WSC football left Minnesota with a win

Austin Svehla, Staff Writer

Wildcat football came away with their first victory of the 2018 season last Saturday, defeating Southwest Minnesota State 23-14 in Marshall, Minnesota.

The win improved Wayne State’s record to 1-1 on the young season and dropped the Mustangs to 0-2. The ‘Cats were not particularly sharp, turning the ball over five times, but a potent rushing attack led by sophomore running back Marlon Warren and excellent overall defense provided enough for Wayne State to grind out a win.

The Wildcat defense provided a stout performance on Saturday, limiting SMSU to just 142 yards of total offense, with 137 through the air and a minimal 5 yards rushing. Defensive coordinator Scott McLaughlin was pleased with how his defense provided a solid team effort throughout Saturday’s contest.

“Our front four got after the quarterback. We ended up with eight sacks, so that was awesome getting that production from those guys. The back seven were making some plays on the ball and breaking up some passes,” McLaughlin said.

The defense’s solid play forced SMSU to become one-dimensional offensively, forcing the Mustangs to become a pass-heavy offense as the game progressed.

Despite turning the ball over five times on offense, Offensive coordinator Brian Frana saw some positives on Saturday that should help the ‘Cats moving forward.

“Marlon [Warren] has come into his own. We knew we were going to give him the ball a bunch. He’s a downhill guy that runs hard and our offensive line did a good job of creating some creases for him,” Frana said.

Warren was a workhorse for the Wildcats, totaling 34 carries for 147 yards.

The ’Cats totaled 417 yards on offense, with 291 of those yards coming through the air from quarterback Aaron Bleil on 25 of 39 passing. Each of his three touchdown passes were to different receivers (Cole Wemhoff, Conner Paxton, Nate Rogers). Bleil now has 646 yards, 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions through the season’s first two games.

The Wildcats return home this week to face off against Augustana Univeristy, who come into this Saturday’s matchup with a 1-1 record. It will be a matchup in which the ’Cats will need to be sharp on both sides, as the visiting Vikings have put up a total of 84 points through their first two contests.

“We definitely need to hold on to the football,” Frana said. “We’ve had nine turnovers in the first two games. We’ve won one of them and we had a chance to win the other one so definitely taking care of the ball will be important.”

McLaughlin simply wants his defense to be on their toes and ready for whatever is thrown their direction.

“They have unbelievable athleticism. We definitely have our work cut out for us,” McLaughlin said. “We just have to do a great job of putting some pressure on the quarterback and getting him tackled. If we can tackle well and put some hits on him, it will give us a solid chance to stay with them.”

WSC will face NSIC conference opponent Augustana University this Saturday at 6 p.m. in Wayne.