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FOOTBALL: BSU looking for answers after loss to Crookston

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BEMIDJI — After Bemidji State’s stunning 16-14 loss to previously winless Minnesota Crookston last Saturday, BSU head coach Jeff Tesch didn’t want to dwell on the “who.” He was more concerned with the “why.”

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“Like I told the guys after the game, it’s not who we lost to, it’s how we lost, which was the frustrating thing,” he said. “The mistakes, the turnovers and all that. That’s what we should be mad about. That was kind of our theme.”

Now the Beavers (2-3, 0-1 NSIC North) face a strong of must-win games in the NSIC North Division if they want a chance at defending their 2012 division title. BSU hosts University of Mary (3-2, 1-0 NSIC North) this afternoon at Chet Anderson Stadium.

“I thought last week was one of our better weeks of practice and preparation,” Tesch said. “But it turned out the way it did and it made them angry, ornery, whatever. They had a great week of practice this week. There’s been no hangover effect or pouting because we lost.”

The Beavers certainly have plenty to be angry about.

Last week they dominated Minnesota Crookston on paper, outgaining them with 317 yards to UMC’s 146. BSU had 15 first downs to UMC’s eight and had nearly 10 minutes more possession time.

But two things specifically stand out for BSU.

The Beavers fumbled the ball five times in the wet, muddy conditions in Crookston, turning the ball over three of those times. The Eagles didn’t score on any of those turnovers but the Beavers squandered field position opportunities — both because of the fumbles and because of their inability to score in the red zone.

In the first half BSU twice had the opportunity to punch the ball into the enzone inside the five yard line. But the Beavers failed to score on 4th-and-goal situations from the 1 and the 2 yard lines.

“Why did we lose last week? We had some situations on special teams,” Tesch said, noting that one punt of seven yards directly contributed to one of UMC’s touchdowns. “We’re trying hard to work on those. Also, turnovers have killed us. We also had some down and distance issues.

“It wasn’t that we weren’t big enough or strong enough to win. Just mentally we had issues.”

All of those mental mistakes led to their eventual 16-14 loss thanks to a late safety.

BSU wasted running back Avery Walker’s outstanding game. He ran for both of BSU’s touchdowns and had 271 yards rushing on 46 carries.

“There’s a lot of frustration, lot of anger,” Walker said.

“But in a good way. People are working hard still. Just because we lost doesn’t mean we toned it down. If anything the intensity went up.

“We have the talent. We’re just always one play, one person away from the big one.”

Field conditions an issue

The muddy conditions at UMC’s Ed Widseth Field certainly didn’t help — although the Beavers are resolute that it wasn’t the thing that singlehandedly did them in.

“It wasn’t even that it was wet,” linebacker and longsnapper Greg Button said. “It was almost like clay. The ball, when I was trying to snap it, it was almost slippery, greasy.

“I’m excited to get back on that turf and have a clean, dry ball to snap. It’s exciting to know that we won’t have to worry about the slippery ball. You try not to make excuses for having turnovers because both teams had to deal with it but it’s definitely helpful.”

Walker said the mud hindered his ability to run as well as he could — although with the game he had one wonders just how many yards he’d have gained in perfect conditions.

“I couldn’t cut, I couldn’t run,” he said. “I couldn’t hardly do anything. I was cold and shivering. We’ve just excited to finally be back on turf this week where we’re comfortable.”

Tesch said playing on the new turf at Chet Anderson will be a welcome relief. For one thing, it will allow them to open up the passing game. Quarterback Alex Hass attempted just four passes last week.

“We’re glad to have that stuff,” he said. “We’ll have sure footing, which will allow us to do what we do best. And as we get used to having the turf we can recruit a little more for that type of player.”

“When we become one-dimensional that’s when we become easier to beat,” Walker said. “When we have the passing and running game working together it’s pretty hard to stop us. That’s a big thing for us this week. If Alex is able to throw the ball a bit more they won’t be able to crowd the box and blitz all the time.”

Mary putting up points

U-Mary comes into the game 3-2 after demolishing Minot State last weekend.

“We’ve compared Mary to (Southwest Minnesota State),” Button said. “They run a lot of spread and trips. Last week we weren’t very gap sound. This week we’re trying to be in the right place and making plays.”

The Marauders have averaged 331.6 yards of total yards of offense and lead the nation with a plus-11 turnover margin.

Quarterback Craig Bagnell has already thrown for 1,251 yards and 11 touchdowns.

Curbing turnovers will be key for the Beavers if they want to have a shot at shutting down the high-powered Mary offense.

“We’ve very much been a cliché team,” Tesch said. “We go one week at a time. I think we found out about this team, that there’s not a great margin of error in how we play.

“We’re capable of winning against good teams but if we turn the ball over and make mistakes we can lose against teams who haven’t had a lot of success of late.”

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Jack Hittinger
Jack Hittinger is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on Bemidji State but also covering area high schools. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at http://thebeaverblog.areavoices.com/ and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.
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