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UMD's ball-control offense too much for No. 24 Beavers

Bemidji State's Brody Scheff tackles Minnesota-Duluth's Zach Zweifel during the second quarter. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Minnesota-Duluth used a ball-control offense to grind out a 26-23 victory over the Bemidji State football team Saturday night at Chet Anderson Stadium.

The No. 11-ranked Bulldogs ran 74 offensive plays, scored in every quarter and held the ball for just over 39 minutes to give No. 24 Bemidji State its first loss this season. UMD kicker David Nadeau kicked four field goals, including a 43-yarder with 2:40 remaining to put the game out of reach for the defending national champions.

"It's always our game to play a ball-control offense," UMD head coach Bob Nielson said. "After losing last week I'm proud of our guys because we came over here and beat a very good football team. We needed every point and we're confident in David. He knows how to make big kicks and tonight was another night where he was able to do that for us."

Bemidji State led 7-3 late in the first quarter after a 44-yard touchdown by quarterback Lance Rongstad. But the Beavers were limited to 12 offensive plays in the first half. UMD led 9-7 at halftime behind three Nadeau field goals and scored 20 unanswered points before BSU mounted a comeback effort in the final eight minutes of the game.

Rongstad completed 11 passes for 77 yards and a touchdown, and rushed for 51 yards and a touchdown. Dustin Kroeplin rushed for a team-high 77 yards.

"They just executed well and were making the right calls on offense," Bemidji State linebacker Jason Bromm said. "Our motto is to bend and not break. We should have gotten off the field on a lot of those third downs. They were able to keep drives going, keep the clock moving and they were able to do that at key points of the game."

Bemidji State (3-1 overall, 2-1 NSIC) faces Upper Iowa on the road at 1 p.m. next Saturday in Fayette. UMD (3-1 overall, 2-1 NSIC) hosts Minnesota State Moorhead next Saturday.

UMD bounced back following last week's loss to Wayne State that ended a 17-game winning streak by constantly keeping drives alive. UMD was 6-for-11 on third down conversions in the first half and had 22 first downs in the game compared to 13 for BSU.

"Their defense did a good job against us and their quarterback was hotter than a pistol in the first half," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said.

Bulldogs quarterback Chase Vogler completed 17 passes for 199 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 46 yards. UMD running back Austin Sikorski rushed for 91 yards and one touchdown.

Bemidji State's offense was shut down in the second and third quarters. Sikorski put the Bulldogs up 16-7 with a 1-yard touchdown run five minutes into the second half.

"The third quarter for us was really frustrating and some of that was my fault because we were getting too cute," Tesch said. "We didn't run the ball down their throat. They dared us to make plays, we threw the ball up and didn't come down with it."

Vogler's lone touchdown pass came one minute into the fourth quarter and was a 17-yarder to receiver Aaron Roth in the back corner of the end zone. It gave UMD a 23-7 lead.

Bemidji State answered midway through the quarter when Brandon Miles capped a 12-play drive for the Beavers with a 2-yard touchdown run to cut UMD's lead to 23-15.

The game's momentum was in BSU's favor, but a fumbled punt by return man Beau Wakefield at midfield following a defensive stop turned into a costly turnover. Nadeau kicked a 43-yard field goal six plays later to make it a two-score game.

Matt Gandrud caught an eight-yard touchdown pass from Rongstad with 1:11 to play to cap an eight-play drive and cut the lead to three points. UMD ran out the clock on the next possession and closed out the win by taking a knee with no time remaining on the clock.

"We got back to power football and we were able to get things going in the fourth quarter, but unfortunately that punt return was a backbreaker," Tesch said. "We told Beau we love him, told him to move on and come back to work on Monday. You can see the experience on the other sideline because they don't get rattled in games like this. I'm still proud of our kids for battling hard and we're still in first place."

UMD 3 6 7 10 -- 26

BSU 7 0 0 16 -- 23

First quarter

UMD- Nadeau 22 FG, 6:57.

BSU- Rongstad 44 run (Pulkinen kick), :41.

Second quarter

UMD- Nadeau 19 FG, 4:36.

UMD- Nadeau 33 FG, :00.

Third quarter

UMD- Sikorski 1 run (Nadeau kick), 10:48.

Fourth quarter

UMD- Roth 17 pass from Vogler (Nadeau kick), 14:08.

BSU- Miles 2 run (Kroeplin run), 8:03.

UMD - Nadeau 43 FG, 2:40.

BSU- Gandrud 8 pass from Rongstad, (Leonhardt pass from Rongstad), 1:11.