By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Sam Brockshus’ day couldn’t have started much worse, wildly hooking a 22-yard attempt at the end of Minnesota State’s opening drive.
Just three hours later Saturday, he was being mobbed by teammates, having just connected on a 20-yard field goal in the second overtime that ended a 34-31 victory over Southwest Minnesota State at Blakeslee Stadium.
“I looked at it as a chance to redeem myself,” Brockshus said. “I probably thought about that (first miss) too long; I was down the rest of the first quarter. But I wasn’t thinking about that at the end.”
Brockshus’ winning field goal ended a dramatic comeback for the Mavericks, who trailed 24-10 with 7:33 remaining against a Mustangs’ team that had won just twice in six Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference games.
“I couldn’t be prouder the way our kids responded to adversity,” coach Aaron Keen said. “When we watch the film of this, it wasn’t our best football, but to be champions, you sometimes have to overcome tough situations. To see our kids execute at the end and come away with a win, it was very exciting.”
The Mavericks’ first possession lasted 13 plays and covered 72 yards, but a Brockshus’ 22-yard field goal attempt went wide, stealing some early momentum. The Mustangs took the lead on a 75-yard pass, but the Mavericks answered with a 36-yard field goal by Brockshus, who became the fourth player in program history to score more than 200 points in his career.
After Southwest added a field goal late in the second quarter to add to the lead, Minnesota State went 71 yards in 11 plays, taking less than two minutes, to get the tying touchdown. The drive included a pass interference penalty on third-and 25 and a 32-yard, one-handed catch by Adam Thielen, setting up Andy Pfeiffer’s 4-yard run with 10 seconds remaining.
In the second half, the Mavericks gained some yards but couldn’t penetrate the Mustangs’ 25. Dean caught a 3-yard scoring pass in the third quarter, and Gannon Moore’s 24-yard run midway through the fourth quarter that made it 24-10.
“Our mood in the huddle was the same all day,” Thielen said. “We knew what we had to do. We don’t say much, we just do our jobs.”
Minnesota State showed some urgency on the next drive, going 66 yards in four plays, with Jon Wolf scoring on a 6-yard run..
Southwest moved the ball to midfield but had to punt, giving the ball back to the Mavericks at the 30 with 1:59 to play. Wolf threw four passes to Thielen, the final one covering 8 yards for the touchdown, and Brockshus’ PAT tied the game with 39 seconds to play.
“When you have the No. 1 defense in the country and an outstanding kicker, I’ll rely on them to win the game,” Keen said. “I thought we had some momentum, so I’ll take the (PAT) every time there. I’m not a proponent of gambling when I feel that way.”
On the first play of overtime, Pfeiffer scored on a 25-yard run, but the Mustangs answered with eight plays that ended up with an 8-yard touchdown pass, kicking the PAT to force a second overtime.
The Mustangs got the ball first in the second extra period. On fourth-and-1, it looked like Southwest would try a go-ahead field goal, but after a timeout, the Mustangs decided to go, dropping a short pass that would have gained a first down.
“That gave us a chance to stop them with no points,” linebacker Marcus Hall-Oliver said. “I was glad they took a chance, and we wanted to show tht we could stop them.”
The Mavericks answered with four plays that moved the ball to the 2, where Brockshus kicked the winning field goal. It was similar to a game against Wayne State during his freshman season in 2010, when he missed a short kick early and redeemed himself with the winner in overtime.
“I thought a lot about that day,” Brockshus said. “I’d been there before and made it.”
The Mavericks ended up with 469 yards of offense, though 188 yards came in the fourth quarter and two overtimes. Thielen had career highs with 11 catches for 167 yards, while Wolf, returning after missing two games with a sprained ankle, rushed for 45 yards and passed for 239 yards.
The Mustangs gained 383 yards, with 176 yards rushing, the most allowed by the Mavericks’ defense this season.
“You’re never mad about a win,” said Hall-Oliver, who tied with safety Earl Brooks with a team-leading eight tackles. “We gained a lot of respect for Southwest. They executed, and we didn’t.”
The Mavericks (7-0, 3-0 in Northern Sun South Division) plays its next two games on the road, starting Saturday at Winona State (6-1, 3-0).