The Bemidji State football team believes experience will help make for a more successful season in 2009.
That experience was evident Thursday night in Bemidji State's 47-20 season-opening rout over Minot State at Chet Anderson Stadium.
"That about tops it off right there," Bemidji State quarterback Derek Edholm said. "It's obvious that we are a lot further ahead than we were last time when we played these guys and everybody just came ready to play tonight."
Bemidji State used last season to give younger players key starting roles and with that came the expected mixed results. The team struggled early but finished strong for a 5-6 overall record.
One of the groups that struggled last season was the offensive line.
If there was one group to pick out that showed the most improvement in the first game of 2009, it was the offensive line.
Alonzo Melton, Jordan Anderson, Cory Immerman, Steve Pappas and Davis Mickelson paved the way for Bemidji State's 293 yards rushing and provided solid pass protection throughout the game.
"The offensive line really played a great game today," Edholm said. "They made it easy for us to run the ball and sustain longer drives."
Bemidji State running back Dustin Kroeplin had an impressive collegiate debut in the win.
The bruising freshman back from Wisconsin finished with a team-high 23 carries for 108 yards. He rushed for a pair of 2-yard touchdown runs in the first half and punched in a successful 2-point conversion at the end of the first quarter.
Bemidji State passed for sparingly for 103 yards in the game. Edholm, who made his first career start last year against Minot State, was 6-for-10 for 88 yards and his best work Thursday came on the ground.
The junior from Anoka rushed 10 times for 74 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on a 27-yard scramble six minutes into the third quarter.
The BSU offense was a perfect 4-for-4 in the red zone and the rest of the team excelled in nearly every phase of the game.
The defense held Minot State to 216 total yards of offense and just 69 yards on the ground.
The Beavers defense forced a fumble, netted one sack and cornerback Anthony Ragsdale scored Bemidji State's final touchdown on a 66-yard interception return with six minutes left in the game.
Thursday night's game played out much differently than last year's 27-24 victory over Minot State when Bemidji State's offense and special teams sputtered.
Part of the reason for last year's close score was the play of Minot State's Johnny Lester, who returned a punt and a kick off for touchdowns.
This time around Bemidji State's coverage units tightened up, smothered Lester and held him out of the end zone on returns. Lester averaged 25 yards on four kick returns and gained 14 yards on one punt return.
Bemidji State's Jordan Lardinois and Kyle McMartin teamed up to block a punt late in the second quarter.
Bemidji State led 27-7 at halftime.
Edholm's third-quarter touchdown put Bemidji State up 33-7 and the Beavers played out the rest of the game with the second string offense.
Freshman Lance Rongstad came in at quarterback and sprinted for a 46-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter to put Bemidji State up 40-13.
The win marked Bemidji State's seventh straight victory over Minot State and the fourth time in 11 meetings the offense has put up 40 or more points on the Beavers from North Dakota.
Bemidji State is 10-1 all time against Minot State.
Bemidji State travels to Minnesota State University, Mankato on Sept. 5 for its next game.
It should be a stern test to measure the Beavers progress.
Mankato was picked to finish second in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Coaches Poll.
"I think the one thing we're going to take from this game is our running game," Edholm said. "We want to keep building on that because we didn't need to throw as much tonight. We just want to keep building up our confidence."