ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

FOOTBALL: Beavers stage epic comeback, retain Battle Axe trophy with late win over MSUM

Akin to the greatest kind of comebacks, this two-minute thrill came out of nowhere for Bemidji State.

102021.S.BP.BSUFOOT Post game celebration.jpg
The Beavers celebrate after defeating Minnesota State Moorhead 22-19 on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- With the fancy footwork of a double-cleated toe-tap, Malik Williams touched down in the back of the end zone in miraculous fashion.

“I knew that if Coach called (my number), I had to make the play,” Williams said. “After the game, I told him, ‘Thank you for believing in me.’”

Their faith moved mountains -- or, rather, slayed a Dragon -- at Chet Anderson Stadium.

Williams snagged the game-winning 7-yard touchdown for the Bemidji State football team on Saturday, hauling in a fourth-down pass from Brandon Alt with 39 seconds remaining. With the ensuing 2-point conversion, the Beavers erased a 19-0 halftime deficit and came all the way back to defeat Minnesota State Moorhead 22-19.

ADVERTISEMENT

102021.S.BP.BSUFOOT Malik Williams TD.jpg
Bemidji State senior Malik Williams (6) makes the game-winning touchdown catch in the fourth quarter against Minnesota State Moorhead on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

“It’s just believing in each other. Believing in each other. Believing in each other,” Williams said. “At halftime, coaches told us to be ourselves, be the Beavers. And that’s what we did in the second half.”

BSU retained the Battle Axe trophy with the late-game heroics, flipping the narrative from a sluggish letdown to a cardiac thriller.

“With that kind of play call, and those kind players out there, you’re kind of expecting that,” Alt said of the winning score. “I know with my squad out there, they’re going to go make plays. … With that kind of an athlete, you can just put the ball up and Malik will go get it.”

102021.S.BP.BSUFOOT Battle Axe trophy.jpg
The Beavers hoist the Battle Axe trophy after defeating Minnesota State Moorhead 22-19 on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

ADVERTISEMENT

Alt dropped back to pass with a clean pocket and waited for Williams to cut inside from the slot. Williams burned his defender, but the ball was behind him, so Williams adjusted and made an athletic catch while keeping both feet in bounds by inches.

“He made a great play, and those officials didn’t really put their arms up very fast,” Bemidji State head coach Brent Bolte said. “I thought I was going to have to run down there, but my 40 time isn’t as fast as it used to be.”

Akin to the greatest kind of comebacks, this one came out of nowhere.

In the first half, the Beavers (5-2) were losing 19-0 behind four turnovers, a blocked punt for a TD and an offense that couldn’t move the chains.

“Interceptions, dropped passes, fumbles, penalties,” Williams said. “All that stuff we were doing to ourselves. And that’s what got us behind.”

But it could have been much worse if not for a defense that gave BSU a shot.

“Our defense played pretty well overall,” Bolte said. “We limited them to opportunities in the second half. … (MSUM is) potent on offense. They have a hard scheme to defend, and they have some good players.”

ADVERTISEMENT

102021.S.BP.BSUFOOT Jashon Roundtree and Caleb Young.jpg
Bemidji State’s Jashon Roundtree (3) and Caleb Young (22) bring down Minnesota State Moorhead’s Grady Bresnahan in the second half on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Dragons (3-4) never scored in the second half. Bemidji State came out of the locker room with a much-needed touchdown on its first drive, a 2-yard reception for Brendan Beaulieu to cap a 74-yard drive.

The next time on the field, Williams caught a short, fourth-down pass over the middle that was good enough for the first down. But Williams was thinking six, and he raced to the sideline, got to the edge and dove into the end zone for a spectacular 30-yard TD.

The score got the Beavers within 19-14 midway through the third, but they needed until the final minute before taking their first lead of the game.

BSU took over at its own 33 with 5:41 to go. After crossing midfield, Makaio Harn rushed the ball on seven straight plays and got Bemidji State to the 7, where the final Williams touchdown won the game.

102021.S.BP.BSUFOOT Makaio Harn.jpg
Bemidji State sophomore Makaio Harn (31) runs the football in the second half against Minnesota State Moorhead on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

“We ran the ball. That’s really what allowed us to grind them down,” Bolte said. “I think we got them tired and second-guessing a little bit. … (Williams) is a dynamic kid, and we were able to find him at the right time.”

A last-second Hail Mary by the Dragons fell incomplete, and the Beavers held on to the Axe with a heart-stopper.

“For the past four years, nobody could keep it at their home,” Williams said of the traveling trophy. “It was great to know that we can keep it here.”

Bemidji State has perhaps its most important game of the season up next, traveling to No. 18 Minnesota Duluth to battle for the lead in the NSIC North standings at 2 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 23.

102021.S.BP.BSUFOOT Brandon Alt.jpg
Bemidji State quarterback Brandon Alt (10) throws the ball in the first half against Minnesota State Moorhead on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Bemidji State 22, Minnesota State Moorhead 19

MSUM 9 10 0 0 -- 19

BSU 0 0 14 8 -- 22

First quarter -- MSUM FG, Meehl 30-yard kick, 3-0 MSUM; MSUM TD, Marquart 20-yard catch from Falk (Meehl PAT missed), 9-0 MSUM.

Second quarter -- MSUM FG, Meehl 26-yard kick, 12-0 MSUM; MSUM TD, Myers 16-yard punt return (Meehl PAT), 19-0 MSUM.

Third quarter -- BSU TD, Beaulieu 2-yard catch from Alt (Hoffer PAT), 19-7 MSUM; BSU TD, Williams 30-yard catch from Alt (Hoffer PAT), 19-14 MSUM.

Fourth quarter -- BSU TD, Williams 7-yard catch from Alt (Beaulieu 2-pt. conversion catch), 22-19 BSU.

Micah Friez is the former sports editor at the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he worked at the Pioneer from 2015-23 and is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State University with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing.
What To Read Next
The Gophers (9-12 overall, 2-8 Big Ten) led only once, 2-0, on a layup by Rose Micheaux in the game’s first 16 seconds.
Tierra Doss got things going on Friday evening. Her throw of 134 feet, 3 inches set a program record in the discus as she finished sixth overall.
Bemidji State led Lake Superior State 2-1 and was poised to complete a sweep after its dramatic come-from-behind 3-2 victory on Friday. But Lake State returned the favor on Saturday.
The Beavers (6-14, 3-13 NSIC) held off a late comeback by Sioux Falls to end a four-game losing streak.