Row the paddle: Sinani leads Dragons to win over Marauders
By: Martin Schlegel
On a chilly day in Moorhead, the Dragons remained hot offensively. The Dragons (4-5) came away with a convincing 51-19 win over the University of Mary (1-8).
In the 12th meeting of the Battle for the Paddle, the Dragons retained the paddle for the third consecutive year.
Freshman quarterback Jakup Sinani dominated, as he completed 12-of-19 passes for 205 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 94 rushing yards on 12 attempts and two more TDs.
“I thought he managed the game really well as far as keeping us in position to get a field goal shot, managing the two-minute drill at the end of the half,” MSUM head coach Steve Laqua said about Sinani’s performance. “He didn’t turn the football over. When you do those things you give our team a chance to win.”
“Our offense is starting to click,” Sinani said.” “We just trust each other, and with me being a freshman we’re starting to get that bond.”
Sinani frequently found the single coverage, dropping in near perfect passes. He also accumulated more than half of the Dragon’s 528 yards of offense.
“He was sharp in his reads. He made really good throws, especially on third downs,” Laqua said about Sinani’s decision making.
The Dragons didn’t take long to open the scoring. On its opening drive, MSUM ran the ball seven of eight plays for 69 yards. Sinani and running back Herman Grey combined for 68 of those yards. Jonathan Kabambi ended the MSUM drive with a 1-yard touchdown.
Garrett Weissinger led the Marauders on its first drive of the game for a touchdown to answer the Dragon’s opening score. Weissinger ran the ball 7 of 14 plays for the Marauders. His seventh rush was good for a 5-yard touchdown, ending a 7:21 drive. The extra point was blocked, so the Marauders settled for six points.
On the second Dragons’ drive, Sinani found Hayden Swartz for a 59-yard pass. That set up Sinani’s 6-yard rushing touchdown, giving the Dragons a 14-6 lead.
It appeared as though a high scoring battle was in the works. The Dragons’ defense held the Marauders off the scoreboard after showing some vulnerability earlier.
To begin the second quarter, Sinani ran in for a 13-yard TD. MSUM kicker Ruan Albuquerque had his extra point blocked, his first miss of the season. The failed point after didn’t hurt the Dragons as the team continued to dominate, leading the Marauders 20-6.
Sinani continued to show why he was named NSIC Offensive Player of the Week after his performance against Minnesota-Crookston the previous game. He threw back-to-back long passes, the first to Hunter Braaten for 38 yards, and the second to Swartz for a 24-yard touchdown.
The Dragons continued its offensive onslaught in the first half as the running game flexed its muscles. The drive featured runs from Kabambi, Grey and Sinani with the latter of three running for 27 yards. Albuquerque capped the drive with a 27-yard field goal, giving the Dragons a 30-6 lead late in the second quarter.
With 1:21 left in the second quarter and one timeout for the Dragons, Sinani single-handedly drove the team down the field for a touchdown with 0:02 remaining. Sinani rushed for 24 yards and passed for 46 more. Swartz caught the TD pass for 18 yards to give MSUM a 37-6 lead heading into halftime.
With a big lead at the half, Sinani and company we’re starting to groove.
Defensive back Carson Zarak intercepted the ball on a Weissinger deep pass early on in the third quarter. Braaten picked up 35 yards on a wide receiver sweep. Zach Simons capped the drive with a 4-yard rushing touchdown, extending the Dragons’ lead to 44-6.
With Demetrius Carr in the game for Sinani, Carr found Evan Moore in single coverage for a 39-yard passing touchdown. The MSUM lead over the Marauders stretched to 51-6.
“We felt that it was important that he comes in and gets some game reps and continue to keep working,” Laqua said about bringing in Carr for Sinani. “He handled his role really well and came in and did a nice job.”
The Marauders and Dragons traded unsuccessful drives before U-Mary scored its first points since the first quarter.
The Marauders finally put together a drive reminiscent of its earlier success. Colton Farmer lobbed a pass to Luke Little for a 10-yard touchdown. U-Mary tried for the two-point conversion which was no good. The Dragons, despite the Marauders TD, held a commanding 51-12 lead.
U-Mary scored again in the fourth quarter on a 21-yard passing play, this time with 0:23 remaining. The late touchdown only made it appear a closing game in the box score, as MSUM rowed to a 51-19 victory.