Wayne State builds big lead early, wins season opener over Mary 34-27
Wayne State used a balanced offensive attack and three touchdown passes from sophomore quarterback Tavian Willis to defeat the University of Mary 34-27 Thursday evening in the 2021 college football opener for both teams played at Bob Cunningham Field in Wayne under rainy conditions throughout the night.
The Wildcats impressed early, scoring on their first two possessions and three of the first four times they had the ball to take a 17-0 lead at intermission.
WSC took the opening drive and marched 64 yards on 10 plays with Willis hooking up with Taurean Grady on a 27-yard scoring strike to take a 7-0 lead.
The 'Cats scored again late in the first quarter (1:36) on an Alex Powders 29-yard field goal to take a 10-0 lead.
Early in the second quarter, Willis fired a 30-yard pass to freshman running back Jacob Keiser to make the score 17-0 at the 11:21 mark to close out the first-half scoring.
Wayne State's first drive of the second half resulted in points as Willis connected with Trystn Ducker on a 47-yard scoring play to put the 'Cats in front 24-0 with 12:15 left in the third quarter.
The visiting Marauders got on the scoreboard on the ensuing drive as quarterback Logan Nelson found Danny Kittner on a 47-yard pass play to make the score 24-7.
Powders followed with his second field goal of the night, a 32-yarder, with 9:15 to go in the third for a 27-7 Wayne State advantage.
Mary closed out the third-quarter scoring with a 12-yard pass from Nelson to Luke Little for a 27-14 WSC lead entering the fourth quarter.
Wayne State senior running back Anthony Watkins bolted 18-yards on a scoring run for the Wildcats at the 6:04 mark of the fourth quarter for a 34-14 WSC lead.
The Marauders recorded two scores in the final three minutes to reduce the Wildcat lead at the end of the game.
Nelson found Kittner on a four-yard pass play with 2:41 left and after the Marauders recovered an onside kick Mary scored on the final play of the game on a 15-yard pass from Nelson to Kittner to make the final score 34-27.
Wayne State ended the contest with 456 yards of total offense, gaining 191 on the ground and another 268 through the air. Mary had 403 yards with just four yards rushing and 399 passing.
Watkins led the Wildcat rushing attack with 76 yards on 12 carries followed by Willis with 46 yards.
Willis completed 17 of 30 passes for 268 yards and three scores with seven different Wildcats making receptions. Grady had a team-high five grabs for 60 yards and one TD followed by Ducker with four receptions for 111 yards and one TD.
Defensively, WSC had five sacks in the contest and eight tackles for loss. Freshman Jacob Byrd had a team-high eight tackles followed by Jaylan Scott with six. Junior defensive lineman Ryan Parker was credited with two sacks and four tackles.
Wayne State will be on the road next weekend visiting Bemidji State Saturday afternoon at 2 p.m.