MITCHELL, S.D. – The season did not begin as planned for the Dakota Wesleyan University football team as they fell to No. 25 Dakota State University 27-18 in the season opener at Joe Quintal Field in Mitchell, S.D.
Both teams took most of the first quarter to find their footing as neither team scored until less than two minutes to play in the quarter. The Trojans (1-0) struck first with 1:38 remaining in the opening stanza as Mason Leighton (Madison, S.D.) hauled in a 16-yard touchdown snag to take a 7-0 lead.
The Tigers (0-1) found their rhythm with 6:23 to play in the first half as Luke Loudenburg (Canova, S.D.) scampered into the end zone on a four-yard touchdown run to pull DWU within a point following a missed PAT.
On the ensuing possession, Sam Naasz (Winner, S.D.) forced the first turnover of the season as he snagged an interception at the DWU 26-yard line. Although, neither team scored for the remainder of the first half as the Trojans led the Tigers 7-6 heading into halftime.
The second half began quickly as DSU fumbled the opening kickoff and Na'hoku Agor (Hanapepe, Hawaii) recovered the fumble to give the Tigers the ball in Trojan territory. However, DWU could not capitalize on the field position as Shaye Slaughter (Harrisburg, S.D.) was intercepted on a fourth-down conversion.
Six plays later, the Trojans added another score with a 19-yard touchdown pass to take a 13-6 lead. With under 10 minutes to play in the third quarter, Mitch Johnson (Mitchell, S.D.) caused the second interception of the game for the Tigers as he jumped a route and returned the ball to the DSU nine yard line. The Tigers were unable to convert the turnover to points as the Trojans took over on downs at their own two yard line.
With five minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Trojans added their third score of the game on an 80-yard run by Brodie Frederiksen (Madison, S.D.) to take a 20-6 lead. DSU lined up for a field goal to extend its lead with 10 minutes left to play, but Trey DeCroock (Sioux Falls, S.D.) recovered the blocked field goal and returned it to the DWU 37 yard line.
Six plays later, Slaughter found senior receiver Jonny Withrow (Kimball, Neb.) for a 23-yard touchdown pass to pull within a score at 20-12. DSU extended their lead to two scores on the next possession following a Frederiksen 38-yard touchdown run.
The Tigers were able to add another score following a six-play drive as Slaughter found freshman receiver Daniel Libolt (Chambers, Neb.) for a 31-yard touchdown pass. DWU recovered the following onside kick to give life to the Tigers with time winding down. But the Tigers were unable to add another score as the Trojans took the opening game of the season.
DWU tallied 512 yards of total offense, while DSU notched 489 yards. Slaughter finished 28-of-57 with 384 yards passing with two touchdowns, while Loudenburg tallied 139 yards on 23 rushes with a touchdown. Leading the way at receiver was Libolt with six catches for 150 yards and a touchdown, as Spencer Neugebauer (Mitchell, S.D.) recorded 73 yards on six grabs. Dillon Rork (Grand Island, Neb.) led the charge on defense with eight tackles and a fumble recovery, while Johnson finished with five total tackles, a pass breakup and an interception.
DWU returns to action to take on Presentation College in a non-conference matchup at 7 p.m. Saturday in Aberdeen, S.D.