FOOTBALL: Wolves poke the bear, incite Beavers to 24-14 win and NSIC North crown
With a generous serving of extra motivation, Bemidji State controlled the day and rolled to a 24-14 win over Northern State in a game that wasn’t that close. It gives the Beavers at least a share of the NSIC North Division championship, something they can win outright next week.
BEMIDJI -- Northern State brought an edge. They brought an NSU flag and waved it over the Beaver logo at midfield before the game. Their fans brought cowbells and rang them incessantly in a coup attempt on Chet Anderson Stadium.
They poked the bear.
“We thrive on it,” junior linebacker Spencer Wehr said. “If teams want to do that, it’s not going to go well for them.”
“We love it, and we’re here for the fight,” sophomore defensive back Caleb Young added. “As a defense, we already play nasty. So something like that is just going to add to it.”
With a generous serving of extra motivation, the Bemidji State football team controlled the day on Saturday and rolled to a 24-14 win over the Wolves in a game that wasn’t that close. It gives the Beavers at least a share of the NSIC North Division championship, something they can win outright next week.
“I didn’t think that opportunity would be there after Week 2,” head coach Brent Bolte said. “We kind of stumbled out of the gate, and I wish we could have those back, but the fact of the matter is that we’ve rebounded and put ourselves in a position to win the North. Now the next opportunity is a chance to be co-champs of the overall league.”
Bemidji State’s eighth straight victory ties the single-season program record (set just last year) and has BSU (8-2) on the cusp of a return to the NCAA Tournament. One more win to close the regular season should do the trick, and that’s already what’s on the team’s mind.
“To go back-to-back (as North Division champs) means a lot to us, but we know as a team that we’re not done yet,” Young said. “We’re ready for next week so we can hopefully make it to the playoffs again.”
Saturday’s clash was one riddled with dueling trash talk, an ever-growing mountain of penalties and a chippy atmosphere that both sides embraced. But the Beavers rose to a 24-0 lead after three quarters and never looked back.
And while the offense did its thing, this was a defensive-laden win for Bemidji State. Northern State finished with 252 yards of offense, 67% of which came on three plays. Outside of that, this game was all BSU.
“Gang Green defense is a standard around here,” Wehr said. “We fly around the ball. We strive to get as many green jerseys to the ball as possible. Doing that every single day in practice, it shows up in the games.”
Colton Herman, Princeten Harris and Young all intercepted passes, and Young also added a team-high six tackles. Darnell McCrea and the Colbey Wadsworth- Zollie Kaplan pairing had back-to-back sacks in the third quarter, keeping Northern State (6-4) at just 45 total yards of offensive with less than two minutes remaining in the frame.
Heck, the Wolves had more penalty yards than offensive yards in the first half.
“A lot of positives,” Bolte said. “For the most part, probably 90% of the game, we’re really happy with how we performed.”
Offensively for the Beavers, Brandon Alt and Brendan Beaulieu opened the game with a 20-yard touchdown catch, beating perfect coverage with a perfect pass to the corner of the end zone.
Bemidji State tacked on a field goal in the second quarter, getting down to the 1-yard line on a methodical 14-play, 68-yard drive but settling for a 24-yard kick from Connor Cusick.
Brice Peters scored on an 8-yard pass in the third quarter, and shortly thereafter, Alt found Beaulieu again for a 14-yard score.
The latter catch was the 197th of Beaulieu’s career, making him the program’s all-time leader in receptions. He finished the game at 199 career catches, posting eight grabs for 153 yards and two scores on Saturday.
The Wolves scored twice in the fourth quarter, putting a dent in the difference but never seriously threatening to steal a late victory.
BSU concludes the regular season at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 12, against U-Mary in Bismarck, N.D. And if the Beavers win that one, there’s likely more to come.
“I’m extremely proud of the staff and the players for believing in the message that we kept saying (after starting 0-2),” Bolte said. “I’m a firm believer that we can beat anybody on our schedule and anybody we face if we play our brand, execute our jobs, be one of 11. I get it, it’s all cliche stuff coming out of my mouth. But in the end, it’s very, very true.”
Bemidji State 24, Northern State 14
NSU 0 0 0 14 -- 14
BSU 7 3 14 0 -- 0
First quarter -- BSU TD, Beaulieu 20-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 7-0 BSU.
Second quarter -- BSU FG, Cusick 24-yard kick, 10-0 BSU.
Third quarter -- BSU TD, Peters 8-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 17-0 BSU; BSU TD, Beaulieu 14-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 24-0 BSU.
Fourth quarter -- NSU TD, Noland 5-yard catch from Madler (2-pt. conversion no good), 24-6 BSU; NSU TD, Haskins Jr. 1-yard rush (2-pt. conversion good), 24-14 BSU.