BEMIDJI, Minn. (Chet Anderson Stadium) – The Bemidji State University football team rushed for 437 yards and six touchdowns Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium in a 41-10 victory over Southwest Minnesota State University to improve to 3-0 on the season and 2-0 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference. The Beavers were led by junior running back Dustin Kroeplin (Withee, Wis.) who gained 165 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
The 3-0 mark is the best by a BSU team since 2005 and moves the Beavers in first place of the NSIC North, as No. 1 University of Minnesota Duluth and No. 9 St. Cloud State University lost today in conference play. BSU is the only team in the NSIC with an undefeated overall record.
BSU’s performance on the ground marks the most rushing yardage since Sept. 16, 1989 against Northwestern (Minn.). The Beavers rushed for 453 yards in that contest, which stands as the program’s all-time record. The last time BSU ran for six touchdowns was against University of Minnesota, Crookston Sept. 23, 2006.
On the other side of the ball, the ‘Gang Green’ defense continued to stifle the opponent run attack, allowing just 40 Mustang yards on the ground. The Beavers have allowed just 158 rushing yards this season and rank No. 1 in the league in rush defense. BSU allowed just 189 yards on total offense, while gaining 515 on SMSU. The Beavers recorded 31 first downs, to the Mustangs’ 11.
The Beavers took an early 14-0 first quarter lead as Kroeplin found the end zone from two and five yards out. BSU only took 50 seconds off the game clock to score the first touchdown after the defense forced a three-and-out and a botched snap on the punt attempt placed the home team on the Mustang 25 yard line. The second score was a methodical 10-play, 88-yard drive, which marks the longest drive for a touchdown by the Beavers this season.
The Mustangs came back to make the contest a four point affair after scoring 10 unanswered points in the second quarter, but the Beavers bounced back and scored two touchdowns in the frame’s final 8:39 to own a 27-10 lead at the half. BSU scored its first touchdown on a reverse play to junior wide receiver Christian Metz (Cambridge Minn.) as he rushed down the sideline for a 25-yard score. The second touchdown came on a senior running back Brandon Miles (Kenai, Alaska) two-yard. The 10-play, 74-yard score was set-up by a senior safety Dusty Sluzewicz (Homer Glen, Ill.) interception on the BSU 26. The extra point on the second touchdown of the second quarter hit the left upright.
The second half was all BSU as the Mustangs had just three offensive drives and only held the ball for 8:51, never getting inside the BSU 30. The Beavers used up 21:09 of clock time in the second half and scored two touchdowns on their four offensive drives of the half. Miles got his second touchdown of the game from three yards out to record his second collegiate two touchdown game.
On the first play of the fourth quarter, junior running back Brad Hemling (Richland Center Wis.) busted through the line and went for a 38-yard touchdown run to give the Beavers a 41-10 lead it would sit on for the rest of the game. The 38-yard scamper marked his career-long and the touchdown was his second of the season.
The 165 yards on the ground for Kroeplin is his second 150-plus performance at BSU. He went for 200 yards and two touchdowns against Northern State University last season. He ran 19 times for his 165 yards to record an 8.7 yards per carry average. He has recorded two rushing touchdowns six times in his career. In his three seasons at BSU, the Beavers are 6-0 when Kroeplin scores two rushing touchdowns and own a 14-1 record when he finds the end zone at least once on the ground.
Junior quarterback Lance Rongstad (Eleva, Wis.) threw for 78 yards, going 7-for-14 with one interception. He rushed for an additional 51 yards. His top receiver for the third consecutive game was junior tight end Brian Leonhardt (Blaine, Minn.), who made two catches for 38 yards. Seven different BSU players ran for at least 30 yards in the game. Hemling helped keep the Mustang offense off the field down the stretch by running seven times for 61 yards. Miles finished with 44 yards and two touchdowns.
On defense, sophomore linebacker Buckley Wright (Sioux City, Iowa) led the team in tackles with 12 (six solo). He recorded the most tackles for loss with two (-6 yards), including BSU’s long sack (-5 yards). Senior safety Brody Scheff (Waconia, Minn.) recorded 11 tackles (four solo) to sit as the only other Beaver in double figures.
Game Notes: The game marked the 15th annual Shrine Game...BSU is now 10-5 in Shrine Game contests...The Beavers broke the all-time series tie with SMSU and are now 21-20-1 against the Mustangs, winning the last 12 contests...Head coach Jeff Tesch is 12-2 all-time against SMSU.
The Beavers welcome No. 1 Minnesota Duluth to Chet Anderson Stadium Sept. 24 at 6 p.m. to open NSIC North play.
Bemidji State University, located in Bemidji, Minn., is an NCAA Division II institution and a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).