Augstana falls at No. 3 Minnesota State-Mankato

MANKATO, Minn. – The Augustana football team dropped its first contest on the road since the 2017 season in a 27-7 setback to No. 3 Minnesota State.

The Viking's six-game road winning streak collided with the Maverick's 25-game NSIC winning streak. Minnesota State improves to 2-0 on the season while Augustana falls to 1-1.

"Hats off to Mankato," head coach Jerry Olszewski said. "They are a good football team. They are ranked where they are for a reason, but I think we can go toe-to-toe with them. The score isn't indicative, we let them get into a game that is in their favor, to be able to run the football as much as they could and our defense got tired.

"There is so much to learn from this game against a good opponent. Down 10-7 at the half, I felt pretty good with some missed opportunities. In the second half, we've got to get better in situational football so we can get our defense off the field."

Trailing 3-0 midway through the second quarter, the Vikings completed a 6-play, 69-yard drive to take a 7-3 lead. Quarterback Kyle Saddler hit a diving Brett Shepley for a 29-yard touchdown. The play was set up by a 22-yard pass from Saddler to junior Sean Engel, who leaped into the air to haul in the pass.

Minnesota State regained its lead just before halftime on an 8-play, 76-yard drive. Running back Nate Gunn ran into the end zone for four of his 138 yards. The second half belonged to the third-ranked Mavericks, using a field goal to tally the first points of the second stanza. They added a pair of touchdowns late in the third quarter for the final 27-7 score.

Saddler, a junior, threw for 245 yards on 19-of-38 passing with the touchdown to Shepley but was hampered by three interceptions. His top target was Shepley, a senior, for 107 yards with Engel receiving 104 yards. On the ground, the Vikings ran for 81 yards with 64 coming from junior Rudolh Sinflorant.

The Vikings forced three turnovers, two from interceptions and one from a forced fumble and recovery. Sophomores Ryan Wesp and Eli Weber each picked off Maverick passes to give Augustana four interceptions through two games.

Minnesota State alternated quarterbacks with Ryan Schlichte throwing for 93 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions as JD Ekowa tossed for 72 yards and a touchdown. However, it was the Maverick running game that took control of the game as Gunn, the reigning NSIC Offensive Player of the Week, rushed for 138 of the Maverick's 334 rushing yards.

The Vikings held the edge in the passing game, compiling 245 yards compared to MSU's 165. Overall, Minnesota State totaled 499 yards of offense while Augustana had 326.

"The thing I love is the fight in our kids," Olszewski added. "They didn't back down at all. We're a good football team, we'll be better."

The Vikings return home to Kirkeby-Over Stadium to host Wayne State at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The contest marks the 48th annual Shrine Game along with honoring the Augustana Hall of Fame Class of 2019.