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FOOTBALL: Bemidji State has two more chances to end season on high note

BEMIDJI — Two more games for the Bemidji State football team means two more chances to save a little face in what has been a disappointing year.

The Beavers (2-7, 0-5 NSIC North) travel to Moorhead today for the first of those two chances.

They’ll try and retain The Battle Axe — the traveling rivalry trophy — at 1 p.m. today against Minnesota State Moorhead.

“The traveling trophies are special to the kids,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said. “We lost the Hubcap to Crookston and we don’t want to lose both of our traveling trophies, so we’ll play that up.”

The Beavers lost to Minnesota-Crookston 16-14, losing the Hubcap game for the first time in 10 tries.

BSU doesn’t want that to happen again to a Dragons squad they have defeated four of the past five years. Most recently, BSU beat MSUM 35-25 last season to retain the trophy.

The Dragons (3-6, 3-2 NSIC North) have a dual-threat quarterback in Jake Hodge who has passed for 1,979 yards and 20 touchdowns this season; he’s also rushed for 461 yards and nine scores.

Tesch said their read option offense is tough to defend against.

“They have a nice system going on where they use their personnel to their advantage,” he said. They spread you out with a read system going on.

“They found a system that you have to be really sharp to defend against. They’re a lot like Southwest Minnesota State right now. They don’t go quite as fast, but they have the same philosophy offensively.”

The Dragons put up a lot of points (32.0 ppg) but have also given up an NSIC-worst 41.7 ppg.

Tesch said he hopes this should give the Beavers an advantage over the Dragons.

“They’re outscoring people,” Tesch said. “The good news is, the strength of our team is our defense. They played winning football all year… maybe not last weekend, but the rest of the season.

“So hopefully we can control a little bit there. And (Moorhead) gives up a lot of points. So in some ways the matchups work out pretty well.”

The Dragons have given up at least 20 points in every game they’ve played; even their three wins the defense has allowed the opponent to come back and make it a game. Two wins were by one point (a 47-47 win at Northern State and a 31-30 win at Minot State).

That’s not to say BSU has been scoring in bunches, either — just 16.3 ppg and 275 yards per game.

But the Beavers have shown the ability to put big numbers up if the offense is working together. It just didn’t happen last week.

St. Cloud State beat the Beavers soundly (45-6) and held BSU to 290 yards of total offense while gaining 521.

“I’d be a millionaire if I could figure out why we didn’t play a little bit harder last weekend,” Tesch said. “I think the key will be getting off to a good start.

“Just relax and have some fun out there will be the plan. Hopefully the kids will realize how blessed they are to play and go out and have some fun the last couple weeks. Not much else we can do.”

BSU used three quarterbacks in last Saturday’s game after starter Ryan Shields got injured; Sam King and Alex Hass also got reps in the game.

Tesch didn’t know who would start this weekend due to the injuries.

“Honestly we’re not sure yet,” he said. “Some guys are still trying to pass some tests and get healthy. We’re trying a bunch of different guys. We may not know until the flip of the coin Saturday. I wish it was more defined but we’ve got some work to do still.”

Avery Walker, who reached 1,000 yards rushing on the season last weekend with 102 yards against St. Cloud State, will likely be BSU’s go-to offensive weapon once again today.

“We’re playing a few defenses coming up here too where if things go the way they have been, he could get some more yards and he can cap off his senior year with a good couple games,” Tesch said.

The Dragons’ defense give up 258.6 yards on the ground — also the most in the league.

Still, Walker said that won’t necessarily define how MSUM will play.

“They could have given up 1,000 yards in one game but we still look at them like they only gave up none,” he said. “Football’s just so week-to-week. It all depends on the gameplan.

“What they show last week might be different from that they show this week. So we just try to prepare the best we can for the best Moorhead team could possibly face.”

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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