Jack Nelson set a Winona State single-game record with 40 pass completions, but the Warrior football team fell to Southwest Minnesota State 51-44 in overtime Saturday in Marshall, Minn.
Nelson put up huge numbers, completing 40 of his 59 pass attempts - another WSU single-game mark - for 425 yards and three touchdowns. Nelson is just the third player in school history to throw for over 400 yards in a game, with his total just 23 off the program record.
Winona State tallied 701 yards of total offense on the day, the second consecutive year the Warriors have passed 700 yards of total offense in a game.
Tony Mueller was Nelson’s favorite target, catching a career-high 11 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. Cameron Johnson added nine catches for 98 yards and a pair of scores to the WSU offensive effort.
The Warriors also moved the ball well on the ground, rushing for 276 yards. Chichi Ojika recorded 190 yards and a score on the ground, his fifth 100-yard game of the season and third performance of at least 180 yards. Freshman Paul Preston added 80 yards on ten carries to the team’s rushing effort.
Ojika’s 190 rushing yards gives him 1,019 on the season, the fourth consecutive year a Warrior has passed the 1,000 yard mark.
Jordan Kos scored Winona State’s first two touchdowns of the day, finding the end zone from one yard out on the team’s first possession and adding an eight yard score five minutes later to stake the Warriors to a 13-0 lead. The team’s first touchdown came on its first offensive play of the game after Ojika took the opening kickoff 89 to the SMSU one yardline.
The Mustangs responded with a pair of touchdowns to tie the game at 13 midway through the second quarter. Winona State took the lead back with 9:51 to play in the half, with Nelson hitting Johnson for a one-yard score.
Each team would score once more before halftime, with SMSU quarterback Charlie Kern hitting Anthony Dean for a 68 yard touchdown. Winona State responded with another touchdown pass from Nelson to Johnson, this one covering 23 yards to send WSU into the break with a 27-19 lead.
Southwest Minnesota State tied the game early in the third quarter, recovering a Johnson fumble and returning it 25 yards for a score. Winona State responded with a touchdown pass from Nelson to Mueller but SMSU scored two minutes later to knot things at 34 after three quarters.
A Tyler Tonderum six-yard touchdown run gave SMSU a 41-34 lead with 5:34 to play in the game, but Winona State got the score right back, with Ojika breaking free for a 72 yard score that tied the contest at 41.
Both teams added a field goal in the final moments of regulation, with WSU’s Brett Cochran-Bray splitting the uprights from 21 yards out with six seconds to play to force overtime.
Southwest Minnesota State scored a touchdown on its possession of overtime but Winona State was unable to find the end zone as Nelson was intercepted on a fourth down pass to end the game.
Ryan Gerts led the Winona State defense with 11 total tackles with AJ Shipp making six stops while breaking up a trio of passes. Morgan Weaver and Patrick Lazzara each added six tackles with Anthony Frisby collecting a quarterback sack.
Winona State (5-4 overall) will host Augustana in its final home game of the season next Saturday at 1 pm.
--Courtesy Winona State Athletics