WAYNE, Neb. – The St. Cloud State football team hung on for a 24-19 NSIC win over Wayne State (Neb.) Saturday afternoon.
The Huskies improved to 2-2 in the NSIC and 2-2 overall with their second road win of the season. St. Cloud State is host to No. 2-ranked Minnesota-Duluth at 6 p.m. next Saturday.
St. Cloud State took a 24-10 lead after the third quarter following a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs by running back Michael Walker.
But the Wildcats (3-1 NSIC, 3-1 overall) wouldn’t go away. Wayne State earned a safety after St. Cloud State intentionally gave it to them with 1:52 left. That made it 24-12.
But Wayne State returned Tyler Aldridge’s free kick 77 yards and then got an 8-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nate Most to wide receiver Kevin Paulsen to cut the lead to 24-19 with 1:37 to go.
Special teams were a problem the entire game for the Huskies, who botched two punt attempts with a bad snap and also had one blocked on a quick-kick attempt on a fourth down by quarterback Phillip Klaphake.
“This wasn’t a pretty win, that’s for sure,” SCSU head coach Scott Underwood said. “Our special teams, especially our punting and kick coverages, didn’t help us out. We put ourselves in some tough situations. It was scary there at the end. We have to work on that.
“Luckily we’ll look back on this and see the ‘W’ and nothing else.”
Wayne State went for an onside kick after the Paulsen touchdown, but St. Cloud State’s Brad Wignes recovered it and the Huskies ran out the clock from there.
“We kept our composure late,” Walker said. “It was an awkward situation with the safety and the big return. We knew our hands team would come up big there and they did.”
Walker had 25 carries for 110 yards as the Huskies had 123 yards on the ground. Klaphake was 16 of 29 passing for 222 yards and Eli Shoemaker had five catches for 102 yards for SCSU.
With the score tied at 10 at the half, St. Cloud State and Walker came out by scoring on their first two drives of the second half. Walker credited the offensive line for improved play in the second half, especially after it gave up five sacks in the first half.
“We just came out with the mind-set that we were going to run the ball,” Walker said. “We were really pumped up. (Tight end) Corey Henne did a good job of getting the offense going at the half. I know the linemen were pumped up. It was a big step up for them in the second half. They physically dominated a good defensive line.”
The Huskies had 345 yards of total offense to the Wildcats’ 165. St. Cloud State had a big advantage in time of possession. The Huskies held the ball for 40 minutes, 46 seconds while Wayne had it for 19:14.
St. Cloud State got on the board first when junior cornerback returned an interception 17 yards for a touchdown. Moro finished with three interceptions and stopped two promising Wayne State drives with the other two. Moro has four interceptions on the season. It’s the first time he’s ever had three interceptions in a game.
“I just jumped the pass and made a good play on the ball,” Moro said of the touchdown. “I’m glad I could make a play for the team. The other interceptions were the same thing. We were in man coverage. We knew they had good wide receivers. I just made another play because I saw it coming and jumped it.”
Moro credited the Huskies’ defense for holding down Wayne State the entire game. Safety Kyle Risinger led the Huskies with five tackles.
“We played outstanding,” he said. “Everybody was pursuing to the ball, that’s something we lacked against Mankato last week. We had high intensity the whole game. Everybody came ready to play and we got after it.
“We needed to make a statement down here. We knew we couldn’t be 1-3 going against Duluth. We have to win at home next week.”