FOOTBALL: Beavers ditch artic freeze for underdog shot at Angelo State
The Beavers will face Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas, for a spot in the national quarterfinals this weekend. A playoff atmosphere certainly keeps the juices flowing in the cold, but a warm environment sure won’t hurt either.
BEMIDJI -- Despite the bitter cold of playoff football, Andrew Manuele was the first eager Beaver outside.
“That’s what I’ve done since my redshirt year,” said Manuele, now a senior wide receiver on the Bemidji State football team. “I was a part of the specialist group, and it just became a thing. I’m always the first one on the field doing my stretches. … It wasn’t anything crazy. It’s just that once I start one thing, I do it for as long as I’m here.”
Manuele and BSU endured arctic temperatures as they defeated Winona State 31-7 in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament at Chet Anderson Stadium last week. It was the first home playoff game in the program’s 96-year history, so the circumstances made no difference to Manuele.
“No matter if it’s freezing and snowing out, or if it’s sunny and 65, we’re going to play our type of ball,” the Chino, Calif., native said. “I’m there to play football, I’m there to have fun, I’m there to play with my boys. I don’t think about it that much.”
That sunny and 65 atmosphere is much more likely this weekend. The Beavers will face Angelo State in San Angelo, Texas, for a spot in the national quarterfinals. Saturday’s forecast is currently 63 degrees, yet Bemidji State still doesn’t expect to lose its home-field advantage when ditching the cold.
“I feel like the home-field advantage comes from the energy we get from our crowd,” said senior defensive end Colbey Wadsworth. “We travel really well, so I’m not too concerned about it. Every single stadium we’ve visited this year has been taken over by the energy of the Beavers.”
A playoff atmosphere certainly keeps the juices flowing. But a warm environment sure won’t hurt either.
“We’ll enjoy playing in the warmth,” head coach Brent Bolte said. “All things considered, the last few weeks were cold enough. It’s nice to be able to go on the road and get some nice temps. … When it’s zero or getting close to zero, it makes it a little bit harder to do things. We’re excited about that opportunity to go down and play in some nicer weather.”
A sunny day still won’t be easy. The Rams (11-0) are ranked No. 2 in the nation, and BSU is 0-6 all-time against top-two opponents. That record includes an 0-4 history against the country’s No. 2-ranked team. But Bemidji State (10-2) is confident it can buck that trend.
“It’s kind of that David and Goliath type of thing,” Manuele said. “But I don’t view us as David. I think we’re slept on a lot. … No matter what’s going on, we know we’re going to come out on top. We believe in each other, and it doesn’t matter who we’re playing.”
Because the Beavers made the playoffs last season and matched with No. 9 Colorado Mines in the second round -- a game they lost 55-6 -- they’re much better prepared for a challenge of this caliber.
“A lot of the guys in that game are still here,” Wadsworth said. “Last year was a really good experience to show us what level we need to be executing at. We’ve been able to grow from that whole game.”
BSU and Angelo State will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 26, in San Angelo. A victory would put Bemidji State in the national quarterfinals for the first time ever and would also be another new chapter in the program’s recent run of breakthroughs.
“It’d be huge if we could get out of there with a W,” Bolte said. “Our goal (after) last year was to take another step, and I think we did that by hosting a (playoff) game and then getting a good win against a quality opponent. … We’re excited. We don’t really have anything to lose. We’re certainly going to take the underdog approach this week. Just go have fun with it and go get after it.”