bears took a 14-13 halftime lead after Ohm hit Charles Gilbert on a 41-yard TD pass that landed in Gilbert’s hands after MSU cornerback Andre LaGrone tipped the ball on a diving effort at the goal line.
Concordia threatened to increase its lead before the half when it drove 75 yards only to fumble on the MSU 6-yard line. Bryan Schmid recovered the fumble for MSU.
“That was huge because it kept us within striking distance because we were down a point,” Hoffner said. “The defense turned them down and got a turnover which was crucial.”
Concordia’s offense had the MSU defense on the run in the third quarter, too, as Ohm continued to chip away at the Mavericks with short passes to running back Sam Campbell that got the Golden Bears positive yardage each time. Campbell was Concordia’s leading receiver with 85 yards on 10 catches.
“It was disappointing because we knew (Campbell) was a big part of their game plan coming in,” said MSU linebacker Matt McQuiston. “As linebackers, we need to get to the running back before the line gets to us.”
Concordia scored on its first two possessions of the second half — once on a 1-yard sneak by back-up quarterback James Patterson and again on a 6-yard pass from Ohm to Hayden Vavra.
Brookins scored on a 36-yard run between Concordia’s third-quarter touchdowns to help the Mavericks keep pace. The Mavericks tried for the two-point conversion but MSU quarterback Will Brogan’s pass failed.
Trailing by two possessions in the first minute of the fourth quarter, Brogan hit a wide-open Cody Rose from 54 yards to put the Mavericks within two points. MSU got the ball with 3:51 left in the game and drove 57 yards to set Brockshus up for the go ahead field goal at the Golden Bears’ 27-yard line.
Brockshus’ kick hit an MSU lineman, then touched a Concordia player and the Mavericks recovered the ball inside the 20. The officials discussed the play and rewarded Concordia the ball because the play was dead when it touched the MSU player first.
“It hurts but we’re going to watch film tomorrow and move on,” McQuiston said. “We can’t dwell on it.”
The Mavericks (3-1, 2-1 in NSIC) face Winona State at 6 p.m. Saturday in Winona.