MARSHALL, Minn. – St. Cloud State used a pair of big plays early in the second half to open a tie game and went on to earn a 49-35 victory over Southwest Minnesota State in the season opener for both teams on Saturday night.
The two teams combined for 998 yards and 55 first downs, with SMSU racking up 94 offensive plays and 34 first downs.
Ledell White led SCSU with 107 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 17 carries, while Damon Treat finished with seven catches for 129 yards and one touchdown. Eli Shoemaker also had a solid game for the Huskies with five receptions for 136 yards and one touchdown.
Charlie Kern, making his first career start for SMSU, completed 36 of 55 pass attempts for 307 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for 54 yards and one touchdown on 17 carries. Tyler Tonderum rushed for a career-high 83 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries. Cody Condon led all SMSU receivers with eight catches for 75 yards.
SCSU ended the night with 521 yards of offense, including 224 rushing yards, while SMSU closed the game with 477 yards, with 170 on the ground.
SCSU has now won five straight in the series and holds a 16-1 all-time series advantage.
SCSU opened a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter putting together a pair of impressive drives to open the season. Phillip Klaphake opened the scoring with 10 minutes and 41 seconds left in the quarter diving across for a 2-yard touchdown to make the score 7-0.
Following an SMSU punt, SCSU answered with 93-yard, 10-play drive with Klaphake connecting on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Damon Treat to push the Huskies lead to 14-0 with 5:02 left in the quarter.
The game remained 14-0 into the second quarter before SMSU put together its best drive of the early season moving 80 yards on 12 plays with Kean capping the drive with a 9-yard run to cut the deficit to 14-7 with 12:03 on the clock.
The Huskies responded on their ensuing drive with a Klaphake 1-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 21-7 with 9:43 remaining in the half.
SMSU was forced to punt on its next possession, but three plays later Andrew McReynolds intercepted Klaphake at the SMSU 19-yard line and the Mustangs were able to take advantage. SMSU cut into the lead as Kern connected with Anthony Dean on a 15-yard touchdown strike at the 3:02 mark to cap an 11-play, 81-yard drive.
The SMSU defense forced a three-and-out by SCSU, giving SMSU a chance to tie the game with 1:26 left in the half. Starting at the SCSU 34-yard, Kern completed a 21-yard pass to Jordan Cross, before Tonderum cruised into the end zone on a 13-yard touchdown run to tie the game with 1:12 left in the half.
St. Cloud State started the second half with the first of several big plays to regain the lead and never looked back. On the first play of the half, Klaphake connected on a 67-yard touchdown pass to Shoemaker to put the Huskies up 28-21 just 16 seconds into the half.
SMSU was forced to put on its first drive and on the ensuing punt, Mike Wenk's kick was partially blocked and SCSU took over at the SMSU 39-yard line. The Huskies quickly extended the lead as White scored on a 9-yard run to make the score 34-21 following a missed extra point.
The Mustang offense wouldn't quit and had its own big answer, driving 15 plays and covering 80 yards with Tonderum closing the drive with a 3-yard run to trim the deficit to 34-28 with 6:43 remaining in the quarter.
But for the third time in the quarter, SCSU used a big play to put the momentum back on the Huskies sideline. On the ensuing kickoff, Treat took the ball from the 1-yard line and sprinted 78 yards down to the SMSU 21-yard setting up the SCSU offense in great field position. Just two plays later, Kenneth Walker blasted through on a 12-yard run – and following a two-point pass – SCSU regained a 14-point lead at 42-28.
SCSU added another touchdown early in the fourth quarter as White scored on a 1-yard touchdown to make the score 49-28.
SMSU mounted a comeback on its next drive to keep the game interesting as Kern completed six passes and moved the team 75 yards in 10 plays, closing the drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Will Kurka – the first of his career - at the 9:45 mark to cut the lead to 49-35.
SCSU went three-and-out on its next possession, giving SMSU the ball back midway through the fourth quarter at its own 24-yard line. The Mustangs picked up four first downs and faced first and 10 from the SCSU 27-yard line, but Kern was intercepted by Eric Poggenburg on a deflected ball, ending the SMSU drive at the 5-yard line.
Dashawn Miller and Blake Pennock paced the SMSU defense with nine tackles each, while AJ Page had eight tackles with three for loss and two sacks. Tate Bunker also collected eight tackles in the losing effort.
Miky Woods and Jack Moro each collected career-highs with 11 tackles to lead the Huskies.
Southwest Minnesota State hits the road for the first time in 2013 taking on MSU Moorhead next Saturday, Sept. 14, in Moorhead, Minn.