DULUTH — Minnesota -Duluth nose guard Buma Foncham might be the first player in the history of college football to be called for a personal foul for being tackled, and while he disagreed with the call, he was more than happy with the end result.
Foncham’s interception, which led to his penalty, highlighted a stifling defensive performance by the No.- 7-ranked Bulldogs in their 30-0 homecoming victory over Bemidji State on a pleasant fall Saturday before 5,948 spectators, the second-largest crowd in Malosky Stadium history.
Senior quarterback Chase Vogler completed 18 of 26 passes for 216 yards and three touchdowns to lead the offense, while Foncham, the former Duluth East standout, also had five tackles, a quarterback sack, fumble recovery and pass breakup as seventh-ranked UMD pitched its first shutout since Oct. 16, 2010.
The Bulldogs have won 38 straight Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference home games, a streak that dates to 2000, and haven’t lost to Bemidji State in Duluth in an incredible 71 years, back when the Bulldogs played at Public Schools Stadium.
“That was a tremendous performance by our defense, our best of the season without question,” UMD coach Bob Nielson said. “Bemidji has a good football team. They’ve got an outstanding quarterback and have been able to move the ball against everybody that they’ve played, so credit goes to our players and our defensive coaching staff for a great game plan.”
That plan was to stop the run, put pressure on the quarterback and force turnovers. Check, check and check.
Each team had four turnovers, but they never seemed to affect the Bulldogs.
After Vogler fumbled on the first play of the game deep in UMD’s end, the Bulldogs got the ball back two plays later when Bemidji senior Dustin Kroeplin fumbled and Foncham recovered it.
After that it was all Bulldogs as freshman wide receiver Justin Fowlkes scored from 64 yards out on the ensuing possession on a simple out route.
UMD (7-1), which outgained Bemidji 410-182 in yardage and had a 37- to 23-minute advantage in time of possession, led 28-0 at the half as the Beavers (4-4) lost Kroeplin, their leading rusher, and All-American tight end Brian Leonhardt to injuries in having their three-game winning streak snapped.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better start and then gave it right back,” Bemidji coach Jeff Tesch said. “Given them an awful, awful, awful lot of credit, because they caused it, but I don’t remember us ever playing as bad offensively. We couldn’t hold onto the ball, couldn’t catch the ball, couldn’t handle the snap count, you name it. Next thing you know we’re playing catch-up.”
The Bulldogs’ defense was in disarray after a 51-49 loss at St. Cloud State on Sept. 29 but has given up only 20 points in three games since then.
“We increased our intensity,” Foncham said. “We really focused and locked down. Everybody picked each other up.”
Nowhere is that more apparent than on UMD’s defensive front, where senior Joe Akey was lost for the season with a knee injury and Jordan Bauman never suited up after getting diagnosed with Stage 2 Hodgkin’s lymphoma in August. In their absence, Foncham and junior defensive end Chris Vandervest — who is playing with a cast over his injured left hand — are seeing extended minutes.
Logan Lauters rushed 13 times for 72 yards as UMD’s ground game was steady but not spectacular, while tight end Ben Helmer caught five passes for 93 yards.
and a touchdown.
UMD added a safety on the first play of the second half and harassed Bemidji quarterback Lance Rongstad with two sacks and a season-high seven quarterback hurries. The Beavers were held to 30 rushing yards on 19 carries, while Rongstad finished 12 of 39 for 152 yards and three interceptions.
One of those came on a tipped ball to Foncham, who turned to run and was immediately tackled by Bemidji running back Brad Hemling. Following Newton’s laws of motion, it looked much worse for the 202-pound Hemling as his helmet flew off after colliding with the 255-pound Foncham.
“As soon as I caught the ball, I just got blindsided,” Foncham said. “I don’t even know what happened. I just got hit, and then I got up.”
And then he got penalized. For being tackled.
Bemidji State 0 0 0 0 — 0
Minnesota-Duluth 14 4 2 0 — 30
UMD — Justin Fowlkes 64 pass from Chase Vogler (Andrew Brees run), 12:22
UMD — Ben Helmer 4 pass from Vogler (run failed), 2:21
UMD — Brian Lucas 2 run (Brees kick), 11:57
UMD — Zach Zweifel 9 pass from Vogler (Brees kick), 9:06
UMD — Team safety, 14:41
A — 5,948.