USF Wins Again and Moves to 9-0
MANKATO, Minn. – A powerful rushing attack, led by Max Mickey and Luke Papilion, and hard-nosed defense, paced by Michael Mehling, lifted #4 University of Sioux Falls Football Team (9-0, 5-0 NSIC South) to a 24-14 win over Minnesota State (6-3, 3-2 NSIC South) at Blakeslee Stadium on Saturday.
The victory is arguably USF's biggest in the NCAA DII era as the Cougars improved to 9-0 overall and clinched a share of the program's first-ever NSIC South title with a 5-0 mark and two games to play. USF also maintains a one-game lead over Minnesota-Duluth with two to play in the race for the NSIC overall title. USF, which now has won nine games or more in four of the five seasons in the NSIC, is 9-0 for the first time at the D2 level.
In addition, the Cougars ended MSU''s three-game winning streak and defeated the Mavericks for the first time as an NSIC member, dating to 2012. It is also the first win against the Mavericks since a 7-0 win in 1937. As a result of the win today, the Cougars, who were ranked #2 in the Super Region last Monday, not only have a 43-10 all-time NSIC record but now have defeated every team in the league.
"I couldn't be prouder of a group of guys who play for each other and this program," said USF head coach Jed Stugart, who is now 62-13 at Sioux Falls. "This group makes me a better coach because of their focus and drive and how they always have each other's back. This was a big win for our program," he said.
Mickey, a junior from Holden, Mo., continued to punish opposing defenses as he rolled up 165 yards on 20 carries for an 8.2 yards per carry average. Mickey, who had his seventh 100-yard game of the season, has 1,326 rushing yards, which ranks 11th all-time in USF history. While Mickey, who is averaging 9.8 yards per carry on the season, played a central role in USF's rolling up 346 yards rushing on 58 carries, quarterback Luke Papilion certainly left an impression on MSU.
For the fifth time this season and 12th time in his career (4th all-time at USF, tied with Nephi Garcia, 2013-14), Papilion had 100 yards rushing, accumulating 104 yards on 17 carries with two rushing TDs. Papilion, who completed 14-of-19 passes for 130 yards and a TD, now has 42 rushing TDs. The second of the Papilion TD runs was a pulsating, hard-nosed 25-yard jawbreaker in the second half that provided USF with a 17-point lead (24-7, 1:55, 3rd Quarter) and a margin MSU couldn't overcome. USF, which had 476 yards in total offense on 77 plays, also received 70 yards rushing on 13 carries from senior Justin Fulks. It was the ninth straight time this season that USF had at least 400 yards in total offense.
The receiving corps was led by senior wide receiver Josh Angulo, who had five catches for 57 yards and a TD. Senior H-back Brady Rose added four catches for 52 yards, including a 41-yard grab. He also had four carries for 12 yards.
While the offense, directed by offensive coordinator Dustan Hovorka, set a season-best in time of possession with 38:30, USF's defense continued to shine. Led by Mehling, the Cougars held MSU to 313 yards on 58 plays, which was 104 yards below the Mavericks' season average. USF also held MSU to 20 points below their season scoring mark while limiting their offense to 88 yards on 24 carries. It is the fourth straight game, fifth overall, that USF's defense, directed by Tremaine Johnson, has held an opponent under 100 yards for the game. In fact, except for the 227 allowed to Bemidji State, USF has held every other opponent to 118 yards or less.
Mehling set a career best in tackles for the second straight week with 13 stops, recording six solo stops, a sack and 1.5 TFLs. Senior cornerback Clifford Redmond had seven tackles and junior strong safety Josh Butler added six. In total USF had four sacks to push their total to 31 on the season. Of the sacks was one by senior defensive end Westly Johnson, who now has 7.5 this season and 19 for his career, which ranks 10th all-time at USF.
With MSU driving late in the fourth quarter, the defense ended the game when junior defensive tackle Brian Mayberry sacked and stripped MSU quarterback Nick Pieruccini of the ball, which was recovered by Drew Jackson, who also had a sack earlier. Cougars' free safety Jeffrey Harman added four tackles and recorded his third interception of the season.
While USF finished on top, the Mavericks struck first in the game between the top teams in the NSIC South. Shane Zylstra hauled in a 20-yard TD pass from Ricky Lloyd, who had 46 yards rushing, and completed 6-of-11 passes for a TD, at the 11:33 mark of the first quarter. The scoring play capped an 8-play, 86-yard scoring drive by MSU.
In the first half, USF was moving the ball, 255 total yards attested, especially on the ground, but didn't get onto the scoreboard until late. First, Brett Garner knocked in a 32-yard field goal at the 4:41 mark to cap a 13-play, 65-yard scoring drive. Just a minute later, USF got the ball back and put together a drive that put them in front. USF took the league as Papilion scored on a four-yard run with just 21 seconds to play in the first half to give USF a 10-7 lead. USF's scoring drive covered 63 yards in nine plays, using 3:29 off the clock.
With a halftime lead, things looked bright for the Cougars. With the lead during the Stugart era, the Cougars are now 59-3. And, USF has controlled the third quarter to the tune of a 125-to-24 point edge in 2016. Against MSU, USF outscored MSU 14-0 in the third quarter to create a three score lead.
USF's defense set up the first score of the third quarter when Harman picked off Pieruccini to set up a short field. Four plays later, Papilion hit Angulo with an eight-yard TD pass with 8:14 to play. The score propelled USF to a 17-7 lead. With the defense holding MSU at bay, Papilion then led USF on a game-clinching drive. Papilion 25-yard TD run, in which he ran over and past MSU defenders, capped an 8-play, 71-yard drive for a 24-7 lead.
MSU closed the scoring with 8:15 to play on a Pieruccini 22-yard TD strike to Taylor Johnson but the Cougars ran down the clock to under three minutes before giving the ball back. Then, USF's defense ended it with Mayberry's sack and Jackson's fumble recovery.
Next up for USF will be a home game against Upper Iowa at noon on Saturday, Nov. 5.
*** Information provided by University of Sioux Falls Athletic Department