Oct. 29—SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The Minnesota State football team moved into a first-place tie in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, defeating No. 19 Sioux Falls 38-24 Saturday.
The Mavericks are tied with Sioux Falls, Winona State and Wayne State.
"Obviously, we wish we had won one more because then we'd be in the driver's seat," Minnesota State coach Todd Hoffner said. "This is the fourth nationally ranked team we've been successful against, but if we don't win our last two, it will all be for naught."
After Sioux Falls scored on its first possession, the Mavericks answered with a 7-yard pass from Hayden Ekern to Nyles Williams to tie the game with 9:37 remaining in the first quarter.
The Mavericks went ahead on Shen Butler-Lawson's 19-yard run, and Damian Chowaniec's second PAT made it 14-0 later in the opening quarter.
Dakota Smith's interception return to the Sioux Falls' 1 set up, after a penalty, a 4-yard run by Ekern to make it 21-7 heading into the second quarter.
The Cougars scored early in the second quarter, but the Mavericks had another answer, rolling 13 plays to set up Ekern's 2-yard run.
The Mavericks recovered the ensuing kickoff, which turned into Chowaniec's 32-yard field goal and a 31-14 lead. Sioux Falls scored in the final seconds to make it 31-21 at halftime.
"We were far from perfect," Hoffner said. "There was a lot of scoring in the first half and not much in the second half, so it's a good thing we had that big lead."
Sioux Falls (7-2) cut the deficit to 31-24 with a field goal in the third quarter, but the Mavericks came back with a 38-yard pass from Ekern to Landon Strong to rebuild the lead to 38-24 with 12 minutes to play.
Ekern passed for 197 yards and two touchdowns, and he ran for two scores. Butler-Lawson had 104 yards and a touchdown.
The Mavericks (7-2) finish the regular season with two home games, starting Saturday against Southwest Minnesota State.
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.