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Bemidji St. football hosts Wayne State in critical game

Jody Henningson scored a touchdown last week for BSU. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Kyle McMartin's smile grew big when he learned of the forecast for Saturday's football game.

There will be an October chill in the air for the game between Bemidji State at No. 14 Wayne State at 1 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium and the Beavers are welcoming the frigid temperatures with open arms.

The National Weather Service is predicting a high of 36 degrees, westerly winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour and there's a good chance there will be some snow on the ground.

"It's something we love to hear," McMartin said. "We're used to that cold up here everyday and we're practicing in it right now. We'll take on any team at 30-below."

In Wayne State (6-1 overall, 5-1 NSIC), the Beavers are playing a ranked opponent for the third time this season.

The Beavers (4-2 overall, 3-2 NSIC) opened the NSIC season six weeks ago against Minnesota State, Mankato and lost a 37-34 overtime heartbreaker on the road, but bounced back the following week to defeat then No. 20 Winona State 24-19 at home.

Wayne brings a different dynamic than those teams to today's game with an explosive offense led by senior quarterback Silas Fluellen. He's guiding the Wildcats offense to an average of 503 total yards per game.

Most of that yardage comes through the air. Cold temperatures are never a friend to the passing games in football, so one unknown factor is how the Wildcats from Nebraska will adapt.

"Our main accountability with (Fluellen) is to keep him in the pocket, he's very aggressive," McMartin said. "He's a good passer, he will make plays on his feet so our front seven are going to be a pivotal factor in the game this week."

Bemidji State is still in the mix for the NSIC Championship, so a win is crucial to keep pace.

Last year, three NSIC teams made the Division II playoffs: Overall NSIC champion and North Division champ Minnesota-Duluth, South Division champ Mankato and Wayne State.

Wayne was essentially a wild-card pick with the third best record in the conference.

A victory today for Bemidji State would give the Beavers a critical tiebreaker come the end of the season if needed in playoff selection. A win would also likely keep the Beavers in the running for the Mineral Water Bowl.

Tesch was asked if Saturday's game could be considered a do-or-die contest in terms of the Beavers playoff chances.

"We haven't addressed it that way, I suppose it is but we just want go back to playing as good as we can and let the chips fall where they may," Tesch said. "We just want to go back to playing as good of football as we can.

Bemidji State was slowed down by surging St. Cloud State last week and lost 38-27 in the homecoming game in large part to special teams miscues.

"On one hand, I can't believe that it's going to happen again and on the other hand we worked on those things in practice this week," Tesch said. "I think we're ready to go in the special teams area."

The offense was efficient and after a bad first quarter, the defense held strong and only allowed 10 points in the second half.

Jake Anderson led the way for the defense with a career high 16 tackles. It was the first time a BSU player had more than 15 tackles in two years.

Bemidji State's vaunted rushing attack was limited to 120 yards against the Huskies after entering the game averaging over 220 yards per game.

The Beavers will look to get back to that running success against Wayne State.

The roles in two years have been reversed for the two teams.

In 2007, BSU was contending for the NSIC title and hosted Wayne State in an October game at Chet Anderson Stadium.

The Beavers were the better team on paper and Wayne State was a .500 team looking for respect.

The Wildcats earned the respect they wanted when Fluellen passed to Frederic Bruno for the game-winning touchdown with 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter for a 24-21 victory.

Wildcats head coach Dan McLaughlin called that victory a "signature win."

The Wildcats went on to play in the Mineral Water Bowl in 2007 and last year made the playoffs before losing to intrastate rival Chadron State.

This year, Wayne State has the experience and the Beavers are the upstart team looking to make a mark in the NSIC.

"Our goal each week is to take it one game at a time and because of that, the coaches make sure we drop the game from last week and make sure we focus on what we have to do this week," McMartin said. "We're always motivated to come out. Our record is very good if we come out each day and make sure we bring our best production out on the field."