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Bemidji State football opens NSIC season on road against No. 16 Augustana

BSU wide receiver Justin Lee. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State football team lost to Augustana 10-0 last year at Chet Anderson Stadium.

The defeat ended BSU's shutout streak at 133 games and the game was a constant reminder for the offense this week as it prepared for Saturday's rematch in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"We put up 0-10 in the weight room and that's kind of a sign we're better than last year and we want to come out strong," BSU senior wide receiver Cameron Abram said. "They're a good team and we know that. We want to come out and play Beaver football and play how we know we can."

Game time is 1 p.m. at Kirkeby-Over Stadium and the NSIC opener for both teams is expected to be a tough challenge for BSU. The No. 16 Vikings were ranked in the Division II top 10 last week but slipped with a close 20-12 loss to defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth.

Augustana's (0-1 overall, 0-0 NSIC) home opener last week was marked by miscues: bad snaps, missed extra points, fumbles and untimely penalties cost the Vikings a chance to beat the Bulldogs in front of 5,718 fans.

Augustana reached the Division II playoffs for the first time since 1989 last year were picked by the coaches to win the NSIC's South Division in this year's preseason poll. Quarterback Josh Hanson and reigning NSIC Defensive Player of the Week Nick Andreas lead the Vikings into the game against BSU.

The Vikings defense have five new starters on defense this year and bottled UMD quarterback Chase Vogler to 114 passing yards and 30 rushing yards last week.

The Beavers must be more productive in the rushing game this time around to compete with Augustana. BSU gained nine yards on the ground and had just seven first downs against the Vikings last year.

"I think for both sides the key is to run and stop the run," said Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch, who is one win shy of 100 career wins with the Beavers. "They pack the box quite a bit. They did it against Duluth and they did it against us last year. They make running awful tough in there so we're going to have to get some hard-earned yards."

Junior running back Dustin Kroeplin is expected to be back the lineup today after missing the Aug. 25 opener against Minot State to a leg injury.

BSU won its opener 27-0 over Minot State at Chet Anderson Stadium in a game where the players and coaching staff were disappointed with the offensive performance. The Beavers did not play last week and Tesch said the team addressed a number of issues in practice.

"You worry about practicing too much," Tesch said of the week layoff. "But everything was positive and I think we took advantage. We emphasized mistakes, red zone penalties, blocking with your feet and not your hands - we just have to go out now and execute it."

The Beavers will look for another strong game from its defense, which forced six turnovers and limited Minot State's offense to 188 yards.

Linebacker Blake Sczepanski is questionable after suffering a knee injury in Thursday's practice. Safety Jake Schmidt, who missed the opener with a hand injury suffered in preseason practice, practiced this week and should play against the Vikings. The senior captain will likely have the hand wrapped in a hard cast.

The week off was helpful to mend some early season injuries according to Tesch.

"The positives is that we have about three guys healthy who wouldn't have been able to play last week, guys we have to play," Tesch said. "We took advantage of the opportunity to have the week off and it worked out well."