BEMIDJI – The Bemidji State football team finally got the complete game it was looking for.
The Beavers racked up 409 yards of total offense, held a potent Minnesota Crookston rushing attack to 97 yards and turned the ball over only once in their 35-2 homecoming blowout of Minnesota Crookston Saturday afternoon at Chet Anderson Stadium.
It was just the kind of game the Beavers (2-3, 1-0 NSIC North) needed to get back on track.
“We needed to have a successful day on offense,” BSU offensive coordinator Eric Medberry said. “We needed to get some rhythm, some flow back with the offense and I think we got that today.”
After the Golden Eagles (2-3, 0-1) missed a field goal on the first drive of the game, the Beavers answered with a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive of their own. Senior running back Dustin Kroeplin capped it with a 5-yard run to help the Beavers do something they hadn’t done since the season opener against Upper Iowa – score on their first possession.
“It was nice to finally put some drives together,” BSU wide receiver Justin Lee said. “We scored on the first drive, which we hadn’t done for a while. Whenever you start a game scoring right away, it’s always good. And it was good to get some touchdowns on offense this week.”
In fact, BSU scored on each of its first three possessions Sunday, giving themselves a nice 21-0 cushion to work with at halftime.
Lee got in on the action in a big way this week. Quarterback Lance Rongstad found Lee open over the middle late in the second quarter and floated him a pass 20 yards downfield. Lee caught the pass and ran another 40 yards for a 66-yard score.
Lee also lined up in the backfield and scored on a 7-yard rush early in the fourth quarter.
He finished the game with 86 yards receiving on eight catches and 12 yards rushing on four attempts.
Rongstad put on a show himself Saturday after missing last week’s game against Sioux Falls.
The senior was an efficient 11-for-18 passing for 159 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 61 yards and a touchdown – including a 35-yard scamper late in the second quarter.
“We didn’t turn the ball over, the defense played great and the offense moved the ball,” Rongstad said. “We made plays when we had to and game had a good flow.”
The offensive line, which had been a question mark with the loss of center Brett DeLange, played very well. The Beavers rushed for 241 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground.
Rongstad said Matt Coen-Tuff, DeLange’s replacement in the middle, had a huge day in his development.
“The offensive line did real well,” he said. “Coen-Tuff did a good job in his second start. We did great up front, which gave me time to throw, and they found holes for the backs. The receivers made plays, too… and it was just a good all-around effort.”
The Beavers only turned the ball over once – on a muffed punt return by Beau Wakefield in the first quarter.
Otherwise, the offense played a clean game. The defense helped the offense out by totally shutting down NSIC leading rusher Richard Haley.
The senior tailback came into the game with a league-best 563 yards on 90 carries.
But BSU’s Gang Green defense knew what to expect.
Haley was limited to just 52 yards on 17 carries – all in the first half. He didn’t return for the second half.
“I feel like we did an exceptional job on Haley,” BSU linebacker Buckley Wright said. “At halftime he was at about 50 yards, and when you’ve got a good caliber running back like him at 50 yards in one half, that’s pretty exceptional. I think he may have left the game in the second half, but we did well against him.”
The Beavers held UMC to 119 yards on the ground. Crookston quarterback A.J. Barge went 18-for-33 passing for 133 yards.
Cory Crosby led the defense with 13 tackles, including four solo. And the Beavers forced four turnovers – two of which led to touchdowns.
“The past couple weeks everyone’s been saying the offense has been turning the ball over,” Wright said. “But really it came down to the defense not getting any of those takeaways back. It was good to start coming out and getting takeaways this time, and taking advantage of them.”
BSU returns to the field next Saturday when they travel to Bismarck, N.D., to take on University of Mary. The Beavers still have a chance to win a Northern Division title, and winning Saturday could be just the turnaround they need.
“It was good for our morale, especially on a weekend like this,” Lee said. “Hopefully we’re done climbing up the hill and we can start rolling down with a full head of steam.”
Bemidji State 35, Minnesota Crookston 2
UMC 0 0 0 2 – 2
BSU 7 14 7 7 – 35
BSU – Kroeplin 5- run (Pulkinen kick), 2:22
BSU – Rongstad 34-run (Pulkinen kick), 14:42
BSU – Lee 66-pass from Rongstad (Pulkinen kick), 11:21
BSU – Dale 5-pass from Rongstad (Pulkinen kick), 2:55
BSU – Lee 7-run (Pulkinen kick), 11:15
UMC – Safety, 7:29