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Minnesota State's comeback falls short in D-II National Championship Game

The Mavericks had no answer for freshman quarterback Austin Reed.
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The Minnesota State football team had a chance to earn their first national championship on Saturday as they squared off with West Florida University in the D-II championship game in McKinney, Texas.

While the Mavericks put together an impressive rally after falling behind by 24 points in the second half, their efforts came up just short falling to the Argonauts by a score of 48-40.

Long known for being Adam Thielen's alma mater, the Mavericks appeared in the national championship game for the second time in school history, with their other appearance coming in 2014. From the opening kickoff, however, they had no answer for West Florida quarterback Austin Reed.

Reed opened the game with a five-yard strike to Kevin Grant to open the scoring, but the Mavericks quickly tied it up on a 38-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Schlichte to Justin Arnold.

Reed threw another touchdown to Ka'Ron Ashley to put the Argonauts ahead 14-7, but that opened the door for Nate Gunn to put the Mavericks on his back.

The senior rushed for two touchdowns in the opening half, but also put the ball on the turf twice, losing both fumbles.

Giving Reed more opportunities to shred their defense turned out to be a bad idea as he went on to throw five touchdown passes in the first 30 minutes to give West Florida a 38-21 lead going into halftime.

Things settled down for the Mavericks after allowing Reed to throw for 399 of his 523 yards in the first half, which already was a national championship game record for D-II.

After the Argonauts extended their lead with Reed's sixth touchdown of the day to Tate Lehtio, Minnesota State started to make their comeback after blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown.

After West Florida added a field goal, the rally continued with a Luke Williams 24-yard field goal and Schlichte finding Shane Zylstra for a seven-yard touchdown.

With a pair of two-point conversions, the Mavericks brought the Argonauts' lead down to eight points and gave themselves an opportunity for a game-tying drive.

Schlichte led the Mavericks down to the red zone in the final drive, but the Argonauts brought pressure to stall Minnesota State and put the finishing touches on their first national championship.

The loss is a sour note in an otherwise great season for Minnesota State. The Mavericks finished the season at 14-1, but couldn't finish their run off with a national title.

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