Minnesota Duluth football coach Curt Wiese admits that he, too, gets nervous when a game comes down to the wire, especially when his team struggles to stop the other team’s momentum.
Never fear, Bulldogs fans, as Winona State quarterback Owen Burke’s pass on 4th-and-7 at the UMD 27 fell incomplete as the No. 13 Bulldogs held on for a 29-23 NSIC victory over the Warriors before 4,071 in Winona, Minnesota.
UMD senior quarterback John Larson was 12-for-23 passing for 206 yards and a touchdown. His top target was Armani Carmickle, who caught three passes for 140 yards and a TD.
“I think that’s the biggest challenge in any sport, when the momentum swings the other way, is trying to get it back,” Wiese said. “We had a hard time getting the momentum back today. In fact, we didn’t until the last play of the game.”
But the main thing: the Bulldogs survived to take a 3-0 record into next week’s NSIC home contest against Wayne State at the cozy confines of Malosky Stadium.
UMD came out firing Saturday as the Bulldogs immediately dipped into the bag of tricks with a flea flicker on their first play of the game that was good to Carmickle for 63 yards.
That set up Zach Ojile from 2 yards out for the first score of the game.
The teams exchanged field goals and then UMD took control with 16 straight points in the second quarter on another field goal by Curt Cox and TDs by Wade Sullivan and Carmickle.
Leading 26-3, this one was in the bag, right?
Winona State had other ideas. The Warriors (2-1) rallied from a 13-0 halftime deficit to win 27-13 last week at Minnesota State-Moorhead, so they don’t go down easy.
“We didn’t (take the pedal off),” Wiese said. “Sometimes when you play that well in the first half you don’t make any adjustments because everything is working. Winona came out and made a couple adjustments in the second half, both on offense and defense, and it forces you to make adjustments on the sidelines, and that’s sometimes tough to do.”
Ty Gavin scored the first of his two touchdowns late in the third quarter.
UMD answered with another field goal but it did little to stop the tide as touchdowns by Jaylen Schleicher and Gavin pulled Winona State to within a touchdown at 29-23 with 4:55 remaining.
Winona State got the ball back not once but twice over those final five minutes as UMD struggled to run the clock out. The Warriors started 1st-and-10 at their own 24 with 1:15 remaining and a timeout.
Burke opened the drive by connecting with Sawyer Maly for a 46-yard reception, as the Bulldogs were now really reeling, but then the drive suddenly stalled.
UMD’s pressure no doubt helped, as the Bulldogs finished with six quarterback sacks, while linebackers Brad Dati and Cole Refsnider led the way with seven tackles apiece.
“I’m proud of the way our guys were resilient,” Wiese said. “We didn’t panic on the sidelines. They continued to stick together and make enough plays down the stretch to get the win.”
Minn. Duluth 10-16-0-3—29
Winona State 3-0-7-13—23
UMD — Zach Ojile 2 run (Curt Cox kick), 11:46
WSU — Jacob Scott 35 field goal, 6:46
UMD — Cox 42 field goal, :34
UMD — Wade Sullivan 1 run (Cox kick), 8:04
UMD — Cox 35 field goal, 5:10
UMD — Armani Carmickle 64 pass from John Larson (kick failed), 1:24
WSU — Ty Gavin 10 run (Scott kick), 2:58
UMD — Cox 20 field goal, 13:37
WSU — Jaylen Schleicher 3 pass from Owen Burke (pass failed), 11:13
WSU — Gavin 3 run (Scott kick), 4:55
First downs 14 13
Rushes-yards 37-126 26-0
Passing yards 206 239
Comp-Att-Int 12-23-0 19-31-0
Kick returns-yards 5-95 5-112
Punts-avg 6-32.8 6-39.7
Fumbles-lost 0-0 1-0
Time of possession 31:55 28:05
RUSHING — UMD, Cazz Martin 14-68, Sullivan 12-56, Byron Bynum 2-26, Ojile 2-3, TEAM 1-(-3), Larson 6-(-24). WSU, Javian Roebuck 8-24, Gavin 6-18, Dominik London 2-10, Jake Balliu 2-0, Jake Van Hulzen 0-(-11), Burke 8-(-41).
PASSING — UMD, Larson 12-23-206-1. WSU, Burke 19-31-239-1.
RECEIVING — UMD, Carmickle 3-140, Kurtis Weigand 2-20, Ojile 2-18, Martin 3-16, Bynum 1-12, Sullivan 1-0. WSU, Ethan Wittenburg 3-89, Sawyer Maly 2-51, Balliu 4-32, Tyler Knutson 4-28, Darryl Williams 1-12, Schleicher 2-12, Roebuck 2-8, Dakota Matthees 1-7.