The University of Sioux Falls converted five Wayne State turnovers into 27 points as the Cougars defeated Wayne State College 41-21 Saturday afternoon in the Northern Sun Conference football regular season finale for both teams. USF is 8-3 (4-3 NSIC South Division) and still in contention for an NCAA Division II playoff berth while Wayne State ends the year 4-7 and 2-5 in divisional games.
The lone score of the first quarter came from Wayne State redshirt freshman running back Devin Merkuris on a 63-yard run that put the Wildcats in front 7-0 at the 8:24 mark of the first quarter.
The score was still 7-0 WSC midway through the second quarter when the Wildcats fumbled a punt return with USF recovering at the WSC 22. The Cougars capitalized as quarterback Cade Walters fired a 20-yard scoring strike to Nate Johnson to even the score at 7-7.
On Wayne State’s ensuing play from scrimmage, Wildcat quarterback Andy McCance fumbled giving USF the ball at the WSC 23. Walters tossed a 26-yard scoring pass to Jermain Broadnax to capitalize on another WSC turnover as the Cougars took a 14-7 lead with 5:50 to play in the first half.
Wayne State responded on the following series as McCance found sophomore wide receiver Mason Lee for a 73-yard touchdown play to even the score at 14-14 with 4:40 to play before halftime.
Just before halftime, WSC had the ball and McCance was sacked at the WSC 42 that resulted in the Cougars getting the ball back right before halftime. USF moved to the WSC 4 and on the final play of the first half used a 21-yard field goal from Daniel Esparza to take a 17-14 lead at halftime.
Sioux Falls dominated the time of possession in the second half – 22:32 to 7:28 – not allowing Wayne State a chance to get back into the contest.
The Cougars took the opening drive and marched 74 yards, capped by a 28-yard pass from Walters to Thuro Reisdorfer that gave USF a 24-14 lead.
Wayne State answered on the following drive, covering 68 yards on 10 plays with McCance finding Taurean Grady in the end zone for a six-yard scoring play to pull the ‘Cats within 24-21 with 5:51 to play in the third quarter.
The next drive saw USF drive 80 yards on 16 plays, eating 9:16 off the clock, taking a 31-21 lead when Walters fired a 10-yard strike to Nate Johnson.
WSC fumbled the ensuing kickoff with USF recovering the ball at the Wildcat 23. USF settled for a 19-yard field by Esparza to go in front 34-21.
The next series saw USF force another turnover with an interception and capped the scoring with a four-yard pass from Walters to Karnell Collier to make the final score 41-21.
Sioux Falls outgained Wayne State in the contest 420-297. WSC had 138 yards rushing and 159 passing.
The Cougars held a commanding advantage in time of possession – 40:05 to 19:55. Both teams excelled on third down conversions with WSC going 6 of 11 and Sioux Falls 12 of 18. WSC had five sacks for 36 yards.
Merkuris led WSC on the ground with his fourth 100-yard game of the season, accumulating 120 yards on 17 carries.
In the passing department, McCance was 8 of 17 for 159 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Taurean Grady led Wayne State with three catches for 59 yards and one score while Mason Lee had two receptions for 80 yards and one TD.
Defensively, senior linebacker Tyler Thomsen had a game-high 11 tackles with two tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks for 12 yards. Ian Ailts added eight tackles and one forced fumble with freshman Trey Albert contributing a 37-yard interception to go with six tackles.