MOORHEAD, MINN. (MSUM Athletics) — The Minnesota State University Moorhead football team opened the season with a 34-10 win over Minnesota Crookston in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference action Thursday night at Scheels Field in Moorhead, Minn.
MSUM (1-0) has now won four straight season openers and also retained the State Farm Traveling Trophy for a fifth straight year.
The Dragon defense held UMC to just 204 yards of total offense and forced two turnovers. UMC had just 79 yards passing. The defense also recorded five sacks. Senior linebacker Casey Paskey had 12 tackles and a half sack for MSUM. Junior cornerback Deiondre Taylor had nine tackles, a forced fumble and an interception. Sophomore defensive lineman Darius Woods-Steichen had two sacks while sophomore defensive tackle Hunter Sall and freshman defensive end Gerald Smith each had one.
"It's a credit to our defensive coaches and players — playing against an offense that they've never shown on film," MSUM head coach Steve Laqua said. "To be able to get that gameplan done and communicated is a really good sign of how much they are on the same page."
Junior quarterback Bryce Meehl, making his first collegiate start, was 15-of-30 for 215 yards and two scores. He was not sacked and did not turn the ball over.
Junior running back Herman Gray rushed for 117 yards and a score while Zach Simons rushed for 89 yards and a score. Sophomore receiver Jake Richter had five catches for 123 yards and two scores while junior receiver Zach Sweep had three catches for 54 yards.
"Offensively there were some positives. Jake Richter made some big plays, Bryce made some big third-down throws and the run by Herman to start the game is what we needed," Laqua said. "There are a lot of things offensively we've got to fix. We shot ourselves in the foot too many times. We have to find a little more consistency in the running game. Our pass game was pretty good; there were a couple of drops we need to get rid of. Bryce managed the game really well and played within the offense."
Freshman punter Blake Ochsendorf averaged 39 yards per punt and placed two inside the 20, including one late in the half to set up a touchdown. Senior kicker Joe Tjosvold was 2-for-4 on field goal attempts.
Gray's 53-yard run put MSUM on the board in the first half, part of the 99 yards he had in the first quarter alone. Ochsendorf's 49-yard punt was downed at the 1-yard line, and the defense forced a quick three-and-out. Sweep returns a short punt 20 yards to set the Dragons up and Meehl hit Richter on a third and goal from six yards out to make it 14-3 with 35 seconds left in the half.
Tjosvold hit on field goals of 33 and 37 yards in the second half. Simons added a 12-yard touchdown run while Richter caught a three-yard pass from Meehl to account for the MSUM scoring.
"We didn't turn the ball over in a season-opening game, that's huge," Laqua said. "If we are going to win games it will be because we take care of the football on offense."
MSUM is at Minnesota Duluth on Sept. 8.
Steve d'Eustachio Stat of the Game: With tonight's win, the Dragons currently have five game winning streaks against Minnesota Crookston and Minot State. The last time the Dragons had simultaneous winning streaks of at least five was in 1997. The Dragons scored a 36-17 home win over Bemidji State on Oct. 4, 1997 for their fifth straight win over the Beavers. Five Saturdays later in Moorhead, Grover Moore rushed for a then NSIC record 305 yards helping the Dragons to a 50-14 victory over Minnesota Morris for the Dragons' 12th straight win over the Cougars.