FOOTBALL: Bemidji Stats falls after MSU-M scores 28 points in fourth quarter
By Madalyn Laske
Forum News Service
MOORHEAD – The cheers echoed through the halls outside the locker rooms at Alex Nemzek Fieldhouse locker rooms after Minnesota State Moorhead defeated Bemidji State 35-17 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football on Saturday.
With the victory, the Dragons earned their first three-game winning streak since 2006.
“It’s another tangible step of our progress,” said MSUM head coach Steve Laqua. “A reason a lot of these guys came to the program was to change it. To make progress, to do things that haven’t been done, ever. … That’s why these kids are here and that’s the exciting part.”
After starting the season with four straight losses, the Dragons (4-6, 4-2 NSIC North) now find themselves in third place in the eight-team North Division standings in the NSIC.
“We just have had more confidence in ourselves. We know we can play and we can compete, and we just keep going with it,” said MSUM quarterback, Jake Hodge, who finished with 144 yards rushing and 286 passing.
The Beavers (2-8, 0-6) have won the 12 of the last 13 meetings between the two teams, which means The Battle Axe trophy largely resided in Bemidji.
The Battle Axe, which dates back to 1929, is the second-longest running traveling trophy in Division II history.
“It’s huge (to get the trophy back). Every time we looked at the wall with nothing hanging there, we just thought, ‘We got to get that back,’” said Hodge.
The trophy looked as though it would stay in Bemidji for another year as the Dragons trailed the Beavers by 10 at the end of the third quarter.
It was then that Hodge took control of the MSUM offense, leading the team to score four unanswered touchdowns.
The sophomore quarterback found a hole in the middle of his offensive line to run for a 37-yard touchdown a minute into the fourth quarter to cut the MSUM deficit to 17-14.
“That touchdown got us within three, and then the defense kept the momentum,” said Laqua. “That was the turning point in the game.”
The Dragons defense held the Beavers to a three-and-out on the next series to set up a Zayne Medhaug touchdown on the ensuing drive.
Medhaug leapt over the defense three yards from the end zone to give the Dragons their first lead and put them in front for good.
Hodge kept the momentum going with a 30-yard touchdown pass, rolling to his right out of the pocket to find tight end Shaun Hollenkamp in the end zone.
“The one that maybe broke the back was the catch that Hollenkamp made in the back of the end zone,” said Laqua. “That was a great catch by Shaun.”
Hodge then ran for 19 of his 78 yards in the fourth quarter on a read-option play for the Dragons’ final touchdown.
“It helps when your O-line picks up blitzes and twists. It gives me time to throw back there,” said sophomore Hodge, “Our defense was making some big plays and giving us momentum. It just kind of rolled out that way that I got a big play.”
The Dragons look to finish their season at St. Cloud State next weekend.
“We’re playing against a playoff caliber team,” Laqua said. “If that’s where our program wants to be, if we want to be in the playoffs, we got a first-hand measuring stick at exactly what a playoff game is going to look like. That will be a great growing opportunity for us.”
MSU-Moorhead 35, Bemidji State 17
BSU3 7 7 0 – 17
MSUM0 7 0 28 – 35
BSU–Pulkinen 24 field goal
BSU–Hass 16 run (Pulkinen kick)
MSUM–Jiskra 10 pass from Hodge (Kramer kick)
BSU–Hass 1 run (Pulkinen kick)
MSUM–Hodge 37 run (Kramer kick)
MSUM–Medhaug 3 run (Kramer kick)
MSUM–Hollenkamp 30 pass from Hodge (Kramer kick)
MSUM–Hodge 19 run (Kramer kick)