Augustana football shuts out Minot State in first game back

Even after 651 days, the Augustana Football team only needed one quarter to get back into midseason form, winning 49-0 over Minot State University (MSU) in their season opener.

In dominating fashion, the offense totaled 544 yards on the day while the defense held MSU to just 164 yards. Kyle Saddler, quarterback and NSIC South Division Preseason Player Of The Year, threw for 301 yards, along with 243 yards gained on the ground by the Vikings.

Junior running backs Jarod Epperson and David Addo led the charge in the backfield, with 97 and 71 yards, respectively, for the pair. Sophomore Kyle Graham also gained 55 yards as all three of the backs recorded a rushing touchdown.

The Augustana football team takes the field for their game against Minot State. Photo by Camryn Hay.

“The run game really got going, and we want to be that team anyway,” head coach Jerry Olszewski said. “I thought Kyle [Saddler] managed the game really well, through some good balls and extended some plays.”

Addo got the run game going in a big way on Augustana’s first scoring drive. He took five straight carries, which included a 27-yard gain, nearly half of the way down the field before Saddler and senior wide receiver Sean Engel connected for a 16-yard touchdown. This drive started a stretch of three-straight touchdown drives to give the Vikings a 21-0 lead at the half.

“O-Line did an outstanding job today,” Addo said. “Whatever they gave me, I took. I wouldn’t say it’s as much on me as it is on the O-Line preparing for this day in and day out.”

The charge didn’t end after halftime as Augustana received the second-half kickoff and proceeded to go on a 10-play, 75-yard drive capped off by a 39-yard touchdown catch by junior wide receiver Devon Jones.

After another defensive stop, the Vikings made it a fifth consecutive scoring drive thanks to a 15-yard touchdown connection between Saddler and senior tight end Jacob Cleveringa. The touchdown made it a 35-0 lead. The final two scores of the day came in the fourth quarter courtesy of the Epperson and Graham rushing touchdowns.

The student section cheers on the football team. Photo by Camryn Hay.

“It was an amazing crowd, you can tell people were dying to have this happen and get back into play,” Olszewski said. “It was a huge part of our success, and our kids fed off it. So when K-O’s rocking like that, come on, man.”

While the Viking offense was on full display, the defense held their own, and then some, in their first game under new defensive coordinator Mark Sipple. Senior defensive back Sydney Capers hauled in a highlight-reel interception in the first half, and the defense held MSU to just 4-18 on third-down conversions.

“I give a lot of credit to the D-Line,” senior defensive back and First Team All-NSIC selectee Eli Weber said. “They were after [the QB] all day. He had received pressure in his face, he wasn’t even looking at routes, so credit to those guys they made our jobs easier in the back half.”

The defense recorded three sacks on the day and added eight tackles for loss. Senior linebacker T.J. Liggett led with six tackles. Sophomore defensive back Peyton Buckley recorded five tackles as well.

“[Today] felt like a flush of peace over me,” Weber said. “We actually have something here, and it’s been a long time coming, so it felt great.”

The Vikings will travel to Bismarck, North Dakota, next week and play the University of Mary (UMary) with the opportunity to move to 2-0. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m.

A group of students celebrate the victory over Minot State. Photo by Camryn Hay.