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Column: Box score tells only partial story of Bemidji State football win

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Football is a game where one play can have a big impact on the final score.

A few of those types of plays fell in Bemidji State's favor in Saturday's 30-27 overtime road win over then No. 16 Augustana.

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The Bemidji State players mustered every bit of energy they had to beat the Vikings, which were the preseason pick to win the NSIC South Division by the league coaches. It was only the second home loss for Augustana in two years.

Special teams played an interesting role in the win. Bemidji State's kickoff return team was outstanding but the field goal unit struggled.

The box score shows BSU Zach Pulkinen kicked a 21-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the first half. What the box score does not show is the partial block of the kick and how the ball barely cleared the crossbar. It gave Bemidji State a 10-7 lead at halftime and three valuable points for later in the game.

The box score shows Augustana's Drew Behrens kicked a 20-yard field goal to cap the opening drive of the third quarter and tie the game at 10-10.

What the box score does not show is a combination of Vikings miscues and BSU defensive plays that unexpectedly favored the Beavers.

Augustana was threatening to score on the BSU 8-yard line when BSU forced a fumble and lineman Josh Beste recovered the ball in the end zone for a touchback to kill the drive.

But a defensive offsides call reversed the touchback and breathed life back into the Augustana offense.

BSU appeared to kill the drive again after an incompletion on third down but a pass interference penalty gave the Vikings a fresh set of downs.

Augustana followed with a few mistakes of its own. The Vikings committed false start and substitution infraction penalties before settling for the field goal.

The score was tied 10-10 at that point and the game looked like as though it would go down to the wire. It did even when the Beavers looked to have the game in hand.

Augustana scored the game's next touchdown and BSU followed with back-to-back touchdown drives to take a 24-17 lead. The defense followed with a key four-and-out stop deep in Augustana territory to give the offense the ball with 2:07 remaining.

Overtime was forced when BSU was unable to convert a first down to run out the clock and Augustana converted a blocked field goal into a last-minute touchdown drive.

The Beavers came together as a team to win.

The defense gave up an explosive play on the first play of overtime and allowed Augustana running back Nate Mahone to rush for 20 yards. Augustana gained one more yard before a false start penalty and back-to-back incomplete passes forced Behrens to kick a field goal.

The Beavers sealed the win on three straight plays headed by quarterback Lance Rongstad: a 15-yard run, 5-yard run and 5-yard play-action touchdown pass to Brent Kondziolka.

It was obvious going into the game the Beavers needed to have a near flawless performance and have a few breaks go their way - tough things to expect this early in the season for any team.

Aside from the late fourth-quarter possession that led to the missed field goal, the Beavers played a near-perfect game on the road in a tough environment and showed promise for the rest of the season.

The Bemidji State offense was a bit inconsistent yet showed flashes of potential and scored against a tough defense when the game was on the line. The swarming BSU defense was consistently good, gave up a few untimely big plays and delivered stops when the game counted most.

The Bemidji State football team is off to an excellent start.

BSU is home this weekend to face Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday in a 6 p.m. game at Chet Anderson Stadium.

The Beavers have won 11 straight against the Mustangs. Pressure is there to win again and set up what could be a huge matchup in two weeks when defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth comes to Bemidji.

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Pioneer staff reports
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