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Bemidji State football opens season with 27-0 win over Minot State in front of record crowd

Bemidji State running back Brad Hemling (center) follows blocks from Davis Mickelson (68), Brett Delange (63) and Brian Leonhardt (bottom) for BSU's first touchdown Thursday against Minot State. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren1 / 4
Bemidji State's Gary Young, right, makes a tackle as Buckley Wright closes in. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren2 / 4
Bemidji State's Nick Chiono, left, and Dylan Valentine, right, watch the fireworks display at Chet Anderson Stadium after BSU's 27-0 victory over Minot State in the season opener Thursday night. A school record crowd of 4,711 watched the game and the fireworks as part of Bemidji State's Community Appreciation Day. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren3 / 4
Matt Gandrud tries to break a tackle as the packed crowd looks on during the first quarter. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren4 / 4

The Bemidji State football team defeated Minot State 27-0 in the season opener at Chet Anderson Stadium with a stingy and suffocating defense.

The BSU defense forced six turnovers and limited Minot State to 188 offensive yards in front of a school-record crowd of 4,711 to cap off Community Appreciation Day festivities. The attendance mark broke the old record of 4,692 set Sept. 7, 1996 against St. John's.

"Our defense played super - they were able to put pressure on the quarterback and that pressure got him into trouble," Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. "Our special teams played well. Offensively we had too many missed opportunities that kept us from scoring more points. Other than that, I'm happy."

Brad Hemling, Lance Rongstad and Scott Christensen scored touchdowns for Bemidji State. Zach Pulkinen kicked 38-yard and 23-yard field goals.

BSU intercepted five passes in the game. Brody Scheff had two and Christensen returned an interception late in the third quarter for his score. Dusty Sluzewicz and Charles Hrdlicka also had interceptions.

BSU quarterback Lance Rongstad rushed for a team-high 50 yards and completed 15-of-23 passes for 169 yards. Tight end Brian Leonhardt was the top receiver with 89 yards.

BSU improved to 12-1 all-time against Minot State and has won the last nine games in the series. Minot State is transitioning to Division II and will be members of the NSIC next season.

Bemidji State (1-0) does not play next week and will travel to Sioux Falls, S.D. on Sept. 10 to face Augustana in the NSIC opener.

Hemling scored BSU's first touchdown of the season with 6:28 remaining in the first quarter. His two-yard dive capped the 14-play, 65-yard drive on the opening march.

BSU added 10 points in the second quarter to take a 17-0 lead into halftime. Pulkinen kicked a 38-yard field goal with 1:16 remaining to put BSU ahead 10-0 and Scheff's interception on MSU's next drive set up BSU's second touchdown.

Scheff returned the ball to the 19-yard line and Rongstad ran through the middle of the Minot defense on the following play for the score with 42 seconds left in the half.

Bemidji State's defense allowed Minot State just 32 offensive yards and one first down in the first half. MSU spent most of the second quarter inside its own 30-yard line.

BSU put the game out of reach with 10 points in the third quarter. Pulkinen kicked a 23-yard field goal with 1:48 to play and redshirt freshman Scott Christensen intercepted CJ Evans' pass and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown. The score with 51 seconds left in the third quarter put BSU ahead 27-0.

Sluzewicz's interception came in the scoreless fourth quarter.

Bemidji State earned its first shutout since a 24-0 win over Wayne State (Neb.) on Nov. 6, 2004 at the Metrodome Classic.

BSU 27, Minot State 0

MSU 0 0 0 0 - 0

BSU 7 10 10 0 - 27

First Quarter

BSU - Hemling 2 run (Pulkinen kick), 6:28.

Second Quarter

BSU - Pulkinen 38 FG, 1:16.

BSU - Rongstad 19 run (Pulkinen kick), :42.

Third Quarter

BSU - Pulkinen 23 FG, 1:48.

BSU - Christensen 27 interception return (Pulkinen kick), :51.

Fourth Quarter

No scoring.