BY JIMMY GILLIGAN | THE STATESMAN The UMD football program is accustomed to winning meaningful games late in the season. What they’re not used to, however, are those wins not preceding a playoff berth.
Saturday’s 14-9 outlasting of Bemidji State wasn’t necessarily important in terms of postseason implications. But the win showed character.
“For our guys to come out with the enthusiasm and preparation and energy that they did coming off of a tough loss, it shows a lot about what our seniors are about (and) what our football program is about,” head coach Curt Wiese said.
Without starting quarterback Drew Bauer and starting running back Logan Lauters, who both suffered season-ending injuries two weeks ago, the Bulldogs came together and topped BSU in all three facets of the game for a momentous road win.
Playing their final two games in a far different place than they expected to be, the Bulldogs have developed a new mantra.
“Our big message going into (Bemidji) was do it for the guys who can’t,” Nate Ricci said.
In place of Bauer, Nate Ricci, normally a wide receiver, quarterbacked the offense to two first quarter touchdowns—one of which he scored himself on a 15-yard run. Lauters’ backup, Darren Walker, also stepped up with a touchdown run of his own and a team high 75 rushing yards. With a stellar defensive effort that held BSU to only 181 yards of offense, those scores would be all the Bulldogs needed to secure the win.
Even the special teams play had a crucial impact in the win. After BSU eventually figured out UMD’s abridged offensive playbook, the Bulldog special teams—and punter/kicker Andrew Brees, converted three fake punts to keep the clock running and the football out of Bemidji State’s hands.
“We haven’t been a team that is afraid to take chances and gamble, but those are calculated risks,” Wiese said.
Minot State (1-9, 1-5 NSIC North) is the final team that stands in the way of an 8-3 finish for the Bulldogs. A win against the Beavers would give UMD a chance at having a share of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division Championship.
Minot State has allowed an average of 217.3 yards rushing per game, which ranks No. 14 in the NSIC.
The Bulldogs on the other hand, average the highest rushing yards per game in the conference, at 246.4 yards. Heading into senior day, Lauters and Bauer have accounted for 42% of UMD’s rushing yards.
Even without their biggest contributors, the offense, which had 194 rushing yards against BSU, will continue to focus on the ground attack.
“I think our offense is at a point right now where we know we need to rush the football at a consistent level,” Wiese said.
Ricci, who will make his second consecutive start under center, will be better prepared after another week of practice as the first string quarterback.
“I’ll definitely feel more comfortable,” Ricci said. ”It was kind of good getting my feet wet, but next week we’ll probably open it up a little bit more, obviously we’ll have to throw the ball a little bit more, because teams will stack the box on us.”