Extra painful: Bemidji State's stunning rally on No. 7 UMD ends with missed extra point at end of regulation, loss
The extra point play is often overlooked as the most mundane and routine play in football.
After a series of extraordinary plays Saturday afternoon at Chet Anderson Stadium, that routine play brought Bemidji State to its knees.
Defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth escaped with a 35-34 victory over Bemidji State when Jesse Sundby's extra point kick missed wide left at the end of regulation.
It missed after Bemidji State's Jody Henningson pulled down a 32-yard Hail-Mary pass in the end zone as time expired in the fourth quarter.
"This is the biggest game I've ever played in and it was such a roller coaster," Bemidji State senior linebacker Jake Anderson said. "It's unfortunate that it came down to that play but you can't pinpoint it on that. It's just heartbreaking."
The loss essentially eliminates the Beavers (6-3 overall, 5-3 NSIC) from landing a postseason berth in the Division II national tournament at the end of the season, although slim possibilities remain.
No. 7 ranked Minnesota-Duluth (8-1, 8-0 NSIC) remained tied atop the conference standings with the win. The Bulldogs have not lost a NSIC game since joining the league last season and are 23-1 overall since then.
Bemidji State is one of three teams in those 23 UMD victories to come within seven points of beating the Bulldogs.
"This one stings for sure, but I'm proud of how the kids battled hard and it's disappointing that things had to happen that way," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. "I'm proud of our team, I just wish it could have been a different outcome. It's hard to take when so many good things happened."
The Beavers never led in Saturday's game and used explosive plays in the fourth quarter to challenge the Bulldogs.
Bemidji State trailed 28-14 before the game turned into a mad dash down the stretch.
Christian Metz caught a 10-yard pass to bring BSU within one touchdown with 3:40 remaining and running back Dustin Kroeplin turned a dump-off pass into a 56-yard touchdown to tie the game with 1:40 left.
Minnesota-Duluth took the lead right back when D.J. Winfield returned the following kickoff 84 yards to put the Bulldogs back on top 35-28 with 1:20 remaining.
BSU refused to give in.
Edholm led the offense in converting a 3rd and 20 and a 1st and 22 to set up Henningson's touchdown on the 60-yard scoring drive.
Within seconds, that excitement on the field and in the stands disappeared when the kick sailed wide.
The field was wet, but not overly soggy, at the time and there were intermittent light rain showers in the second half.
"Jesse maybe pushed it a little to the left, maybe I had a bad hold and maybe the snap was low ... I don't know," Schultz said. "This is a team sport and it takes three people to execute an extra point. It's hard to say what happened...but it's not Jesse's fault. We should have stopped them on the kick return. The game is 60 minutes and it should never have come down to that."
The players were in disbelief.
Sundby fell to his knees and stared at the ground while some of the players stumbled back to the sideline. Schultz stayed back to pick Sundby up and walk off the field.
Some of the Bemidji State players wandered in stunned silence.
"In some way you have to look at the ending as unfortunate because of the way both teams played," Minnesota-Duluth head coach Bob Nielson said. "Those were two football teams that played real hard all 60 minutes and give Bemidji State a lot of credit. They made us do a lot of things that we're not used to doing and they never gave up ... Do I feel lucky that we won this game? No, I wouldn't say that. I say we are fortunate because we played well enough to win."
Leading the Beavers in the game was junior quarterback Derek Edholm, who threw for a career-high 391 yards and five touchdowns.
He was brilliant without the help of backup quarterback and BSU's second leading rusher Lance Rongstad, who suited up but did not play due to a leg injury suffered last week.
Ehdolm's touchdowns went to Cameron Abram, Schultz, Kroeplin, Metz and Henningson.
The Bemidji State defense limited the NSIC's best running back to 101 yards and two touchdowns.
UMD quarterback Chase Volger passed for 136 yards and threw one interception. He ran for 99 yards and two touchdowns.
"This was the closest game we've had since Grand Valley in the playoffs last year and we're happy to come out with the win," Winfield said, noting UMD's 19-13 double overtime win over GVSU in the second round of the national playoffs last season. "Bemidji State is a good team. I think they are one of the top four teams in the conference, if not the top three."