FOOTBALL: BSU stuns Winona with overtime thriller
WINONA -- A late surge by the Bemidji State defense helped the BSU offense offset its early struggles at Winona State.
Down 27-3 at halftime, the Beavers scored 31 unanswered points -- including an interception and a fumble recovery for touchdowns and a game-winning touchdown in overtime -- to stun Winona State 34-27 in their Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference opener at Verizon Wireless Stadium in Winona.
BSU tight end Josh Noskowiak scored the game-winning touchdown in overtime, receiving a pass from quarterback Ryan Shields over the middle and running it in for the 18-yard score.
Winona State (0-1) had a shot to tie and send the game to a second overtime but Spencer O'Reilly's pass was intercepted by Troy Beckett in the end zone.
The Beavers (1-0) tied the game with 31 seconds left in regulation after Shields, a redshirt freshman who didn't even start Thursday's game, engineered a 14-play, 89-yard drive in the final two minutes.
Shields hit Josh Malone for a 25-yard touchdown pass and, after Zach Pulkinen hit the extra point, the game was tied 27-27.
The Beavers wouldn't have had the chance to tie if not for some stellar plays by the defense.
Down 27-6 going into the final period, BSU inched closer when defensive lineman Gary Young intercepted a pass from WSU backup quarterback RJ Gordon and ran it back 18 yards for a touchdown with 11 minutes to go.
Connor Quinn helped the Beavers cut the deficit to seven when the sophomore linebacker picked up a botched pitch to the running back and ran it five yards for a touchdown.
BSU's defense looked much better in the second half than it did in the second, when it allowed Chichi Ojika to run all over them.
Ojika scored three touchdowns in the first half to help give the Warriors their big 27-3 halftime lead. He had touchdown runs of 8, 11 and 2 yards.
One odd play in the first half led directly to a WSU touchdown as time expired.
After getting the ball with just over three minutes to play in the first half, senior quarterback Alex Hass went down with an injury and had to leave the game.
Shields came in to relieve him and got a first down with a run and a completion to Malone, but was then sacked twice by the Winona defense.
On 4th and 20 from the BSU 15, kicker Zach Pulkinen came out with the punt team and appeared ready to kick it away.
Only he didn't.
Pulkinen took the snap and ran two yards with a fake before getting gang tackled by the purple-shirted Winona defense.
The Warriors took all 1:09 remaining on the clock and marched it in for a touchdown as time expired.
Hass, the Beavers starter, went 5-for-11 passing for 38 yards and no touchdowns. Shields was 11-for-22 for 116 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Adam Ragsdale also played in the game but didn't attempt or complete any passes.
Winona State also used a ton of quarterbacks. John Teigland started but left the game for unknown reasons in the second half; he went 20-for-30 with a touchdown and 280 yards. O'Reilly went 2-for-4 for 50 yards and an interception, while Michael Powell and RJ Gordon each attempted one pass without a completion.
Ojika led all rushers with 82 yards on 20 carries.
The Warriors outgained the Beavers offensively 363-195, but BSU won the turnover battle, forcing three and giving up none.
BSU returns to the field next Saturday for its home opener against Concordia-St. Paul. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium
Bemidji State 34, Winona State 27
BSU 3 0 3 21 7 -- 34
WSU 7 20 0 0 0 -- 27
BSU — Pulkinen 38 FG kick, 11:25
WSU — Ojika 8-run. PAT-Cochran-Bray kick, 10:39
WSU — Ojika 11-run. PAT-Cochran-Bray kick blocked, 10:57
WSU — Mikes 4-pass from Teigland. PAT-Cochran-Bray kick, 3:07
WSU — Ojika 2-run. PAT-Cochran-Bray kick, 0:00
BSU — Pulkinen 40 FG kick, 3:53
BSU — Young 18-pass interception return. PAT-Pulkinen kick, 11:00
BSU — Quinn 0-fumble recovery. PAT-Pulkinen kick,. 3:20
BSU — Malone 25-pass from Shields. PAT-Pulkinen kick, 0:31
BSU — Noskowiak 18-pass from Shields. PAT-Pulkinen kick, 0:00