MSU faces tough test at No. 17 SCSU

The Minot State University football team has faced plenty of talented quarterbacks this season, including the top five passers in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

St. Cloud State senior Phillip Klaphake is No. 6 at 277 yards per game, but MSU coach Paul Rudolph said the three-time all-NSIC pick might be the best of the bunch.

“Just from an experience standpoint, I think you have to give him a nod,” Rudolph said. “He’s been playing four years and he possesses all the attributes that you look for. He can run, he can throw, he can buy time. He does a lot of good things.”

The Beavers got a glimpse of exactly how efficient the four-year starter can be last season, when Klaphake completed 10 of 14 passes for 225 yards and three touchdowns. He ran seven times for 74 yards and two more scores in the 57-10 blowout.

MSU’s first responsibility in making today’s game at No. 17 SCSU (8-1) more competitive is eliminating the big plays that doomed the Beavers last season.

“We can’t just flat out blow a coverage or two and give them easy ones,” Rudolph said. “That can’t happen and we can’t miss tackles and give them an easy one.”

MSU sophomore quarterback Zac Cunha is coming off a stellar performance of his own last Saturday against Minnesota State-Moorhead. The 6-foot-3, 233-pounder completed 28 of 44 throws for a career-high 355 yards and two touchdowns.

The Beavers (2-7) rank last in the conference with 47 sacks allowed, but improved protection in recent weeks has allowed Cunha to deliver throws more accurately.

“I think we’ve got enough playing time in there with some guys that they’re starting to get a little more comfortable with some things,” Rudolph said of the offensive line. “I think as the season’s progressed, Zac’s started to get more and more comfortable.”

MSU’s productive passing attack will be challenged by the Huskies, who possess the stingiest secondary in the league. SCSU allows 158.9 yards per game and senior safety Jack Moro has seven of his school-record 21 interceptions this season.

“He has great instincts for it,” SCSU coach Scott Underwood said. “To have 11 interceptions one year and seven the next, that says a lot. He does a great job of film study and studying offensive opponents, so it’s not luck by any means.”

MSU senior wideout Wayne Peters expects the Huskies to try to bully the Beavers with press coverage.

“They’re very physical off the line and that’s usually where they try to win the majority of their battles,” said Peters, who caught eight passes for a career-high 169 yards against Moorhead. “If we can win off the line, I think we should be good.”

Provided MSU can contain Klaphake, SCSU’s record-holder with 9,788 career passing yards.

“He’s just been a real key leader and cog in our offense,” Underwood said. “He (is) 34-11 since he’s taken the helm here. He’s the one that leads us.”

Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics.

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