Moorhead football coach Kevin Feeney said before the season he wanted to see his team respond to adversity better than it did last season. The Spuds had no answer for adversity on Friday in their home opener against No. 4-ranked Alexandria as the Cardinals used a big second half to roll to a 35-13 win.
"In the first half, I thought we did a lot of good things, but we didn't finish in the red zone," Feeney said. "First game was a very clean game for us, not a lot of penalties, not a lot of turnovers. This game was exactly the opposite."
Tied at halftime, Alexandria barely needed two minutes to go 77 yards on 10 plays, eight of which were run plays, to find the end zone on the opening drive of the second half. Nolan Morical capped the drive with a 2-yard touchdown run.
Not only did Alexandria take the lead, but Moorhead senior offensive and defensive lineman Seth Anderson, a North Dakota State commit, was carted off the field with what looked like a right leg injury.
Moorhead fumbled on the third play of the ensuing drive and Alexandria turned that into a score. Quarterback Matthew Carlsen scampered for a 28-yard touchdown run to put the Cardinals up 21-7.
"Once Seth went down, that's real adversity, that's real life," Feeney said. "It took the wind out of our sails. He's a key part of our football team, but we talk about how important everyone is. We need to step up our roles when our leader like that goes down."
Less than five minutes had come off the clock in the second half and Alexandria had scored two touchdowns, Moorhead had one turnover and had lost it's best lineman.
"We just went in, made some adjustments on each side of the ball and told them to have fun," Alexandria coach Mike Empting said. "We were a little tight in the first half. They came out, relaxed and had some fun and got after them in the second half."
Later in the third, Alexandria turned a Moorhead interception into points, as Morical capped an eight-play, 56-yard drive with a 5-yard touchdown run with nine seconds remaining in the third to push the lead to 28-7.
"Their defense started to wear down," said Carlsen, who finished with 222 yards and a touchdown through the air and 82 yards rushing and a touchdown on the ground. "That allowed us to keep moving the ball and keep running the ball."
Morical rushed for 161 yards and three touchdowns on 26 carries, as the Cardinals, who won three games all of last season, moved to 2-0.
"We knew things were eventually going to break. It was just a matter of when," Morical said. "We just kept pounding and pounding and things started to happen."
Alexandria didn't waste much time, scoring on its fifth play from scrimmage. Carlsen threw a wide receiver screen to Kristen Hoskins, who needed to break one tackle to show off his wheels and fly 68 yards for a touchdown.
Moorhead answered on the ensuing drive, marching 70 yards on 12 plays to even the score. Quarterback Trey Feeney was able to draw Alexandria offside on fourth-and-3 on the Alexandria 21-yard line to keep the drive alive. One play later, Feeney ran it in from 10 yards out to tie the score with 43.2 seconds remaining in the first.
"This is going to be a game we need to learn from." Kevin Feeney said. "It's Game 2, so let's keep it in perspective. I thought we did some good things in the first half, but we didn't score points. When you play a team that's got this much explosiveness you gotta put points on the board when they present themselves."
The win for Alexandria sets up quite a contest in Week 3 for the Cardinals as fellow Section 8-5A contender Bemidji comes to town with a 2-0 record after beating Brainerd 23-0 on Friday night.
A 7 0 21 7—35
M 7 0 0 6—13
SCORING - FIRST QUARTER - Alexandria - Kristen Hoskins 68-yard pass from Matthew Carlsen, (Sean Haak kick); Moorhead -- Trey Feeney 10-yard run (Triggs kick)
SECOND QUARTER - No scoring
THIRD QUARTER - Alexandria - Nolan Morical 2-yard run, (Haak kick); Alexandria - Carlsen 28-yard run, (Haak kick); Alexandria - Morical 5-yard run, (Haak kick)
FOURTH QUARTER - Alexandria - Morical 5-yard run, (Haak kick); Moorhead - Brady Walthall 6-yard pass from Feeney, (kick failed)
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Passing - Carlsen - 18-26, 222 yards, TD, INT; Rushing - Morical - 26-161, 3 TD; Carlsen - 9-82, TD; Brady McCoy - 2-(-1); Will Heydt - 1-(-5); Receiving - Kristen Hoskins - 12-167, TD; Dylan Mesita - 2-30; Aaron Jost - 1-14; Cody Branson - 2-6; Morical - 1-5
ALEX DEFENSE (Tackles include solo and assisted) - Mark Urman - 9 tackles; Xavier Homelvig - 8 tackles, 1 TFL; Jaymeson Molesworth - 6 tackles; Elijah Holthaus - 4 tackles; Wyatt Odland - 5 tackles, 1 TFL; Blake Hoelscher - 4 tackles; Branson - 4 tackles; Matthew Zick - 6 tackles; Andrew Revering - 3 tackles; Heydt - 4 tackles; Derek Pesta - 5 tackles; Sam Boettner - 2 tackles; Hunter Hastings - 1 tackle; Sean Haak - 1 tackle; Riley Simonson - 3 tackles; Carter Moen - 3 tackles