ABERDEEN, S.D. - Regulation football games last for 60 minutes, and the Northern State Wolves used every single second - and then some - on Saturday, scoring on a 34-yard Hail Mary pass as time expired to tie the game, then kicking the extra point with no time left on the clock to take a wild 28-27 victory over the visiting St. Cloud State Huskies in a battle of Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division opponents.
The win marked NSU's first victory over the Huskies since 1947 and moved the Wolves back to an even 4-4 on the season and 3-1 in the North. St. Cloud State, which was receiving votes in the latest AFCA Top 25 poll and ranked 24th by d2football.com, slipped to 5-3 on the season and 3-1 in the North.
The game-winning drive was set up by a blocked PAT on SCSU's previous go-ahead scoring series. The Huskies scored three times in the final ten minutes of the game, the last coming with just 42 seconds left in the game to rally from 21-7 down to up 27-21. NSU senior Mason Thorstad, however, broke through the line to block Taylor Berger's point-after attempt to leave it a 6-point game.
After a 35-yard kickoff return by sophomore Paul Woodward set up NSU with decent field position, two straight incompletions had the Wolves facing a grim 3rd-and-10 situation with the clock ticking down. Out of time outs, sophomore quarterback Jared Jacobson went to work executing the two-minute drill to perfection. Jacobson hit Jordan Piatz for 10 yards and a first down, Tanner White to stop the clock and Piatz again for a first down and a clock stop on the next three pass attempts to put the Wolves on the SCSU 34 yard line with seven seconds remaining.
With time running out, Jacobson dropped back and heaved a final ball down field, where senior Mark Hanley caught it between two SCSU defenders and dove into the end zone for the game-tying score with the clock reading zeros. Senior place kicker Felipe Alfaia came on for the PAT despite a strategic Husky timeout, giving the Wolves a 28-27 victory.
The final moments of the win capped a wild back-and-forth battle that saw both teams go on three-TD tears. NSU scored three straight in the second and third quarters to take a 21-7 lead into the fourth. The Wolves scored on a 25-yard Jacobson scamper, a five-yard Cameron Pudwill run and a 61-yard Jacobson-to-Chris Morton strike on those drives. The NSU defense, meanwhile, racked up five sacks in the first half and applied pressure to SCSU quarterback and preseason Offensive Player of the Year Phillip Klaphake all game long.
The Huskies mounted their comeback in the fourth quarter, starting with a 29-yard Klaphake run that cut the NSU lead to 21-14 with 9:53 left. After an NSU 3-and-out, the Huskies drove the ball down to the NSU 5-yard line. The Wolves held strong on defense and appeared to have stopped the Huskies on fourth down. However, offsetting holding penalties gave the Huskies another crack at the endzone and this time, Klaphake found Renard Robinson for the game-tying score.
NSU was unable to gain traction in its ensuing drive, however, and a short punt into the wind set the Huskies up in Wolves territory with 3:49 left to go. The Huskies methodically drove the ball down field, forcing NSU to burn its final two timeouts to stop the clock before scoring the go-ahead TD with under a minute to go.
Thorstad's block - his second blocked PAT of the season, both of which helped NSU to narrow 1-point victories - then signaled the shift of momentum in favor of the Wolves.
SCSU dominated the time of possession by just over nine minutes and ran 24 more offensive plays than the Wolves. NSU was also just 2 of 12 on third down conversions, but was able to match the Huskies blow for blow on the scoreboard.
Jacobson was 17-for-30 passing for 253 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 43 yards and a third score. Hanley caught seven passes for 98 yards and a touchdown, while Morton caught two balls for 68 yards and the other passing TD.
Defensively, the Wolves recorded eight sacks on the day, tying their season high and most in a single game since at least 1998. Junior Logan Dosch led all players with 11 tackles, while Ikee Sirleaf finished with seven tackles, including 1.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for a loss. Jayson Geditz finished with five tackles and interception and a fumble recovery.
The Huskies were led by Klaphake's 84 rushing yards and 294 passing yards, accounting for all four SCSU touchdowns. Both TD passes went to Robinson, who had five catches for 44 yards on the day.
The Wolves, now winners of four of their last five games, go back on the road next week to take on U-Mary. The Marauders were 23-7 winners over MSU Moorhead on Saturday in Bismarck. Game time is set for 2:30 p.m. at Bismarck Community Bowl next Saturday.