The Bemidji State football team returns home Saturday to face No. 6 St. Cloud State following a trying stretch of back-to-back losses.
The Beavers host the Huskies at Chet Anderson Stadium looking to avoid the three-game losing streak. The last two weeks were an unexpected turn for BSU, which was No. 20 in the national poll three weeks ago following a three-game winning streak.
With a record of 6-3 (5-3 NSIC), Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch says there is still hope for a postseason if the Beavers can win the final two games of the season.
"If we win, I think we have a very good chance," Tesch said. "If you don't make the playoffs, the (Mineral Water) Bowl game is a possibility. More than anything, it's the last home game for seniors. With all those things out there, the goal is just to play as good as we can and get a win for the seniors."
St. Cloud State (8-1, 7-1 NSIC) is tied with Minnesota State University, Mankato for first place in the conference standings and are coming off an impressive 35-7 win at home against Minnesota-Duluth last Saturday. The Huskies have won six games in a row.
"It's going to provide a great challenge for us," BSU quarterback Lance Rongstad said. "Going up against the best team we've played all year - it shouldn't be too hard to get up for that game."
The Huskies have the top scoring offense in the NSIC at an average of 34.6 points per game. Its balanced, ball-control offense, led by sophomore quarterback Phillip Klaphake, has the most touchdowns in the NSIC this season (40).
The Beavers offense has stalled out the last two weeks. BSU lost to U-Mary 49-21 two weeks ago and lost to Northern State 14-0 last Saturday.
Tesch attributed the offensive problems against Mary to playing from behind and trying different play calls. The BSU defense returned to form against Northern State, but the loss can be pinned on special teams play and turnovers by the offense.
The BSU offense has seven turnovers in the two losses, and Rognstad said the cure is in the details.
"We just have to get it going again," Rongstad said. "The effort has been there. It's always been one little thing each play. You can't put together drives, can't be successful in a game when you're constantly doing something wrong here or there. We've cleaned that up and we should be able to play pretty well."
Tesch said some of the BSU players are fighting injuries and the flu, so Saturday's game will be a test of resilience for a Beavers squad searching to find its success from the first half of the year.
"When you play athletics, you don't just play for looking ahead," Rongstad said. "You play for right now and you don't take anything for granted. Tomorrow any one of us could have a season-ending injury. You definitely have to play for yourself, you have to play for the guys you're around, you play for the seniors and you play for all the people that you appreciate coming to your home games."