The No. 4 UMD football team headed into their game against Minnesota State University-Moorhead on Saturday riding a 12-game regular season win streak. In front of a home crowd of 3,162, the Bulldogs celebrated Military Appreciation Night by extending their winning streak to 13 games in a 63-28 victory over the Dragons.
As part of military appreciation, the Bulldogs donned commemorative game jerseys that had players sporting “One Voice” on the back. The UMD Athletic Department is auctioning the jerseys off on umdbulldogs.com.
The offense was on display for both teams as the Bulldogs compiled a season-high 539 total yards, including 367 on the ground. The Dragons were held in check, accumulating 339 yards on Saturday — a far cry from an offense that averages nearly 500 yards per game.
The main cog for the Bulldog offense was four touchdowns and 102 yards by running back Austin Sikorski — north Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Fellow running back Logan Lauters also contributed a game-high 107 yards and one touchdown on 13 carries.
Quarterback Drew Bauer also had a stellar contribution against the Dragons, accounting for a trio of touchdowns and becoming the first Bulldog player with a passing, rushing and receiving score in the same game.
The Bulldogs scored a touchdown on their first five drives of the game, finishing the first half scoring on six of their seven drives. Sikorski began the lopsided scoring effort with two rushing touchdowns in the first quarter, from 10 and 8 yards respectively, to put UMD up 14-0.
Following a Moorhead punt, the Bulldog offense took over and wrapped up a third consecutive scoring drive with a receiving touchdown from quarterback Drew Bauer. After a designed end-around, redshirt freshman Nate Ricci completed his first career pass to Bauer for a commanding 21-0 Bulldog lead.
“Our best defense is when the offense is on the field,” Bauer said.
Bauer completed 10-of-16 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown to wide receiver Zach Zweifel on his final play of the night late in the third quarter. But Bauer was quick to add that improvements could always be made.
“We have to be better on third down,” Bauer said. “That comes from me as the quarterback being able to communicate better.”
On the other side of the ball, the depleted Bulldog secondary was tested through the air for the majority of the night. Because of injuries along the defense, UMD relied heavily on true freshman Dillon Martinez and wide receiver Aaron Roth to platoon duties in the secondary.
Yet, the Bulldog defense responded well, holding the Dragons back 161 fewer yards than their season average. Senior linebacker Gavin Brown led the Bulldogs with nine defensive stops, while sophomore safety Hunter Malberg had two interceptions to curve the Dragon’s passing attack.
Earning player of the game honors, Malberg said the defense was prepared for the unconventional hurry-up scheme that the Dragons employ.
“We were expecting a NASCAR type of tempo from them, and our coaches did a great job getting us prepared,” Malberg, who also contributed four tackles and three pass breakups, said.
The Bulldogs continued their dominance against Moorhead, beating the Dragons now 13 times in a row since 2000. The win improved the Bulldogs’ record to 20-0 at home against north NSIC opponents.
Saturday night’s victory also puts the Bulldogs at an unblemished 5-0 record, a perfect place to be as they head into their conference schedule. Next week, UMD travels to St. Cloud State for an interstate rivalry matchup.
BY ERIC HILDESTAD