The game was also the opener for Midco Sports Network's "NSIC Thursday Night Game of the Week" series.
The University of Minnesota Crookston football team had their best offensive performance in an NSIC opening game since 2015 and their best defensive output in the first tilt of the NSIC slate since 2011. However, two first quarter turnovers would plague the Golden Eagles as Minnesota State University Moorhead got out to a 21-0 lead. Minnesota Crookston would trail just 21-6 at the half despite the big opening frame for the Dragons, but MSU Moorhead was able to stave off a pesky Golden Eagle team in front of a large crowd at Ed Widseth Field in Crookston, Minn. The game was also the opener for Midco Sports Network’s “NSIC Thursday Night Game of the Week” series.
The Golden Eagles fall to 0-1 despite a strong effort in which they never gave in and continued to show improvement throughout the game. MSU Moorhead moves to 0-1 on the year. The Dragons have won the last six in the series as they took home the State Farm Traveling Trophy with the win in the Red River Valley Showdown. The last win for Minnesota Crookston over MSU Moorhead came in 2013 at Ed Widseth Field.
Minnesota Crookston’s defense had a strong overall outing, as they held the Dragons to 352 yards of offense. The Golden Eagles were able to tally eight tackles for loss, and one true sack and two sacks that caused fumbles. Minnesota Crookston was led by their linebackers as Will Cross (Sr., LB, Turtle Lake, Wis.) returned after a full year of not playing in a game. Cross was knocked out of last year’s season opener against the Dragons. He finished with 13 tackles and a tackle for loss. Austin Steele (R-So., LB, La Crosse, WIs.) also had a phenomenal game with 11 tackles and 1.5 tackles for loss. Joe Warner (Sr., DL, St. Louis Park, Minn.) added six tackles and a sack.
Offensively, the Golden Eagles had 271 yards of offense with 170 through the air and 101 on the ground. Minnesota Crookston utilized two quarterbacks on the evening. Jalin Scott (Sr., QB, Houston, Texas) got the start and went 3-of-7 with 57 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Scott ran for 23 yards on 11 carries. Tristan Robbins (So., QB, Muskegon, Mich.) came off the bench and went 7-of-9 for 113 yards with two touchdowns. Robbins added 47 yards on the ground on nine carries.
Minnesota Crookston’s wide receivers also had a strong night. Jonattan Mudd (Sr., WR, Gardena, Calif.) had six catches for 80 yards and two touchdown catches. Mudd had the first two touchdown night from a wide receiver since Adam Connette and Rod Stewart both had two touchdown grabs in an evening in 2017. Nathan Coy (R-So., WR, Sun Prairie, Wis.) returned to the field after a redshirt year and had a productive day with three catches for 49 yards.
Wyatt K. Shedrick, III (R-Fr., WR, Scottsdale, Ariz.) showcased his speed all night long both as a receiver and a kick returner. Shedrick took the opening kickoff 47 yards and later on took a short reception to the house as he out-ran the Dragon defense for a 41-yard touchdown catch. He averaged 27.8 yards per kickoff return for Minnesota Crookston.
Boyce Harr (R-So., RB, Spearfish, S.D.) was the most productive running back for the Golden Eagles, as he had four carries for 20 yards for an average of 5.0 yards per carry.
MSU Moorhead was led on the night by quarterback Jakup Sinani, who was 29-of-39 for 255 yards with two touchdown passes. On the ground, Denver Colgrove had 11 rushes for 56 yards with one touchdown. Ty Jochim, a Minnesota Crookston transfer, got in during the fourth quarter and added 42 yards on 10 touches with a touchdown run.
Minnesota Crookston looked to start off the night strong as Shedrick took the opening kickoff 47 yards to put the Golden Eagles at their own 48 to start the game. However, Woods-Steichen got a strip sack of Scott and Zarak took the ball 42 yards to pay dirt to give the Dragons a quick 7-0 lead.
The Dragons converted a 10-play, 73-yard drive later in the first quarter culminating in a three-yard touchdown run for Sinani to push the lead to 14-0.
The Golden Eagles looked to move the ball on the next drive. Minnesota Crookston seemingly converted a fourth down on a four-yard run by Alex Folz (Fr., RB, Spring Grove, Minn.), but a big hit on Folz by Shad Vedaa forced him to cough it up and end the drive for Minnesota Crookston.
The Dragons got points off the turnover as Sinani found Trent Marquart for a four-yard touchdown strike to move the lead to 21-0 early in the second stanza.
The Golden Eagles had a great defensive series later in the second quarter. Minnesota Crookston hoped to have a turnover on first down as Osayi Onaghinor (R-Jr., DB, Sacramento, Calif.) came on a blind side corner blitz and punished Sinani with a big hit forcing the fumble. However, Minnesota Crookston would be unable to scoop up the ball for what could have been a touchdown. The Golden Eagles did a force a punt though and sent the offense up to succeed.
Scott fed off the momentum from the defense as on first down he rushed 25 yards down to the Dragon 22-yard line. Two plays later, Scott found his junior college teammate Mudd for a 20-yard touchdown pass. A failed fake field goal kept the score at 21-6.
Both defenses held strong the rest of the second quarter as MSU Moorhead went into the break ahead 21-6.
The Dragons came out of the break strong as they went 57 yards on 10 plays. The Golden Eagles were able to hold MSU Moorhead to three after getting a big third down stop and forcing a 36-yard field goal from Hobet Diaz to move the score to 24-6.
MSU Moorhead widened their lead out to 30-6 later in the stanza when Colgrove went in on a five-yard touchdown run.
Minnesota Crookston responded early in the fourth quarter. Robbins moved the team into Dragon territory as he found Coy on back-to-back strikes of 14 yards and 19 yards. On the next play, Robbins found a wide open Shedrick, who used his speed to run past the Dragon defender 41 yards to the end zone. The touchdown strike cut the lead to 30-12 after a failed extra point.
MSU Moorhead moved the lead to 37-12 in the fourth quarter when Sinani found Gray out of the backfield for an 11-yard touchdown pass.
A Deontre Wade interception on the next play from scrimmage set the Dragons up for a quick score. Jochim went in from two yards out to move the lead to 44-12.
The Golden Eagles did not give in as Robbins quickly moved Minnesota Crookston down the field with a 16-yard pass to Coy and a 16-yard rush. He found Mudd in the end zone to cut the deficit to 44-18. A Shedrick rush on the two-point conversion proved true as the deficit shrank to 44-20.
The score would remain at 44-20 as the final second ticked off the clock as the Dragons took home the State Farm Traveling Trophy.
Minnesota Crookston will look to build off the positives from a strong effort as they hit the road to face St. Cloud State University Sat., Sept. 14 for a 6 p.m. kickoff in St. Cloud, Minn.