BY JIMMY GILLIGAN | The Statesman THE GAME
The Bulldogs (7-3, 5-1 NSIC—North) clung to a stellar first quarter and relied on their defense and special teams play late in the game to top Bemidji State on the road 14-9.
After scoring touchdowns on their first two offensive possessions of the game, the UMD offense didn’t see the end zone for the rest of the game. Starting in place of injured quarterback Drew Bauer, sophomore Nate Ricci threw for 80 yards on nine completions. Ricci and running back Darren Walker led the Bulldog rushing attack, running for 61 and 75 yards, respectively. Each had a rushing touchdown in the win.
After heading into halftime with a 14-6 lead, the Bulldog offense ran down the clock over the final two quarters, eating up a total of 36:42 in the game on 71 plays.
When the Bulldog offense stalled, the special teams moved the chains—and kept the clock ticking. Senior kicker/punter Andrew Brees converted three first downs on three fake punts, two of which came on consecutive drives in the 3rd and 4th quarters.
With only three points scored in the second half (a 27-yard BSU field goal that brought them within 5 points of the Bulldogs), the final two quarters were a battle of field position, with neither team’s offense able to convert on big yardage plays.
Defensively, the Bulldogs dominated, holding Bemidji State to just 181 total yards on offense. The Beavers couldn’t get anything going in their rushing attack, running for 46 yards on 33 total carries—an average of 1.4 yards per rush. In the air, UMD gave Bemidji no time to find open receivers, racking up five sacks in the game. Defensive back Tavaughn Blair set the tone for the game with a diving interception on BSU’s first play from scrimmage, which set up a Bulldog touchdown.
It was a huge win for the Bulldogs. After losing their top two offensive producers (QB Drew Bauer, RB Logan Lauters) in last week’s loss at Northern State, they gritted out a close road win, only their third road win of the season in six chances.
With Bauer out for the season with a concussion, and Lauters not likely to play next week either against Minot State, Ricci and Walker will again have to step up. But with a dominating defensive effort this weekend, the Bulldogs head into next week’s matchup with positive momentum, even without their two stars.
The 14 first-quarter points that secured the victory were the fewest UMD has scored all season. But the win moves them up to No. 2 in the NSIC—North, behind Northern State (6-4, 6-0 NSIC—North).
THREE KEY STATS
- Senior punter/kicker Andrew Brees converted three fake punts, including one from UMD’s own seven-yard line. His 24 yards rushing and 22 yards passing kept the Bulldogs in the driver’s seat throughout the game.
- Brees and the Bulldog special teams unit had the opportunity to try four fakes because UMD’s offense went 4 for 16 on 3rd down. BSU didn’t fare any better, however, going 2 for 14.
- Although a fumble and an interception gave the Bulldogs an even turnover margin (0) against the Beavers, two momentous turnovers in the first quarter led to UMD’s only two touchdowns of the game.
On Brees’ three punt fakes, he had 24 rushing yards and 22 passing yards. Had he been wearing a Beaver on his helmet this afternoon, he would have placed second in rushing for BSU, and third in total offensive yards behind Bemidji QB Jordan Hein (135) and RB Tahi Nomane (48).