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Bemidji State football looks to regroup at U-Mary

The time to lament last week's 35-34 heartbreaking loss to defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth is over.

The Bemidji State football team looks to regroup on the road and finish the regular season strong when it travels to Bismarck, N.D. Saturday to take on the University of Mary at 2:30 p.m.

Bemidji State is 6-3 overall, Mary is 5-4 and both teams enter the game with identical 5-3 records in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

There are two games left on the season for Bemidji State and the team is still holding out hope for postseason play.

The Beavers lost to UMD on a missed extra point at the end of regulation and Brody Scheff said the team is not making excuses or asking the 'what if" questions.

"You can really only do that for about a day and then you have to move on," the sophomore safety said. "We still have something to play for and there's still a slim playoff hope and a bowl game to play for. So we came out focused this week in practice to prepare for Mary."

There are slight possibilities the Beavers could still make the Division II national playoff field, but a more realistic option right now is the Mineral Water Bowl.

The annual game takes the best two teams from the NSIC and the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association not to make the national playoff field and puts those teams in a game at Excelsior Springs, Missouri.

The Beavers played in the Mineral Water Bowl in 2006 and lost to Pittsburg State 35-27.

The way things are shaping up with two weeks remaining on the season, Bemidji State will likely need MSU, Mankato, Minnesota-Duluth and Augustana to make the national playoffs. The Beavers would also need to beat Mary and Concordia-St. Paul in the final two games of the season.

Even then the Mineral Water Bowl would not be a lock for the Beavers.

The only thing the Beavers control at this point is winning on the field.

"The one thing I can say about our guys this year is that they have handled adversity really well and we're ready to go," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said.

In Mary, the Beavers will be going up against a team that has proved challenging in recent years.

Bemidji State lost to Mary in 2006 and 2007 before emerging with a 31-10 win over the Marauders last season at Chet Anderson Stadium.

In 2006, Bemidji lost to Mary in the homecoming game that essentially knocked the Beavers out of the national playoffs despite winning the NSIC Conference title.

In 2007, Bemidji State's repeat aspirations faded when loss to Mary started a three-game losing streak.

"I think we match up size and ability wise very well," Tesch said. "When we've had trouble with them, it's been turnovers and mistakes. We're going to go there with the same offense we've been doing and same defense. We're just going to see who can hold onto the ball and see who can play better special teams and I think that's going to be the key to the game."

Bemidji State and Mary are tied for third place in the NSIC standings heading into Saturday's game.

Mary's three-game winning streak came to an end last week with a 35-17 loss to St. Cloud State at Husky Stadium.

Mary ranks in the middle of the pack in most NSIC categories and relies on Jamal Lomax for most of its offense. The junior ranks second in the conference in rushing yards (957) and has four touchdowns.

The Marauders 27 minutes of possession time per game ranks No. 13 in the NSIC. Bemidji State leads the league in time of possession per game (34:10), so Bemidji State will look to exploit that matchup and grind out the clock with sustained drives.

Bemidji State has thrived this season behind a power running game and a smothering rushing defense.

But in the last two weeks, quarterback Derek Edholm has carried the offense, throwing for 570 yards and 10 touchdowns.

He's needed to do that with backup quarterback and rushing threat Lance Rongstad out with an ankle injury. Rongstad did not play last week against Duluth and will be available on an emergency basis this week at Mary.

"If anybody stops the run we know we can throw the ball," Bemidji State wide receiver Cameron Abram said. "I think our running game and passing game is on the top right now and when we get both of those things going, nobody can stop us."

Bemidji State's defense played well against Duluth last week. The defense started slow against the Bulldogs, but surged late and held UMD to one touchdown in the second half.

Bemidji State still holds the No. 2 ranked running and passing defense in the league.

"It starts up front with our (defensive) linemen and as long as they don't get blown out and secure their gaps ... the rest of the defense will rally to them," Scheff said. "We hustle to the ball every play, so there's not much of a chance for a big play to break out and that's what we've done is minimize the big plays."