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Bluejays show improvement in defeat against NDSCS

WORTHINGTON -- Despite his team's 28-0 defeat against North Dakota State College of Science Saturday, Minnesota West head football coach Jeff Linder was pleased with how his team did.

WORTHINGTON -- Despite his team's 28-0 defeat against North Dakota State College of Science Saturday, Minnesota West head football coach Jeff Linder was pleased with how his team did.

"I'm not disappointed at all," Linder said. "Nobody likes to lose, I hate to lose. But we played today. We were doing some good things."

Along with committing only three penalties for 20 yards in the contest, the Bluejays did turn in a good offensive performance against the Wildcats, especially in the second half. Jesse Brown Jr., starting at quarterback for the first time since last season, was 16-for-41 for 181 yards -- despite two interceptions.

"He had four days to work on throwing routes," Linder said. "It's not enough, but he did a good job."

Brown did a very good job on the second play from scrimmage in the game, hitting wide receiver Simon Boever for a 51-yard gain, setting up the Bluejays on NDSCS's 14-yard line. After a pair of runs put the team on the 2-yard line with first-and-goal, two penalties ultimately pushed Minnesota West back to the 15-yard line.

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Brown made up for it with a seven-yard run, but on third-and-goal from the 8-yard line, Brown was intercepted by Dalton Outlaw, killing the drive.

NDSCS then took little time responding with a drive of their own. Mixing runs and passes well against the Minnesota West defense, the Wildcats needed 13 plays to travel 90 yards, culminating in a 1-yard touchdown run by Brian McNeil, putting NDSCS up 7-0.

NDSCS then tried to take full command of the game, recovering a surprise onside kick which bounced off one of the Bluejays' upmen. When their drive stalled, though, Minnesota West was unable to pick up a first down, punting after three plays.

It was then that NDSCS went on another scoring march -- this one covering 65 yards 11 plays, finishing with a 30-yard touchdown pass from Chad Kilgore to Jared Manchulenko, who beat his defender in 1-on-1 coverage on the left side of the field. The score put the Wildcats up 14-0, a lead they held into halftime.

But there was a strange sense of déj? vu setting in at the half. Last season, when the two teams played in North Dakota, NDSCS had command of the offensive numbers and held a double-digit lead, only to see Minnesota West rally in the second half. On Saturday, NDSCS held a 188-101 yardage edge to go along with its double-digit lead.

Any hopes, however, of a repeat performance were quickly erased when Aaron Woodard returned the second-half kickoff 88 yards for a touchdown, putting NDSCS up 21-0.

"Our kickoff returns in practice, we were struggling there just to make it look right," NDSCS head coach Mike Beagle said. "We did some personnel changes this week ... which I think helped the players realize that's a momentum killer."

Brown again picked up his play in the second half, throwing for 119 yards and leading a drive late in the fourth quarter to the NDSCS 18-yard line. But the drive stalled there, with four incompletions ending the possession.

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NDSCS did sustained damage on the ground against Minnesota West, picking up 152 yards in 43 attempts. Leading the way was Jerome Messam, who ran for 100 yards -- all in the second half. McNeil, who ran for his lone touchdown in the first half, finished with 68 yards on 14 carries.

As for Kilgore, he turned in a solid performance, going 13-for-23 for 182 yards and two touchdowns. His favorite target was Manchulenko, who caught seven balls for 107 yards.

Minnesota West was topped in receiving by Boever, who had six catches for 94 yards. Kevin Robinson turned in a good second half, picking up eight receptions for 64 yards.

Overall, NDSCS outgained Minnesota West in offense, 333-299.

Minnesota West hosts Mesabi Range Saturday at noon.

NDSCS 7 7 7 7 -- 28

MW 0 0 0 0 -- 0

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