MARSHALL, Minn. – Southwest Minnesota State's Tyler Tonderum set the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference single-season rushing record and helped lead the Mustangs to a dramatic 51-44 overtime victory over Winona State on Saturday in Marshall.
Tonderum, a junior from Armstrong, Iowa, finished the game with 190 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 27 carries and now has amassed 1,708 yards on the season on 262 attempts. Rayon Simmons from Winona State held the previous record set last season with 1,586 yards.
Charlie Kern's 1-yard touchdown run in overtime gave SMSU the seven-point lead, before the Mustangs' Jared Twedt intercepted WSU's Jack Nelson at the 1-yard to seal the victory for SMSU.
The victory was the second straight for SMSU, which improves to 5-4 NSIC, 3-2 NSIC South. WSU dropped its second in a row and falls to 5-4 NSIC, 3-2 NSIC South. SMSU is now 4-7 all-time in overtime games, including 1-1 versus WSU.
Both teams had a big day offensively with WSU finishing with 701 yards and 32 first downs, while running 101 plays. SMSU ended the game with 530 yards of offense, its sixth 500-plus-yard-game of the season, and 25 first downs. WSU held a 39:37 to 20:23 time of possession advantage in the game and limited SMSU – which entered the game averaging 88 plays per game – to just 71 offensive plays.
Kern finished the game completing 20 of 33 pass attempts for 297 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for two touchdowns and 41 yards on nine attempts. Tonderum's big rushing game was his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season. He entered the game ranked second in Division II in rushing yards.
Britt Wickett caught a team-high six passes for 82 yards for the Mustangs, while Cody Condon had four receptions for 49 yards and one touchdown.
Nelson finished the game completing 40 of 59 passes for 425 yards and three touchdowns to pace the Warriors. Tony Mueller caught a game-high 11 passes for 130 yards and one touchdown, while teammate Chichi Ojika rushed for a team-high 190 yards and one touchdown.
WSU started the game in a big way with Ojika taking the opening kickoff and returning it 89 yards to the SMSU 1-yard line – setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Jordan Kos one play later. The PAT was blocked by Tate Bunkers to keep the score 6-0.
Following an SMSU punt on its opening possession, WSU pushed the lead to 13-0 with Kos breaking off an 8-yard touchdown run with nine minutes and 22 seconds left in the opening quarter to close out a 9-play, 61-yard drive.
SMSU answered on its next drive with Kern connecting on a 17-yard touchdown pass to Condon to make the score 13-7 midway through the first quarter.
The score remained 13-7 until the second quarter when SMSU took advantage of a rougher the kicker penalty to tie the game at 13-13. Facing fourth-and-10 from its own 31-yard line, SMSU punter Mike Wenk was roughed on a punt attempt to give SMSU a first down. Kern racked up a 17-yard run two plays later and then completed a 17-yard pass to Jordan Cross to move the ball to the WSU 15-yard line.
Tonderum would cap the drive four plays later on a 3-yard touchdown run to make the score 13-13 with 12:30 left in the half. SMSU botched the PAT to keep the game tied.
WSU regained the lead on its next drive, moving 65 yards on six plays with Jack Nelson tossing a 1-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Johnson to make the score 20-13.
The Mustangs cut into the lead later in the quarter as Kern found Anthony Dean on a short pass, but the senior receiver broke several tackles and sprinted 68 yards for a touchdown to make the score 20-19 following a missed PAT.
WSU extended the lead on its next possession with Nelson completing a 23-yard pass to Johnson with 20 seconds left in the half to take a 27-19 halftime lead.
SMSU was forced to punt on its first drive of the second half, but the SMSU defense came through in a big way on WSU's first possession of the half. On third-and-five from its own 13-yard line, WSU's Nelson found Johnson open for a first down reception, but Twedt forced Johnson to fumble and SMSU's Tyler Flud scooped up the ball and ran 25 yards for a touchdown to tie the game at 27 at the 12:16 mark.
WSU missed a go-ahead field goal attempt on its next possession, but then blocked Wenk's punt attempt on SMSU's next drive, to set up first-and-10 at the SMSU 30-yard line. The Warriors took advantage of the special teams play with Nelson firing an 18-yard touchdown pass on third-and-10 to give WSU a 34-27 lead with 3:30 remaining in the third quarter.
SMSU quickly responded just over two minutes later with Kern completing a key 30-yard pass to Wickett down to the WSU 5-yard line before Kern plowed across the goal line three plays later to tie the game at 34-34 heading into the final quarter.
WSU missed another go-ahead field goal attempt early in the fourth, before both teams exchanged punts midway through the quarter. SMSU took over with 6:51 remaining in regulation and Kern quickly completed passes of 16 yards to Condon and 14 yards to Wickett to set up SMSU at the WSU 15-yard line following a roughing the passer penalty on WSU. Tonderum than ran off back-to-back runs of nine and six yards to give SMSU the lead at 41-34 with 5:34 remaining.
The Warrior offense needed just two plays to tie the game once again as Ojika broke free on a 72-yard run to make the score 41-41 with 5:06 left.
SMSU regained the lead on the ensuing drive with Tonderum sparking the drive with a 58-yard run to move the ball to the WSU 6-yard line. Three plays later Kern scored the go-ahead touchdown, but a holding penalty nullified the touchdown and moved the ball back to the 14-yard line. Kern rushed for nine yards on the next play setting up a 22-yard field goal by Lance Schuveiller to give SMSU a 44-41 advantage.
WSU took over with 2:38 left in regulation to either tie or win the game. Starting at their own 15-yard line, the Warriors picked up four first downs, including converting one third-down conversion to set up first-and-goal at the SMSU 8-yard line with 25 seconds remaining. The SMSU defense stepped up and held WSU to a pair of short rush attempts to set up third-and-goal at the 3-yard line with 13 seconds left. With no timeouts remaining, WSU was forced to pass on third down and Nelson's attempt in the end zone fell incomplete to set up a 21-yard field goal attempt. Brett Cochran-Bray drilled the field goal to tie the game at send into overtime.
On the first play of overtime, Tonderum sprinted for a 24-yard run down to the 1-yard line, before Kern gave SMSU the lead with his second touchdown of the game.
WSU picked up a first down on its first play of the extra session on a 15-yard pass, but a 1-yard loss by Ojika, two incomplete passes by Nelson and a false start set up fourth-and-goal from the 11-yard. The SMSU pass rush force Nelson out of the pocket and freshman's pass to the end zone was intercepted by Twedt to seal the victory for SMSU.
Tate Bunkers had a huge game for the SMSU defense recording a career-high 16 tackles with two for loss and also added one pass break-up and the blocked kick. AJ Page also had a big game for the Mustang defense with 12 tackles and one pass break-up. Twedt not only sealed the victory with an interception, but added eight tackles, two for loss and forced a fumble.
Today's game was the final contest for 15 SMSU seniors.
Southwest Minnesota State continues league play next Saturday, Nov. 9, with a key showdown versus Concordia-St. Paul at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m.