The UMD football team has a knack for winning games, and on a cloudy, windy Saturday in Bemidji, Minn., it did just that. The Bulldogs didn’t hold a lead until midway through the fourth quarter, but still managed to upend the Bemidji State Beavers 31-21 to remain in the Division II playoff hunt.
UMD’s first five offensive drives ended in either a punt or turnover, but the defense kept the Beavers off the scoreboard in the first quarter.
Bemidji State opened the scoring in the second quarter with an 86-yard drive resulting in a 37-yard touchdown run by Derrick Dunn.
The Bulldogs went three and out the next time they had it, and the Beavers made it 14-0 with a 75-yard touchdown drive on the ensuing possession.
That was when quarterback Drew Bauer and the UMD offense came to life. Bauer found wide receiver Joe Reichert on a post for a 39-yard touchdown to cut the lead in half. After the Beavers punted with 2:57 left before halftime, the Bulldogs drove 70 yards and tied it up with a two-yard touchdown run by Austin Sikorski.
Bemidji State didn’t roll over in the second half, however. Beaver quarterback Ryan Shields hit wide receiver Matt Summers on a 41-yard pitch and catch to make it 21-14 early in the third.
UMD moved the ball on its next possession, but turned it over after a failed attempt on fourth and two. The Bulldog defense stiffened to force a punt, and a 38-yard Andrew Brees field goal cut the margin to 21-17 at the end of the third quarter.
The Bulldogs started the fourth quarter the same way they started the first: with a turnover. UMD’s defense returned the favor when linebacker Nate Zibolski pounced on a loose ball at the Bulldog 42-yard line.
From there, the UMD offense took the game into its own hands. The Bulldogs went on a 58-yard drive that culminated with a 14-yard run by Bauer to take a 24-21 lead. Bemidji State never came close to pushing across the tying or winning score. Instead, Logan Lauters put the Bulldogs in front by 10 with a 14-yard touchdown run with less than a minute left in regulation.
Lauters accounted for 84 of UMD’s 203 rushing yards Saturday, while Bauer set career highs in passing yards (237) and completions (20) to go with a touchdown and an interception.
With the win, the Bulldogs (7-1) moved up a spot to No. 6 in the national polls. They play their final home game of the year Saturday on senior day against Minnesota, Crookston.
BY PHIL DEMORE firstname.lastname@example.org