Wayne State snapped a two-game losing streak Saturday with a 34-28 win over Southwest Minnesota State in Northern Sun Conference football played Saturday in Marshall, Minnesota before a crowd of 3,890 fans at the new SMSU Regional Event Center. With the win, WSC is now 3-2 overall and 2-2 in the NSIC while Southwest Minnesota State slips to 2-3 overall and 2-2 in league play.
After both teams struggled for a good share of the first quarter, Wayne State got on the board with 19 seconds left in the first stanza as Mario Melvin scored on a three-yard run to cap a 12 play, 64 yard drive, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead. The host Mustangs responded on the ensuing drive, marching 77 yards on 10 plays as quarterback Josh Shudlick delivered an 18-yard scoring pass to Wade McDonough to knot the score at 7-7 with 11:16 to play in the first half.
WSC then scored on their next two possessions to build a 17-7 lead. The Wildcats drove 75 yards on just seven plays following SMSU’s score with Frederick Bruno finding the end zone on a six yard scamper to give the ‘Cats a 14-7 lead with 8:06 to go in the second quarter. Following a Mustang fumble, WSC took a 17-7 lead on a Nick Hope 43-yard field goal with 5:20 left in the first half to close out the first half scoring.
Southwest Minnesota State didn’t waste much time to score in the second half as Wayne native Nate Finkey picked off a Silas Fluellen pass and raced 37 yards for a touchdown, cutting the Wildcat lead to 17-14 with 14:46 left in the third quarter. The Wildcats came back on the following drive as Travis Rhone scored on a two-yard run to culminate a 10-play, 72 yard drive, giving Wayne State a 24-14 lead. The Wildcats then used a big interception return to take control of the game midway through the third quarter as senior linebacker Luke Hoffman intercepted a Josh Shudlick pass and sprinted 72 yards for a score, increasing the Wildcat advantage to 31-14 with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter.
The Mustangs scored late in the third quarter as Shudlick connected with McDonough for a second scoring pass, this one covering 15 yards, as SMSU trailed 31-21 with 1:59 to go in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter, Wayne State’s final score came on a Nick Hope 23-yard field goal to increase the Wildcat lead to 34-21 with 8:45 to play. SMSU scored with 1:01 left in the game as Shudlick hit Bret Ballantine on a 14-yard scoring play to make the score 34-28. The Mustangs attempted an onside kick that was recovered by the Wildcats and WSC ran out clock to end the game.
Wayne State outgained Southwest Minnesota State in the contest 411-349. The Wildcats had 189 yards rushing and 222 yards passing while the Mustangs could muster only 10 yards rushing while throwing for 339 yards.
WSC junior quarterback Silas Fluellen completed 21 of 33 passes for 222 yards with two interceptions. Junior wide receiver Logan Masters hauled in a team-high seven catches for 105 yards followed by Robert Perry with six catches for 55 yards. Senior running back Travis Rhone carried the ball 10 times for 77 yards and one touchdown while Mario Melvin contributed 56 yards on 14 attempts with one score.
Linebackers Ryan Reeves and Reno Blomquist each recorded 10 tackles to lead the Wildcats on defense. Luke Hoffman added six stops and a 72-yard interception return for a score. Senior defensive end Tyler Krueger added five tackles with 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. The WSC defense accounted for five sacks totaling 38 yards and had eight tackles for loss worth 42 yards.
Wayne State will be on the road again next weekend as the Wildcats visit travel to Fayette, Iowa for a Northern Sun Conference matchup against Upper Iowa with kickoff set for 1:00 p.m.