ST. CLOUD – Bemidji State senior quarterback Lance Rongstad totaled 341 yards of offense and was responsible for four touchdowns, leading BSU to a big 37-20 win over St. Cloud State Saturday afternoon.
The Beavers improve to 5-4 overall and 4-1 in the NSIC North division. It was also BSU’s first win in St. Cloud since 1965.
“To get down right away and hang in there and battle back was special,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said. “I think our defense played well all day long and have all season long to give us an opportunity to be in games. The difference today is the offense stepped-up.”
The Beavers turned the ball over only once against the Huskies (5-4, 3-2 NSIC North), and despite giving up an early 74-yard touchdown pass from Phillip Klaphake to Eli Shoemaker on St. Cloud’s first offensive play from scrimmage, BSU didn’t let that early deficit get out of hand.
Connor Quinn got things rolling for the Beavers late in the first quarter when he picked off Klaphake at the BSU 30 and ran it 29 yards to give the Beavers great field position.
On the first play of BSU’s drive, Rongstad broke loose for a 41-yard touchdown run that tied the game at 7-7.
The Beavers got the ball back and drove 10 plays and 55 yards on their next possession, capped by the second of Rongstad’s three touchdown runs – this one a quarterback sneak for the score.
The senior from Eleva, Wis., used his arm for his fourth touchdown, throwing an 11-yard pass to senior wide receiver Justin Lee following another long drive.
St. Cloud blocked the extra point to hold BSU’s lead to 20-7, then scored another touchdown just a minute later. Klaphake found Shoemaker again for a 30-yard touchdown pass to cut BSU’s lead to 20-13.
The Huskies’ PAT attempt failed, and Zach Pulkinen kicked a 30-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to make it 23-13 going into the half.
BSU made it a three-possession game in the second half when Lee ran for a 15-yard touchdown on an end-around reverse.
Lee, a senior, finished with 48 yards receiving and just 15 yards on the ground.
Rongstad was the Beavers’ leading rusher, gaining 115 yards with his legs. Avery Walker, starting at tailback for the injured Dustin Kroeplin, ran for 55 yards on 11 carries while fullback Brad Hemling had 16 carries for 40 yards.
BSU let Klaphake throw as much as he wanted, which he did – 256 yards on 14-for-28 passing and three touchdowns – but the Beavers defense totally shut down the Huskies run game, holding them to 41 total yards.
Meanwhile, Rongstad was 17-for-25 passing for 226 yards and no interceptions.
“I thought Lance played one of his best games running and throwing and was really a difference maker,” Tesch said. “Overall I’m very proud of the job the coaching staff did.”
St. Cloud made things interesting midway through the fourth quarter when Klaphake found Shoemaker again for their third touchdown hookup of the game, making it 30-20.
But BSU iced it with a five-minute, 67-play drive on the next possession, capped by a third Rongstad run.
Dylan Valentine then intercepted Klaphake with 45 seconds left and BSU held on for the win.
The Beavers host MSU Moorhead this Saturday at 1 p.m.
Bemidji State 7 16 7 7 – 37
St. Cloud State 7 6 0 7 – 20
SCSU – Shoemaker 74-pass from Klaphake (Aldridge kick), 11:58
BSU – Rongstad 41-run (Pulkinen kick), 5:33
BSU – Rongstad 1-run (Pulkinen kick blocked), 14:24
BSU – Lee 11-pass from Rongstad (Pulkinen kick), 2:41
SCSU – Shoemaker 30-pass from Klaphake (Aldridge kick no good), 1:47
BSU – Pulkinen 30-FG, 0:00
BSU – Lee 11-run (Pulkinen kick), 11:11
SCSU – Shoemaker 12-pass from Klaphake (Aldridge kick), 7:42
BSU – Rongstad 5-run (Pulkinen kick), 2:32