FOOTBALL: Turnovers, special teams doom Bemidji State in 14-9 loss to Duluth
BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State football team hadn't defeated Minnesota Duluth since 1999. And although the BSU defense shut down the Bulldogs in the second half, two early turnovers by the Beavers' offense gave UMD all the cushion it would need to ...
BEMIDJI -- The Bemidji State football team hadn’t defeated Minnesota Duluth since 1999.
And although the BSU defense shut down the Bulldogs in the second half, two early turnovers by the Beavers’ offense gave UMD all the cushion it would need to extend its streak over BSU to 14 straight wins.
The Bulldogs beat the Beavers 14-9 in a defensive slog Saturday afternoon at Chet Anderson Stadium.
“Offensively, we didn’t play really well,” said BSU quarterback Jordan Hein. “Our defense played great. They kept us in the ballgame, we didn’t put enough big drives together and that kept our defense on the field too much.
“They have a great defense. They’re the most disciplined defense we played all year. We just didn't execute.”
The Beavers (6-4 overall, 5-1 NSIC North) managed just 181 yards of total offense and a grand total of 46 yards rushing, but the real culprit on Saturday were two first-quarter turnovers. UMD (7-3, 5-1 NSIC North) scored on both of those drives.
Hein threw an interception on the very first play of the game, which led to Darren Walker’s 14-yard run.
On BSU’s next drive, the Beavers managed a few first downs but were unable to convert. But punter Isaac Aanerud fumbled the ball on BSU’s own 15 and UMD recovered. On their next play, the Bulldogs’ Nate Ricci took it in for a quarterback keeper.
“We couldn't have got off to a worse start,” BSU head coach Jeff Tesch said. “But the rest of the day our defense played really well. The offense didn’t. We couldn’t run, we didn’t protect very good; we didn’t see that coming.”
The Bulldogs, playing without starting quarterback Drew Bauer, starting running back Logan Lauters and starting center Matt Catton, didn’t have an excellent day with the ball either. They managed just the two first-quarter touchdowns to account for their scoring.
The Beavers scored midway through the second quarter on a Hein QB sneak play and, after the Bulldogs blocked the extra point, trailed just 14-6 going into halftime.
“We knew we had to be pretty conservative offensively,” UMD head coach Curt Weise said. “We were down a little bit of firepower and we needed to play a really sound defensive game today. We needed to make some big plays on special teams, and we were able to do that.”
Those special teams plays really helped the Bulldogs in the second half.
The Bulldogs successfully converted three fake punts for first downs -- including one where Ricci, the backup quarterback in for Bauer, caught an impressive pass from punter Andrew Brees for 22 yards.
UMD didn’t score as a result of any of those plays but each time it helped the Bulldogs extend a long drive and keep the Beavers’ offense off the field. UMD had more than 36 minutes of possession compared to BSU’s 23.
“You give Duluth some credit with the guts they had to call those,” Tesch said. “But what’s more disappointing it wasn't because we were going after punts. We were lining up safe and had guys all guarded. Our guys fell asleep and didn't do their assignments. They didn’t get points out of that, but our defense is on the field longer.”
The Beavers cut UMD’s lead to 14-9 early in the fourth quarter. The Bulldogs tried some more trickeration with just less than six minutes to go in the game, when they lined up for a 45-yard field goal that turned out to be a fake. Brees, the holder, tried to run and turn but this time the Beavers snuffed it out. Evan Tompkins bulldozed him for an 8-yard loss and the Beavers took over on their own 35 yard line.
Hein and company managed to move the ball down the field to the UMD 40, but the BSU quarterback fumbled after scrambling on 4th and 3. He might have had a first down but instead Duluth’s Regis Henke came up with the ball, effectively ending the game.
“Bemidji’s a good football team,” Weise said. “We knew it was going to be a four-quarter game. Our guys were inspired today…. We had to adjust the game plan. we played every trick we had…. I’m proud of our effort today.”
The Bulldogs’ win creates an interesting three-team race for the NSIC North Division title. UMD lost to Northern State last week and the Wolves beat St. Cloud State this week to remain undefeated in divisional play.
The Beavers visit Aberdeen, S.D., next week to take on Northern in the season finale while UMD hosts Minot State in Duluth. BSU could still win the division title depending on how next weekend’s games play out.
“We still have a lot to play for next weekend,” Tesch said. “After getting over this, we still have a chance to win a share of the North. We have to regroup and lick our wounds a little bit.”