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Bemidji State football: Edholm, defense shine in season-opening win over Minot State

Bemidji State running back Steven Battle, left, turns the corner with help from a block by Bemidji State lineman Jordan Anderson, right, during Thursday night's game in Minot, N.D. Photo Special to the Pioneer/Minot Daily News

Quarterback Derek Edholm and defensive prowess powered the Bemidji State football team to a 24-7 victory over Minot State in the season opener for both teams Thursday night at Herb Parker Stadium.

Edholm passed for one touchdown and rushed for another in the first half to give Bemidji State a 17-7 lead at halftime.

The Bemidji State defense limited the Minot State offense to a mere 80 yards in the game. The lone MSU score came in the second quarter on Johnny Lester's kick-return touchdown.

"They (defense) did a heck of a job pressing the quarterback and stopping the run," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. "There were no turnovers or anything like that but they really played a solid game."

Bemidji State improved to 11-1 all-time against Minot State with the win and remained undefeated at 7-0 all-time in games played at Minot State.

Bemidji State is off next weekend and will return Sept. 11 for the home opener and the Shrine Game against Augustana at Chet Anderson Stadium.

The first half was a bag of mixed results for Bemidji State.

BSU received the ball and went three-and-out on the first drive of the game.

BSU got on the board midway through the first quarter when Edholm hit receiver Adam Berg in stride down the sidelines for a 60-yard touchdown. It gave BSU the early 7-0 lead.

Bemidji State then ran into some red zone and special teams trouble.

BSU had a drive stall inside the MSU 10-yard line and settled for a field goal with five seconds left in the first quarter. Sundby's 23-yard kick put BSU up 10-0.

Lester responded on the next play for Minot State. The senior, who returned two touchdowns against BSU in the 2008 Beaver Bash, returned the kickoff 100 yards as time expired on the quarter to cut Bemidji State's lead to 10-7.

"I'm going to have to give a graduation present to Johnny Lester," Tesch quipped. "When he walks across that stage I'll give him the tip of my hat and I'll be happy that we don't have to see that guy again."

Bemidji State's offense marched down the field to open the second quarter, but once again the offense stalled inside the red zone. This time, an attempted third-down option pass from Edholm to running back Steven Battle inside the 10-yard line was fumbled and Minot State recovered the ball.

Bemidji State's defense, which was one of the best in the conference and nation last season, played strong throughout the first half and did not allow the MSU offense to score.

Both of Rob Wills' two sacks in the game came in the first half. The second resulted in a loss of yards that ended MSU's chance to score in the waning seconds of the second quarter.

BSU led 17-7 at half.

The third quarter was a draw as both offenses had to deal with a unique challenge.

A power transformer failed and cut power to the press box, grandstands and scoreboard at the new stadium. That outage also affected the play clock and the quarterbacks had to rely on referee countdowns to avoid delay of game penalties.

Miscues on offense nearly cost Bemidji State in the fourth quarter. A high snap over Edholm's head, followed by a sack and a high snap on the punt play took BSU from inside the Minot red zone back to its own 15-yard line.

"We can't be so sloppy and have those mistakes in the red zone," Tesch said. "I'm disappointed with some of those things. We didn't finish things off and we'll work on the throwing game."

Bemidji State's defense held strong though and didn't allow Minot State to get a first down. MSU's attempted 30-yard field goal with near 13 minutes remaining missed wide left and held BSU's advantage to 17-7.

BSU put the game out of reach when speedy receiver Justin Lee scored a 24-yard touchdown run on a reverse pitch with about eight minutes remaining.

Lee's touchdown was set up by back-to-back first down runs by Battle.

The senior transfer from the University of North Dakota was the workhorse back in the opener and rushed 13 times for 89 yards. Backup quarterback Lance Rongstad rushed for 87 yards.

Bemidji State's defense limited Minot State's rushing offense to negative three yards.

Bemidji State's offense racked up 499 yards in the win.