Story and photo courtesy of Bemidji State Athletics
– Despite struggling in the first half, the Bemidji State University football team scored 24 second half points to end the regular season with a 31-12 victory at University of Minnesota, Crookston Saturday at Ed Widseth Field. With the win the Beavers post an 8-3 overall record to record their eighth, eight-win season in program history and the sixth under head coach Jeff Tesch. Fourteen senior student-athletes played their final regular season game, finishing with a 35-20 record the last five seasons (including redshirt season).
The Beaver defense held UMC to 12 points to record their eighth game where they held the opponent to 14 points or less (7-1 in those games) and finished the season allowing just 16.0 points per game to their opponent. The Golden Eagles ran for 187 yards, but it was less than it had averaged entering the game, 235.9 yards per game. BSU finished the season allowing 110.5 yards per game to its opponent.
Junior quarterback Lance Rongstad (Jr., Eleva, Wis.) rushed for a career-high 162 yards and found the end zone twice on the ground to record his third-career 100 yard rushing game. He had a career-high 76-yard rush in the game and had just 10 carries to post a 16.2 yards per rush average. The scores were his ninth and 10th rushing touchdowns of the season and his second multi-rushing touchdown game of the season. He went 5-for-9 with an interception for 52 yards through the air, but he didn’t need to throw the ball in the game as the Beavers ended up rushing for 377 yards and four touchdowns.
Senior running back Brandon Miles (Kenai, Alaska) went over 100 yards for the first time this season as he recorded 103 yards and added one touchdown. He has two 100-yard games in his career, recording the first his freshman season Oct. 27, 2007. Junior Justin Lee (WR, Elgin, Ill.) had 81 yards on the ground on five carries for a 16.2 yards per carry average. The BSU ground crew finished the regular season averaging 241.5 yards per game.
The Golden Eagles got on the board first with a touchdown drive in the first quarter after a sophomore Zach Pulkinen (K, Minot, N.D. missed 34-yard field goal attempt. The Beavers blocked the extra point and were down 6-0 early.
Minnesota, Crookston got back into Beaver territory in the middle of the second quarter after a Miles fumble, but the Beavers got the ball back after safety Brody Scheff (Waconia, Minn.) recorded his NSIC-best sixth interception of the season and returned it 13 yards to the UMC 45. The BSU offense then marched 45 yards to the end zone, capped by Rongstad’s first touchdown of the game, this one from 10 yards out.
The extra point was good and BSU led 7-6. The score remained a one point affair into halftime after the Beavers blocked a 29-yard UMC field goal attempt.
The Beavers extended their lead to 14-6 with a touchdown from Rongstad, a 34-yard rush to the end zone, on their first possession of the second half. With 3:15 left in the third quarter, the Golden Eagles found the end zone on a two-yard pass to get within two at 14-12. The score stayed that way after the two-point conversion attempted failed.
It was all Bemidji State in the fourth quarter as it rattled off 17 unanswered points to run away with the 31-12 victory. Pulkinen redeemed himself with a 37 yard field goal in the first 11 seconds of the final quarter. Miles found his touchdown with 9:14 left in the fourth to cap a seven-play 66-yard drive that went for four minutes. Sophomore Brent Kondziolka (RB, Orland, Ill.) scored the final touchdown for BSU from one yard out after Rongstad set-up the play on his 76 yard run.
Senior Dusty Sluzewicz (S, Homer Glen, Ill.) led the team in tackles with nine (six solo). Fellow senior Alex Mock (LB, Williston, N.D.) had eight (four solo) tackles for BSU, adding one tackles for loss (-2 yards), a pass break-up and a quarterback hurry. Scheff added six tackles (five solo) and a pass break-up. Scheff’s six interceptions tied five other BSU players for third on the interceptions list in a season. His 10 career interceptions ties for sixth most in a career at BSU.
The strong season won’t get the Beavers into the NCAA tournament, but could get them to the Mineral Water Bowl for the second time in program history (2006). The best NSIC team that doesn’t make the NCAA tournament heads to the Mineral Water Bowl to face the best team out of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) that didn’t make the tournament. University of Minnesota Duluth, St. Cloud State University and Minnesota State University, Mankato all finished with an 8-2 record in NSIC play and earned a share of the regular season championship and all have an opportunity to make the NCAA Tournament. BSU, Winona State University and Wayne State College all have a 7-3 conference record. The NCAA selection committee will make the announcement for the NCAA tournament Sunday, Nov. 13 at 4 p.m. on NCAA.com. The Mineral Water Bowl committee will then make the selection for the bowl game.
Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).