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Bemidji State’s Derrick Dunn finds a hole and breaks free for a 37-yard touchdown run in the first half of BSU’s game against Minnesota Duluth Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium. Jack Hittinger | Bemidji Pioneer

FOOTBALL: Bemidji State can't pull off the upset; No. 7 Minnesota Duluth wins 31-21

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BEMIDJI — The Bemidji State football team nearly did it.

The Beavers took a 21-17 lead into the fourth quarter against No. 7 Minnesota Duluth.

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But the Bulldogs scored a touchdown with 8 minutes, 56 seconds, remaining in the game and held on to defeat the Beavers 31-21 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference action Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium.

“I’m very happy with the improvement we made, but I’m just sick that we couldn’t find a way to get a win for these kids,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said. “They’ve been busting their tails in practice and they came out here today ready to go. But I told them after the game I was happy with how we improved today.”

BSU (2-6, 0-4 NSIC North) hasn’t defeated UMD since 1999. And despite the Beavers taking a 21-17 lead going into the fourth quarter Saturday afternoon, the Bulldogs (7-1, 4-0 NSIC North) made sure their 11-game winning streak extended to 12 with what turned out to be a game-winning turnover early in the quarter.

The Beavers had, just seconds earlier, forced a turnover deep in their own end. Mario Stephens stripped the ball from Austin Sikorski and Matt Phipps fell on it at the BSU 21 yard line.

A 37-yard sprint from Avery Walker down the sidelines had the Beavers looking like they might increase their lead.

But on the very next play, Vince Dinkel dropped the ball. Nathan Zibolski recovered it at the BSU 42 and the UMD offense worked its way down the field.

Quarterback Drew Bauer scored what turned out to be the game-winning touchdown on a 14-yard QB keeper, making it 24-21.

“We wanted to get into the fourth quarter still in the game,” Tesch said. “We were ahead but unfortunately that turnover down there turned out to be a deciding part of the game.

“We played so well, had so few penalties and so few turnovers, but to beat a good team like this you have to not even have one turnover.”

The Beavers had two more drives to try and re-take the lead but couldn’t do anything with them. The second drive ended with an incomplete pass from Ryan Shields to Jordan Noskowiak on fourth down.

A 14-yard touchdown by Logan Lauters with 1:39 left ended any hope BSU had of an upset.

The BSU offense, which has struggled at times with two different quarterbacks, was nearly able to match UMD’s production. The Bulldogs had 440 yards of total offense to 414 for BSU. Shields, the freshman who came in halfway through last week’s 24-0 loss at Northern State for Alex Hass, threw for 146 yards on 14-for-30 passing.

“I’m proud of the effort but we didn’t play well enough to win, obviously,” Shields said. “We still had our mistakes. We showed a lot of improvement… I think a lot of us grew up this game. But we need to come back stronger and not let these little mental mistakes kill our drives. That was unacceptable.”

The BSU defense was able to hold UMD scoreless in the first quarter, forcing two turnovers as the teams were deadlocked in a 0-0 defensive battle after one. The Bulldogs had previously outscored opponents 100-7 in the first quarter this season.

In the second quarter BSU jumped out to a 14-0 lead with a 37-yard touchdown run from Derrick Dunn and a 14-yard pass from Shields to Juwon Richard.

“It was a tough start for us,” UMD head coach Curt Weise said. ‘Our guys didn’t come out as focused as we needed to. But you have to give it to Bemidji State. They came out with all the momentum and took it to us early.”

UMD tied the game before halftime thanks to a 39-yard touchdown catch by Joe Reichert and a 2-yard run by Sikorski with 52 seconds left.

BSU went ahead again in the third quarter on a 41-yard touchdown catch by Matt Summers; but the Bulldogs scored 17 unanswered points for the win.

“It was a pretty good game for us overall,” BSU defensive end Dan Kiebeler said. “Maybe in the fourth quarter some things started to slow down a little bit, but you know, I have total confidence in the offense even if they haven’t had one of the best seasons so far. And this was one of their best games all season, especially against a team like that.”

UMD 31, Bemidji State 21

Minnesota Duluth0   14   3   14 – 31

Bemidji State0   14   7     0 – 21

First Quarter

No Scoring

Second Quarter

BSU-Dunn 37 run (Pulkinen PAT kick), 13:08.

BSU-Richard 14-pass from Shields (Pulkinen PAT kick), 7:01

UMD- Reichert 39 pass from Bauer (Brees PAT kick), 5:03.

UMD- Sikorski 2 run (Brees PAT kick), 0:54.

Third Quarter

BSU-Summers 41 pass from Shields (Pulkinen PAT kick), 11:10

UMD-Brees 38 field goal, 2:41

Fourth Quarter

UMD-Bauer 14 run (Brees PAT kick), 8:56

UMD-Lauters 14 run (Brees PAT kick), 0:36

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