BEMIDJI -- So far this season, the Bemidji State football team has lost its ‘Gang Green’ edge.

The infamous ‘Gang Green defense,’ once a formidable force that seemed to eat opposing offenses for breakfast, has given up an average of 35.2 points this season and ranks 11th in the conference. Now the Beavers are working on restoring their identity.

“We feel like we’re better than what we’ve put on film the past couple weeks, especially on defense,” senior linebacker Jaylen Jenkins said. “We’re working. It’s all going to come together, so we’re waiting for that right opportunity and that right moment to show everybody what we’ve got.”

The offense bears some of the responsibility, as it averages a league-worst 24:38 time of possession and keeps the defense on the field for most of the day. But BSU has allowed 471 yards per game this season, second-worst in the NSIC. Last week, Bemidji State also surrendered 35 points to a Minot State team that had mustered 20 in the four games prior.

Even so, head coach Brent Bolte has faith in his core moving forward.

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“It’s not like the guys are going out there, trying to play soft and trying not to execute at a high level,” he said. “It’s just unfortunate that, at (certain) situations, they haven’t maybe performed at their level. We have a lot of good players. We just have to go back to doing the basic things right: tackling, flying around, playing violent football.”

Jenkins isn’t ready to surrender that defensive identity, either. He knows what it will take to show improvements on his side of the ball.

“We felt like we’ve got to play more team ball,” he said. “We’re still making the plays, but we’re not making the ones in the biggest moments, the third downs, the fourth downs.”

Bemidji State’s Gabe Ames (9) and Zollie Kaplan (18) converge on a deflected ball for a near interception in the first half against Minot State on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
Bemidji State’s Gabe Ames (9) and Zollie Kaplan (18) converge on a deflected ball for a near interception in the first half against Minot State on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, at Chet Anderson Stadium. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

The Beavers (3-2) will have plenty of motivation this week. They face Concordia-St. Paul at noon on Saturday, Oct. 9, in St. Paul for their first meeting since BSU’s 2019 loss that all but knocked them out of the NCAA Tournament race.

“The last time we played, they pretty much stopped us from going to the playoffs,” Jenkins said. “We missed a 2-point conversion (in overtime) that would have won the game and pretty much put us in the playoffs. We’re still thinking about that.”

Concordia-St. Paul also joined the NSIC North this season after St. Cloud State and Minnesota Crookston eliminated their football programs following the 2019 season. So, on top of everything else, it’s a gotta-have-it kind of game against a Golden Bears team that enters 1-4.

“They’re trying to find themselves, and they’ve got good talent that they’re going to put together someday. Hopefully it’s not this weekend,” Bolte said. “It’s more about us, though, as I keep telling the guys.

“We’ve got to play consistently for four quarters. … Sooner or later, it’s going to happen. I hope it’s this week, to be honest with you. But we need consistency.”

Jenkins knows that the task starts on defense. And he says his group is ready to rise to the occasion.

“More than anything, it’s cohesion and trying to come together,” Jenkins said. “We’ve been working on that all week, and I think this week, we’ll be able to show everybody what the Gang Green is all about.”