Dragons tame Mustangs, Strand sets multiple program records

Photo Courtesy: Dustin Eichten MSUM GO! TEAM
Photo Courtesy: Dustin Eichten MSUM GO! TEAM

MARSHALL, Minn. -- While not pretty at times, MSU Moorhead football utilized a stern defensive performance to take home their first road win of 2023. The Dragons defeated Southwest Minnesota State 34-17 on Saturday afternoon.

In the win, Dragon quarterback Jack Strand set both the single-season (previously 254) and all-time (previously 485) completions record in school history. The sophomore also became the fastest player (17 games) to 5,000 career passing yards, becoming just the fourth quarterback in school history to eclipse that mark.

Both teams would struggle to get their offenses going in the first frame as the Mustangs would open the game with a punt before the Dragons would punt it right back. Each team would trade turnover on downs on the ensuing drives as the Dragon defense stuffed the Mustangs on fourth and two. Southwest Minnesota State would respond by holding firm on a fourth and five play from MSUM.

Upon stopping the Dragons, Mustang quarterback Marcus Martin would get intercepted by McKale Pierson to give MSUM the ball back. The somewhat sloppy play would continue as MSUM fumbled on the ensuing possession to give the Mustangs the ball at MSUM's 10-yard line. The home team would take advantage of the generous field position to score the first touchdown of the contest. Strand was intercepted on the following Dragon drive as the Mustangs held a 7-0 lead through one quarter.

MSUM would open up the second frame by putting the finishing touches on an eight-play, 49-yard drive that resulted in a Tyson Powell rushing touchdown on the goal line. Powell's fifth rushing touchdown of the season would knot the game even at seven points each. The Dragons would continue to stifle the Mustang offense, forcing a punt on the ensuing drive. Southwest Minnesota State had a bad snap on that punt that flew over the head of punter Mason Carver, who ran for the ball before being tackled and fumbling. McKale Pierson was in on the play once again, forcing the issue and scooping the ball up and scoring from 10 yards away. MSUM would have the extra point blocked, which was returned 85 yards by the Mustangs. After a bizarre pair of plays, MSUM led 13-9.

The Dragon defense would once again force a turnover on the ensuing Mustang possession as Jack Bungarden knocked the ball loose with Jared Kallenbach falling on the football. Strand was intercepted for the second time on the ensuing drive to keep the score at 13-9. The two teams would trade punts down the stretch of the half as MSUM had one final shot to score before halftime. Strand led the Dragons 65 yards on eight plays with the sophomore finding Brady Perryman for a two-yard passing touchdown. The Dragons would enter the half leading 20-9.

Receiving the second half kickoff, MSUM would make short work of the Mustang defense as they would drive 75 yards on just five plays. Strand connected with Ryan Bieberdorf for a four-yard score to push the Dragons in front by a score of 27-9. Southwest Minnesota State would put together a massive response on their next drive, traveling 66 yards on 13 plays and chewing up over six minutes of game time. The Mustangs would score and convert on a two-point conversion to bring the score to 27-17.

MSUM would continue its special teams success as the Mustangs muffed a punt return on their next drive. Denver Sheets would fall on the ball, giving the Dragons great field position at the Mustang 24-yard line. Fynn Ridgeway would complete the drive with his first career touchdown, a one-yard scamper to put the Dragons up 34-17.

The fourth quarter would see the Dragon defense impose their will on the Mustang offense. Jake Bettcher opened the quarter with an interception before MSUM stopped the Mustangs on fourth down a drive later. While Strand would get picked off for the third time later in the frame, Southwest Minnesota State would fall victim to an interception from Jared Kallenbach on their final offensive drive. In the 34-17 win, MSUM's defense allowed just 296 total yards to the Mustangs with the defensive and special teams units forcing three interceptions and four total fumbles.


Top Dragons

Jack Strand: 36-51, 349 yards, two touchdowns

Fynn Ridgeway: Seven carries, 66 yards, one touchdown

Gage Florence: 15 receptions, 119 yards

Brady Perryman: Three receptions, 82 yards, one touchdown

Ryan Bieberdorf: Three receptions, 34 yards, one touchdown

Josiah Behm: 10 tackles

Jake Bettcher: Seven tackles, one interception

Jared Kallenbach: Seven tackles, one interception

McKale Pierson: Four tackles, tackle for loss, one interception, one forced fumble, one touchdown

Up Next

The Dragons (5-3, 4-3 NSIC) return to SCHEELS Field next weekend for a tilt with Winona State. Kickoff from Nemzek Stadium is scheduled for 12 p.m. Game coverage will be available on AM 1100 The Flag with the pregame show beginning at 11 a.m.


This article was written by MSUM's Nolan Schmidt