BSU football: Beavers will try to snap losing streak at Northern St.
BEMIDJI — Stuck in a two-game rut, the Bemidji State football team is looking to get hairy for the rest of the season.
The BSU coaching staff is tearing a page right from the Boston Red Sox’s playbook: The coaches have agreed to waive the team’s “no beard” policy until the Beavers lose another game.
“I told the guys, they can keep their beards until we lose,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said Thursday. “So we’re hoping that motivational ploy will be enough to get them going.”
The Beavers (2-4, 0-2 NSIC North) travel to Northern State (2-4, 1-1) today for a pivotal division game that’s pretty much a must-win for both teams if they want a shot at claiming at least a share of a division title.
BSU has lost two straight games, including a 16-14 heartbreaker against previously winless Minnesota Crookston and a 27-16 backbreaker against U-Mary that featured a 16-point Mary third quarter.
Tesch said he hopes letting his players grow out their beards will keep them loose.
“They’re always trying to wear those… they don’t like our rule on that,” he said. “So we’re hoping it’s a hairy, excited team out there ready to go.”
Sophomore linebacker Connor Quinn — who on Thursday was working on a little stubble — said he’s fine with whatever works to help motivate a restless Beaver squad.
“It’s just another way to kind of unify us,” he said. “I think for the guys, it’s something different. We like it. If it’s what we need to do to win, let’s do it.”
The Beavers would certainly like to try and shake things up after losing a pair of winnable games.
The BSU defense did a decent job containing the potent Mary offense last week, but Quinn said the big plays the unit gave up in the third quarter — like the 55-yard pass that set up the Marauders’ third touchdown of the afternoon — need to stop.
“The defense has gotta step up and make a stop there,” Quinn said. “Against Mary they put two big drives on us and it really took the wind out of our sails.
“So we’ve been focused on playing a complete game. Every game so far we’ve had our doubts and slip-ups but I think if we put out a complete game this week it will make a big difference.”
Tesch doesn’t see any long-term issues with the defense — it’s been doing its part to keep the Beavers in each and every game.
“They know what they’re doing,” Tesch said. “We’ve played well enough all year to be in the games and win the games. It’s been special teams and offense where we’ve sputtered around.
“Hopefully (the defense) just being familiar with what they’re seeing here as of late will allow them to play fast and have a good day, which is what we need out of those guys.”
Northern State had lost four in a row before bouncing back with a tight 22-21 win over Minot State. Save a 42-14 loss at No. 1 Minnesota State Mankato, every other game the Wolves have played so far this season has been decided by eight points or fewer.
“They’re a lot like us in that respect,” Tesch said. “We could both be 5-1 right now, but we’re not. We’re 2-4.”
Northern quarterback Jared Jacobson is in the top 10 in the league in passing offense, averaging 173.5 yards per game with 11 touchdowns. Tesch said they bring a similar look offensively that Mary did last week in that they like to spread the field.
“It’s going to be similar to what they’ve seen the last three, four weeks,” he said. “No huddle, calling plays on the lines, spreading everyone out. Run a little, throw, get the big play.”
Defensively the Wolves run a similar scheme as the Beavers — they’re strong against the run, which happens to be BSU’s strength — although senior running back Avery Walker has proven he can gain yardage no matter what the defense is doing to him. Last weekend against Mary he gained 122 yards and scored a touchdown for his third-straight 100-plus yard game. He’s currently fourth in the conference with 729 yards and five rushing touchdowns.
Still, depending on what BSU offense shows up, it could end up being a decisive, defensive-oriented game.
“Both sides of the ball are going to know what they’re going to face,” Tesch said. “So we’re just going to have to line up and try and do a better job of it than them.”