CROOKSTON – A solid first half was all St. Cloud State really needed.
The Huskies took a 27-3 halftime lead over Minnesota-Crookston and built a 36-3 lead before putting in the second- and third-team players Saturday afternoon at Ed Widseth Field. The Golden Eagles scored 21 fourth-quarter points, but by that time it was over as the Huskies came out with a 36-24 NSIC victory.
“We did the things we needed to early in the game,” SCSU head coach Scott Underwood said. “We had some guys in the third and fourth quarters who needed to perform at a better level. We’ll look at that. But we’re happy with the win. We stayed injury-free, that’s the most important thing.”
St. Cloud State (4-2 NSIC, 4-2 overall) improved to 3-0 on the road this season and it was their third straight win after starting the year 1-2.
The Huskies won the game despite playing on a sloppy field. Crookston received snow earlier in the week and the middle of the field resembled a marsh, according to SCSU junior wide receiver Eli Shoemaker, who finished with two touchdown catches.
“It took us a little bit to get adjusted to the field conditions,” Shoemaker said. “We were able to do what we wanted and tried to avoid the middle of the field. It was really (sloppy) out there. It was good down the numbers and that’s how I was able to score on the touchdowns. But you didn’t want to go down the middle, it was mucky.”
St. Cloud State quarterback Phillip Klaphake hit Shoemaker for TD passes of 74 and 36 yards in the first half. Both touchdowns happened on the first play of drives. The 74-yarder was St. Cloud State’s first play from scrimmage. The TDs were Shoemaker’s only two catches.
“On the first one we wanted to back to our M.O. of a few years ago of trying to take a shot down the field on the first play,” Shoemaker said. “We did and I got a good release. It was easy money. They played man-to-man coverage most of the day because they wanted to fill the box and stop the run.”
Klaphake also connected on a 3-yard TD pass to wide receiver Chad Peterson with 3:10 left in the first quarter and hit tight end Grant Thayer for a 19-yard TD pass with 4:13 left in the third. Peterson had five catches for 145 yards.
It was Thayer’s first collegiate touchdown and gave SCSU a 34-3 lead at the time. Klaphake was pulled after that and backup quarterback Brad Meade played the rest of the way.
Klaphake finished 10 of 18 through the air for 229 yards with the four TDs. He moved into second place on the all-time passing yards chart with 6,505 yards. He passed Tom Nelson, who threw for 6,474 yards from 1980-83. Keith Heckendorf holds the SCSU record with 9,695 passing yards from 2000-03.
Michael Walker scored the other Huskies’ TD on a 14-yard run with 5:43 left in the second. St. Cloud State earned a safety when redshirt freshman linebacker Patrick Faber blocked Minnesota-Crookston punter Chris Secrest’s kick with 1:37 left in the third. The ball went out of the end zone for the safety to make it 36-3.
Crookston quarterback A.J. Barge threw two TD passes in the fourth quarter and ran another one in for the Golden Eagles’ 21 fourth-quarter points. SCSU outgained Crookston 439-363.
Thomas Johnson, who led the Huskies with 12 tackles, said the second- and third-team players need to do a better job of playing with a big lead.
“We were playing fast in the first half and very physical,” said Johnson, who played the entire game at weak-side linebacker. “We wanted to put up the goose egg, but it didn’t work out that way. That was probably the best Crookston team we’ve played since I’ve been here.
“We had some younger guys making mistakes out there. They’ll learn from them. When it got to the fourth quarter, it felt like the game should have been over by then. We have to finish and play all 60 minutes of the game.”
St. Cloud State is host to the University of Mary at 1 p.m. next Saturday at Husky Stadium.
SCSU junior wide receiver Damon Treat (ankle), junior tight end Corey Henne (ankle) and kicker/punter Tyler Aldridge (quadriceps) all missed the game with injuries. Taylor Berger filled in for Aldridge and had one extra-point attempt blocked. A bad snap on a punt in the second half also cost the Huskies some field position.