The Winona State Warriors (5-2, 2-1) fell to NSIC South foe #6 Sioux Falls Cougars (7-0, 3-0) on homecoming Saturday. The Warriors fourth quarter comeback came up short as Sioux Falls got the best of Winona State, winning 41-30.
The Warriors found initial success offensively as they made their way into Cougar territory until three incomplete passes forced a pooch punt by quarterback Jack Nelson. The next three possessions followed suit as Sioux Falls was forced to punt twice and Winona State punted once.
The first quarter defensive battle continued as Nelson's pass was intercepted by Josh Butler, who returned the interception 53 yards to the Warriors three-yard line. The Cougars were quick to capitalize on the turnover scoring on the next play with a three-yard rush by quarterback Luke Papilion, ending the scoring in the first quarter at 7-0 in favor of Sioux Falls.
Winona State began the second quarter with a 12 play, 48-yard possession spanning 5:49 that led to a 34-yard field goal by Carter McCauley, cutting the Cougars lead to 7-3. The following Sioux Falls possession was quickly halted by an interception by Andrew Spencer, who had a 12-yard return on the play. The turnover led to another McCauley field goal, this time from 47-yards out after a five play, 16-yard drive bringing the Warriors within one at 7-6.
The Warriors defense continued to be stringent and a sack by Mike Imperiale forced a Sioux Falls 36-yard field goal from Brett Garner bringing the Sioux Falls lead to 10-6. Winona State countered with a 12 play, 61-yard possession to wind out the half culminating in a 21-yard field goal from McCauley, his third of the game making the score 10-9 Cougars at the half.
Sioux Falls began the third quarter with a nine play, 76-yard scoring drive. The opening drive ended with a touchdown on a five-yard rush from Max Mickey giving the Cougars a 17-9. Following a short Winona State punt, Sioux Falls scored their second touchdown in a row. Papilion's second rushing score of the day, this time from nine-yards out, pushed the Cougars lead to 24-9.
Cameron Johnson became the sixth player in Winona State history to reach 150 career receptions with his sixth catch of the game on the next Warrior possession, the reception led to a fourth and one conversion on a quarterback sneak from Nelson. Unfortunately, the next play resulted in Nelson's second interception of the game. The turnover set up a nine-yard touchdown run by Justin Fulks, closing out scoring in the third quarter at 31-9 in favor of Sioux Falls.
Winona State got their first touchdown of the game to begin the fourth quarter, scoring on a five-yard touchdown pass from Nelson to Johnson. The completion brought Nelson to 10,929 yards passing, which allowed him to pass former University of Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber as fourth all time in Minnesota NCAA collegiate history.
Sioux Falls countered with a touchdown of their own on an 11-yard rush from Max Mickey, his second of the day, giving the Cougars a 38-16 lead. After a failed fourth down conversion by the Warriors, Sioux Falls scored again, doing so with a 22-yard field goal from Brett Garner, as the scoreboard now read 41-16.
The next Warrior possession featured 11 plays, covering 71-yards ending with an eight yard rushing touchdown from Paul Preston, the following successful two-point conversion on a pass to Will Claussen made the score 41-24. After an unsuccessful onside kick attempt from McCauley, Jarret Wood recovered a third down Cougars fumble. The turnover led to a touchdown reception by Elliot Cox on a two-yard pass from Nelson, bringing the score to 41-30.
The Warriors were unable to get the ball back and Sioux Falls knelt on the ball to secure the 11 point victory.