We see that you have javascript disabled. Please enable javascript and refresh the page to continue reading local news. If you feel you have received this message in error, please contact the customer support team at 1-833-248-7801.

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

FOOTBALL: Bemidji State denied late as Mavericks steal back 37-34 thriller

The No. 22 Beavers nearly pulled off a preposterous comeback against Minnesota State in their season opener, but a late borderline-miracle touchdown salvaged a 37-34 spoiler in the Mavericks’ favor.

090322.S.BP.BSUFOOT Group.jpg
The Beavers gather on the field after a 37-34 loss against Minnesota State on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
We are part of The Trust Project.

BEMIDJI -- Sometimes conventional wisdom doesn’t matter.

Sometimes, five giveaways are merely an inconvenience. Sometimes, an impending blowout is easy to turn around. Sometimes a lifeless Chet Anderson Stadium only intensifies the place when it finally gets loud.

And while all that was true for the Bemidji State football team on Thursday, so too was this: Sometimes, the bounces just don’t fall your way.

“It hurt. Honestly, it did,” running back Sage Booker said. “We came all the way back, and it hurt.”

The No. 22 Beavers nearly pulled off a preposterous comeback against Minnesota State in their season opener, but a late borderline-miracle touchdown salvaged a 37-34 spoiler in the Mavericks’ favor.

ADVERTISEMENT

090322.S.BP.BSUFOOT Tackle.jpg
The Beavers tackle Minnesota State's Tony Anger (28) in the third quarter on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“There was really no sense of panic,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte said. “The defense responded really well. The offense made some big plays, and they had a lot of momentum. Just, unfortunately, it came up one play short.”

Bemidji State was down 30-13 at halftime but ripped off 21 straight second-half points -- good for a 34-30 lead off Booker’s go-ahead 4-yard touchdown rush with nine minutes remaining.

That score held when a sluggish MSU offense started a gotta-have-it drive at its own 15-yard line with 3:15 left on the clock. The Beaver defense had been impenetrable all second half, and Stephen Hoffman’s third-down sack at midfield was meant to be the prologue of another similar tale.

But on fourth-and-16, Minnesota State backup quarterback Mitch Randall hit Jalen Sample across the middle for a gain of 32. One play later, Sample somehow wrestled away a surefire interception from BSU cornerback Princeten Harris in the corner of the end zone, catching a miraculous game-winning touchdown pass from 17 yards out.

090322.S.BP.BSUFOOT Fans.jpg
Bemidji State fans cheer during the first half against Minnesota State on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

“You’re in the lead, and it feels like the defense is playing a really good game at that point,” Bolte said. “We had them backed up. They made an 85-yard drive to win the game. Give them credit, but yeah, we had ample opportunities to get off the field. The fourth down, the dropped pick (earlier in the drive), a jump ball that they came down with.”

Bemidji State got the ball back with 1:34 to go, but Brandon Alt threw his third interception of the night on the first play from scrimmage, and MSU kneeled out the clock from there.

“That’s the name of the game in the first game, not turning the ball over,” Bolte said. “We just had too many mistakes at the end of the day to get a win.”

In the early goings, the Beavers (0-1) made a strong opening statement through Booker, who soared for a leaping catch on the sideline and turned it into a 66-yard touchdown on the first drive.

ADVERTISEMENT

Dhel Duncan-Busby added to the offensive firepower, hauling in a fourth-down 11-yard TD catch from Alt on the next drive. BSU led 13-7 by that point, but it was all Mavericks (1-0) from then on.

090322.S.BP.BSUFOOT Sage Booker.jpg
Bemidji State junior Sage Booker (6) runs for a touchdown in the first half against Minnesota State on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
090322.S.BP.BSUFOOT Dhel Duncan-Busby.jpg
Bemidji State senior Dhel Duncan-Busby (14) catches the football for a touchdown in the first quarter against Minnesota State on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

More than anyone, Alijah McGhee will haunt Bemidji State’s nightmares. The MSU linebacker picked up a Sam McGath fumble and returned it 70 yards for a scoop-and-score, and McGhee later jumped a route for a 50-yard pick-six -- his second defensive touchdown of the second quarter.

Those scores, paired with Jake Hill’s muffed punt and another Alt interception, gave Minnesota State 24 points off turnovers by halftime.

With some teams, the game ends there. But not so with BSU.

“We’ve been there before multiple times. We’ve had plenty of comebacks,” Booker said. “We didn’t hang our heads at halftime. We knew we could come back, and we knew it wasn’t over.”

090322.S.BP.BSUFOOT Brandon Alt.jpg
Bemidji State junior Brandon Alt passes the ball in the third quarter against Minnesota State on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

In the third quarter, Booker caught his second TD on a 7-yard pass, and Brendan Beaulieu added an athletic 41-yard catch and run for a touchdown that brought the score within 30-27.

Booker got his go-ahead score midway through the fourth, but Minnesota State’s late heroics derailed the start of the Beavers’ new playoff push.

“I think the resiliency showed after half,” Bolte said. “We came out and played pretty darn well, we just dug ourselves too big a hole.”

ADVERTISEMENT

It doesn’t get any easier for Bemidji State, as the Beavers will next travel to Augustana for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 10, in Sioux Falls, S.D.

090322.S.BP.BSUFOOT Jalen Frye.jpg
Bemidji State junior Jalen Frye (1) runs the ball in the first half against Minnesota State on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer

Minnesota State 37, Bemidji State 34

MSU 13 7 0 7 -- 37

BSU 13 0 14 7 -- 34

First quarter -- BSU TD, Booker 66-yard catch from Alt (PAT blocked), 6-0 BSU; MSU TD, Ekern 7-yard rush (Jaeger PAT), 7-6 MSU; BSU TD, Duncan-Busby 11-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 13-7 BSU; MSU TD, Sample 22-yard catch from Ekern (PAT missed), 13-13.

Second quarter -- MSU TD, McGhee 70-yard fumble recovery (Jaeger PAT), 20-13 MSU; MSU FG, Jaeger 28-yard kick, 23-13 MSU; MSU TD, McGhee 50-yard interception return (Jaeger PAT), 30-13 MSU.

Third quarter -- BSU TD, Booker 7-yard catch from Alt (PAT no good), 30-19 MSU; BSU TD, Beaulieu 41-yard catch from Alt (Alt 2-pt. conversion rush), 30-27 MSU.

Fourth quarter -- BSU TD, Booker 4-yard rush (Rodriguez PAT), 34-30 BSU; MSU TD, Sample 17-yard catch from Randall (Chowaniec PAT), 37-34 MSU.

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.
What to read next
Caleb Young, a sophomore defensive back from Tampa, Fla., watched from afar as Hurricane Ian ripped through his home state. His big family back home braced for the worst, and Young kept in close contact with them as the Category 4 storm loomed.
Second-ranked Minnesota opens season against WCHA rival Bemidji State at Ridder Arena. Puck drop is set for 6 p.m.
Born in Deer River but raised in Coleraine, Tom Serratore grew up during a booming period on the Iron Range, when the success of the surrounding area elevated the profile of its athletic prowess – and hockey was at center ice of all of it.
So what goes into being an athletic trainer at the collegiate level? For starters, no two days are exactly alike.