By Chad Courrier
Free Press Staff Writer
Turnovers allowed Minnesota State to build a big lead in the first half, and turnovers gave Northwest Missouri State a chance to recover in the second.
The final turnover allowed the Mavericks to defeat Northwest Missouri State 38-35 in double overtime in the Super Region 3 semifinals Saturday at Blakeslee Stadium.
“It was like an out-of-body experience,” freshman cornerback Justin Otto said of the interception in double overtime. “I’ve never been in a stiuation like that.
“It was unreal. I didn’t realize I had the ball til I looked up.”
Otto’s interception in the end zone stopped the Bearcats in the second overtime, and Sam Brockshus kicked the winning 27-yard field goal just five plays later, his second overtime game-winner this season, for the program’s first national-tournament home victory.
“I thought it was good, but then everyone started running at me,” Brockshus said. “It took a few minutes to settle in. It was more relief than anything. I’m very happy.”
The game was all about turnovers and momentum. In the first series of the game, Robert Gunderson picked one off at the 22, and six plays later, Andy Pfeiffer bulled in from the 1 for the early 7-0 lead.
The Mavericks added to the lead early in the second quarter, capping an 11-play drive with Jon Wolf’s 5-yard pass to Jeff Burns.
After the third interception of the half, made by defensive lineman Bryan Keys, the Mavericks made it 21-0 on a 1-yard, fourth-down run by Wolf.
“I couldn’t be prouder of our guys,” coach Aaron Keen said. “We played an outstanding first half, but when you play a great football team, you expect them to battle. They certainly did that.”
Northwest Missouri State (10-3) gained early momentum in the third quarter on a blocked punt, setting up a 16-yard scoring drive. Then after a fumble cost the Mavericks field position, the Bearcats took the ensuing punt and went 63 yards in seven plays to make it 21-14.
It appeared the Mavericks got things back on track when Keyvan Rudd hauled in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wolf on the first play of the fourth quarter, but the Bearcats were not done.
Northwest Missouri State responded with a 13-play drive to close within 28-21, then blocked another punt deep in the Minnesota State end. On the first play from the 4, the Bearcats scored the tying touchdown with 7:11 remaining in the game.
The Mavericks committed two fumbles in the final seven minutes, but the defense held, forcing the second overtime this season at Blakeslee Stadium.
The Mavericks took the ball and went 25 yards in four plays, with Pfeiffer scoring again from the 6. Northwest Missouri State responded with a 26-yard pass that tied the game.
In the second overtime, the Bearcats used six plays to take the ball to the 5, but on second down, Otto made the key interception.
“I really believe there’s something special about this team,” Keen said. “They have a tremendous belief in their abilities. When things are going well, they feel good, but when things are going against them, they buckle down and find a way to turn it around.”
Then Pfeiffer ran the ball four times for 15 yards, allowing Brockshus to kick the game-winning field goal on third down.
“It seemed like everyone was in a zone,” Pfeiffer said. “The linemen didn’t say much. Everyone knew what we had to do. We knew (Northwest Missouri State) was physical so it was big that they opened some holes.
“I had both arms around the ball, and I wasn’t making the greatest cuts. I was just trying to hang onto the ball.”
The Mavericks had 394 yards of offense, with 236 yards rushing. Pfeiffer gained 120 yards on 25 carries, while Wolf passed for 158 yards and rushed for 68 as the Mavericks were 6 of 6 on red-zone opportunities and had almost 10 minutes more in possession time.
Northwest Missouri State had 357 yards, with 188 yards rushing. Linebacker Marcus-Hall-Oliver had 10 tackles for the Mavericks, and Chris Schaudt had seven tackles with two sacks, breaking the program’s career sacks record with 26.
“This game is huge for our program,” Keen said. “We won a conference championship, we were 11-0 so we have some rings. But each week, we have a chance to add something and continue to tell the story of this team.”
The Mavericks (12-0) will host the region championship game against Missouri Western at noon Saturday.
Minnesota State football stats
Northwest Missouri State 0-0-14-14-7-0—35
Minnesota State 7-14-0-7-7-3—38
MSU—Andy Pfeiffer 1 run (Sam Brockshus kick), 11:28.
MSU—Jeff Burns 5 pass from Jon Wolf (Brockshus kick), 13:43.
MSU—Wolf 1 run (Brockshus kick), 2:35.
NMSU—Billy Creason 9 run (Todd Aolf kick), 11:25.
NMSU—Joel Gantz 5 pass from Trevor Adams (Adolf kick), 5:08.
MSU—Keyvan Rudd 14 pass from Wolf (Brockshus kick), 15:52.
NMSU—Tyler Shaw 17 pass from Adams (Adolf kick), 8:57.
NMSU—Jordan Simmons 4 run (Adolf kick), 7:11.
MSU—Pfeiffer 6 run (Brockshus kick).
NMSU—Simmons 26 pass from Adams (Adolf kick).
MSU—Brockshus 27 FG.
First downs 21 23
Rushing (att.-yds) 38-188 58-236
Passing (com.-att.-int.) 22-33-4 10-19-1
Passing yards 169 158
Total offense (att.-yds.) 71-357 77-394
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-1
Penalties (no.-yds.) 8-58 4-56
Punting (att.-avg.) 4-36.2 5-24.0
Punt returns (att.-yds.) 2-43 1-1
Kickoff returns (att.-yds.) 5-83 4-39
Possession time 25:11 34:49
Third-down conversions 8-14 8-14
Fourth-down conversions 0-0 1-1
Red-zone chances 4-6 6-6
Sacks by (no.-yds lost) 1-11 3-4
RUSHING: Northwest Missouri State—Simmons 17-96, Adams 12-45, Creason 7-45, Manning 1-2, Shaw 1-0. Minnesota State—Pfeiffer 25-120, Wolf 17-68, Thomas 9-32, Brozovich 5-15, Brookins 1-1.
PASSING: Northwest Missouri State—Adams 22-32-4, 169 yards. Minnesota State—Wolf 10-19-1, 158 yards.
RECEIVING: Northwest Missouri State—Young 6-44, Simmons 4-38, Creason 4-25, Hinchey 3-5, Shaw 2-26, Gantz 2-20, Defeo 1-11. Minnesota State—Thielen 3-62, Duncan 3-28, Burns 2-36, Riggott 1-18, Rudd 1-14.
FIELD GOALS: Minnesota State—Brockshus 1-1 (27).