Explosive Warriors blow out Northern State 47-13

Season openers often come with lots of question marks, but the Winona State football team quickly turned them into exclamation points in a 47-13 statement win over Northern State Thursday night at Swisher Field in Aberdeen.

The high-powered Winona State offense was in mid-season form from the get-go, putting up a full game’s worth of production – 405 total yards (255 passing, 150 yards rushing) – in the first half alone.  When it was all said and done, the Warriors had racked up 603 total yards of offense on the night.

Sophomore quarterback Jack Nelson picked up right where he left off in 2013, slinging the ball around Swisher Field to the tune of 255 passing yards in the first half.  The Byron, Minn. native finished the game 25-of-48 for 398 yards, the seventh-most passing yards in WSU history, and a career record-tying five touchdown tosses.

Junior wide receiver Josh Mikes put on a career performance of his own, grabbing 13 receptions for 224 yards and four touchdowns through the air.  The four receiving TDs is tied for most in team history (Chris Samp twice in ’03 and ’04, and Adam Lilla in ’01), and the 13 grabs is tied for the second most in team history while also racking up the fifth-most yards by a Warrior receiver in a single game.

The Warriors started the scoring with just over eight minutes remaining in the first quarter when Nelson found Mikes for the first of his four scores on a 50-yard strike to put WSU up 7-0.

On the very next drive, sixth-year senior Theo Burkett – on one of his first game touches since Oct. 15, 2011 due to a pair of season-ending injuries – took the handoff and sprinted 75 yards for a score to build a 13-3 lead.

Still in the first quarter, Mikes hauled in his second touchdown of the day on a 13-yard pass from Nelson that extended the lead to 19-6 (back-to-back extra points were missed).

Midway through the second quarter, WSU struck again when Nelson threw a beautiful strong-armed strike on the run to Alan May for a 62-yard score.  After a successful two-point conversion on a rush by Burkett, the Warriors had staked themselves to a comfortable 27-6 lead.

The 27-6 lead looked like it would hold until the break, but the Nelson-Mikes combo wasn’t done yet.  With 22 seconds to go, they found each other for the third time on the day, this time on a 13-yard pitch-and-catch to build a commanding 33-6 lead headed into the locker rooms.

Northern State dual-threat quarterback Jared Jacobson put the Wolves on the board first in the second half all by himself with a six-yard scamper, but the Warriors were not about to let any thought of a 2013 season-opening repeat happen.

The Warriors followed up the Wolves score with a methodical 12-play, 65-yard drive that culminated in Mikes’ fourth touchdown reception of the day to put the game well out of reach at 40-13.  That score would remain until the latter part of the fourth when Anthony Resnick added one more touchdown to the Warriors’ scoresheet with a two-yard rush to put the exclamation point on a 47-13 win.

The Warrior defense turned in a strong performance in the opener as well, holding a veteran quarterback to a mere 98 yards of total offense and just six points in the first half.

One problem for the Warriors a year ago was penalties, but the Warriors played a relatively clean game, committing just five fouls for 55 yards.  Ian Murray led the Warrior defense with 9 tackles, while Mitch Lunder and Kyle English – also playing in his first game since 2011 – each recorded a sack.  Davonte Willcox-Ransom impressed in his WSU debut as well with five tackles and a blocked kick.

Winona State (1-0) now has over a week to prepare for next Saturday’s home opener – a 1 p.m. matchup with the University of Mary at Warrior Stadium.

–Courtesy Winona State Athletics