The UMD football team was inches from being in big trouble against No. 18 St. Cloud State Saturday in a wet and windy homecoming clash at Malosky Stadium. With a chance to put his team up two touchdowns late in the second quarter, Husky tight end Grant Thayer came uncovered in the back of the end zone on a fourth-down pass, but failed to land a foot inbounds and instead turned the ball over to UMD.
From there the Bulldogs rattled off 34 unanswered points, kept the St. Cloud State offense under wraps, and ultimately supplanted the Huskies as owners of first place in the NSIC North Division. UMD’s last victory against St. Cloud State came in a 20-17 overtime thriller in 2010—a season that culminated with the program’s second national championship.
“I thought our guys did a good job creating momentum,” head coach Curt Wiese said. “It certainly gives us a leg up in the North Division and gives us an opportunity to continue to play for a conference championship.”
Those aspirations might not have been so realistic if not for a critical play call shortly before halftime.
The Bulldogs marched 90 yards following St. Cloud State’s failed fourth-down attempt, but had their drive stall at the Husky 7-yard line with 20 seconds left in the half. Instead of trying a 24-yard field goal into the wind, UMD ran a fake and holder Eric Kline raced off left tackle and to the end zone to make it 7-7.
But the Bulldogs weren’t done making plays before halftime. Austin Selvick came away with a fumble recovery on the ensuing kickoff, and Logan Lauters bowled his way for a touchdown on third-and-goal from a yard out to give UMD a 13-7 lead.
Quarterback Drew Bauer was picked off twice in the first half and finished 4-for-14 for 17 yards—his worst statistical performance of the year. The freshman did not throw a pass in the second half, as UMD relied solely on its run game, which ranks eighth in the country through five games.
After being plugged up in the first half, UMD runners found significantly more room to maneuver in the second.
Lauters scored his second touchdown early in the third quarter on a 22-yard run, and Austin Sikorski added scores of 66 and 31 to open up the final 34-7 margin. The Bulldogs rolled up 471 yards on the ground, 340 of which came after halftime. The second-half rushing total alone was more than UMD had gained in any of its four games entering Saturday.
Also dominant was UMD’s defense. At one point in the first half, St. Cloud State started four out of five drives in UMD territory. The Bulldogs allowed one touchdown during that stretch and kept the Huskies from moving the ball beyond UMD’s 31-yard line in the second half.
Husky standout quarterback Phillip Klaphake, who was named the NSIC North Offensive Player of the Year in August, was held to 102 yards and no touchdowns on 13-for-29 passing.
“That’s as strong (of) a defensive game as our guys have played since I’ve been here,” said Wiese, who started at UMD in 2008 as the offensive coordinator.
Each team ranked in the national top ten won over the weekend, keeping UMD (4-1) at No. 11 in the polls. A game at Minnesota State-Moorhead Saturday is next for Bulldogs, who are now well-positioned to capture the NSIC North for a sixth straight year.
“In these conditions—to have that crowd and the student section that we did today—(that) shows a lot of pride for our football program and athletic program,” Wiese said. “I know that gives our guys a lot of energy.”
BY KYLE FARRIS firstname.lastname@example.org