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MSU football to host ranked Minnesota State Mavericks

The Beavers return home for a twilight tussle with the 20th-ranked Minnesota State Mavericks this Saturday, Sept. 25, as Minot State looks to try and pull off an upset.

The Mavericks have been a powerhouse program the past 12 season under head coach Todd Hoffner, reaching the playoffs seven times and twice finishing as runner-up national champions (2014, 2019).

The two teams have met four times previously with Minnesota State winning all four matchups, the most recent a 62-13 win for the Mavericks in Minnesota back on Oct. 13, 2018.

Here is a quick look at this weekend’s matchup:

LAST TIME OUT (MSUM): The 20-ranked Minnesota State Mavericks pulled away in the second half at home to hand Bemidji State its first loss of the season, 45-24, last Saturday.

The Mavericks defense proved key, coming up with a pair of interceptions that included a pick-6, 50-yard touchdown return by Ty’Shonan Brooks early in the win.

Kaleb Sleezer added 114 yards rushing and a touchdown, while quarterback Hayden Ekern completed 5-of-8 passes for 72 yards and another touchdown for the Mavericks, who broke a 24-24 tie by scoring three touchdowns in the final 20 minutes and holding the Beavers to just 53 yards during that stretch to ice the victory.

LAST TIME OUT (MSU): Minot State fell 48-0 on the road as the day’s momentum changed on the second offensive play from scrimmage for the Beavers when veteran signal-caller Ben Bolinske was sidelined with an injury, shaking up the game plan as redshirt-freshman Dawson Macleary led the way. Macleary finished the day completing 9-of-18 passes for 47 yards for the Beavers, and now is 14-of-29 for 137 yards on the season.

“Obviously they all prepare to play when their number is called but our quarterbacks, each of them has a different skill set which they’re stronger in and so we had a strong game plan that involved Ben and being able to use his legs and his running ability,” Minot State head coach Mike Aldrich said. “So once Dawson went in – not that he can’t run but he’s not as strong in that part of it as Ben is, that changed a lot of what we were calling and what we were trying to accomplish.”

SCOUTING MINNESOTA STATE: Sophomore tailback Kaleb Sleezer sets the tone for the Mavericks as he is averaging 6.3 yards per carry this season, rushing for 282 yards on 46 carries.

That productivity has made it easy on the two-quarterback system that Minnesota State uses, as senior JD Ekowa and redshirt-freshman Hayden Ekern split time under center. Ekowa, who led the Mavericks to the national championship game in 2019, is 21-of-57 passing for 366 yards with one touchdown and has rushed for 62 yards and four more scores. Ekern, who is getting his first taste of collegiate action sharing time with Ekowa, is 19-of-30 passing for 278 yards and two TDs and has ran for 30 yards and a TD, as well.

“That’s something that they’ve done the past couple of years,” Aldrich said of Minnesota State’s two-quarterback system. “At the end of the day, if you get too focused on who that person is at a certain position then you tend to get away from us focusing on ourselves, so we don’t want to get too caught up in who their trigger man is; as far as for us, can we get lined up right, can we do what we need to do and execute properly and eliminate our mental mistakes.”

The top target for the two Maverick quarterbacks has been 6-6 junior wide receiver Jalen Sample who has 13 catches for 282 yards and a touchdown.

COACH ALDRICH’S KEYS TO THE GAME: “I think the biggest thing is can we keep a calm situation for a young quarterback making his first college start (Dawson Macleary),” Aldrich said, “and do some things that are going to be within his strengthens to be able to have success.

“On the flip side, we still need to be able to put the game into our running backs hands, into Ali’s hands and allow him to create opportunities and create success. Can we get him started early and let our offense really grow off of that.”

LOOKING AHEAD: After another 1-week homestand, Minot State is back on the road next weekend for the “Battle of the Beavers” as they travel to Bemidji State on Oct. 2 for a 2 p.m. kickoff. Then, Minot State returns to the friendly confines of Herb Parker Stadium for Homecoming weekend to host Minnesota State University Moorhead. Kickoff against the Dragons on Oct. 9 is scheduled for 2 p.m.

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