- Associated Press - Saturday, December 13, 2014

MANKATO, Minn. (AP) - The first seven times that Minnesota State Mankato touched the football, there were points.

Driven by a substantial size advantage on the offensive line, the Mavericks defeated Concord University 47-13 in a semifinal game of the NCAA Division II football playoffs Saturday. It was the second time in the last three seasons that Minnesota State Mankato has reached the semifinals, but this will be the program’s first trip to the championship game.

The undefeated Mavericks, who set a program record with their 14th victory this season, had nine possessions in the game and scored touchdowns on the first six, adding a field goal on the seventh.

“I thought we controlled the line of scrimmage,” Minnesota State Mankato coach Todd Hoffner said. “We thought that was extremely important today.”

The Mavericks gained 498 yards of offense, with 268 yards rushing on 47 carries. Minnesota State Mankato had nearly 18 minutes more in possession time.

“It was good to see the offensive line dominating the way they have the whole season,” Hoffner said.

With a ball-control, physical offense, No. 1-ranked Minnesota State Mankato had only four possessions in the first half but scored touchdowns on each.

The first drive went 83 yards in 12 plays, with Ricky Lloyd’s 21-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Burns completing the possession. The next drive was 10 plays and 56 yards, with Lloyd hitting Kyle Riggott with a 20-yard score. The third possession went 80 yards in 11 plays, and Lloyd’s third touchdown pass covered 7 yards to Connor Thomas for a 22-0 lead.

“The running game really helps to open the offense so we can pass downfield,” Lloyd said. “That gave me as much time as I needed.”

Concord (13-1) got on the board late in the second quarter on a 6-yard run by Ben Nester to make it 22-7, but the Mavericks added another score with a 10-play, 80-yard drive, with backup quarterback Nick Pieruccini scoring on an 11-yard run for a 30-7 lead at halftime.

The second half was much the same. The Mavericks scored touchdowns on the first two possessions, with Thomas rushing in from 5 yards and Lloyd passing 8 yards to Bryce Duncan. Alden Haffar added a 28-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter that made it 47-7.

Concord added a late touchdown on Nester’s 2-yard run, but the PAT was blocked. Concord managed just 299 yards of offense, with 71 yards rushing. All-American running back Calvinaugh Jones, who had rushed for 1,664 yards and had at least 100 yards in 12 of 13 previous games, gained 70 yards on 12 carries.

“It was a tough day, but you’re going to have tough days when you play great teams,” Concord coach Garin Justice said. “We knew this was going to be a challenge. They were as good as advertised.”

Lloyd completed 14 of 18 passes for 177 yards and four touchdowns. Thomas rushed for 123 yards and scored twice, becoming the Mavericks’ career touchdown leader with 33.

“He’s a hard-nosed running back who’s hard to bring down,” Hoffner said. “He disappears behind that offensive line, and he emerges when he needs to break a tackle.”

Hoffner was dismissed as the coach at Minnesota State Mankato before the 2012 season and was charged with child pornography for having photos of his children on his school-issued cellphone, but after those charges were dropped, he won an arbitrator’s decision and got his job back in April.

Minnesota State Mankato will play Colorado-Pueblo (a 10-7 victor over West Georgia) in the national championship game on Saturday, Dec. 20, at Kansas City.

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