BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State football team will easily recognize the face gazing at them from the opposing sideline Saturday afternoon in Bismarck, N.D.
For the first time, the Beavers will encounter their former offensive coordinator Craig Bagnell as they take on the University of Mary at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 8.
The man who commanded the BSU offense for three seasons (2015-17) became the youngest coach in NCAA football last December when the 27-year-old was named head coach at his alma mater. Bagnell was a four-year starter at quarterback for U-Mary before beginning his coaching career with the Beavers in 2014 as a graduate assistant.
“It will be just like another day in practice the last four years,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte joked this week. “It’ll be fun. I’ve been looking forward to this. But I’ve told the guys it’s just another way for us to try to move 1-0 this week and try to be 2-0 in the North (Division) by the end of the week.”
Bagnell perfected the high-flying, spread offense the Beavers have employed in recent years. The system helped propel former quarterback Jordan Hein to become BSU’s all-time leader in virtually every passing category. After graduating last spring, Hein is in his first season as the Beavers’ wide receivers coach.
“(Bagnell) taught me basically everything,” Hein said. “Coming in when I transfered in, I didn’t know a whole lot about the quarterback position, so he definitely shaped and molded me a little bit. Everything I learned and how I viewed the game, it came from him.”
Hein isn’t Bagnell’s only student to step into coaching. Former BSU players Jordan Noskowiak and Rufus Saylee can also be found on the Marauders’ coaching staff.
In his first week at the helm, U-Mary nearly upset St. Cloud State only to surrender a late touchdown in a 14-13 road loss.
“They did a lot of good things defensively,” Bolte said. “Offensively, they struggled a little bit, but you see the pieces are there.”
The Marauders’ new offense is a far cry from the triple option scheme they formerly ran. Bagnell is already beginning to leave a mark on his new program.
“He is creative. He does a good job,” Bolte said. “He has set plays that he likes to run, and he’s more a vertical passing game kind of guy, play-action guy. It’s fun to see him doing what he loves to do and do it over there.”Beavers satisfied by opening win
The Beavers saw a breakthrough performance last week from running back Jalen Frye. The redshirt freshman rushed for 109 yards on 16 carries, including a 64-yard touchdown run, in Bemidji State’s 38-17 season-opening win over Northern State.
Along with senior Andrew Lackowski’s 141-yard performance, the Beavers’ new “Thunder and Lightning” running back tandem provided an explosive first week.
“Drew’s a big dog. He’s a little bigger so I’d probably say he’s the thunder,” Frye said. “We have similar playing styles and I feel like that’s good the way we can bounce things off each other and learn from each other. He teaches me a lot. And at the same time I’m giving him a little competition, a little extra drive.”
On the other side of the ball, the “Gang Green” defense kept NSU at bay for most of the game.
Sophomore linebacker Gabe Ames put on a career performance as he earned NSIC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his 13 tackles and two forced fumbles.
Ames said the defensive line looks as good as it’s been it his time at BSU.
As for this week’s opponent, while the Beavers may want to beat their former coaches, they will treat it like any other game.
“It’ll be a good environment because we’re playing Bagnell and a couple other coaches that either played or coached here,” Ames said. “It’s going to be exciting but we’re just trying to go 1-0 like every other week.”BSU vs. U-Mary
- Who: Bemidji State vs. U-Mary
- Where: Bismarck, N.D.
- When: 2 p.m. Saturday
- Radio: Beaver Radio Network/92.1 FM