Saturday’s 77-3 victory over Minnesota-Crookston (0-9) was not a big test for the undefeated Bulldogs, but it was an opportunity to adjust to two season ending injuries at key positions. “Austin (Sikorski) is out for the season with a knee injury, as is Jacob Brusehaver,” head coach Curt Wiese said.
It is a bitter end for the seniors, who will not play in Saturday’s Senior Day tilt against the University of Mary.
“(Sikorski has) been such a good player for so long. It’s tough to see that happen,” wide receiver Nate Ricci said. “Losing him changes up people’s roles, but I don’t think (our offense) will change much.”
Sikorski, who has the third most rushing yards in program history, was an important part of the rushing attack. After missing the season opener, Sikorski has scored seven rushing touchdowns and averaged 68.6 yards in seven games.
In his absence, Wiese will be forced to spread the ball around to other backs.
“Caleb Belknap and Beau Bofferding kind of took over his role, (and) both of those guys ran well, but Logan Lauters is certainly a guy that is going to get more carries now that Austin is out,” Wiese said.
Lauters is the kind of back who is easy to hand the football to. He broke the 1000-yard rushing mark against Minnesota-Crookston and has been an integral part of their offense, averaging eight yards per carry. He will inherit an even greater role as the Bulldogs head towards the playoffs.
The Bulldog defense lost a veteran lineman in senior Jacob Brusehaver, who is part of UMD’s NSIC leading rushing defense. Starting in eight games this season and recording 15 tackles, Brusehaver is another loss in an area where the Bulldogs are best.
In order to have continued success into playoffs, these roles will both need to be filled. In their first test against last place Minnesota-Crookston, Wiese was satisfied with their efforts.
“We were proud of the guys that needed to step up into roles today that did, and it will be important to continue to get healthier as we head into the last few games of the season,” Wiese said.
Though facing the NSIC’s worst rushing defense, the Bulldog offense showed depth in the backfield. Five different Bulldogs recorded at least 50 yards — partially a result of playing backups in the second half — but it was also a test for who will receive carries behind Lauters moving forward.
UMD remains atop the NSIC after the 77-3 dominating win, in which the Bulldogs set a program record for points. Tied with them is Minnesota State-Mankato, who handed Sioux Falls their first loss of the season Saturday. Now, only two teams are left with undefeated records in the NSIC.
This weekend’s opponent, the University of Mary (5-4), has yet to beat an opponent with a winning record. Like last week, UMD will focus on finding capable replacements for their injury-vacated holes on offense and defense.
Kick off for Saturday is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. at Malosky stadium.
BY JIMMY GILLIGAN Sports Editor