The Minot State University football team went deep into its playbook on Homecoming Saturday, scoring on a 63-yard halfback pass and converting a first down on a fake punt.
It wasn't enough to overcome the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) and senior receiver Jeremiah Oates.
Oates exploded for 173 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns to lead the Cougars (3-0) to a 42-20 win over MSU at Herb Parker Stadium.
University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) junior receiver Carrington Hanna hauls in a touchdown pass, one of his five receptions, during the Cougars’ 42-20 win over Minot State University on Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium.
The 6-foot-3 Oates caught six passes for 126 yards and scored on touchdowns of 50, seven and 37 yards. Junior wideout Carrington Hanna added five catches for 88 yards and a score as USF senior quarterback Taylor Perkins completed 19-of-36 passes for 287 yards and four touchdowns.
"I was able to get behind the defense a lot," Oates said. "Carrington - he's pretty fast too - he got behind the defense on his touchdown. I think it was our speed, but our line blocking helped a lot. If our line doesn't block, we don't have time to get down the field."
USF's deep passing game didn't work immediately, but it was clear the Cougars wanted to take shots down the field. Perkins was just 1-of-5 after the first quarter, as both defenses stood firm on the game's opening few drives.
MSU (0-3) broke the scoreless tie with less than a minute remaining in the first quarter when senior tailback Blake Eggl faked a sweep and hit a streaking Wayne Peters down the right sideline for a touchdown. Peters, a junior wide receiver, finished with six catches for 107 yards.
USF responded with 24 consecutive points, including 17 in the second quarter. Oates scored all three of his touchdowns in that span.
"We just didn't make plays," MSU senior safety John Denne said. "We knew exactly what they were gonna do. They did it to a 'T' and we just couldn't do it. Three or four plays (and) it was a whole different game."
The Beavers got back into the game in the third quarter with back-to-back passing touchdowns. On 3rd-and-10 with less than 11 minutes in the frame, freshman quarterback Zac Cunha hit junior receiver Glyn Borel with a short pass over the middle and he ran untouched into the end zone.
After two stops by the MSU defense, the offense scored again with 3:39 in the third quarter. Freshman Porter Sturm hauled in a 15-yard Cunha pass against one-on-one coverage. MSU pulled within 24-20 with the score, but the Cougars blocked the point-after attempt and ran it into the end zone for a two-point conversion.
The Cougars scored 16 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull away. Oates had an 11-yard catch on a 3rd-and-8 on USF's first scoring drive of the quarter, and Hanna scored on the next play.
The Beavers drove to USF territory on the ensuing drive, but turned the ball over on downs. USF senior linebacker Matt White batted down a Cunha pass on a 4th-and-6 play.
"We put some points on the board in the third quarter and made a game out of it," MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. "In the fourth (quarter), we needed that fourth down. You didn't wanna get into that situation if you didn't have to, but the fourth-down play obviously was a critical one."
Cunha finished 18-of-39 for 207 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. Borel had 99 yards receiving, and Eggl led the Beavers with 44 rushing yards in addition to his touchdown toss.
MSU's 20 points exceeded their scoring output (16 points) from their first two games combined.
"That's the most physical team we've seen," USF coach Jed Stugart said. "We feel like it was a battle. I don't know if the scoreboard truly showed that."
MSU sophomore Casey Weinmann finished with nine tackles to lead the Beavers for the second straight game. MSU travels to Fayette, Iowa, to play Upper Iowa (1-2) at 3 p.m. Saturday.