By Chad Courrier
---- — DULUTH — Nathan Hancock's heart dropped, and Minnesota State coach Aaron Keen just looked down at his play-calling sheet.
It looked as though Minnesota Duluth had scored the go-ahead touchdown on an 11-yard pass with 41 seconds to play.
But wait! A flag?
Holding was called on the Bulldogs, setting up another play from the 16. After an incompletion, the Minnesota Duluth quarterback rolled out alone for what seemed like 10 seconds on fouirth down, lofting a pass into the end zone. Safety Jordan Hale came across the play, and with a broken hand wrapped in a cast, he swatted the pass away to preserve the 21-17 victory.
"It was like we got a second life right there," Hancock said. "The defensive line was playing like maniacs, and we just had to keep the receivers in front of us. To cover guys for that long is tough."
In a game between two of the best teams in Division II, No. 2-rated Minnesota State ended No. 7 Minnesota Duluth's 41-game home winning streak in front of 5,723 fans, the fourth-largest crowd in stadium history. The game was heavily hyped and lived up to those expectations.
"To break a 41-game streak of any kind is tough," Keen said. "At times, it was an ugly game. We didn't play our best, and I'm sure they'll say they didn't play their best. But when you have two teams who pla great defense, you have to pick your spots.
"I'd like to see us produce a little more, but getting a win here is very exciting. We had to overcome some adversity, and I was proud of our effort."
The Mavericks were in trouible early. Minnesota Duluth scored on the first play of the second quarter to lead 10-0. The Mavericks took over on their own 26, needing to at least get a couple first downs to calm the momentum.
Three short passes, and five runs by Connor Thomas resulted in a touchdown, with Jon Wolf passing to Kyle Riggott on third-and-goal from the 7. Sam Brockshus' PAT gave the Mavericks some life.
"I don't know if we changed philosophy on play-calling, but you kind of get a feel for what's working," Keen said. "When we got our run game going, the offensive line feels better, and Jon Wolf completed some tough passes. He may not have had a big night statistically, but he came through when we needed it."
The Mavericks got another stop and took over at their own 24. This time, the Mavericks went 76 yards on seven rushes, with Wolf scoring on a 14-yard run.
"Connor Thomas was a beast all night," Wolf said. "We were getting 10 yards a pop, so you keep doing it."
Minnesota Duluth had an impressive 90-yard drive to start the second half to regain the lead, but the Mavericks again had the answer. Following a fumble recovery by Hancock, the first of three straight turnovers by the Bulldogs, the Mavericks connected on a 34-yard pass from Wolf to Dennis Carter to go up 21-17.
"Our defense didn't play well early," said Hancock, who also had an interception and forced fumble in the third quarter. "We started tackling better and flying to the ball. That's Maverick defense."
Brockshus took a chance on a 50-yard field goal, but into the wind, it came up short. Minnesota Duluth had the last possession, going 11 plays before finishing with the fourth-down incompletion.
"This is the biggest win of my career," Wolf said. "We broke their home winning streak, and they were still undefeated. Everybody is pumped."
The Mavericks had 269 yards of offense, with Wolf rushing for 72 yards and passing for 115 yards. The Mavericks had the advantage in two key stats: No turnovers to thre for the Bulldogs, and only two penalties on Minnesota State.
The Mavericks (3-0) hosts Northern State at 2 p.m. Saturday, while Minnesota Duluth (2-1) plays at Wayne State.
"We always say it's just another game," Hancock said. "but every knows when its Duluth week. We had a great week of practoce, and it showed on the field tonight."