WAYNE — Wayne State saw a great second-half effort fall just a little short in an conference confrontation against Northern State University here in a Saturday afternoon game at Memorial Stadium and Bob Cunningham Field.
The Wildcats outscored the Wolves 17-3 in the second half to tie the score 20-20 but lost the game 29-26 in the second overtime period when NSU scored a touchdown after the Wildcats had managed a field goal in their turn.
“I feel like we just got punched in gut,” Wayne State coach Dan McLaughlin said. “We never ever quit, but we just had too much to overcome in the end.”
After trailing 17-3 at the half, the Wildcats got defensive in the final 30 minutes of regulation to tie the score.
“We need to start earlier,” McLaughlin said “We made too many mistakes in the first half but came out of the locker room and played pretty well on both sides of the ball.”
After the defense gave up 239 yards in passing alone in the opening half, it settled in and allowed only 154 yards in the second half in regulation and a single field goal.
Tyler Thomsen, who played in his first game in the past few weeks for the defense, knew at the half it was time to step up.
“We were down 17-3 and knew we all had to play harder in the second half,” Thomsen said. “It felt great to be back on the field, I really missed it while I was out and it felt normal to be back where I want to be — unfortunately, we came up a little short in the end.”
His linebacking mate, Nicholas Joynt, had a monster game with 15 solo tackles and five assists, along with a sack and tackle for loss. Thomsen had one tackle for loss and a fumble recovery among his seven tackles in the contest.
While the defense stepped up after the break, the offense heated up enough to force the tie after 60 minutes.
In the first overtime, the Wolves got the ball first after the Wildcats won the toss and elected to play defense.
The WSC defense forced an incomplete pass and NSU was called for holding on the play.
A 6-yard run and back-to-back incompletions forced the Wolves into a 36-yard field goal from Payton Eue.
The Wildcats gained 5 yards on their possession from the 25 before Ethan Knudson kicked his third field goal of the game, this one from 37 yards out.
Wayne State took the ball first in the second overtime but was called for holding on a completed pass from Tavian Willis to Devin Merkurius, which pushed the Wildcats back to a first-and-15 from the 32.
Willis ran for 7 yards, but a pair of incomplete passes resulted in another Knudson field goal from 42 yards away.
The Wolves got to the 1-yard line with a 22-yard completion on second down, but the Wildcat defense stiffened.
After a false start penalty took them back to the 6 — followed by a 2-yard run, a 1-yard pass and a Wildcats timeout — Hunter Trautman found Colten Drageset in the end zone to win the game.
Earlier in the game, fumbles and missed assignments got NSU in the lead at the intermission by the 17-3 score.
“This is tough to swallow,” McLaughlin said. “We did everything down the stretch to win the game except win the game — we need to get better and play four full quarters in this league.”
Northern State (4-3) 10 7 0 3 3 6 — 29
Wayne State (2-5) 0 3 10 7 3 3 — 26
NSU: Payton Eue 38 field goal, 7:45.
NSU: Dakota Larson 87 pass from Hunter Trautman (Mitch Tschakert kick), 5:41.
WSC: Ethan Knudson 21 field goal, 3:31.
NSU: Greg Lux 4 pass from Trautman (Tschakert kick), :03.
WSC: Lee Mason 26 pass from Andy McCance (Knudson kick), 11:38.
WSC: Knudson 36 field goal, 7:39.
NSU: Eue 41 field goal, 10:29.
WSC: Corbin Foster 24 pass from Tavian Willis (Knudson kick), 3:24.
NSU: Eue 36 field goal, :00.
WSC: Knudson 35 field goal, :00.
WSC: Knudson 42 field goal, :00.
NSU: Colten Drageset 1 pass from Trautman, :00.