Dragons Off to First 6-3 Start in 19 Years After Beating Minot State, 51-26

MOORHEAD, Minn. (MSUM Athletics) -- The Minnesota State University Moorhead football team put up season highs in points and yards in a 51-26 win over Minot State in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference action Saturday at Schools Field in Moorhead, Minn.

The Dragons' 6-3 start is their best since 1999, and also clinches a third winning season in four years for the Dragons under Head Coach Steve Laqua. Minot State fell to 1-8 on the season. The Dragons have won the past six meetings with the Beavers.

Junior quarterback Bryce Meehl was 19-of-30 passing for 288 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 55 yards and two scores on eight carries.

"Bryce did a great job managing the game and moving the ball with his feet," MSUM head coach Steve Laqua said.

Sophomore receiver Jake Richter had seven catches for 97 yards and a score while sophomore receiver Grady Bresnahan had six catches for 97 yards and a score. Bresnahan also had a big day with punt returns, recording 120 yards on five returns, including a 62-yard return that set up a touchdown in the second half.

A balanced ground game proved key for MSUM. Junior running back Herman Gray had 15 rushes for 72 yards and a score while sophomore running back Zach Simons had 16 carries for 170 yards and two scores.

The Dragon defense recorded six sacks, led two from sophomore defensive end Connor Schultz with two. Junior linebacker Devante Delbrun had 1.6 sacks, while senior linebacker Michael Strand led with eight tackles, including 2.0 for loss. Sophomore defensive end Darius Woods-Steichen had another sack.

Meehl's 22-yard scramble on third and long set up the Dragons' first score, as Simons found the end zone from 1-yard out to give the Dragons a 7-0 lead with 7:48 left in the first. The lead grew to 10-0 in the second when Joe Tjosvold converted a 29-yard field goal.

Minot State cut the lead to 10-7 but a solid 14-play, 75-yard drive was the Dragons' answer with Meehl hitting Richter from seven yards out to make it 17-7. The Beavers took advantage of a big quick return to add another score to cut the lead to 17-14 with 4:23 left in the half.

In the final minute of the half, Bresnahan recorded a 27-yard punt return after the Beavers were stopped inside their 10-yard line. That punt return brought the Dragons to the Minot 25-yard line and a few plays later, Meehl scored from 15 yards out to make it 24-14, which was the halftime score.

A big 40-yard pass from Meehl to Sweep set the Dragons up with a score to open the second half. Meehl connected with Bresnahan for an 9-yard score to make it 31-14.

Minot cut the gap to 31-21 thanks to a 45-yard touchdown pass but the Dragons responded with a 7-play, 75-yard drive which was capped off by Gray's 14-yard touchdown. Minot State got no closer the rest of the night. Simons and Meehl each faded their second rushing touchdowns of the game to help MSUM put the game out of reach.

MSUM rushed for 269 yards and threw for 291, and held the Beavers to 116 passing yards.

"We made adjustments within the game and finished strong," Laqua said. "It was good to get a lot of guys in and see different guys making plays."

MSUM heads north to face rival Bemidji State in the Battle for the Axe on Saturday, Nov. 3 in Bemidji.

"I'm pleased that our program was able to push ourselves to 6-3," Laqua said "We're looking forward to a big matchup with Bemidji State for the Axe next week."