Dragons can’t slow down Mavericks in home opener
by Turner Blaufuss
With the Dragon offense putting up circus numbers in their season opener, many were anxious to see how they’d fare against the Minnesota State University Mankato Mavericks and their highly touted defense.
The Dragons couldn’t repeat their offensive showing and were dominated in every facet of the game in a 69-13 home loss to the number four nationally ranked Mavericks. In Coach Steve Laqua’s fourth year holding the Dragons’ reigns, this is the highest ranked team MSUM has faced.
“Obviously we had higher expectations than what we showed today. This is a very good football team we’re playing on both sides of the ball,” Laqua said.
The Mavericks started the game with the wind at their back and used a balanced attack to put up 20 points in the opening quarter. The wind was a major factor disrupting the pass game for the Dragons as well as their punting.
“Wind was huge to the start of the game. That’s where our special teams was really exposed,” Laqua said. “The wind was critical and kept us from getting the start we needed. It was a big factor.”
The Dragons put together an efficient drive with a steady run game with Jake Hodge hooking up with Cory Ambrose on three plays. MSUM got on the board with Ambrose running a corner route and creating separation making the Hodge pass a 15-yard score.
“Cory didn’t quite have the game he wanted to have last week so I thought it was nice to have them find a rhythm,” Laqua said.
The Mavericks’ wide receiver Dorian Buford had a field day with the Dragon defense and scored three of his four touchdowns after the Dragons took the goose egg off the board.
“Obviously a great game. (Buford) made some phenomenal catches. He had a good day and that whole offense was having a great game,” Laqua said.
MSUM’s final touchdown was a fade route from two yards out from Hodge to Adam Jiskra. The Mavericks secondary had Jiskra on an island all game, limiting the star receiver to three catches and 20 yards.
The Dragons were missing the big play ability of Preston Prince, who has been a productive player for the Dragons in the past.
“Hopefully we get him back in the next couple weeks. He’s a playmaker and as dynamic as Cory (Ambrose) is,” Laqua said.
Hodge lead the shaky Dragon ground game with 75 yards on 12 carries. The Dragons fumbled six times and only landed on two of them.
“We called a spade a spade and acknowledged we played a team that hasn’t lost a conference game in three years. They’re a great football team and we didn’t play like a great football team,” Laqua said.
The Dragons’ (0-2) next opponent is a road matchup with Wayne State, Neb., and kickoff is set for 1 p.m. Laqua stressed the importance of a short memory and turning their focus to Wayne State.
“The Mankato game is done and we need to start focusing on Wayne State as fast as we can,” Laqua said. “We need to move on and pick ourselves up, dust off and get ready to compete again next week.”