Marshall’s football machine took some time to get rolling, but 20 second-half points gave the Tigers a 41-12 victory over the hometown St. Peter Saints.
Despite the lopsided win, it could have been a much closer score. Missed opportunities by the Saints offense and three critical interceptions by the Tigers defense kept putting a high-powered Marshall offense back on the field.
Marshall gained 482 yards of total offense. Eight different running backs picked up 266 yards on 42 carries and four touchdowns, while Tigers quarterback Konnor Aufenthie tossed for 216 yards on 7 of 13 attempts and a pair of scores.
Wide receiver Bryce Lance caught four of those passes for 152 yards and a touchdown.
The Saints stayed with the 4-0 Tigers, thanks in part to a 94-yard opening kickoff return for a touchdown by St. Peter running back Vinny Guappone. The sophomore struggled to get the handle on the football right away, then picked it up, broke an early arm tackle and scooted down the right sideline amidst a pack of Saints blockers for the touchdown and a 6-0 lead.
Eleven seconds later, Saints defensive back Carter Wendroth recovered a Marshall fumble and the St. Peter offense was on the field. Three quick running plays produced an initial first down, but quarterback Wyatt Olson’s first of three critical interceptions came at the 10:15 mark of the opening quarter put Marshall put on offense.
The Tigers then took a lead they’d never relinquish on a 33-yard touchdown pass from Aufenthie to Trey Steinbach. A Hugo Cifuentes point-after-touchdown kick was good and Marshall was up 7-6.
A short punt on the Saints’ next offensive possession gave Marshall the ball back at the St. Peter 18-yard line, but a Ryan Wilmes interception short-circuited the Tigers’ offense this time with 6:40 left in the first quarter.
The Saints put together a nice drive late in the quarter but a fourth-and-two from the Marshall 31-yard-line fell short and the Marshall offense was back on the field.
It appeared as if the Tigers might have self-destructed themselves on their next possession, getting handed two 15-yard penalties and faced with a second-and-32 from their own 20-yard line. But a 59-yard pass completion from Aufenthie to Lance got the Tigers out of trouble.
Switching directions to open the second quarter, a quick pass to Lance got Marshall down to the two-yard line, and from there Aufenthie snuck over for the Tigers’ second touchdown and a 14-6 advantage.
A short Marshall kickoff into the wind hit in front of two St. Peter returners, bounced backwards and recovered by the Tigers. An Eli Hunt sack of the Marshall quarterback gave the Saints defense some life, but Aufenthie was at it again, converting a second-and-16 screen pass to running back Gabe Raini for 28 yards.
Raini scored a couple plays later six yards out for the Tigers’ third score and 1 21-6 lead.
A back-and-forth second quarter could have been the key to the game. The St. Peter defense stalled the high-scoring Marshall offense for a spell, but a Tigers’ interception of an Olson pass on second-and-one ended one Saints drive.
But it was the St. Peter defense which came through again. Defensive back Ethan Grant knocked down an Aufenthie pass, and Hunt’s tackle on a fourth-down screen pass ended a Marshall drive.
From the Saints’ 40-line and with just 1:26 left in the half, Olson and company drove the length of the field for their second touchdown. Olson hit Grant from 13 yards out and the Saints closed to within 21-12 with just 49 seconds remaining.
But it was all Marshall in the second half, as the Tigers score 13 points in the third quarter and seven more in the fourth for their 41-12 victory.
Wilmes led the St. Peter defense with 12 tackles and the lone interception. Michael Connor added 9 tackles and Carson Kennedy had 8.
Olson threw for 201 yards on 23 of 45 attempts for the one touchdown and three interceptions. Grant caught six passes for 87 yards and one score. Ethan Volk had six receptions for 48 yards, and Guappone caught five passes for 34 yards.
It doesn’t get any easier for the Saints (1-3), who are in the middle of a tough six-game stretch. Having lost now to Fairmont, Blue Earth Area and Marshall, St. Peter still has to head to Jordan (3-1) next Friday and then will host Waseca (3-1) the following week.
Marshall 7 14 13 7 — 41
St. Peter 6 6 0 0 — 12