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FOOTBALL: Beavers rally again, lose again in 30-29 defeat at No. 19 Augustana

The enchanting Bemidji State football team pulled a rabbit from a hat in all sorts of ways last year. But so far in 2022, it’s been all hat and no rabbit for the Beavers.

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Bemidji State Beavers
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- A spellbinding season requires a fair amount of magic.

The enchanting Bemidji State football team pulled a rabbit from a hat in all sorts of ways last year. But so far in 2022, it’s been all hat and no rabbit for the Beavers.

“We’ve lived on this edge quite frequently over the last three or four years and found ways to win,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte said. “It’s not a good recipe all the time. You can come up on the short end when you feel like you have a good team.”

Bemidji State lost 30-29 against No. 19 Augustana on Saturday in Sioux Falls, S.D., coming within a successful 2-point conversion of completing an out-of-nowhere comeback. A prosperous gamble would have given the Beavers a 31-30 lead with 1:20 to go, but an incomplete pass on the 2-point try wound up costing them the game.

“We felt like we had a chance to win the game from two yards out and a minute to go,” Bolte said. “With our quarterback in our system, I’d go for it the vast majority of the time. Unfortunately, we didn’t make the play.”

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BSU suffered a similar late-game twist of the knife last week, when Minnesota State scored the winning touchdown in the final two minutes. Perhaps two plays away from a mighty 2-0 start, Bemidji State is instead staring down the barrel of an 0-2 hole.

“If you’re walking on the edge of the cliff, sometimes you’re going to slip,” Bolte said. “Unfortunately the last few weeks, we just happened to have those plays.”

The Beavers were dead to rights in the fourth quarter, trailing 30-16 with under four minutes left. But quarterback Brandon Alt led a surgical three-play, 84-yard drive with passes to Brendan Beaulieu (23 yards), Dhel Duncan-Busby (39 yards) and Beaulieu again (22 yards) for a quickfire touchdown.

That pulled BSU within 30-23, and Augustana (2-0) even fumbled on their next offensive snap. Stephan Hoffman jumped on it at Augie’s 21-yard line to give Bemidji State’s offense the opportunity to pull off the win.

The Beavers soon jammed their way over the goal line with Sam McGath’s 2-yard rush. That got the score to 30-29 with 1:20 remaining, and BSU wasn’t interested in playing for the tie with a shaky kicking game that had hit two uprights on PATs and booted a low punt off an offensive lineman.

But on the 2-point try, Alt was hurried by the defensive rush, and a soft pass off his back foot to Beaulieu was off-target.

“There really wasn’t a decision,” Bolte said of going for two. “We weren’t kicking the ball very well with PATs. … To be honest, offense had been moving the ball and doing good things.”

However, offense was a struggle for extended portions early in the game. Bemidji State didn’t have a first down until its fifth drive, and points didn’t come until Maximo Rodriguez kicked a 28-yard field goal inside the final two minutes of the half.

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That brought the Beavers back within 9-3, but Augustana scored a late touchdown in the closing seconds for a 16-3 lead at the break.

In the second half, BSU seemed to come alive with a touchdown on its first drive, as McGath bulldozed ahead three yards for a TD out of the wildcat formation. Mike Wandmaker also added a 20-yard touchdown catch from Alt, but Augie sandwiched Wandmaker’s score with a pick-six interception return and a 53-yard bomb to jump in front 30-16 early in the fourth.

“A lot of teams would have folded up shop and not even had a chance to win the game,” Bolte said. “Our kids found ways in all three phases to give us a chance. It would just be nice to not have it come down to that. … Same thread as last week: woulda, coulda, shoulda.”

Bemidji State will try to cleanse itself with a homecoming swim when it hosts Winona State at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, at Chet Anderson Stadium.

Augustana 30, Bemidji State 29

BSU 0 3 13 13 -- 29

AU 9 7 7 7 -- 30

First quarter -- AU TD, Fisher 26-yard catch from Bauman (Limburg PAT no good), 6-0 AU; AU FG, Limburg 28-yard kick, 9-0 AU.

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Second quarter -- BSU FG, Rodriguez 28-yard kick, 9-3 AU; AU TD, Fisher 26-yard catch from Scholten (Limburg PAT), 16-3 AU.

Third quarter -- BSU TD, McGath 3-yard rush (Rodriguez PAT no good), 16-9 AU; AU TD, Buckley 21-yard interception return (Limburg PAT), 23-9 AU; BSU TD, Wandmaker 20-yard catch from Alt (Rodriguez PAT), 23-16 AU.

Fourth quarter -- AU TD, Jones 53-yard catch from Scholten (Limburg PAT), 30-16 AU; BSU TD, Beaulieu 22-yard catch from Alt (Rodriguez PAT), 30-23 AU; BSU TD, McGath 2-yard rush (2-pt. conversion no good), 30-29 AU.

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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