SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Missing several offensive starters Saturday at Sioux Falls, the Bemidji State football team knew it needed a strong defensive performance to upset the undefeated NSIC newcomers.
The Beavers defense did its job Saturday, holding the Cougars scoreless in the first half and severely limiting their total yardage.
But in the end, the lack of key offensive players ended up hurting BSU, as the Cougars scored 21 unanswered second-half points to defeat the Beavers 21-5.
Now the Beavers (1-3) face a must-win situation next week, when they’ll return home for homecoming against Minnesota Crookston. Sioux Falls, meanwhile, improves to 4-0.
BSU, missing starting quarterback Lance Rongstad Saturday, couldn’t find any offensive rhythm.The Beavers were also without center Brett DeLange, left guard Jordan Oien, wideouts Jody Henningson and Beau Wakefield.
The Cougars benefitted from BSU’s lack of experience. Once again, turnovers proved to be BSU's Achilles heel.
BSU turned it over four times – including three interceptions and a fumble – to increase their league-worst turnover margin. BSU has turned the ball over 15 times in four games.
Although the Beavers did fumble the ball once in the first half, it was those three interceptions by backup quarterbacks Alex Hass and Sam King that really killed BSU’s momentum.
BSU led 5-0 in the first half on a safety and a 31-yard field goal from Zach Pulkinen.
But Hass’ first pick, with four minutes left in the first half, turned the tide of the game for good.
Eric Anderson jumped in front of the ball at the Bemidji State 28 yard line and waltzed in for the pick-six. The Cougars converted the two-point conversion and led 8-5.
On Bemidji State’s very next drive, Hass left the field before a 3rd-and-9 play with under two minutes to play. That brought in sophomore Sam King, who was seeing his first in-game action as a member of the Beavers.
Unfortunately, King’s first and only pass attempt ended in disaster.
He, too, was picked off by USF’s Ryan Adams at the BSU 28.
Adams returned the ball to the 25, and it took only three plays for the Cougars to score. They capped the short drive with a 15-yard pass from Taylor Perkins to Jeremiah Oates and took a 15-5 lead.
In the fourth quarter, the Cougars booted two field goals to cement their lead at 21-5. That was all they’d need, as the Beavers were held to negative net yardage in the final stanza.
It didn’t start out terribly for BSU.
The Beavers first drive was very impressive, as they marched 74 yards in 12 plays and got it to the USF 2-yard-line before fumbling it on 3rd-and-goal.
However, that fumble didn’t end up hurting the Beavers too much – the BSU defense stepped up and forced a safety.
The Cougars recovered the fumble on their own 1-yard line. For some reason, the USF coaching staff elected to go for a deep handoff in the end zone and the BSU defense, lead by Connor Quinn, sniffed it out to lead 2-0.
The Beavers couldn’t do anything with their next possession; the teams spent much of the rest of the first half punting the ball back and forth.
BSU was able to get decent field position for their final drive of the half, starting on the USF 46 following a punt. They couldn’t do much with the ball on the possession, but did manage to get close enough to the red zone for Pulkinen to kick a 31-yard field goal with seconds left.
Despite the scoreline, neither team looked impressive on offense.
The Beavers gained 210 yards of total offense while USF gained 296; they also managed only 11 first downs while USF had only 15.
The USF defense held Hass and King to 85 yards passing on 10 completions and no touchdowns. Jon Smith and Matt Gandrud each caught three passes for 24 yards.
On the ground, Hass led the way with 67 yards on 15 attempts. Senior tailback Dustin Kroeplin had 51 yards on 13 carries and Brad Hemling 34 yards.
Sioux Falls quarterback Taylor Perkins went 11-for-25 passing for 178 yards and a touchdown, but was intercepted once (by BSU’s Scott Christiansen) and was sacked twice – both times by BSU’s Buckley Wright.
Senior Cory Crosby led the team with seven tackles while Christensen, Dan Keiebler, Jason Bromm and Connor Quinn had four apiece.