Homecoming win brings best record in two decades

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Homecoming win brings best record in two decades

Sophomore Jake Balliu runs down the field towards the end zone on Saturday, Oct. 21's game against Wayne State College in Altra Credit Federal Union Stadium.

Sophomore Jake Balliu runs down the field towards the end zone on Saturday, Oct. 21's game against Wayne State College in Altra Credit Federal Union Stadium.

Kendahl Schlueter

Sophomore Jake Balliu runs down the field towards the end zone on Saturday, Oct. 21's game against Wayne State College in Altra Credit Federal Union Stadium.

Kendahl Schlueter

Kendahl Schlueter

Sophomore Jake Balliu runs down the field towards the end zone on Saturday, Oct. 21's game against Wayne State College in Altra Credit Federal Union Stadium.

Mitchell Breuer, Sports Reporter

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It was a homecoming win for the Winona State University football team as they extended their winning streak to 8-0 after defeating Wayne State College, 42-19 on Saturday, Oct. 21.

“It feels great to remain undefeated. I’m hoping we can continue this the rest of the season,” junior running back Eric Birth said.

The game had a different start than usual, as the first points were not a touchdown or a field goal, but instead a safety. Junior punter Michael Russell punted the ball deep into Wayne State University’s side of the field, forcing the opposing team to start from their own 3-yard line. After that, the Winona State defense capitalized as junior linebacker Nick Pridgeon sacked their quarterback in his own end zone to give the team their first points of the day.

Russell proved to be a key part of Winona’s success throughout the game, as he gave the defense a good field position after both of his punts landed inside the 5-yard line.

“It felt really good to finally have a good consistent day,” Russell said. “We put two good hits on the ball, put both inside the five. One led to a sack in the end zone for a safety. It was good all around for us.”

The game marked the fourth time this season Russell has had multiple punts land inside the opposing teams 20-yard line.

“I’m able to set the defense in good field position and put them in a spot to hold the offense deep in their own side and get the ball back for offense in good position as well,” Russell said.

Winona State fell behind after a Wayne State touchdown, but the team caught up as two passes over 10 yards by senior quarterback Darren Beenken set up a one-yard touchdown run by senior fullback Zach Olstad.

After another Wayne State touchdown, Beenken led the team down the field with his arm, this time capping off the drive with a 5-yard touchdown to junior tight end Greg Rooney.

After a 45-yard punt return by sophomore Jake Balliu put the offense in good field position, they took full advantage of the situation and score another touchdown via a four-yard run by Birth.

Winona State scored one more by way of a 29-yard field goal by senior kicker Carter McCauley and headed into half leading 26-13.

The second half had a shaky start after Beenken threw an interception, however the defense responded with an interception of their own. Senior defensive back Adonis Brown snatched the ball away and returned for a Warrior touchdown.

The defense followed up their first interception with another, this time by sophomore defensive end Alex Evans.

Hot off the interception, the offense showed strength as Birth took off for a 54-yard touchdown run.

After being sidelined with an injury, Birth’s return to the team proved to be important to the win, as he tallied 103 rushing yards, a season-high 29 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

“I feel great,” Birth said. Thanks to Birth’s contributions, the team had over 200 rush yards for the fifth consecutive week.

A 22-yard field goal by McCauley sealed the game for the Warriors and sent the crowd home cheering.

Next week, the team faces Minnesota State University, Mankato, still undefeated. The game will be played at 1 p.m. next Saturday, Oct. 28.