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Turnovers plague MSU in 28-20 loss to Augustana

Garrick Hodge/MDN Minot State wide receiver Lavante Bushnell (14) shakes off a tackle during a college football game Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium in Minot.

This is a game Minot State will want back.

After taking a 20-14 lead into halftime, the MSU football team committed two costly turnovers in the second half and were outscored 14-0, eventually falling to Augustana University 28-20 Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium.

“It sucks to lose,” MSU coach Mike Aldrich said. “Especially in a game where we controlled the first half. In the second half, that third quarter didn’t go the way that it should have. We battled back to have a chance at the end, but we have to learn from it. If we’re going to be better than another team, we’re going to have to learn to close it out.”

Augie took a quick 7-0 lead on the opening series, but MSU responded with a two-play, 71-yard scoring drive capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Zac Cunha to Lavante Bushnell.

On MSU’s second series, Cunha converted a 3rd-and-17, finding Bushnell on a post pattern for a 31-yard touchdown strike, giving MSU a 14-7 advantage.

Garrick Hodge/MDN A swarm of Minot State defenders make a tackle.

“We were just ready to go,” Bushnell said. “The offense was clicking this whole week at practice. Our goal is to score, so every time we have a chance to do that, that’s what we want to do.”

Augustana tied the game on a 31-yard bomb from quarterback Ryan Rubley to Nickel Meyers, making it a 14-14 game at the end of the first quarter.

Beavers cornerback Kiante Goudeau put his team ahead by jumping an out route and intercepting Rubley’s pass for a pick-six. Following a missed PAT, MSU led 20-14 at halftime.

“I saw the quarterback stare down the receiver,” Goudeau said. “Coach A called the perfect play, we were in cover two, and I just jumped it as soon as he let it go.”

The Vikings took the lead back on their first possession of the third quarter, with Rudolh Sinflorant capping off a five-play, 57-yard drive with a three-yard run.

Garrick Hodge/MDN MSU quarterback Zac Cunha (16) surveys the passing lanes.

MSU started at its own 22 and drove to the Augie 35 on its next drive. On 3rd-and-6, Cunha felt pressure in the pocket and threw off his back foot over the middle, right into the arms of Vikings’ defensive back Jordan Determan. Determan returned the interception 75 yards for a touchdown, giving Augie a 28-20 lead with 4:21 remaining in the third quarter.

“I think it was a really big swing play,” Augustana coach Jerry Olszewski said. “The game was in balance a little bit at that point. We had three other chances for picks and just couldn’t get them. But we had quite a bit of adversity today and I’m proud of our defense for responding to a shaky start.”

Minot State had a chance to tie the game late in the fourth quarter, as it drove to the Vikings’ 5-yard line with 5 and a half minutes left. On 2nd-and-goal, Cunha threw a fade pass into the end zone, but it didn’t have much arc to it and was intercepted by Jordan Johnson.

“Turnovers are always costly, that’s the name of the game,” Aldrich said. “That pick-six for them was what sealed the game. So obviously for us we want to control the ball and we stress that in practice. When you turn the ball over, you’re going to lose the game.”

Minot State (0-2) had another chance to tie the game, but were forced into a 4th-and-19. Cunha threw a prayer to Kristopher Bueno who hauled in the pass, but it was well out of bounds, sealing the victory for Augustana (1-1).

“I think today was a microcosm of where we are,” Aldrich said. “We made huge strides from last week and that’s the most important thing. We’re going to come back from those mistakes this week in practice. The great thing about college football is early in the season, you always get another chance to improve and get better.”

Cunha finished 17-of-37 for 275 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Bushnell caught five passes for 86 yards and two touchdowns, Lane Torgerson had five catches for 45 yards and Ryan Fila caught four passes for 85 yards. MSU was outgained 421-334 and had 59 net rushing yards.

Matt Marler, a Minot native, and Bryce Broome each had 11 total tackles, while Donnell Vercher, Kiante Doudeau, Nikko Walker and Justin Gonzales each finished with eight tackles.

For Augie, Rubley completed 19 of 27 passes for 210 yards with a touchdown and an interception while adding 49 rushing yards and a rushing touchdown. Sinflorant and Ryan Bradberry each had 60 rushing yards and Trevor DeSchepper caught seven passes for 73 yards.

MSU is back in action with a road contest next week against Southwest Minnesota State.

Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge.