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FOOTBALL: Beaulieu, Beavers torch Warriors for 31-7 blowout in playoff tundra

Brendan Beaulieu delivered the Beavers a 31-7 win over Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with four second-half touchdowns, turning in another master class that sent Bemidji State back to the Sweet 16 for the second year in a row.

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Bemidji State senior Brendan Beaulieu (19) scores a touchdown during the second half against Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- When a frozen offense needed a major jolt of life at Chet Anderson Stadium on Saturday, the Bemidji State football team turned to Brendan Beaulieu.

The greatest wide receiver in program history? Now that’s just smart coaching.

“If it’s even remotely close, it seems like he’s coming down with it,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte said. “Just get it close, and something good’s going to happen.”

Beaulieu delivered the Beavers a 31-7 win over Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with four second-half touchdowns, turning in another master class that sent Bemidji State back to the Sweet 16.

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Bemidji State senior Colbey Wadsworth raises his arms in celebration as the clock runs down during the fourth quarter against Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“We just needed a little bit of a spark there on offense,” said Beaulieu, who finished with five catches for 138 yards -- all in the second half. “They kept giving us the same look (of Cover 0). … That first (touchdown) we got, that really sparked the whole offense.”

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BSU, hosting a playoff game for the first time in the program’s 96-year history, gave its home crowd of 893 something to celebrate. After a 0-0 stalemate at halftime -- one that made even the most devoted fans question why they were suffering out in the cold -- the offense caught fire with three Beaulieu TDs in the third quarter.

They came on quick-hitting Brandon Alt passes from 38, 29 and 32 yards out, and the nail-biter instantly evolved into a blowout in the tundra.

“If you get Cover 0, you’re going to get those opportunities to throw it up there to him,” Bolte said. “I wouldn’t want to be that corner, man-to-man against him. But really good passes from Brandon and really good catches from Beau. Four touchdowns is pretty remarkable.”

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Bemidji State sophomore Brice Peters (23) congratulates senior Brendan Beaulieu (19) after Beaulieu scored a touchdown during the second half against Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Beaulieu added his fourth score 33 seconds into the fourth quarter, hauling in another perfect pass from Alt on a 24-yard connection. Beaulieu’s four TD catches are a career high, and they match the program record established in 1991.

Beaulieu also broke his own school record for single-season receiving yards (now 1,445), while Alt stands alone with a program-record 93 career TD passes and 8,471 career passing yards.

“We took our shots when we needed to,” Beaulieu said. “Fortunately enough for me, I was on that side and able to make the plays. We can trust anybody on that offense to make those plays, go up and get those balls. Throughout the game, I just happened to be on that side when we were making those calls.”

But this wasn’t just an offensive win, mind you. The defense was dominant all day and nearly shut out the Warriors (8-4), save for one lapse where Trevor Paulsen broke loose for a 46-yard touchdown on a QB scramble late in the fourth quarter.

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Bemidji State junior Max Buduris (7) tackles a Winona State ball carrier during the second half in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Zollie Kaplan was a menace in the backfield -- nothing new there -- to the tune of 2.5 sacks, while Spencer Wehr and Colton Herman recovered fumbles on back-to-back Warrior snaps that set up a pair of Beaulieu’s touchdowns. They overcame four turnovers from the offense with hardly a scratch on them.

“Guys were flying around, doing their thing and making plays,” linebacker Max Buduris said. “This is what the season’s about. Getting to this point and making a run here, this is what we work for.”

The old adage is “survive and advance.” But on Saturday, the Beavers went with “explode and advance.”

“We’re a pretty high-octane offense. When there’s a little crack in the foundation, we can expose it pretty fast,” Bolte said. “And obviously it’s worked tremendously well having Beau, who’s got some special, God-given ability.”

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Bemidji State junior Jalen Frye (1) runs with the ball during the second half against Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Bemidji State (10-2) will now play No. 2 Angelo State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 26, in San Angelo, Texas. The Rams (11-0) received a first-round bye and are one of five undefeated teams in the country.

The weather will be a little fairer in the Lone Star State compared to what the Beavers faced on Saturday. And they probably won’t mind.

“Somebody asked if we’d jump in the lake,” Beaulieu said. “I don’t know that I was doing that today.”

Bemidji State 31, Winona State 7

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WSU 0 0 0 7 -- 7

BSU 0 0 24 7 -- 31

First quarter -- No scoring.

Second quarter -- No scoring.

Third quarter -- BSU TD, Beaulieu 38-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 7-0 BSU; BSU FG, Cusick 22-yard kick, 10-0 BSU; BSU TD, Beaulieu 29-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 17-0 BSU; BSU TD, Beaulieu 32-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 24-0 BSU.

Fourth quarter -- BSU TD, Beaulieu 24-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 31-0 BSU; Paulsen 46-yard run (Scott PAT), 31-7 BSU.

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Bemidji State sophomore Brice Peters (23) runs with the ball during the second half against Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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Bemidji State junior Sage Booker (6) carries the ball during the second half against Winona State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Micah Friez is the sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he joined the Pioneer in 2015 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Lumberjack and Beaver updates.
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