WAYNE — Wayne State won its home opener here at Bob Cunningham Field and Memorial Stadium on Family Day at the college over Southwest Minnesota State, 19-13.
It took an extra session but much to the delight of head coach, Dan McLaughlin, it may boost the Wildcats for the rest of the season.
“Time will tell where we go from here,” McLaughlin said. “I just know this was a great day for this team and we haven’t done this here for a long time — we’ve been on the other end of these games lately.”
Mason Lee grabbed a 10-yard pass from quarterback Andy McCance in overtime to seal the win after the Wildcats battled back at the end of regulation to force the extra frame.
“I am so proud of these kids,” McLaughlin said. “We just kept battling and hanging around until we made our move at the end.”
The Wildcats were down 13-6 late in the contest and McLaughlin was a little worried about his team’s chances.
“I have seen all of this before and I thought maybe we wouldn’t get it done,” he said. “We kept right on playing and got the job done — I am so happy for the kids and so glad they got the job done.”
Wayne State got the ball with 7:07 left in the fourth and went 67 yards in nine plays but the drive stalled at the Mustang 13 with 3:53 to go where the Wildcats turned it over on downs.
“I was more than worried when we couldn’t punch that one into the end zone,” McLaughlin said. “But our defense stepped up and got the ball back.”
The WSC defense held Southwest Minnesota State to a three and out after the Wildcats turned it over on downs and Wayne State went on a 77-yard drive in nine plays to score with three seconds left on the clock in regulation.
“Our defense played great in the fourth quarter,” Wildcat defensive coordinator Scott McLaughlin said. “We had our problems early but we really came through in the fourth quarter.”
The drive to tie the game started with an incomplete pass from McCance to Lee, but McCance found Conner Paxton for 13 yards for a first down at the WSC 36.
After another incompletion, McCance scrambled for 10 yards.
McCance hit Lorenzo Logwood for another first down to the SMSU 44 then hit Paxton again for another first down at the Mustang 34.
After an SMSU timeout, McCance went back to work with 1:20 left in the fourth.
A five-yard run and back-to-back completions to Grady Taureen put the Wildcats deep into Mustang territory.
After a Wildcat penalty, WSC was looking at first-and-15 at the Mustang 25 with under a minute left.
McCance ran for 11 yards to the SMSU 14 and after an incomplete pass, the Mustangs called timeout again with 23 ticks on the clock.
A nine-yard run by Devin Merkuris put the ball at the SMSU five then McCance hit Jason Hawkins for a touchdown with three seconds left in regulation.
Ethan Knudson hit the extra point kick and the game went to overtime.
“We really executed on that drive to score,” Dan McLaughlin said. “It was a great drive.”
In the overtime, the Wildcat defense held the Mustangs to seven yards and SMSU missed a field goal from 35-yards out.
On the WSC possession, Merkuris rushed for 15 yards in two carries to the SMSU 10 before Lee’s heroics ended the contest.
“He (McCance) threw a perfect pass,” Lee said. “I knew I had to go up and get it and I knew I had to catch it — it felt great.”
The defenses dominated for the lion’s share of the game early on before the teams exploded for the fourth-quarter fireworks.
“I am just so happy for our guys,” Dan McLaughlin said. “Now we need to move forward and keep this momentum — every week in this league is tough.”
SMSU 0 3 10 0 0 — 13
WSC 6 0 0 7 6 — 19
WSC: Ethan Knudson 42 field goal, 5:16.
WSC: Knudson 29 field goal, :00
SMSU: Skyler Crew 40 field goal, 3:59.
SMSU: Daniel Davis 20 pass from Steven Nava, Crew kick, 5:45.
SMSU: Crew 43 field goal, 3:26.
WSC: Jason Hawkins 5 pass from Andy McCance, Knudson kick, :03.
WSC: Mason Lee 10 pass from McCance.