When the Valley City State University football team beat Mayville State University last year, the Vikings had a bit of trouble stopping the Comets' option-based offensive attack, allowing 254 rushing yards.
What a difference a year makes.
When the teams played again Saturday in VCSU's home opener on Shelley Ellig Field at Lokken Stadium, the Vikings won again, 38-13.
All afternoon long, the defense consistently stopped the rushing attack, limiting Mayville to 140 yards of offense and only 90 from the ground.
"We played against the option very well today," Valley City State coach Dennis McCulloch said. "They ran the ball all over us last year and this year, our defense was put back against the wall a lot today on our side of the field and only really allowed only seven points. Overall I thought they played really well today."
With Jim Dew, the winningest coach in VCSU history, on the sidelines, the defense shined and the offense and special teams both looked strong.
The only main issues the Vikings had were with turnovers (VCSU had three) and penalties, which hurt VCSU to the tune of 102 yards. But according the scoreboard, the results were never much in question.
The Vikings scored 17 points in the first quarter and held a lead of at least 10 points the rest of the way.
VCSU got on the board on their first drive of the game.
The Vikings received a punt at the Mayville 42, then got to the Comets' 13 yard line using a rush-based attack by Derek Elliot, along with a 15-yard pass from Tommy Zinke to Colby Lum. Valley completed the drive with a 31-yard field goal by Thomas Cortez.
The Vikings got the ball back two plays later when the defense forced a fumble by MSU quarterback Tanner Carpenter, which Dwayne Fearon jumped..
On the first play after the recovery, Zinke hit Ken Eliacin with a 33 yard touchdown pass to the left side of the field.The duo later had a second touchdown on a 52 yard pass in the fourth quarter.
Runs by Elliot eventually gave Valley City a 17-0 lead with 4:50 left in the first quarter.
Mayville didn't get the board until late in the half.
The scoring drive started on Valley City's 34 yard line, following a fumble by Elliot that gave the Comets possession.
Dominique Bradley carried the ball the majority of the way as the Comets ran it to the goal line. Carpenter then got the touchdown on a sneak play to the right side.
Valley City didn't take long getting the points back. Mayville attempted an onside kick at the Vikings, which went straight to Tyler Kosel, who ran it 55 yards, straight in, for the touchdown to make it 24-7.
The only other time it got dicey for the offense was in the third quarter, when the Comets downed a punt only inches from the goal line.
"It's a tough situation," Zinke said. "You've just got to tell everybody to man up and go for it. You've to punch some yards and get some clearance."
Mayville helped out a bit on a drive that was non-traditional.
It started with an offsides penalty, and after moving the ball up the field, the Vikings were in a fourth-and-six situation.
Elliot, in as punter, faked and ran 18 yards up the left side.
After a penalty and a tough defensive stop left Valley City with a fourth-and-20, Elliot punted it, but the Vikings got the ball back when returner Rashad Flanders touched it, but couldn't get posession. It allowed VCSU's Troy Still to jump on the fumble at the Comets' seven.
Elliot then took the ball in to make it 31-7.
Elliot finished the game with 95 rushing yards on 16 attempts. Trevor Goerts had 63 net yards on 11 rushing attempts. Zinke finished 6-8 passing for 145 yards, 127 to Eliacin.
Matt Craft and Alex Hooey led Valley City's defense with 13 tackles each and Aaron Freije had 11. Hooey also had the team's only interception.
Though he was hoping to see a better offensive rhythm, McCulloch was pleased with how the team responded to its 49-7 loss to Morningside College last week.
"You just knew that was going to happen," he said, noting the teams always improve after getting rid of first-game jitters. "There were a lot of good things that we saw, that we improved on and we've just got to keep going and build it from here."