N orthern State stopped Concordia-St. Paul’s fourth quarter surge with a huge surge of its own.
The Wolves edged the Golden Bears 24-23 on Saturday at Swisher Field in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference college football contest. Northern blocked a point-after-attempt in the waning seconds to preserve the win. The game appeared to be headed for overtime, but NSU’s Mason Thorstad and his fellow defensive linemen broke through the line and he blocked the potential game-tying PAT with 34 seconds left.
“I have to give half the credit to (NSU defensive lineman) Jalon Bibbs,” Thorstad said the blocked PAT. “Our strategy is to get two guys on one and bull him over and get the hands up late. Every once in awhile, you work hard enough at it and it is going to work out for you.”
In a past meeting in 2005 in Aberdeen, Concordia had a blocked PAT on its second touchdown, and fumbled on a 2-point conversion later in the game and lost by just one point to NSU 20-19. After Saturday’s blocked PAT, NSU wide receiver Mark Hanley recovered the ensuing onside kick and the Wolves ran out the clock for their first win of the season. The Wolves are now 1-3, all in NSIC play.
Hanley was on the receiving end of both Jared Jacobson’s passing touchdowns on Saturday. A week after posting his first 200-yard passing game, Jacobson finished 17 of 33 for 191 yards.
“It is just really something we focused on the last two weeks,” Hanley said about the passing game. “We knew our running game was doing pretty well from the first two weeks and we knew we needed to improve on the passing game. That is something we all really focused on in practice the last two weeks and it showed today that we improved.”
Junior tailback John Hughes had 104 rushing yards on 15 carries, including a 42-yard gallop in the second quarter. The effort marked his first 100-yard rushing game in an NSU uniform. Hanley and Jacobson’s two touchdown connections came in the third quarter to turn a 10-3 NSU deficit into a 17-10 advantage going into the fourth quarter. Jacobson then scored on a QB keeper from 13 yards out with just under 12 minutes to go in the game to give the Wolves a 24-10 lead.
“Great resiliency,” Northern State coach Tom Dosch said, “(we were) down 10-3 at half and really not playing well. Our offense came out and did some great things and again played good defense for most of the game.”
However, the Golden Bears cut the margin to 24-17 with 5:50 left and forced an NSU punt on the Wolves’ next possession. Concordia QB James Peterson then directed his offense past midfield in front of 3,554 anxious NSU fans. Peterson capped off the 10-play, 75-yard drive with a seven-yard TD pass to Cordell Smith with 34 ticks left before Thorstad came up with the blocked PAT.
“Fortunately, the D-line bailed me out personally on that last one,” said NSU safety Logan Dosch, who was covering Smith. “I’m in zero coverage and I can’t be giving up touchdowns like that, but all that really matters is that we finished. We got what we needed. We got the field goal blocked.”
Dosch had a career-high two interceptions and fellow safety Jayson Geditz picked off Peterson as well. The Wolves’ defense now has seven interceptions on the year. The Wolves’ offense turned two of Saturday’s interceptions into 14 points. Geditz’s third quarter interception set up a Jacobson-to-Hanley four-yard TD reception to knot it up at 10-10 with nine minutes left in the third quarter. Dosch’s second interception of the day set up Jacobson’s 13-yard TD run in the fourth quarter.
“Our defense played outstanding,” said Hanley, who had 37 receiving yards on five catches. “(Logan Dosch) set us up great. Nothing wrong with getting the ball at the 50-yard line. He put us on a short field and that is great. When our defense plays like that, it is up to us to score points and win the game and that is what we did.”
The Northern defense combined for two sacks and three quarterback hurries against the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Peterson.
“We got after them,” said Thorstad, who added six tackles. “The D-line and linebackers are always moving around. The O-line wasn’t able to keep up with us just as we thought. We got home a couple of times. It is good to be able to finally do that.”
Peterson finished with 373 passing yards on 24 of 44 attempts. However, the three interceptions give Peterson eight on the season. The Wolves did not have any turnovers on Saturday.
“On the stat sheet, we have some interceptions,” said Logan Dosch, who has three picks on the year, “but it is a team game. If he has no pressure, he has all day to throw. If those guys aren’t doing their job up front, we’ve got nothing. The credit really does go up front to the linebackers and the defensive line.”
Peterson got the Golden Bears on the scoreboard with an 82-yard TD pass to Tre Mason in the second quarter to make it 7-3. Tom Obarski made a 28-yarder field as time expired in the first half to give the Golden Bears a 10-3 halftime lead.
However, the Wolves ultimately pulled out the win and will now go on the road next week at Minnesota State-Moorhead. The Dragons are 0-4 to start the season after falling to Minnesota State, Mankato 24-0 on Saturday.
“The way the last couple minutes were going there, it wasn’t real positive for a little bit,” coach Dosch said, “but credit to the kids that they kept believing and kept hammering away at it.”