Southwest Minnesota State rallied from a 17-14 deficit midway through the third quarter—scoring 21 unanswered points—to earn a 47-23 victory over the University of Mary in NSIC football on Saturday afternoon at the Schwan Regional Event Center.
Trailing 17-14 in the third, SMSU’s Blake Gimbel connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Raphael Lawson-Gayle with seven minutes and six seconds remaining in the third quarter to help start the Mustang comeback.
SMSU improves to 2-1 with the victory, while U-Mary drops to 0-3.
Gimbel finished the game completing 15 of 19 passes for 175 yards and four touchdowns. SMSU’s Divonte Beale rushed for a career-high 164 yards on 27 attempts, while true freshman Max Simmons—making his first career start—added 101 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
The Mustang offense racked up 514 yards of offense and 28 first downs, despite having the ball for just 20 minutes. U-Mary’s triple-option offense racked up 258 yards rushing and held the ball for nearly 40 minutes in the game. The Marauders held a time of possession advantage of 22 minutes to eight in the first half.
U-Mary closed the game with 343 yards of offense with 21 first down. Ben Jollilffe rushed for 93 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries to pace the Marauder offense, while completing 8 of 18 passes for 85 yards.
U-Mary took advantage of an SMSU interception to score the game’s first points.
Taking over at their own 38-yard line, the Marauders’ Jolliffe broke free for a 41-yard touchdown run with 4:33 remaining in the first quarter to make the score 7-0. It was the first points of the season for U-Mary after being shutout in its first two games.
SMSU fumbled the ensuing kickoff and U-Mary used the short field to extend the lead. Colton Farmer rushed five consecutive times—including a 1-yard touchdown run—to make the score 14-0 late in the opening quarter.
SMSU answered back to score its first points of the game as Blake Gimbel connected on a 12-yard touchdown pass to Divonte Beale to cap an 11-play, 65-yard drive to cut the deficit to 14-7 early in the second quarter.
U-Mary followed SMSU’s scoring drive with an impressive 10-plus minute drive, taking advantage of an SMSU rougher the kicker penalty and later a fake field goal attempt. The Marauders moved the ball down the Mustang 12-yard line, but on fourth-and-goal, Farmer was stuff for a two-yard loss by Daniel Halverson and Webb Bolstad.
Taking over with 3:27 left in the half, the Mustang offense moved 86 yards on 11 plays, finishing off with a Gimbel 12-yard pass to Lawson-Gayle to tie the game at 14 into halftime.
The Marauders opened the second half with a 68-yard kickoff return to start the opening drive at the 28-yard line. After a pair of first downs set up first-and-goal at the 6-yard line, the Mustang defense stiffened and U-Mary was forced to settle for a 19-yard field goal from Cody Goetz at the 8:34 mark to take a 17-14 lead.
The lead didn’t last long as Beale ripped off runs of eight, 15 and 16 yards to open the ensuing drive. Two plays later Gimbel found Lawson-Gayle with a 25-yard touchdown pass to give SMSU its first lead of the game at 21-17 with 7:06 left in the third.
The game’s turning point occurred just moments later as U-Mary fumbled the ensuing kickoff and SMSU’s Esten Weber recovered at the Marauders’ 30-yard line. Beale racked up 18 yards on four carries to open the drive before Gimbel found Ty Steffensen in the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown reception to extend the lead to 28-17 with 5:28 remaining in the third.
Following a missed 44-yard field goal by U-Mary on its next possession, SMSU put the game away as Simmons plowed in for a 2-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to make the score 35-17.
U-Mary scored on a 1-yard touchdown run midway through the final frame before SMSU closed out the scoring with a pair of touchdowns. Simmons ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run, before Connor Wilkie closed the scoring with a 58-yard touchdown pass to Quadri Busari to make the score 47-23.
Following a punt and interception to begin the game, the SMSU offense reeled off seven straight touchdown scoring drives.
Gene Germain and Tyler Flud each racked up a team-high 10 tackles in the victory, while Daniel Halverson added nine stops, including a sack and a pass break-up.
Southwest Minnesota State continues conference play next Saturday, Sept. 24, with a 1 p.m. contest at Minnesota Crookston (0-3). It will be SMSU’s final game versus an opponent from the NSIC North Division this season.