Northern State (2-6) vs. UMary (0-8)
Time: 2 p.m. kickoff
Radio: KFYR 550 AM
Last week: UMary lost 48-16 on at road at Augustana (S.D.), Northern State is coming off a 35-7 loss to Southwest Minnesota State on the road
Vegas betting line: N/A but if I had to guess I’d say Northern State -21
Three keys to a Marauders victory
1. Last season UMary gave up 575 total yards of offense and a school record 66 points in its loss to Northern State. UMary does have an improved defense as they’ve held two opponents in the teens for the first time since 2016. But the Wolves have completely switched their offense from a season ago. Last season, NSU ran for 406 yards against UMary and just 169 passing yards, however this year, they are Top 5 in passing offense with 249.6 per game. The Marauders are going to have opportunities to create turnovers and I’m looking at UMary’s secondary. Eight Marauders have recorded an interception this year, which ranks UMary seventh in the NSIC. Junior linebacker Paul Gultipp leads the blue and orange with 30 interception yards and could see his second interception of the season Saturday (today) afternoon as UMary has forced multiple turnovers in each of the last five weeks.
2. The Marauders have scored just one touchdown in the first quarter this year. Getting out to a fast start is a top key in order for a UMary victory. NSU is allowing 30.1 points per game this season and a league-worst 268.1 passing yards. Freshman quarterback Jason Hoekstra could have a breakout game this afternoon. Hoekstra is coming off his career-best completion percentage (49.1) against Augustana (S.D) and he’ll be facing another weak defense against the Wolves. Interceptions have been an issue for Hoekstra as he’s thrown at least one in seven games this year. Limiting the turnovers will be key to a UMary victory.
3. NSU gave the starting nod to quarterback Hunter Trautman last season as he started seven games for the Wolves in his freshman season. One year later, Trautman is eighth in the NSIC for completion percentage and third in touchdowns with 18. UMary’s defensive line needs to create pressure and make Trautman make quick decisions. The underclassman signal caller already knows this league but putting him into pressure situations is one-way UMary can rattle the St. Francis, Minn., native.
Northern State players to watch
1. Dakota Larson, wide receiver: In three out of the last four games, NSU freshman wide receiver Dakota Larson has finished with 120 or more all-purpose yards and three touchdowns. Larson seems to be Trautman’s favorite wideout and for good reason. Larson has the speed to break free from defenders and has a high football IQ. Larson has caught two touchdown passes in two games this season and leads the Wolves in receptions with 41.
2. Noah MacPherson, linebacker: The leader of NSU’s defense is senior linebacker, Noah MacPherson. The Menahga, Minn., native is eighth in the NSIC with 7.9 tackles per game and has recorded a team-high 63 total tackles this season. MacPherson has the ability to get to a quarterback and make plays when he does. Through eight games this year, MacPherson has collected four sacks and trails Jordan Rommes of Upper Iowa by two for a league’s best.