BISMARCK - Minot State University coach Paul Rudolph said he was speechless after Saturday's game against the University of Mary. To be fair, there wasn't much to say.
MSU had several special-teams gaffes, continued its trend of giving up big plays and got dominated at the line of scrimmage in a 45-10 loss at the MDU Resources Bowl. The win marked the 100th career victory for 15th-year Mary head coach Myron Schulz, who will resign at the end of this season.
The game was played in bouts of rain, with the temperature around 40 degrees and winds gusting up to 25 mph.
Minot State University senior linebacker Chad Marshall (40) tackles University of Mary running back Adam Woroniecki during the Marauders’ 45-10 win Saturday at the MDU Resources Bowl. Photo courtesy of Michael Linnell/MSU sports information.
MSU (1-4) went three-and-out on its first possession and Mary took over at the Beavers' 43-yard line after a blocked punt. Junior running back Dariouse Gravely broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage on the ensuing play and sprinted up the right sideline for a score.
After another MSU three-and-out and short punt, Gravely capped an eight-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to put Mary up 14-0. That advantage ballooned to 35-0 by halftime, continuing MSU's disturbing trend of falling behind by huge margins early in games.
"I don't have any idea anymore how to figure this group of guys out - what we lack and what we're missing," Rudolph said. "They got me. They baffled me today."
Mary (3-2) entered the game averaging just 63 rushing yards per contest, but easily surpassed that total. The Marauders ran for 121 yards in the first half and finished with 174. Gravely led the way with 83 yards on 12 carries.
"Dariouse Gravely ran super hard and our O-line blocked well," Schulz said. "It probably wasn't a big secret that we were trying to run it because we were going into a brisk wind. I'm just happy that our guys executed well. It was a major part of the game because if you have to throw into this (wind) it's challenging."
After beating the Beavers on the ground in the first quarter, the Marauders showcased a quick-strike offense going with the wind in the second. Senior quarterback Craig Bagnell had three TD tosses in the frame - two to junior Nick Jolliffe and one to junior Elby Pope. Those three drives lasted five seconds, 50 seconds and 53 seconds as the Marauders routinely took over with great field position thanks to horrendous special-teams play by MSU.
The Beavers averaged 24 yards per punt in the first half, had one blocked and senior Wayne Peters muffed a punt-return attempt. Pope scored on a play-action, 18-yard post route on the first play after Peters' fumble.
"It's nice when you establish the running game because then the linebackers and secondary guys have to respect it," Bagnell said. "They can't just drop eight guys into coverage. Being able to get a running game going is huge for the passing game and I thought we were able to do a good job of it today."
MSU senior linebacker Chad Marshall, who had a game-high 12 tackles, said the Beavers defense didn't play well enough to keep the sputtering offense in striking distance.
"The defense as a whole, we gotta be more mentally tough," he said. "When those things happen on special teams or the offense doesn't get the ball going, we're the guys that gotta pull them out of the hole. Today we just didn't do that. You could tell from the jump, when those first two or three things went wrong, we just didn't climb back out."
The Beavers showed some life on their final drive of the first half, driving 66 yards to the Mary 25-yard line. Junior receiver Leon LaDeaux hauled in a 19-yard reception over the middle while getting blasted on a helmet-to-helmet hit from Mary freshman Maceo Brown, who was disqualified for the play.
The possession stalled at the edge of the red zone, though, and MSU failed to convert on a fourth-and-12, allowing Mary to run out the remainder of the first half.
MSU finally got on the board with a 32-yard field goal by junior Brian Gutierrez with 8 minutes, 18 seconds remaining in the third quarter. The Beavers drove from their own 40 inside the Mary 5, but a bad snap on third-and-goal forced MSU backward and led to the field-goal attempt.
MSU sophomore quarterback Zac Cunha had a rough day against the blitz-happy Marauders. He was sacked twice, but was routinely flushed out of the pocket and finished 16 of 37 with two interceptions.
"We don't have the biggest, heaviest guys like (Minot State)," Schulz said. "We got fast guys that can rush ya. If we can get a lead that fits right into our hands."
Sophomore running back Randel Barber led the Beavers with 82 rushing yards, most of them coming on a 46-yard scamper in garbage time. Randel scored the Beavers' lone touchdown on a 1-yard run with 1:26 remaining in the game.
With the victory, the Marauders won the first annual "Battle of the Big Lake" and the traveling trophy that is awarded to the winner of the game between in-state rivals.
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.