Owatonna ended up winning on a last-play field goal, but both teams were able to leave the field feeling good about the future. If things go right for both teams, they could meet again in a state-championship game, but there are no guarantees.
Even if it happened, the teams would be hard-pressed to duplicate excitement of this contest.
It’s tough to say how far you’d drive to see a good college football game. Three hours to TCF Bank Stadium seems like too much for most of the games played in the history of that building.
But last Saturday, an 8-hour round trip to Duluth was a small inconvenience for the 2 1/2 hours of quality small-college football.
Minnesota State was the No. 2 team in Division II, but there’s still a championship aura about Minnesota Duluth, which was ranked No. 7. The Bulldogs had won 41 straight regular-season home games, and despite the Mavericks’ success last season, the Bulldogs still seemed like a slight favorite.
The Bulldogs were the better team early, going up 10-0, but the Mavericks got their ground attack going in the second quarter to lead 14-10 at halftime. Minnesota Duluth had a 90-yard drive to open the third quarter, but then the Mavericks created turnovers on the next three possessions, taking advantage of one short field to go ahead 21-17.
The fourth quarter was scoreless, but that doesn’t mean it lacked drama. The defense made some big plays, while the offenses tried to control the clock and move the ball. Finally, the Bulldogs had their last possession.
Moving smartly down the field in the last 6 minutes, Minnesota Duluth had first-and-goal from the 5 with just over a minute remaining.
Two rushing plays lost six yards, and a false start penalty moved the ball back to the 16.