Football: Bemidji St. shoots for third straight win over St. Cloud
BEMIDJI — The Bemidji State University football team has St. Cloud State’s number.
When the Beavers play their final regular-season home game 1 p.m. today at Chet Anderson Stadium, they’ll be looking to extend their winning streak against the Huskies to three.
“I don’t know what it is about it,” BSU running back Avery Walker said. “I guess there’s just something different about Bemidji vs. St. Cloud. They always have a pretty good football team so maybe we just decide to show up whenever we play St. Cloud.”
This time around, the Beavers (2-6, 0-4 NSIC) will be looking to snap a four-game losing skid that included a near-upset of No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth last weekend.
The Huskies (7-1, 3-1 NSIC North) come into the game ranked No. 21 in the AFCA Division II Coaches poll and No. 24 in the D2football.com poll. After losing to Minnesota-Duluth 34-7 Oct. 5, they have won three straight and looked good doing it.
Last week against Northern, St. Cloud quarterback Phillip Klaphake put up 293 passing yards and connected for five touchdowns through the air as the Huskies routed the Wolves 64-7.
Klaphake has thrown for 9,632 yards in his career and needs just 64 yards to break the school’s career record. For the season he’s thrown for 1,919 yards and 16 touchdowns and rushed for 270 yards and six scores.
If the Beavers want to make it three in a row over the Huskies, containing Klaphake is the key.
“They kinda go as he goes,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said. “He’s one of the top players in the league. We’ve got to keep him from having a big day. That will be a key.
“They’re the same type of team they’ve been the past few years and they do it well. They’re well-coached.”
Tesch noted that the two teams probably could have lined up and played at any time this season and been ready for what the other team has to offer.
BSU defensive back Larry Miller thinks that will make for a well-fought contest.
“It makes for a better game, I think,” he said. “It should be a good challenge for us, defensively and offensively.
“We’ve got to contain (Klaphake). We’ll try and do what we did last year. We have some good schemes planned that worked last year, so we think we can do it.”
Last season BSU traveled to St. Cloud and won fairly convincingly, 37-20. Klaphake threw for 256 yards but was intercepted twice by the BSU defense. He was held to 38 yards on the ground. SCSU managed just 41 yards total on the ground.
BSU, meanwhile, ran the ball to perfection — 227 yards.
Walker ran for 55 that day but now he’s the feature back of the Beaver team. The BSU coaching staff would like to see another big game from him for their game plan to work. Last weekend against Minnesota-Duluth he ran for 161 yards — possible because, as Tesch said, the Beavers didn’t have to abandon the run game early.
“In the past we have had to abandon the run and tried to throw,” Tesch said. “We purposely tried to establish the run early and it worked. We’ve tried to do that in other games where it hasn’t, but last week we were able to do that and we were able to throw the ball.
“Our quarterback and wide receivers made some big plays. We were able to keep the running game so we weren’t one-dimensional like we were against a lot of other teams.”
Walker, who is creeping up on 1,000 yards for the season with 966, is sixth in the NSIC in rushing.
After last weekend’s close call against UMD — BSU led 21-17 going into the fourth quarter — Walker said the whole team has confidence going into today’s game.
“Builds a little confidence to know we can do that kind of stuff against top teams,” he said. “Duluth beat St. Cloud by a lot so we feel like we have a shot.”
“We have some confidence for sure,” Miller added. “Last week was a good game. The defense came out and played well and the offense played very well, especially considering the season they’ve had.”