Matt Witwicki

NSIC - Playoffs - Round 2

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(Midwestern State Athletics)

Super Region Four – Second Round Playoffs

Midwestern State-TX (10-0) at MSU-Mankato (12-0)

Players to Watch:
Midwestern State Mustangs – Offense (47 ppg), Defense (23 ppg)
#18 (QB) Layton Rabb – 290 ypg, 65%, 26 touchdowns, 4 interceptions
#5 (RB) Adrian Seales – 95 ypg, 7 touchdowns
#34 (RB) Vincent Johnson – 75 ypg, 16 touchdowns
#2 (S) Sir’Vell Ford – 57 tackles, 2 tfl, 2 pass breakups

MSU-Mankato Mavericks – Offense (42 ppg), Defense (14 ppg)
#23 (RB) Nate Gunn – 139 ypg, 10 touchdowns
#84 (WR) Shane Zylstra – 44 catches, 67 ypg, 14 touchowns
#15 (K/P) Casey Bednarski – 18 or 19 on FGs, long of 63
#92 (DE) Evan Perrizo – 40 tackles, 15.5 tfl, 10.5 sacks

(Stats: Regular Season numbers)

The Mustangs visit the Mavericks in a battle to see who ends up into the round of 8. MSU-Mankato expected to be a playoff team, and has been successful quite a bit during the last 5 years, while Midwestern has made the playoffs, they haven’t quite seen the same recent success the Mavs have.

The visiting Mustangs escaped with a 24-20 win against Sioux Falls, after being down 17-0 early in that ballgame. MW State displayed a lot of perseverance in the win, while their defense got the needed stops in the red zone. QB Layton Rabb made plays when needed, despite a 30mph toying with the Mustang passing game. Adrian Seales gave MW State a shot in the arm and ran hard to help put the game away against the Cougars. The Mustang defense was basically getting run over by USF early, but found a way to get off the field more often as the game continued, holding USF to merely a field goal in the back half of the contest. The Mustang D will likely be the Achilles heel of this squad, while their offense can be as explosive as just about any team in the playoff field. Sir’Vell Ford had a super-human effort with his 20 tackles against the Cougars a week ago.

MSU-Mankato got themselves behind for a second consecutive week, only to find victory late after a lackluster day. A few weeks ago Mankato looked like they could be one of the squads to fear come playoff time, but since then they’ve barely looked like a playoff team. It’s hard to know which squad they are right now. The wind blew hard a week ago against CSUP, and I wasn’t shocked the Thunderwolves defense limited the Mavs to an extent. Star rusher Nate Gunn returned to the lineup and carried the mail all day long, but he wasn’t able to break anything off in a dynamic manner. However, Gunn is a great workhouse, as he keeps on pounding. The bigger challenge for Mankato is seemingly getting the passing game to be a consistent performer they can count on. Shane Zylstra (WR) only had 1 grab last week, and it came when defenders collided. They will need him to step up, as he’s their answer down the field. To the credit of MSU-Mankato, their defense played very well a week ago, holding CSUP to under 150 total yards. The Mavs have shown to be one of the stronger units in the NSIC.

The weather was looking like it was going to be windy and chilly this weekend. That’s now since changed, with winds not expected, and 40 degrees and sunny expected. That’s a big advantage for the Mustangs, but something tells me they’ll still feel kinda cold. However, I do see Mankato struggling with the explosive offense of MW State, seeing as the NSIC didn’t see any good passing offenses this season, odd as that sounds. Last week Winona got to see one, and they gave up 450 yards of offense. However, the Mavs offense should have success running the football against a Mustang defense that struggled at times in the run against USF, while not being strong in their league play on the ground either. The Mavs are at risk of getting themselves in a fire-fight against a team that can score quickly. It’ll be on their front four to get home and hurry the passer. If Rabb has time to throw for MW, the Mavs will be in trouble. However, I expect Mankato to get their head right and play more like the Mavs we’d seen for the first 10 weeks of the season. Recently they’ve looked much more like the hunted and not the hunter. I think Mankato controls the game with their running game in a game that’ll be showcase more offensive firepower than a week ago at Blakeslee Stadium. I think MW State takes them to the limit, and their offense could very well be too much, but I like the Mavs to assert themselves offensively.

MSU-Mankato 38-34

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