Bemidji St. football team hopeful for fan support in critical game
The Bemidji State football team wants your help.
The season will be on the line Saturday when the Beavers take on No. 7 Minnesota-Duluth at Chet Anderson Stadium at 1 p.m.
Should Bemidji State beat the defending national champions in the final regular season home game, it would put the Beavers in the driver's seat for the first national tournament playoff berth in school history.
"This is going to be the biggest game I've ever played in and I've played in two state high school championships," said Bemidji State wide receiver Andrew Schultz. "We lose and our chances go from slim to none."
With such an important game being played at home, Bemidji State head football coach Jeff Tesch is hoping for a large crowd of green and white clad football fans.
"First of all, having the crowd when our guys come through the tunnel sets up a great atmosphere and really gets our guys going," Tesch said. "Second, home field advantage and a loud crowd really makes a difference on some of those key third and fourth down plays. If we can have people hooting and hollering out there and making noises with their cowbells...it makes it hard to communicate.Everyone makes mistakes. Without that, it's not much of a home field advantage."
Since it is hunting season in Minnesota, perhaps duck calls are more appropriate than cowbells.
"You know, I'd like to say the clichés that we just take it one game at a time, but the reality is this game isn't that," Tesch said. "It's a huge game against the former national champs with playoff ramifications. I hope people understand that and come out and support us."
The playoffs are tangible for the Beavers with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
Bemidji State is 6-2 this season (5-2 Northern Sun) and have played three nationally ranked teams this season.
The Beavers were one first down away from defeating then No. 10 MSU, Mankato the second week of the season before the Mavericks rallied to win 37-34 in overtime.
Bemidji State showed that close game was not a fluke and later defeated two ranked teams in No. 20 Winona State and No. 14 Wayne State. Both of those victories came at Chet Anderson Stadium.
The BSU athletic department is filling out an NCAA application to host a first-round playoff game. It is required paperwork as a top ten ranked team in an NCAA Super Region.
The Beavers are currently ranked No. 10 in Super Region Three and at the end of the season, the NCAA Football Playoff Selection Committee will pick six teams from each of the four super regions to compromise the 24-team field.
Should the Beavers make the playoffs and be in consideration for a home field site, the selection committee will use attendance figures as part of the criteria in awarding sites.
That's another reason why the Beavers want a large crowd Saturday.
"We need to show (the committee) that when we have big games here, that people show up and support good football," Tesch said.
Attendance has been mixed so far this season at Chet Anderson Stadium.
The Beavers drew a packed crowd of 2,625 for the season opener against Minot State on BSU Community Appreciation Day and the fireworks show that followed the game.
Bemidji State has averaged 1,441 fans in the four home games since then according to official figures, but poor weather has hampered turnout the last two games.
Bemidji State's 21-10 victory over Wayne State two weeks ago had an official gate of 1,069, but temperatures in the 30s and snow had that crowd visually closer to 200 fans.
As of Wednesday night, the National Weather Service forecast is calling for sunny skies and a high of 44 degrees for Saturday's game.
"As much as we play for ourselves, we play for the school and the town," Bemidji State quarterback Derek Edholm said. "We want to show people what we can do."
There's no question the Beavers will be in an underdog role against Duluth (7-1 overall, 7-0 NSIC), who have lost just one game since the beginning of last season.
The Bulldogs have won six of seven NSIC games this season by at least three touchdowns.
Three weeks ago, UMD defeated MSU, Moorhead 76-7.
"I think a lot of teams are intimidated by them," Edholm said. "It's kind of like baseball and the Yankees and playing against the NY symbol and the pinstripes. Once you can get over that intimidation factor, you can play good football. They have a good offense, defense and they have that national championship. But all those players that won that championship aren't there this year. They are a different team this year just like we are a different team .... we're going to play our hearts out."