Mickey & Cougars Outlast Southwest Minnesota State
USF Is 5-0 After 24-10 Win In Marshall
MARSHALL, Minn. – The #5/7 University of Sioux Falls Football Team (5-0, 1-0 NSIC South), led by 212 yards rushing and two TDs from senior All-American running back Max Mickey and another shutdown defensive effort, picked up a fifth straight win to open the season in a 24-10 NSIC decision over Southwest Minnesota State (2-3, 0-1 NSIC South) on Saturday night. With the victory, USF recorded its 50th all-time in NSIC play (50-10, .833).
USF won for a 17th consecutive time in league play and defeated SMSU for a sixth consecutive time, spoiling the Mustangs’ homecoming before 3,878 in attendance at Mattke Field. As a result, USF will now host a NSIC first place showdown with Winona State on Cougars Homecoming next Saturday night (Oct. 7) at 6 p.m., at Bob Young Field.
“We prepared our team for a tough game tonight. As they have done all season, they practiced hard, hung together tonight, came up with big plays and picked up another win. I am really pleased with the team, its focus and the extraordinary bond they have for each other,” said USF Head Football Coach Jon Anderson. “We will enjoy this tonight and then get ready for another tough battle next week.”
With the game tied 10-10 at halftime, the Cougars outscored the Mustangs, 14-0, in the second half to pick up the 432nd all-time win in program history. While Mickey was leading a productive rushing attack, USF’s defense was dominating during the final 30 minutes of play. In the second half, USF limited SMSU to 131 total yards, including -8 rushing yards. In the game, the Cougars, the top rushing defense (28.8 yards per game) in NCAA DII, allowed just 39 yards rushing on 32 carries or just 1.2 yards per carry.
“I really liked how we were able to establish our running attack. Of course, Max Mickey is a special player,” said Anderson. “But after halftime, I thought our defense was really impressive and played with fire and energy.”
Coming into the game, SMSU averaged 425 yards in total offense and nearly 32 points a game. However, USF’s defense is one of the best in the nation and proved it to SMSU. Ranked second nationally in total defense and scoring defense, the Cougars held SMSU to 10 points and 281 total yards. So far this season, the Cougars haven’t allowed an opponent to rush for more 104 yards in any game and have held four of five foes to under 40 yards for the game.
Leading the way for the USF defense was senior middle linebacker Michael Atonio, who had 10 tackles and a TFL. Senior Dennis Gardeck added eight tackles, three TFLs and recorded his eighth sack of the season, which leads NCAA DII. Senior Josh Butler added six tackles and a TFL for USF’s defense which had two more sacks and has a nation-best 21 on the season. In addition the Cougars recorded 11 tackles for loss, meeting its 10.5 per game average.
Mickey continued to exhibit his All-American form. He led a productive USF offense, which totaled 484 yards on 81 plays for 6.0 yards per carry. Mickey surpassed 200 yards rushing for the third time in his career, totaling 212 yards on 37 carries (tying a career-high) and two TDs. He now has 873 yards rushing (6.0 average) and eight TDs. With that total, he ranks fourth all-time at USF with 3,656 yards and now has 40 career rushing TDs, which is eighth all-time at USF. Also, Mickey now has rushed for 100-yards or more 18 times in his career, which tied him with USF Hall of Famer Nick Kortan, who starred for the Cougars from 1999-02.
Mickey wasn’t USF’s only productive player on the night. Senior Jason Town added 13 carries for 69 yards, while junior quarterback Ian Fieber completed 15-of-27 passes for a season-high 210 yards and a TD. Anthony Holmes led the receiving corps with five catches for 73 yards and a TD. Junior wide out A.J. Garrow added four catches for 35 yards with all-league tight end Nicholas Stanke providing three catches for 61 yards, including a 24-yard catch in which he was stopped just short of the end zone.
USF grabs early 7-0 lead on Fieber-Holmes TD
After a couple of defensive stops by both defenses, USF and SMSU struck quickly through the air in the opening quarter. USF struck first as Fieber connected with Holmes on a 45-yard pitch and catch with 2:38 left in the 1st quarter for a 7-0 lead. Holmes’ score capped a six-play, 88-yard scoring drive. On the ensuing possession, SMSU answered as quarterback Connor Willkie, who was 21-of-38 for 214 yards passing, connected with Connor Eldridge on a 60-yard TD pass.
After stopping USF on the ensuing drive, SMSU became USF’s first opponent to take a lead. SMSU drove 66 yards, using a couple of trick plays, and a 20-yard field goal from Skyler Crew for a 10-7 lead with 12:58 to play in the second quarter.
On the subsequent drive, USF drove the ball 34 yards on nine plays and a 44-yard field goal from Stuart Vanden Heuvel tied the game at 10-10 with 8:52 to play in the first half.
While the Cougars had a decided advantage in total yards in the first half, 262-to-151, USF missed a field goal and committed the first of its two turnovers. As a result, USF failed to hold a halftime lead. However, USF asserted itself in the second half to pick up a third road win this season.
Midway through the third quarter, USF put together the eventual game-winning scoring drive, utilizing Mickey’s running, Fieber accurate arm, and Stanke’s big-play receiving. After Fieber connected with Nicholas Stanke on a 25-yard catch to the SMSU one-yard line, Mickey scored on a one-yard run as USF took a 17-10 lead with 8:07 to play. Stanke had two catches for 43 yards on the drive.
On a night where the wind caused issues for both offenses, USF, holding onto to a one score advantage, had the wind in their face in the fourth quarter. In what proved to be a statement scoring drive, USF moved 89 yards in 10 plays, overcoming a holding penalty and putting together a series of big plays to put the game away.
On third and eight from its own 13-yard line, Fieber rifled a pass through the stout wind, connecting with junior Michael Maxwell on a 16-yard pass play for a crucial first down. Then, Towns had a 16-yard run which was followed by a 22-yard pass from Fieber to redshirt freshman Ty Smith as the Cougars advanced the ball to SMSU’s 33-yard line. From there, USF handed the ball to Mickey, who had a pair of five yard runs before finding an opening and dashing 23-yard for the game-clinching TD.
~ Through five games, the Cougars own a 159-to-31 scoring advantage over its opponents. USF has a 33-0 margin in the fourth quarter.
~ USF punter-kicker Stuart Vanden Heuvel is now 7-of-11 on field goals, including 4-of-4 from 40 yards or larger. He also has placed 11 punts inside the 20-yard line.
~ In rushing yards, USF has a decided edge over opponents. Through five games, USF has 1,168 yards to just 154 for opponents, which breaks down to 233.6-to-30.8 per game. In addition, the Cougars have scored 12 rushing TDs and allowed just one.
~ With 484 yards against SMSU, USF is averaging 410.0 yards in total offense per game. In TDs, USF has scored 16 to just four for opponents.
-Courtesy USF Athletics