Senior running back Eric Birth runs toward the end zone to take the lead in the fourth quarter against Northern State University, where the Warriors won 22-15 on Saturday.
Photo by Derek Dravis.
by CHRIS EDWARDS
From The Winonan, WSU’s student newspaper
The Winona State University football team has improved their record to 3-2 after defeating Northern State University 22-15 on Saturday, September 29.
The game went down to the wire, with the Warriors prevailing after an interception by junior defensive back Romario Gayle and a key fourth down conversion late in the fourth quarter.
Winona bounced back after losing back-to-back close games to number-two-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato and Upper Iowa University.
The Wolves took an early lead after a field goal on their first possession, but the Warriors responded, taking the lead after a 62-yard touchdown run by senior running back Eric Birth in the first quarter.
Winona’s defense showed strength, holding Northern State to zero points for the remainder of the first half, which included multiple three-and-outs.
Special teams proved to be a struggle for both teams, with each having unsuccessful field-goal attempts.
The half ended with the Warriors up 7-3, both sides looking to improve after a low-scoring half.
Winona State would take advantage of a Northern State missed field goal with a scoring drive, which included a 37-yard completion from sophomore quarterback Owen Burke to senior wide receiver Isaiah Frandsen.
Junior wide receiver Tanner Gran would go on to score on a 20-yard reception to extend Winona State’s lead.
After allowing the Warriors to score 14 unanswered points, the Wolves found themselves in a hole. They were finally able to deliver a response though, after a seven-yard touchdown pass. Following the score Northern State would fail on their two-point conversion.
On the ensuing kickoff, Winona State was caught by surprise when the Wolves recovered the on-side kick, but failed to do anything on the ensuing drive.
At this time, being down 14-9, Northern State would get another scoring opportunity after a 49-yard completion would get them in the red zone. They capitalized on the field position and scored on a two-yard play-action pass, gaining a 15-14 lead after another missed two-point conversion. The next drive would get Winona State into the red zone but zero points were gained after a pick on a Burke pass in the end zone intended for Frandsen. The Warriors defense would force a three-and-out on the next possession.
Being down one late in the fourth quarter, the Warrior offensive capitalized after a punt return by Isaiah Hall that would allow the offense to start on the Northern State’s 30. Winona would waste no time scoring four plays on a 12-yard touchdown run by Birth and convert on the two-point conversion giving them a 22-15 lead with 1:49 remaining. The defense did their part by forcing an interception, which was followed by a throw from Burke converting on a late fourth down to ensure the victory.
Frandsen had his second 100-yard receiving day in the last three games, while Burke had two interceptions, but he also had over 200 yards and a touchdown pass.
Ultimately it was Birth who proved to be the energizer of the team, leading in rushing and having two scores capping a big comeback after sitting out due to injury.
“The last two weeks I’ve been so focused on what I couldn’t do because of my ankle injury and today I just went in thinking I wasn’t going to let it hold me back,” Birth said. He also added what the consecutive losses did to the team’s morale.
“The Upper Iowa loss was really tough on the team because we knew that was a team we shouldn’t have lost to. The loss against Mankato showed us that we’re very capable of hanging with any team out there,” Birth said. “I think the offense already had the momentum it’s just that we weren’t doing it for a full game. We believe that we have the best offense in the league. We just have to come out and show it.”
The Warriors return to Winona next week, looking to continue their winning ways against the University of Mary. The game will take place on Saturday, October 6, with kickoff at 2 p.m.