FOOTBALL: ‘Zone 6’ is Bemidji State’s well-oiled, offensive machine
The Beavers are some of the leading experts at scoring touchdowns. They’re tied for seventh in Division II with 53 TDs this season, and business is booming so greatly that they needed a name for it all. The result: “Zone 6.”
BEMIDJI -- Brandon Alt wasn’t shy about it.
The Bemidji State football quarterback, polished and even-keeled as ever, smiled freely when revealing a not-so-subtle secret to the outside world.
“We like to score touchdowns,” he said.
Appropriately, the Beavers are some of the leading experts at it. They’re tied for seventh in Division II with 53 touchdowns this season, and business is booming so greatly that they needed a name for it all.
The result: “Zone 6.”
“Every time we go out, let’s get in the end zone,” Alt said. “That’s the Zone 6 motto we’ve got going.”
The moniker was coined by special teams coordinator/wide receivers coach Jordan Hein -- a former record-breaking quarterback at BSU himself. He and the rest of Beaver Territory have watched the offense attack opponents with such fervor that they’re on pace to rank in the top three for points scored in single-season program history.
“We’re just a group that likes to get after it and score touchdowns. We’ve done a really good job so far this year of showing that,” senior wide receiver Dhel Duncan-Busby said. “You never know who’s going to get the ball each and every game, which kind of makes it scary for an opposing defense. We trust each other, whenever one of us gets the ball, to go make a play happen. And hopefully get into Zone 6.”
“For us, there’s no better feeling than getting a touchdown,” senior wideout Brendan Beaulieu added. “Zone 6 is a dog mentality, like the defense has. We want to get in the end zone and party.”
The numbers speak for themselves. In 10 games this year, Alt has passed for 3,183 yards and 29 touchdowns, both ranking fourth in Division II and tops in the NSIC. He’s also only thrown one interception in the past five games, taking much better care of the ball after 11 picks in the fall’s first five games.
Beaulieu is fourth in D-II with 1,179 receiving yards, while Duncan-Busby is 24th with 822. They’re one of three sets of teammates in the top 25. As for Zone 6, Buealieu is tied for ninth in the nation with 11 TD catches, while Duncan-Busby is tied for 22nd with eight.
“These guys bust their tails every day,” Alt said. “We’re working, creating a connection between all of us, and you see it on Saturday. It’s pretty fun. It’s a lot of hard work put into it. But it’s a connection we all have, and it’s a blast.”
While that trio demands a big chunk of the scouting report, teams can’t sleep on the rest of the aerial corps.
“They’ve done a good job developing the depth in that group,” Bemidji State head coach Brent Bolte said. Beaulieu and Dhel probably get the headlines, but Joey Baron’s had a great year. We’ve got Brice (Peters) back. (Andrew) Manuele has been steady and makes good catches. Jake Hill’s been a guy that’s come into his own, as well. There’s a lot of weapons over there.”
They’ve needed everything in their arsenal to return to this point, one win away from an NCAA Tournament berth for the second season in a row. The Beavers can clinch their spot with a win over U-Mary (2-8) at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 12, in Bismarck, N.D.
“This game is huge for us,” Beaulieu said. “To get back-to-back playoffs, that’s never been done before. I mean, last year was our first time in the playoffs ever. To go back-to-back would be something special for us.”
It’s an impressive turnaround from the early stages of the season, where a disappointing 0-2 start had Bemidji State up against the ropes. Eight wins later, BSU controls its own destiny.
“Who would have thought, after two tough losses right away? But we’ve worked really hard to get back to this point,” Duncan-Busby said. “It feels good, but we have a stronger purpose than we did before. Now we understand what it takes to win playoff games, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
It’s win or go home for Bemidji State from this point on. But that certainly hasn’t stopped the Beavers yet.
“We’ve been in playoff mode since Week 3,” Bolte said, “so this is nothing new to us.”