MANKATO, Minn. – For the first time since 2003, the Augustana football team left Mankato, Minnesota, with a win. The Vikings topped the reigning NSIC Champions 45-35 Saturday in Blakeslee Stadium.
The No. 22 ranked Vikings are in the driver’s seat of the NSIC race with a 7-1 record while Minnesota State, who began the season ranked No. 2 in the nation, falls to 5-3.
Kyle Saddler threw for 438 yards and five touchdowns while Logan Swanson, playing in his hometown, had a sack late in the game that set the Vikings up for their final touchdown to push the game out of reach.
In all, Augustana recorded five sacks, gave up none of its own, while Grayson Diepenbrock recorded 2.5 of those sacks for 21 yards.
The Vikings jumped out to a quick start and played to a nearly flawless opening quarter. In what has become a common theme in 2021, Saddler connected with Sean Engel for a 15-yard touchdown to cap a 10-play, 78-yard drive and capture an early 7-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter Logan Uttecht caught the first of three touchdowns to give AU the 14-0 advantage.
After Minnesota State scored a touchdown but missed the point after, Saddler and Uttecht connected for a second time. This time it was a 13-yard touchdown that saw Uttecht stretch across the goal line to give AU the 21-6 lead.
Minnesota State scored with just over a minute to go in the second quarter as the squads entered halftime with the Vikings leading 21-14.
The third quarter saw each team score two touchdowns to make for the exciting fourth quarter. The Mavericks scored first, a nine-yard pass from JD Ekowa to Blake VerMulm to knot the game at 21-all. The Vikings answered back on the ensuing drive. Augustana traveled nine plays and 73 yards, culminating in a 25-yard touchdown pass to Uttecht, marking a career day.
After forcing a quick three-and-out from the MSU offense, Augustana ran a quick offensive series of its own. Two plays, 59 yards later the Vikings opened a 35-21 lead after Jack Fisher scored his first-career touchdown, a 55-yard reception from Saddler.
Minnesota State ended the third quarter with a touchdown as the two squads entered the fourth with a 35-28 score.
After a fourth quarter that saw neither offense take grips, Ben Limburg connected on a 27-yard field goal to push AU’s lead to 10 points at 38-28 with 3:26 remaining in the game.
That set up one of the most important defensive series of the season for Augustana to look to seal the game. After a four-yard gain on first-and-10, Swanson came up big with a sack and a nine-yard loss. On third-and-15, Diepenbrock broke up a pass forcing a fourth down for MSU from its own 13-yard line. Diepenbrock again came up big, this time a sack for eight yards and it was Augustana’s ball at the Minnesota State 5-yard line.
Two offensive plays later, Jarod Epperson was in the end zone celebrating a 45-28 lead with 1:56 remaining in the game.
Minnesota State was able to get one more touchdown on the scoreboard, but after recovering the on-side kick, the Vikings were in victory formation in Mankato for the first time since Nov. 1, 2003.
Augustana racked up 567 yards of total offense, 438 through the air and 129 on the ground and held the time of possession for 39:09.
Uttecht ended the day with 107 yards receiving and the hat trick of touchdowns while Engel totaled 72 yards and the touchdown. Kyle Graham led the rushing attack with 63 yards.
Defensively, in what could be described as the leading contender for the NSIC Freshman of the Year, Peyton Buckley led the way with eight tackles and a pass breakup. Diepenbrock recorded six tackles with the 2.5 sacks. Jake Polson and Luke Fritsch each recorded an interception. It was Fritsch’s pick that set up Limburg’s field goal. Augustana, who presumably will climb in the Top-25 after the win, welcomes Winona State to Kirkeby-Over Stadium on Saturday for a 1 p.m. kickoff. Augustana entered the weekend with the nation’s third-long home winning streak at nine games.