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FOOTBALL: Despite dropping chance to ‘be the hero,’ Harris, Beavers ready for Augustana slugfest

There’s sure to be some animosity brewing after Bemidji State defeated Augustana in last year’s NCAA Tournament, just as there was enmity when Augie spoiled BSU’s homecoming two months prior.

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Bemidji State sophomore Princeten Harris (11) runs with the football after his interception in the first half against Minnesota State on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Chet Anderson Stadium.
Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI -- Princeten Harris could have ended it. Then he could have ended it again.

Instead, Minnesota State snatched away a late touchdown from his fingertips and handed the Bemidji State football team a heartbreaking Week 1 loss.

Harris, understandably, couldn’t believe it.

“I was sick. I was sick,” the sophomore cornerback said. “I had an opportunity to seal the deal and be the hero. Letting that happen, I felt sick. I could barely sleep that night.”

BSU was protecting a four-point lead in the final minutes of its Sept. 1 season opener, and Harris nearly intercepted a dangerous pass to clinch the win. He jumped the route and was there for the pick, but the ball bounced off his hands and hit the turf instead.

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Four plays later, a surefire interception floated Harris’ way in the corner of the end zone, but MSU’s Jalen Sample wrestled it from his grasp for the game-winning touchdown.

Not exactly how you want your team debut to end.

“That dropped pick and the pick in the end zone that I dropped also, that was on me,” Harris said. “When I go up against Augie this Saturday, I’m going to bring it to them. Keep that on my shoulders. I’ve got something to prove.”

There was plenty of good for Harris, too. The Olivet Nazarene transfer had an interception in the second quarter and two pass breakups. He stuck like glue to receivers lined up against him, and he had the Beavers in a position to seal the game any number of different ways.

Instead, Bemidji State now has to overcome a demoralizing 0-1 start against a strong Augustana program.

“You’ve got to put it to sleep,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte said of the loss. “Our goal is to give them 24 hours and then move on. That one stung a little bit more, plus you have an extended weekend. (But) Augie doesn’t care that we missed an opportunity. They think that they can jump on us and maybe show a sign of weakness. Hopefully our kids (combat) that.”

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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

Harris said the bounce back started that night. A number of teammates assured him that the loss didn’t rest on his shoulders, yet Harris isn’t shying away from the dangers of the spotlight.

“Everybody came up to me after the game like, ‘Hey, it’s not on you. We could have done better before that moment,’” Harris said. “But I always preach to myself that, in the moment, you have to capitalize. … I have high expectations for myself, as everyone should.”

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Moving forward, the No. 19 Vikings (1-0) surely won’t take things easy on the Beavers.

There’s sure to be some animosity brewing after Bemidji State defeated Augustana in last year’s NCAA Tournament, just as there was enmity when Augie spoiled BSU’s homecoming two months prior.

And the stakes are extremely high for a Week 2 matchup. Another loss would put the Beavers on the bubble for the NCAA Tournament, even if they run the table from then on. Another loss anywhere else would surely be disastrous.

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Bemidji State's Sam McGath (17) powers into the end zone for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NCAA Tournament game against Augustana on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021, in Sioux Falls, S.D.
(BSU photo)

“The big picture is out there,” Bolte said. “It’s a big game for a lot of things down the road, but who cares right now? If you get into 1-1 or 0-2, either way, it’s not an easy road to get to the playoffs. We’ve got to take care of ourselves, worry about ourselves and just play a better game.”

The high-stakes affair is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday, Sept. 10, in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“They obviously want payback,” Harris said, “so we’ve got to go there and set the tone in their house.”

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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