UMD’s playoff run ended with a 44-17 loss against conference rival and top-ranked Minnesota State Mankato, where turnovers and injuries kept the Bulldogs from mounting a comeback. The Bulldogs fought to the end, but things didn’t go their way from the first snap.
After turning the ball over just 10 times in the previous 13 games, the Bulldogs lost a fumble on the first play from scrimmage. The turnover was the first of four turnovers that stifled their offense and prevented them from building any momentum. Minnesota State turned these turnovers into 21 points.
The turnovers also put pressure on the defensive unit. Despite completing only two more passes than UMD, the Mavericks had twice as many passing yards. Exploiting a Bulldog secondary thinned by injuries, the MSU offense was able to complete five passes of at least 30 yards.
Drew Bauer and Logan Lauters combined for 198 rushing yards against Minnesota State. With 106 yards on the ground, Bauer set a single season program record for quarterback rushing yards with 983.
But Minnesota State shut down the Bulldog offense when it mattered. UMD failed to convert on any of their 14 third down attempts in the game. After scoring a combined 33 fourth quarter points in their first two playoff games the Bulldogs were unable to score in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s loss.
It was the fewest points they have scored since falling to the Mavericks in 2013, and was a sharp contrast to the 40.9 points per game they averaged this season.
The Bulldogs will lose much of their offensive output to graduating seniors.
“We’re going to lose some key guys (with) great senior leadership,” Bauer said. “We’re kind of young on the (offense line), so I feel like with the offseason we’ll be really strong there next year.”
Injuries remained constant throughout the 2014 season. From a thin defensive secondary to season-ending knee injuries to senior starters Austin Sikorski and Jacob Brusehaver, the Bulldogs struggled to stay healthy all season. In the end, it hurt them.
Senior defensive back Daryl Brown and senior wide receiver Aaron Roth, both of whom struggled to stay healthy this season, were injured in the game.
“Injuries are a big part of the game,” head coach Curt Wiese said. “It was exciting to see some of the youth in this football program step up and make big plays for us, but injuries can’t determine your outcome as a football team.
“We certainly weren’t at full strength against Mankato, but I’m sure Mankato wasn’t full strength against us either.”
Fourteen Bulldogs will graduate this spring, and with many of them holding starting roles this season, there will be many opportunities for Bulldog underclassman to step up in 2015.
“We’re very excited about the class that we signed and red shirted this year,” Wiese said. “They seem to be (a) very focused and hardworking group; we’re looking forward to adding those guys to our depth chart this spring and developing (them).”
Eight different Bulldogs received Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division All-Conference First Team honors.
Offensive linemen Peter Bateman, Andrew Miller and Philip Rutz were selected, along with running back Logan Lauters.
On the other side of the football, defensive back David Boegel, linebacker Gavin Grady and defensive lineman Jonathan Harden received first team nods, while junior kicker Andrew Brees earned first team special teams honors.
Eight additional Bulldogs received spots on the NSIC North Divison All-Conference Second Team, and five more received honorable mention.
2010 Senior Class Countdown
As the Bulldog seniors begin to count down the days until graduation, the Statesman counts down the biggest impacts this senior class made on the UMD football program.
5- Five senior defenders (Gavin Brown, Gavin Brady, Daryl Brown, Yusef Hassan and Jacob Brusehaver) combined for 217 tackles in 2014; at least one of them was involved in nearly 25 percent of all stops this season. The senior group also recorded 7.5 sacks, four fumbles, and three interceptions.
4- UMD has won a playoff game in four out of the last five years. With nine playoff victories to their name, this senior class has more playoff wins than losses, playing to an overall record of 60-8 since 2010.
3- Senior running back Austin Sikorski has the third best amount of career rushing yards in UMD football with 3,216. Playing in only seven games this year, his senior season and career came to an abrupt end due to a season-ending knee injury. He finished just 12 yards shy of second place all-time.
2- Two graduating receivers, Zach Zweifel and Aaron Roth, rank fifth and seventh respectively in program history in career receptions and yards. Zweifel had 169 career receptions for 2,280 yards and 17 touchdowns while Roth had 147 receptions, 1,665 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.
1- They brought home one championship title together. Nine members of this senior class were members of the 2010 Bulldog team that went undefeated and captured the national championship.
BY JIMMY BILLIGAN Statesman Correspondent