Blake Gimbel connected on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Ty Steffensen with 23 seconds remaining to help Southwest Minnesota State to a dramatic come-from-behind 42-38 victory over No. 19 Minnesota Duluth on Thursday night at the Schwan Regional Event Center.
UMD held a 38-28 lead with five minutes left in the game, but SMSU rallied with a pair of touchdowns in the final three minutes and 11 seconds to earn its first-ever win over an NCAA Division II Top 25 team and its first win over UMD since 1999.
The game-winning drive covered 64 yards on five plays and took just 27 seconds as Gimbel completed three passes to three different receivers on the final drive.
Gimbel finished the night completing 25 of 42 pass attempts for 397 yards and tied a career-high with five touchdown passes.
Gabriel Galamue caught six passes for 102 yards in his first career game, while Nate Huot finished with five receptions for a career-high 160 yards and one touchdown.
Ashanti Payne paced the Mustang rushing attack with 74 yards on 12 carries.
Gene Germain and Caleb Leichtnam led the SMSU defense with 12 tackles each with Leichtnam recording two tackles for loss and a pass break-up.
UMD closed the game with 602 yards of offense, but was held to just 262 in the second. UMD ran 83 plays compared to 61 for SMSU and held a 40:29 to 19:31 time of possession advantage.
Darren Walker the Bulldogs with 154 yards rushing and one touchdown on 24 carries. Drew Bauer completed 19 of 33 pass attempts for 359 yards and two touchdowns.
UMD opened the game's scoring with a field goal on its opening drive, but SMSU answered back with a Gimbel 14-yard touchdown pass to Steffensen with 11:11 in the first quarter to make the score 7-3.
UMD then proceeded to score 20 unanswered points to build a 23-7 advantage with 6:11 remaining in the first half.
SMSU cut the deficit to 23-14 with 4:33 left in the half on a Gimbel to Huot 50-yard touchdown pass, completing a double-reverse pass play.
The Bulldogs added to the lead on their first drive of the second half with a touchdown, but a failed PAT kept the score at 29-14.
Following an SMSU punt, the Mustang defense made its first big play of the second half as Webb Bolstad recovered a UMD fumble at the Bulldog 16-yard line. Three plays later, Gimbel fired a 4-yard touchdown pass to Raphael Lawson-Gayle to cut the deficit to 29-21 with 4:39 remaining in the third.
UMD answered with another touchdown with 3:01 remaining in the third, but missed on the two-point conversion to make the score 35-21.
SMSU wouldn't go away and quickly responded with a Gimbel 11-yard touchdown strike to Davion Shelton late in the quarter to trim the UMD lead to 35-28.
The SMSU defense came through with a big stop midway through the fourth quarter, stopping UMD on fourth-and-1 from the UMD 42-yard line as Wes Bednar and Kevin Rubin broke through for the tackle. SMSU had great field position and a chance to tie the game, but on the first play on the ensuing drive, Gimbel was stripped-sacked and UMD recovered at the SMSU 42-yard line.
UMD took advantage of the turnover with Tyler McLaughlin booting a 42-yard field goal with 5:01 left in the game to push the lead to 38-28.
On the ensuing drive, SMSU faced a fourth-and-14 from its own 28-yard line, but Gimbel found Huot open for a 20-yard completion to keep the drive alive. Gimbel then later completed passes of 21 yards to Lawson-Gayle and 30 yards to Galamue for 30 yards, down the UMD 1-yard line. Divonte Beale then plowed in for a touchdown with 3:11 left to make the score 38-35.
Following a failed on-side kick by SMSU, UMD took over at the SMSU 48-yard line with SMSU out of timeouts. The Mustang defense then forced a three-and-out and following an 11-yard punt, took over with 50 seconds remaining.
Gimbel started the drive with a 20-yard pass to Galamue and following a spike to stop the clock, fired a 30-yard pass to Huot to move the ball down the UMD 14-yard line. Following another spike, Gimbel completed the comeback with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Steffensen.
Southwest Minnesota State hits the road for the first time in 2016 next week, facing Northern State University on Saturday, Sept. 10, starting at 6 p.m. The game will air on ESPN3/WatchESPN.