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Eric Peterson, Published September 14 2013

Southwest Minnesota State edges Dragons in the finals seconds

MOORHEAD – In a game that featured 118 running plays, a pass completion hurt Minnesota State Moorhead on a rain-soaked Saturday afternoon.

Southwest Minnesota State quarterback Charlie Kern threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Dean with 3 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. That touchdown lifted the Mustangs to a dramatic 27-20 victory in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football at Alex Nemzek Stadium.

“There were not many passes completed, but that one definitely hurt,” said Dragons head coach Steve Laqua.

SMSU (1-1, 1-1 NSIC) scored the game’s final 15 points to spoil MSUM’s home opener. The Dragons (0-2, 0-2) built a 20-12 lead early in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t hold the lead.

“You’ve got to give Moorhead a lot of credit because they battled and did a lot of nice things,” said Mustangs head coach Cory Sauter.

The Mustangs drove the ball to the MSUM 23-yard line with 10 seconds to play in the final quarter and the score tied at 20-20.

Facing a second-and-14, Kern dropped back and heaved a pass toward the end zone.

The 6-foot-2, 203-pound Dean went up and made the catch in the end zone for the winning points.

“I had about three towels on my belt and was going through every one,” Kern said. “I got a good grip on the ball, just put it up there and the receiver made one heck of a play.”

Both teams struggled to complete passes as a steady rain fell throughout the game. Kern completed 9 of 20 passes for 77 yards.

“It was probably the worst game I have ever played in,” Kern said. “Every football was completely soaked. The chances of throwing were basically (to) shot put the ball out there and hopefully make something happen.”

The Dragons took a 20-12 lead with 14 minutes, 2 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter after sophomore quarterback Jake Hodge scored on a 4-yard touchdown run.

MSUM had a chance to extend that lead minutes later. The Dragons drove the ball the SMSU 25-yard line. On a fourth-and-5 play, Donovan Woods intercepted a Hodge pass with 10:46 remaining.

“We didn’t capitalize on that window of opportunity,” Laqua said. “Part of that is learning to win, part of that is learning that killer instinct.”

Dragons running back Brandon Schell agreed with his coach. A 5-11, 200-pound junior from Lisbon, N.D., Schell rushed for 130 yards on 30 attempts.

“That definitely could have been a chance to be sealing the deal and that is something we need to work on,” Schell said.

The Mustangs turned that turnover into eight points, driving 65 yards on six plays. Tyler Tonderum capped the drive with a 13-yard touchdown run with 8:52 to play. Kern added a two-point conversion run to tie the score at 20-20.

Tonderum had a monster game for the Mustangs. The 5-foot-10, 191-pound junior rushed for 343 yards and three touchdowns on 42 attempts. He set the school record for rushing yards in a game.

“He was hitting the holes hard, and up front, the offensive line was doing a solid job,” Sauter said. “We knew we were going to be a little more one dimensional and that’s what we had to go with.”

SMSU 6 6 0 15–27

MSUM 7 7 0 6–20

SMSU–Tonderum 71 run (Schuveiller kick)

MSUM–Hollenkamp 12 pass from Hodge (Kramer kick)

MSUM–Hodge 21 run (Kramer kick)

SMSU–Tonderum 10 run (pass failed)

MSUM–Hodge 4 run (run failed)

SMSU–Tonderum 13 run (Kern run)

SMSU–Dean 23 pass from Kern (Schuveiller kick)

TEAM STATISTICS SMSU MSUM

First downs 24 16

Rushes-yards 67-416 51-205

Passing 77 59

Comp-Att-Int 9-20-0 9-19-1

Punts-Avg. 5-28.0 9-31.4

Fumbles-Lost 3-2 1-0

Penalties-Yards 13-95 6-50

Time of possession 30:01 29:59

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: SMSU, Tonderum 42-343, Kern 17-67, Payne 5-13, Finley 1-3, Schuveiller 1-0, Team 1-(-1), Stemen 1-(-6). MSUM, Schell 30-130, Hodge 13-60, Stone 6-9, Jacobson 2-6.

PASSING: SMSU, Kern 9-20-0 77. MSUM, Hodge 9-19-1 59.

RECEIVING: SMSU, Dean 3-24, Wickett 2-2, Condon 1-28, Tonderum 1-14, Olson 1-7, Payne 1-2. MSUM, Ambrose 3-3, Jiskra 1-21, Jacobson 1-14, Hollenkamp 1-12, Youngblom 1-9, Schell 1-4, Ham 1-(-4).

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com