Football team hits sour note with Minnesota State

The ‘Cats were overwhelmed, but didn’t go down easy in the second half

Hunter Kiburz, Staff Writer

The Wayne State Wildcats football team lost its fifth game of the year to the No. 1 team in the nation, Minnesota State, with the final score 27-48.

“We started the game out as poorly as anyone could script,” said Dan McLaughlin, head coach. “We turned the ball over in our own end of the field on consecutive possessions, giving them great field position and opportunities to score. It was 17-0 before we realized we were in a football game.”

Two early first-half turnovers allowed Minnesota State to build an early lead, 20-0, with 10:20 left in the second quarter. The Wildcats finally made progress with a couple minutes left in the first half. Houston Huss blocked a punt and recovered it at the MSU 10-yard line.

Sophomore Aaron Bleil threw a touchdown pass to Willie Walton on the very next play. MSU responded with a touchdown of its own with a 27-yard completed touchdown pass to Ty Dennis. Wayne State wasn’t done before half either. Bleil threw another touchdown pass to Walton, which made the score 27-14 at halftime.

Wayne State was able to get on the board first and converted on a 23-yard field goal by Ethan Knudson to make the score 27-17.

“Not the way to start against the No. 1 team in the country, but our kids stayed composed and fought back,” McLaughlin said.

The Wildcats defense showed up in the third quarter, not allowing MSU to score. Ethan Knudson later kicked another field goal making the score 27-20 at the end of the third.

Wayne State tied the game with a 45-yard touchdown pass to senior Nate Rogers. The touchdown pass capped off a six-play 80-yard drive for the Wildcats.

“We stuck together and the guys stepped up and made big plays in a big game,” said Walton, sophomore wide receiver. “Honestly, I know we can play with any team in this conference and in all of Division 2. We have a lot of heart and it didn’t matter if they were ranked No. 1 or not. We were ready to give them a fight.”

MSU rallied with 21 straight points in the fourth quarter to beat Wayne State. The score might not show that it was a close game, but all three quarters and the beginning of the fourth the game was up for grabs for either team.

The Wildcats will face Upper Iowa on Nov. 11 at Bob Cunningham Field in Wayne at 1 p.m.

“It’s our last home game, Senior Day, and the opportunity to go out with a winning record,” McLaughlin said. “It won’t be hard to get focused on the game this week.”