MOORHEAD, Minn. – Charlie Kern tossed a 23-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Dean with three seconds remaining to lift Southwest Minnesota State (1-1 NSIC) to a thrilling come-from-behind 27-20 victory over MSU Moorhead (0-2 NSIC) on Saturday afternoon. The game was played in a constant rainstorm limiting both teams' passing attack.
SMSU junior running back Tyler Tonderum rushed for a school-record 340 yards and three touchdowns on 41 carries, while SMSU set a team record with 416 yards on 67 attempts. Tonderum broke the previous record of 243 rushing yards by David Whitten set in 2003, while the team record was 397 yards set in 2011.
The touchdown capped a furious SMSU rally as the Mustangs scored 15 points unanswered points in the final nine minutes of the game to earn the victory.
SMSU finished the game with 493 yards of offense with 24 first downs, while the Mustang defense limited MSUM to just 264 yards and 16 first downs.
Kern completed 9 of 20 passes for 77 yards, while also rushing for 67 yards on 17 attempts. Dean caught a team-high three passes for 24 yards
SMSU opened the game's scoring as Tonderum blasted through the line and sprinted for a 71-yard touchdown to give SMSU a 6-0 lead with nine minutes and 46 seconds left in the opening quarter. Lance Schuveiller's PAT kick was blocked.
SMSU forced MSUM to punt on its next drive, but on the ensuing punt, SMSU muffed the kick and the Dragons recovered at the SMSU 12-yard line. MSUM took advantage of the mistake and one play later took the lead on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Jake Hodge to Shaun Hollenkamp midway through the quarter to make the score 7-6.
The score remained 7-6 until early in the second quarter when MSUM forced SMSU to turn the ball over on downs at the SMSU 30-yard line. Just two plays later Hodge broke free to the end zone for a 21-yard touchdown to push the MSUM lead to 14-6.
The Mustangs answered with one of its best drives of the opening half, moving the ball 64 yards on eight plays with Tonderum closing the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run at the 8:31 mark to cut the deficit to 14-12. Kern's two-point conversion attempt fell incomplete to keep MSUM with a two-point advantage into halftime.
SMSU racked up 257 yards of offense in the opening half with 12 first downs, while MSUM finished with 133 yards and seven first downs. SMSU was 3 of 10 on third-down conversions and 0 of 4 on fourth-down. MSUM was limited to just 1 of 8 on third-down conversions and 0 of 2 on fourth-down attempts.
The game remained 14-12 in favor of MSUM late into the third quarter when the Dragons mounted their best drive of the game to extend the lead. MSUM picked up several key third-down conversions and took advantage of an SMSU personal foul and pass interference penalty to move 80 yards on 13 plays with the drive ending on a Hodge 4-yard touchdown run with 14:02 left in the fourth quarter. The PAT was botched, keeping the score at 20-12.
SMSU was forced to punt on its next possession, but the Mustang defense made a huge stop on the next MSUM possession. Donovan Woods stepped in front of a Hodge pass at the SMSU 19-yard and returned it 16 yards to set up the Mustang offense at the 35-yard line.
The Mustang offense took advantage of the momentum swing and drove 65 yards in just six plays with Tonderum scoring on a 13-yard run to make the score 20-18. Kern then tied the game moments later sneaking in on the two-point conversion to tie the game at 20 with 8:52 remaining.
MSUM punted on its next possession and SMSU looked to regain the lead just minutes later, but was stopped on fourth-down at the MSUM 17-yard line ending the drive.
MSUM took over with 3:56 left in the game and picked up one first down, but the SMSU defense held strong again and forced a punt, with SMSU taking over at its own 35-yard line with 1:11 remaining.
Tonderum started the game-winning drive with a 22-yard run and later added a 16-yard run to give SMSU a first down at the MSUM 19-yard line. Following a four-yard loss by Kern, the junior quarterback lofted the game-winning pass to Dean in the corner of the end zone.
The SMSU defense was led by AJ Page and Blake Pennock, who both collected a team-high 12 tackles.
Southwest Minnesota State returns home next Friday, Sept. 20, taking on Minot State with kickoff set for 6 p.m. at the Schwan Regional Event Center.