SIOUX FALLS – For the third time this season, the University of Sioux Falls Football Team (4-3, 4-3 NSIC) suffered a close heart-breaking loss by falling 30-27 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) action to St. Cloud State (5-2, 5-2 NSIC) in the Hall of Fame game for 1,589 in attendance at Bob Young Field on Saturday afternoon.
This season the Cougars have a 1-3 record in games decided by four or fewer points. As a result, USF has dropped into a third place tie in the NSIC. USF loss for the first time at home this season and stand 3-1 in 2018. The Cougars to an NSIC North Division team for the second straight week after 18 straight wins against North opponents. The Cougars have now dropped to 67-9 all-time at Bob Young Field.
"We played hard but made too many mistakes," said USF head football coach Jon Anderson. "We took advantage of some opportunities but let a few others get away from us. We will work hard and rebound from this setback," he said.
USF lost for the first time ever against St. Cloud State. The Cougars had defeated the Huskies, 32-19 in 2012; 36-0 in 2014 and 49-13 in 2016.
USF took a loss despite a significant advantage in total offense. The USF offense outgained St. Cloud State, 469-to-362, including 262-to-108 on the ground. SCSU had a 254-to-207 advantage in passing yards.
Junior running back Gabriel Watson led the USF offense with 22 carries for 161 yards and his 16th rushing TD of the season. Watson surpassed 100-yard rushing in a game for the seventh time this season as he matched the school mark held by USF Athletics Hall of Fame running back David Ruter in 1997 and standout back Nephi Garcia in 2013. He now has 1,197 rushing yards on 162 carries, which breaks out to 171.0 yards per game.
Junior quarterback Caden Walters completed 22-of-29 passes for 207 yards with a TD pass and an interception. Walters also had 11 carries for 62 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown run. The USF receiving corps was led by junior tight end Clint Sigg with career-bests in catches with five and yards with 77. Maxwell had a career-best seven receptions for 64 yards and a TD.
USF was hurt by a trio of turnovers as well as a couple of first-quarter offensive possessions deep into SCSU's territory that produced a combined three points in the first quarter. A 26-yard field goal by USF's Mason Laramie with 14:09 to play in the second quarter gave USF a 3-0 lead. USF moved the ball 44 yards on eight plays to reach the SCSU's nine-yard line and settled for the field goal when the drive bogged down. In the first quarter, USF reached SCSU's seven-yard line but after the drive stalled Laramie missed from 24-yards.
SCSU's first score of the game resulted from their defense as senior linebacker Jack Horter picked off Walters and returned it 18-yards for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead with 8:49 to play in the second quarter. USF quickly responded as Walters led an eight-play, 72-yard scoring driving for the go-ahead score. He connected with senior Michael Maxwell on a 23-yard touchdown pass to take a 10-7 lead. In the final minute of the half, SCSU scored twice. First, Anthony Carver hauled in a seven-yard touchdown pass from Dewayne Lawhorn to cap an eight-play, 81-yard scoring drive and a 14-10 lead with 50 seconds left in the half. After a fumble by Walters, SCSU was set up at USF's 15-yard line. Then, Lawhorn, who completed 20-of-32 passes for 238 yards and three touchdown passes, connected with Sam Hartman on a 23-yard scoring strike on the first play after the turnover as SCSU took a 21-10 lead with just 35 seconds left in the first half.
Down double digits at Bob Young Field for the first time since a 31-13 loss against Winona State in 2017, USF responded in the third quarter with a couple of touchdowns. USF drew within, 21-16 when Walters scored on a 67-yard scoring run to cap a three-play, 80-yard scoring drive with USF's first possession of the second half. USF's try for two-point failed as they trailed by five points. On their next possession, USF had friendly field position as junior Nate Johnson returned a punt 43 yards and USF was at the SCSU 37-yard line. From there, Watson had three carries for 11 yards and Colton Myles, who finished with 30 yards rushing, had six yards as the Cougars advanced to a second and four at the SCSU 20-yard line. On the ensuing play, Walters dropped back to pass, faked a throw, and found an open seam in the middle of the field as he scored a career-long 20-yard touchdown run. On the two-point try, Walters connected with Johnson on a two-point conversion pass for a 24-21 lead with 7:29 to play in the third quarter.
But the visitors answered when Lawhorn led SCSU down the field for a go-ahead score. Lawhorn's seven-yard touchdown pass to John Pass capped a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive for a 27-24 lead with 3:33 to play in the quarter.
USF was able to tie the game when Laramie connected on his second field goal of the game – third of the season – from 31-yards out as the Cougars tied SCSU, 27-27 with 14:17 left to play. The Huskies took the lead for good on a 27-yard field goal by Adam Stage with 9:59 to play. USF had two more possessions but did not move the ball past the 50-yard line. When USF's last gasp play in the final seconds went awry, the Huskies had their fifth win in seven games.