MSUM’s Florence sets NSIC record in win at UMary

MSUM’s Florence sets NSIC record in win at UMary

Updated: 5 months, 6 days, 17 hours, 50 minutes, 51 seconds ago

BISMARCK, N.D. — It certainly did not come easy, but MSUM is bringing the paddle back to Moorhead for the seventh consecutive year after a 40-38 nail-biting win over the University of Mary.

The story of the game will no doubt revolve around the play of redshirt freshman wide receiver Gage Florence. A true catalyst of the Dragon offense, the Velva, N.D., native redefined the term on this day in Bismarck. Florence, who has already had a 16 reception game this season, was dominant over Mary’s defensive backs. By game’s end, Florence had caught 21 balls, a new NSIC record (the previous record of 19 was set by Mary’s Danny Kittner last season). He was also two receptions short of tying the NCAA record set by Eastern Michigan’s Tyler Jones and UNLV’s Randy Gatewood.

Florence ended the game with 21 receptions for 215 yards and three touchdowns.

While the Dragons relied heavily on Florence’s presence, it was almost not enough against a competitive Marauder team. MSUM jumped out to a quick 10-point advantage thanks to a Hayden Boll punch in and a Jacob Schroeder field goal. Mary was able to score 14 unanswered points in the second quarter to give them the lead 14-10. Schroeder notched another field goal, but the Marauders were able to answer again with a seven play, 73-yard scoring drive. Just before halftime, the Dragons were able to bring the score closer thanks to a stellar back shoulder throw from Jack Strand to Florence, his first score on the day.

With the game within one point at half, MSUM looked to secure more momentum coming out of the locker room. While UMary returned the opening kickoff for a touchdown to start the half, the Dragons were far from done. They answered that with a nine play, 80-yard drive that once again culminated in the Strand-Florence connection and a score. Toss in a successful two-point conversion and the teams were knotted at 28.

The Marauders were able to tack on three points late in the third quarter. MSUM was able to answer that with 76-yard drive that found Strand hitting Carter Birrenkott for a 32-yard touchdown. The freshman Strand finished with four passing touchdowns and 423 yards on the day.

Midway through the final frame, Mary took a 38-34 lead over the Dragons. It took just over two minutes for MSUM to respond wih Florence’s third touchdown of the day. That drive included two massive fourth down conversions from the Dragons, who were a perfect four of four on fourth down in the game. From there, a committed defensive effort by the Dragons was able to seal a 40-38 win and their seventh straight Battle for the Paddle victory.

The Dragons finished with 513 yards of total offense and 32 first downs. Compare that to UMary’s 378 yards of total offense and 18 first downs.

The Dragons are now 3-5 overall. They will suit up again next Saturday for a road test against Northern State. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. in Aberdeen.