MSUM beats St. Cloud State to clinch Mineral Water Bowl berth

MOORHEAD, Minn. (MSUM Athletics) -- The Minnesota State University Moorhead football team is headed to the Mineral Water Bowl for the first time in school history. The Dragons recorded a hard-fought 13-10 win over St. Cloud State to finish the regular season at 8-3, their most wins in a season since 1991.

It is also the Dragons' first win over St. Cloud State since 1983, snapping an 11-game losing streak to the Huskies. The eight victories are the most in a season for MSUM since the Dragons went 10-2 in 1991. The Mineral Water Bowl is MSUM's first postseason contest since 1994, and first for MSUM since moving to NCAA Division II. The Mineral Water Bowl is Dec. 1 in Excelsior Springs, Mo., against an opponent to be determined.

"I'm proud of these kids. It was another gritty effort," MSUM head coach Steve Laqua said. "I'm excited for these kids, we get a chance to be around them for the next three weeks as we prepare for the bowl. They've worked really hard. They deserve the success they're seeing."

In a game played with a below-zero windchill and snow and a 20 mph wind, the Dragons persevered, thanks to a stout effort by their defense. MSUM held St. Cloud State to just 210 yards of total offense, including 95 yards passing and 115 on the ground. Sophomore Shad Vedaa and junior defensive end Matthew Domek each had nine tackles; Domek had two for loss. Senior linebacker Michael Strand had eight tackles, including three for loss, and a forced fumble.

"The defense held up big, and they kept us in it when we were off point offensively," Laqua said. "They kept us in the fight."

Senior kicker Joe Tjosvold connected on two fourth-quarter field goals into the wind — a 25-yarder with 8:06 left to tie the game at 10-10 and his second, a 24-yarder with 59 seconds left, put MSUM in front for good at 13-10.

"He stayed poised," Laqua said. "It was tough elements for the whole field goal operation. All those guys stayed poised."

Junior quarterback Bryce Meehl battled through an injury to complete 12-of-18 passes for 135 yards. He hit Zach Sweep and Jake Richter for key passes in the fourth quarter to set up Tjosvold's field goals. Sweep finished with three catches for 53 yards while Richter had two for 46. Sophomore receiver Grady Bresnahan had five catches for 32 yards. Sophomore running back Zach Simons rushed for a touchdown — his 13th of the season. Ty Jochim led the ground game with 48 yards.

The game was 3-0 in favor of St. Cloud State at halftime, and the Huskies scored on the first drive of the second half to make it 10-0.

MSUM answered with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that was capped off by a 1-yard Simons touchdown run. That was set up by a 21-yard pass from Meehl to Richter, and 25 rushing yards by Jochim.

The Dragons tied the game at 10-10 as Tjosvold connected on a 25-yard field goal to cap off a 11-play, 69 yard drive. The big play on the drive was Meehl hitting Sweep for a 28-yard pass that brought MSUM to the SCSU 5-yard line on a 4th-and-2.

"We made the plays offensively down the stretch when we needed to," Meehl said.

MSUM forced a three-and-out and then went on time-consuming 11-play, 47-yard drive — which took more than five minutes off the clock — that was capped off by Tjosvold's 24-yard field goal with 59 seconds left.

SCSU, with just one timeout left, moved into Dragon territory but an intentional grounding penalty proved costly, forcing the Huskies to burn their final timeout. SCSU kicker Adam Stage attempted a 51-yard field goal but missed with seven seconds left as the Dragons held on.