Story and photo courtesy of Bemidji State Athletics
– A complete team effort guided Bemidji State University to a 19-14 upset victory against No. 6 St. Cloud State University Saturday in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate North battle at Chet Anderson Stadium. The Beavers (7-3, 6-3 NSIC, 2-3 NSIC North) used key plays and made the best of their opportunities in the win, sending 14 senior student-athletes off in style, as the contest served as Senior Day at BSU. The victory also marked the biggest upset the Beavers have ever pulled off, as St. Cloud State was No. 6 in the nation.
One of the seniors that played their final game at The Chet was safety Brody Scheff (Waconia, Minn.), who matched his career-high in tackles with 19 (seven solo), while forcing and recovering a fumble at BSU’s one yard line to end a St. Cloud State (8-2, 7-2 NSIC, 4-1 NSIC North) drive that had gone six plays for 48 yards. The BSU ‘Gang Green’ defense ended the game forcing two turnovers and made three fourth down stands against a St. Cloud State team that entered the game No. 19 in the nation in turnover margin (+.89 turnovers per game). BSU (ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense, 16.7 ppg) held SCSU to its lowest scoring output of the season. The Huskies were averaging a conference-best 34.5 points per game entering the contest.
The BSU offense was on its game against St. Cloud State after posting poor performances the past two games. The offense was led by junior quarterback Lance Rongstad (Jr., Eleva, Wis.) as he accounted for two touchdowns scores and totaled 195 offensive yards. He was 15-for-23 (65.2%) for 126 yards and a touchdown through the air and had a BSU-best 69 yards (12 attempts, 5.8 ypc) and a score on the ground. He didn’t throw an interception for the first time in two games. Junior tight end Brian Leonhardt (Blaine, Minn.) caught his second touchdown of the season and was the team’s leading receiver, bringing in six catches for 61 yards.
A big reason the offense was so successful was due to the play of a beat-up and depleted offensive line. Starting center Cory Immerman (Sr., Becker, Minn.) didn’t play due to injury, so fellow senior Steve Pappas (Appleton, Wis.) stepped in and didn’t miss a beat. Seniors Jordan Anderson (Newfolden, Minn.) and Davis Mickelson (Elbow Lake, Minn.) played through injuries to provide the time and protection Rongstad and the backs needed to be successful.
The Beavers looked like they were in trouble after fumbling on their opening drive and allowing the Huskies to march down and take an early 7-0 lead. Then after going three-and-out on the ensuing drive and forcing to punt, junior linebacker Cory Crosby (Cold Spring, Minn.) made a diving interception at the SCSU 46 to give the ball back to the offense in opponent territory. The Beavers made the best of it and five plays later Rongstad crossed the goal line from eight yards out. Unfortunately, BSU was still trailing 7-6 after the extra point attempt by sophomore Zach Pulkinen (K, Minot, N.D.) went wide left.
The Huskies came back and returned the kickoff 38 yards to the BSU 44 yard line and used five plays to move the ball down to the BSU one, but on first-and-goal, Husky running back Michael Walker attempted to dive right up the gut and into the end zone, but Scheff was able to knock the ball away and recover it to end the SCSU drive inches short.
The score remained 7-6 until BSU put together a 13-play, 70-yard drive to the end zone midway though the second quarter. The drive was capped by a Rongstad-Leonhardt connection from seven yards out. The drive had a perfect balance of rushing and passing plays, gaining 38 yards through the air and 32 on the ground. The Beavers attempted a two-point conversion to make up the lost extra point, but it failed and the scoreboard read 12-7.
The score remained 12-7 into halftime, as BSU handed the Huskies their first deficit at the half this season. SCSU received the ball in the second half and moved down to the BSU 19 before the Beaver defense held their ground on a fourth-and-two to turn the Huskies over on downs. The teams traded punts before the Beavers got the ball again with 5:35 left in the third. BSU drained the majority of that 5:35 and found its way to the goal line on third and one from the one with nine seconds left in the frame. The Beavers called a timeout and then came back and handed the ball to its power backer, junior Dustin Kroeplin (RB, Withee, Wis.), who found his way into the end zone for the ninth time this season. The extra point was good and the Beavers held a 19-7 lead after three quarters of play.
The Beavers allowed 140 yards of offense to the Huskies in the fourth quarter, but only allowed in the one score and that was with 1:22 showing on the clock. SCSU got into Beaver territory twice before scoring, but the defense held on fourth down, stopping the high-powered offense at the BSU 33 and BSU 27, respectfully. The Beavers had a chance to ice the game when it was 19-7 with less than three minutes to play, but failed to convert on a third and five from their own 42 and were forced to punt it away.
The Beavers were able to force the Huskies to use all three of their time outs on the drive, but SCSU only needed 56 seconds to find the end zone to make it 19-14 and an opportunity to get the ball back with the on-side kick with 1:27 showing on the game clock.
SCSU kicker Typer Aldridge executed the kick perfectly and put the ball high in the air and about 11 yards out, but BSU junior wide receiver Matt Gandrud (Elk River, Minn.) was the one to rise up and get the ball. He even hung on to it after getting rocked and pushed back about three yards. With zero timeouts the Huskies were helpless against the victory formation and the Beavers handed SCSU their second loss of the season.
Crosby finished with 12 tackles (three solo), one of which was for a one yard loss. Sophomore linebacker Buckley Wright (Sioux City, Iowa) had 10 tackles (three solo) and a half sack (-5 yards).
BSU closes the 2011 regular season at University of Minnesota, Crookston Nov. 12 at 1 p.m.
Other senior performances included: Cameron Abram (WR, Brooklyn Park, Minn.) started, posting two receptions for 20 yards...Josh Beste (DE, East Grand Forks, N.D.) started, had five tackles (one solo), half tackle for loss...Luke Knutson (LB, Bagley, Minn.) miss the game due to injury...Brandon Miles (RB, Kenai, Alaska) started, going for 60 yards on 12 carries...Alex Mock (LB, Williston, N.D.) started, had four tackles (one solo)...Jake Schmidt (S, Frederic, Wis.) started on special teams...Blake Sczepanski (Stephen, Minn.) returned for his second game since injury to start, posted six tackles (two solo) and a monster sack (-8 yards), plus 1.5 tackles for loss (-9 yards)...Dusty Sluzewicz (S, Homer Glen, Ill.) started, had six tackles (four solo) and a tackle for loss (-2 yards)...Jesse Sundby (P, Argyle, Minn.) punted five times for 159 yards (31.8 yards per punt), including a 56 yarder.
Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).