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Bemidji State football team returns home confident to face Mustangs

Charles Hrdlicka (1), Luke Knutson (15) and the Bemidji State football team play at home tonight against Southwest Minnesota State. Pioneer File Photo/Eric Stromgren

The Bemidji State football team is feeling confident heading into Saturday's Shrine Game against Southwest Minnesota State at 6 p.m. at Chet Anderson Stadium.

A win against a ranked opponent can have that effect. The Beavers are coming off last week's inspired 30-27 overtime road victory at then No. 16 Augustana and are 2-0 (1-1 NSIC) on the season.

"I don't think I've ever been a part of a game where we had so many guys give everything they had," Bemidji State quarterback Lance Rongstad said. "We had trouble walking off the field. That's a great experience that I think we can carry not only into this week but the rest of the season."

BSU faces NSIC South Division team Southwest Minnesota State (1-1, 1-0 NSIC), a team the Beavers have defeated 11 straight times and beat 30-14 last year in Marshall.

The Mustangs are coming off a 48-45 home win against U-Mary where quarterback Tyler Peschong threw for a career-high 334 yards and three touchdowns. He rushed for 89 yards and two touchdowns.

Peschong is one focus for the Beavers this week and Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch hopes the game does not become a shootout. The Beavers will be looking to win the time of possession battle and improve the running game.

"I'd be disappointed if we gave up 49 points and our defense would too," Tesch said. "It's like I always say -Michael Jordan is going to get his points when he plays and we can't let him have a big day - it's the same thing against these guys (Southwest). They're probably going to get a few points because they have a pretty explosive offense."

Bemidji State has been paced by its defense through the first two games. The BSU defense ranks 13 in the nation with 59 average rush yards allowed per game. BSU leads the NSIC in rush defense and turnover margin.

BSU safety Dusty Sluzewicz hopes the defense can continue its success after the season-opening shutout of Minot State and last week's performance at Augustana.

"We know that we can play at the next level," Dusty Sluzewicz said. "They (Southwest) have a lot of tendencies. Hopefully we can keep their offense off the field as much as we can and hopefully the offense can win time of possession to help us out a little bit."

The Beavers savored the win on the bus ride home Saturday night and at practice Monday. BSU beat Augustana despite special teams miscues and a slow start from the offense in the first half.

"Winning big games like that you have to move on, you take the win and learn from your mistakes," Sluzewicz said. "If you don't move on quickly, teams will come up and get you the next week. This week we've been focusing on Southwest and we respect everyone we play. We're ready to go."

Rongstad is eager for the offense to get back on the field. Despite the slow start in the first half against Augustana, the offense rallied for two efficient touchdowns in the fourth quarter and needed only three plays to score the winning touchdown in overtime.

"I really think we proved to ourselves and the league we have a good team on our hands when we don't shoot ourselves in the foot," Rongstad said.