Gutsy call pays off
Northern State University quarterback Jared Jacobson had already made two game-saving plays for the Wolves.
Coach Tom Dosch had good reason to trust him for a third.
Down by one point with 4.7 seconds remaining, Northern State elected for a two-point conversion rather than settling for overtime with Minot State. Jacobson rolled out on a run-pass option and sprinted for the end zone, lunging between a pair of MSU defenders at the goal line to give Northern State a 22-21 victory Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium.
Dosch said his entire coaching staff agreed to put the game in the hands of the 5-foot-11, 210-pound junior.
“You like your odds with the ball in his hands, at his size,” Dosch said. “If he can get going, he can move the pile and he can also throw it.
“It was a no-brainer for me. This football team needed to win a game and we played to win.”
Jacobson and Northern State (2-4 overall, 1-1 NSIC North) executed a two-minute drill to set up the game-deciding play.
On two occasions, Jacobson scrambled in the pocket to buy extra time and found receivers open down the middle of the field. One of those plays – a 29-yard hookup with wide receiver Chris Malsam – came on fourth-and-10 and set the Wolves up at the MSU 4.
Two rushing plays later, Northern State faced a third-and-goal from the 1 with no timeouts and 7.9 seconds left. Jacobson faked a handoff, rolled to his right and found junior Michael Alberts uncovered in the end zone.
The Wolves followed with the game-winning conversion.
“It felt like time was running slow,” MSU senior linebacker Uepati Fatilua said of the last drive. “We had ’em bottled up. It was just one or two mistakes where we weren’t assignment-sharp on those plays.”
The Beavers (1-5, 0-2) forced Jacobson’s late-game heroics with a clutch drive of their own.
After Northern State’s Nathan Shaw punted the ball just 8 yards, the Beavers took over on their own 45 with 4:33 remaining.
Wideouts Wayne Peters and Porter Sturm had receptions of 22 and 13 yards, respectively, to get the Beavers inside the 10-yard line.
Sophomore running back Randel Barber ran off right tackle for a 4-yard TD two plays later. Peters made a spinning catch on a low throw for a two-point conversion that gave MSU a 21-14 lead with 1:55 remaining.
Northern State started the game well, scoring on their fifth play from scrimmage.
Jacobson scrambled in from 9 yards out and Shaw converted the extra point for a 7-0 advantage.
MSU answered with a methodical 12-play, 64-yard drive that ended with a 28-yard Brian Gutierrez field goal with 5:02 to go in the first quarter.
After stopping Northern State on the ensuing possession, the Beavers recorded another 64-yard drive ending with Peters’ 8-yard touchdown catch.
Senior tight end Bobby Bartz set up the score with a 40-yard reception on 3rd-and-1. The 256-pound tight end, usually employed as a blocker, was left uncovered in the middle of the field and hauled in an over-the-shoulder catch.
With one second left in the first half, the Beavers extended their lead to 13-7 with a 31-yard field goal by Gutierrez. MSU took over on the Northern State 49-yard line with just 29 seconds left, but Barber sprang a draw play for 28 yards to get into kicking range.
“(The offense) did a nice job for the most part, especially in the first half,” MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. “I thought we protected well and we got some positive yards. I thought there was a little bit of a lull there in the third quarter where we didn’t play as well as we needed to to win the game.”
The only score of the third quarter was a 46-yard run by 240-pound Northern State running back Cameron Pudwill. The Wolves brought the bruiser in on fourth-and-1, and he busted through the line of scrimmage right past MSU’s compact secondary.
MSU sophomore quarterback Zac Cunha completed 21 of 33 passes for 277 yards and one interception. Peters caught seven balls for 107 yards and Barber ran eight times for 59 yards. The Beavers outgained Northern State 357-319.
Junior linebacker Casey Weinmann led the Beavers with 11 tackles and Fatilua added nine. Junior cornerback Brandon Boston intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble.
The game marked progress for the Beavers, who were blown out the previous two weeks against Winona State and the University of Mary.
“We feel a lot better going into Duluth next week,” Fatilua said. “They’re the big dogs, but we’ll learn from our mistakes and hopefully turn it (around) with them.”
Duluth (5-1, 2-0), ranked No. 11 in Division II, hosts MSU at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.