The Minnesota State University, Mankato, football team experienced a record day last weekend in a second-round NCAA Division II playoff game, and two players from the area played a big role in helping the Mavericks improve to 13-0.
Minooka graduate Nate Gunn, a sophomore tailback, and Plainfield North graduate JD Ekowa, a redshirt freshman quarterback, both turned in big performances as Minnesota State rolled to a 63-21 home victory over Midwestern State. That’s the most points the Mavericks have scored in an NCAA playoff game.
The win advances the Mavericks to the noon quarterfinal game Saturday against Texas A&M-Commerce in Mankato. The 11-1 Lions earned their spot in the game after rallying from a 28-7 deficit to beat Central Washington, 34-31, in two overtimes.
In the win over Midwestern State, Gunn ran for 193 yards on 25 carries and scored on touchdown runs of 6 and 1 yards. It was the ninth game this season in which he rushed for 100 or more yards. Ekowa tossed a 12-yard scoring pass to Justin Arnold and also rushed for 75 yards on eight carries, which included a pair of 7-yard touchdown runs.
Things were much more suspenseful in the team’s playoff opener, which Minnesota State won, 16-13, in overtime against Colorado State-Pueblo. In that game, Ekowa ran for a 20-yard touchdown, while Gunn picked up
103 yards rushing on 34 carries.
For the season, Gunn has rushed for 1,411 yards on 214 carries and also has scored 12 touchdowns in 10 games. He leads the team with 1,414 all-purpose yards. Ekowa has 346 yards rushing and six touchdowns on 42 attempts and also is 44 of 76 passing for 539 yards, and he’s thrown nine touchdown passes.
Gunn, who played at South Dakota in 2015, missed three games late in the season. He rushed for 229 yards and a touchdown on 37 carries in an early-season game against Minnesota Duluth. That rushing total was the second-best in the program’s history.
For his efforts this season, Gunn was named as the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Offensive Newcomer of the Year, in addition to being a first-team running back, while Ekowa was an honorable mention pick at quarterback.
Also on the team is a Bolingbrook graduate, freshman cornerback Zyon Bell. Minnesota State has outscored its opponents, 41.6-14.2, on average.