WAYNE, Neb. - After being held to 32 yards in total offense in its Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference debut, Minot State University was hoping to have a much better showing in the Beavers' first conference road game Saturday.
MSU put up 278 yards of total offense and had the Wayne State College faithful on edge, but the host Wildcats (2-0) scored a late touchdown to seal the deal in a 20-6 decision at Cunningham Field.
The Beavers' defense fared well against a Wildcat offense that racked up more than 560 yards last week in a 49-6 win at Minnesota State-Moorhead.
Minot State University freshman running back Randel Barber tries to evade Wayne State College linebacker Nick Monzu during WSC’s 20-6 win Saturday in Wayne, Neb. Photo courtesy of MSU Sports Information.
"We got after things well," MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. "We don't get a lot of respect because we're the new guy in the conference, but we don't have a bad football team. We made a couple of mistakes and they made a couple of plays, but I thought our effort was good today."
The Beavers (0-2) kept the Wildcats (2-0) out of the end zone on all but one play in the first half, when Nate Most hit Adam Stark on a post route for a 47-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter. The score was sandwiched between field goals of 21 and 35 yards by Max Martin, giving WSC a 13-0 lead at intermission.
MSU was unable to get past the WSC 45-yard line in the first half, but took advantage of a 20-yard punt return by freshman Wayne Peters and a Wildcat personal foul to set up at the Wildcats' 37-yard line.
Three plays later, the Wildcat defense came up with one of three MSU turnovers when Nick Lewis intercepted freshman Zac Cunha's pass at the WSC 10-yard line, ending the Beavers' first serious drive.
MSU put a solid drive together late in the third quarter, moving the ball from their own 30 to the opposite 35 by the end of the period. They marched inside the 2-yard line and passed on a field-goal opportunity which, in retrospect, Rudolph wishes he had taken.
"I'm still kind of kicking myself because I felt we needed the points and I didn't think a field goal was going to help us," he said. "I thought we needed six there, and if I had to do it over again, I might have done it different."
Senior running back Blake Eggl was stuffed on the fourth-down play by WSC linebacker Jared Curry.
A 62-yard punt by All-American Randy Weich left the Beavers with another long field with 11:04 left.
Peters caught a 30-yard pass down to the WSC 16-yard line and Cunha converted a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-short to keep the drive alive. Three plays later, Cunha found Peters alone in the back corner of the end zone for the Beavers' first touchdown of the day with 7:32 remaining.
"I thought, after we scored, if we get them pinned deep that it would give us a chance," Rudolph said.
Wayne State chewed up the clock on a 15-play, 75-yard drive that ended on Nick Pulscher's 1-yard plunge with 1:05 left, sealing the deal for the Wildcats.
"We were able to complete more balls, and our quarterback put us in some better situations," Rudolph said. "We still didn't protect (the quarterback) well, but you have to give their defense a lot of credit. They have some formidable dudes up front, and they didn't give us a whole lot of time."
Cunha, in his first collegiate start, finished 17-of-36 for 209 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Peters caught seven balls for 67 yards and senior Kirk Mason had four catches for 66 yards. Eggl led the ground attack with 49 yards on 18 carries.
The Beavers host fellow NSIC newcomer University of Sioux Falls on Saturday for homecoming weekend at 2:30 p.m. The Cougars are a surprising 2-0 after upsetting preseason-ranked St. Cloud State and blowing out Moorhead to open the season.
"We just have to keep getting better," Rudolph said. "We have three new wideouts and a quarterback that grew a lot today, and we just have to keep growing up and grow a little faster."