FOOTBALL: Beavers face big test with high-powered Bulldogs
BEMIDJI — The final two home games at Chet Anderson Stadium might not be so welcoming to the Bemidji State football team.
The Beavers (2-5, 0-3 NSIC North) return to Bemidji today after three straight road losses, including two shutouts.
But BSU won’t find the warmest of welcomes on the field.
The Beavers host nationally-ranked Minnesota-Duluth at 2:30 p.m. today before closing out their home schedule next week against another ranked opponent in St. Cloud State.
“The guys are ornery, mad, disappointed and they feel like they could do better,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said of the Beavers, who have lost three straight. “That’s good. They haven’t given up. They’re frustrated in the way we’ve played. We hope we can play as good as we can.
“I don’t think we did that down at Northern State. I don’t think we’ve done that yet this year.”
Northern State shut out the Beavers 27-0 in Aberdeen, S.D. BSU was held to just 76 rush yards and gained only 11 first downs. The Wolves bottled up running back Avery Walker, holding him to 36 yards on the ground after three-straight 100-plus yard games.
“We got behind and had to abandon the run game early,” Tesch said. “Maybe could have stayed with them a bit longer, but especially the second half, we needed to try and throw the ball a little bit when we got behind. The thing we do best, running the ball, we had that opportunity taken away from us.”
The Wolves also forced Tesch to change quarterbacks midway through the game, subbing out senior Alex Hass for redshirt freshman Ryan Shields.
Shields ended up throwing for 130 yards but Tesch said neither quarterback played especially well. He’s not sure who will start this weekend against UMD.
“It’s not good but we’re still working on that,” he said. “We weren’t scoring last weekend, so I thought we’d make a change and spark the team a little bit. Ryan did in some ways but he didn’t play well enough… neither did the rest of the offense. So we’re still trying to figure that out.”
Whoever starts at quarterback this week will have to avoid the trap that many fall into when playing Minnesota-Duluth: Getting behind early.
Last week Minot State fumbled just two plays into the game then had a punt blocked and the Bulldogs took a 14-0 lead just two minutes in; UMD ended up rolling to a 56-0 victory. A similar fate befell Wayne State; the Wildcats had two early turnovers, got behind early and lost 64-21.
“If they can get on you early it’s just like they smell blood and they blitz you and get after you,” Tesch said. “We have to weather the storm early and get into the fourth quarter and be in the game then.”
Aside from their lone loss — 21-7 against No. 1 Minnesota State-Mankato — Minnesota State Moorhead was the only team that has even come close to hanging with the Bulldogs. The Dragons put up the points but lost 69-45.
Tesch said his defense will have to step up and try and contain the Bulldogs if they want to hang with them. Tesch hopes to shut down the running game — UMD running back Austin Sikorski averages 111.3 yards per game — and force redshirt freshman Drew Bauer to make throws.
“Defensively have to find a way to disrupt their redshirt freshman quarterback,” Tesch said. “He’s made mistakes like all young kids do. We have to find a way to maybe make him throw the ball when he doesn’t want to. Try and make them one-dimensional.”