BEMIDJI, Minn. – The Bemidji State University football team doled out its annual team awards Saturday at the North Division Champions Banquet, held in Bemidji, Minn.
Senior quarterback Lance Rongstad (Eleva, Wis.) was named Bemidji State’s Offensive Player of the Year, while senior linebacker Cory Crosby (Cold Spring, Minn.) was awarded Defensive Player of the Year and junior Zack Pulkinen (K/P, Minot, N.D.) was honored as Special Teams Player of the Year. Earning the 2012 Guy Vena Most Inspirational Award was senior tight end Brian Leonhardt (Blaine, Minn.).
The team also announced its scout team awards, honoring redshirt freshmen SaVaughn Alexander (RB, Joliet, Ill.) and Andrew Street (LB, Bemidji, Minn.) as Offensive Scout Player of the Year and Defensive Scout Player of the Year, respectfully.
Offensive Player of the Year - Lance Rongstad
A weapon with his arm or legs, Rongstad earned All-NSIC Honorable Mention after totaling 2,681 yards of offense (268.1 yds/g) to finish fifth in the NSIC and 35th in the nation. He threw for a career-high 2,114 yards (211.4 yds/g) to finish ninth in the league, while his 134.9 passing efficiency rating ranked seventh in the conference and 47th nationally. Through the air he went 158-for-279 (56.6%) for 16 touchdowns. On the ground he led the Beavers for the second straight year, compiling 567 yards on 124 carries and seven touchdowns. He averaged 56.7 yards per game, 4.6 yards per carry and posted a career-long rush of 78 yards that went all the way to the end zone and set the BSU record for longest rush by a quarterback. He hit a dozen different receivers, six of which brought in 10 or more receptions for 99 or more yards.
Recorded 300 or more total yards on four occasions, which included a career-high 404 total yard game against Wayne State College Sept. 15. In the game against the Wildcats he threw for a career-best 348 yards (24-for-41) and a touchdown and rushed 14 times for 56 yards and a score. Rongstad passed for 228 yards and fourth touchdowns in the season opener against Upper Iowa University and added 58 yards rushing. For his efforts, he earned NSIC Offensive Player of the Week honors. He recorded back-to-back 300-plus yard games and back-to-back 100-plus rushing efforts Oct. 27-Nov. 3. In a victory at St. Cloud State University he posted 226 yards and a score through the air and 115 yards and a career high-water mark three touchdowns. Rongstad followed that with 202 yards and a touchdown passing and 127 yards and the 78-yard score rushing against Minnesota State University Moorhead.
He threw and ran himself into eight BSU single-season record books, including second in total offense per game (268.1 yds/g) and eighth in passing yardage (2,114 passing yards). All-time, Rongstad’s name appears in 15 different top 10 lists at Bemidji State, most notably, first in rushing yards per carry (5.87 yards per rush), fourth in total offensive yards (5,687 offensive yards) and fifth in touchdowns responsible for (48 touchdowns – 26 passing, 21 rushing, 1 receiving). Also, his 21 rushing touchdowns established a new record for career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, as did his 2,074 rushing yards.
Defensive Player of the Year - Cory Crosby
A 2012 Daktronics Super Region #3 First Team and All-NSIC First Team honoree, Crosby saved his best season for the last, as he totaled 108 tackles (46 solo), 15.0 tackles for loss (-70 yards) and 5.0 sacks (-50 yards), all of which led the team and established career-highs. He finished tied for second in the NSIC in total tackles (tied for first among linebackers) and fifth in tackles per game, which also stands tied for 39th nationally. He finished fourth in the league and tied for 40th in the nation in tackles for loss per game (1.36 TFL/g) and tied for ninth in the NSIC is sacks per game (.45 sacks/g). He also added two forced fumbles, which was good for a tie for sixth in the conference.
The last Bemidji State player to record 100 tackles in a season was Jeremiah Johnson in 2005 (112 tackles). According to available sack records dating back to 1985, Crosby is the only BSU player to ever record 100-plus tackles, 10 or more tackles for loss and at least five sacks in a season. He is the first player since 2008 to lead the team in tackles, tackles for loss and sacks in the same season. His 15.0 tackles for loss ranks 10th on BSU single-season chart, while the 70 yards from tackles for loss is eighth at Bemidji State.
The linebacker totaled 10 or more tackles on six occasions, including a career-high 17 tackles (four solo) in a home victory against Minnesota State University Moorhead Nov. 3. In that game, he also established career marks with 13 assisted tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks (tied career-high). The 2.5 sacks against the Dragons tied his mark set earlier in the season against Northern State University that pushed the Wolves offense back 34 yards and the 4.5 tackles for loss tied an NSIC-high in 2012. He was named NSIC Defensive Player of the Week Nov. 5 after his performance against the MSUM.
Crosby exits Bemidji State fifth all-time in tackles with 326 (133s-193a). His 34.0 tackles for loss ranks sixth at BSU, while is yards from tackles for loss, 131, finishes 10th. The senior’s 193 assisted tackles sits sixth at Bemidji State, while his solo tackle total of 133 ranks 10th. Crosby was named All-NSIC Second-Team in 2010 and 2011.
Special Teams Player of the Year - Zach Pulkinen
Pulkinen assumed all the kicking and punting duties this season to earn his first all-conference honor. He was named NSIC Special Teams Player of the Week Oct. 15 after his performance against Northern State, in which he was good on all three extra point attempts, pinned the Wolves inside the 20 on all three of his punts that totaled 131 yards (43.7 yards per punt) – including a 55 yard punt that tied a career-high – and posted 246 yards on four kickoffs to average 61.5 yards per kick
He totaled 45 points to lead the Beavers and finish 10th in the NSIC. He was 30-for-35 on point after attempts and went 5-for-10 in field goal attempts. He went 5-for-7 in field goal attempts 39-yards or less and established his career-high with a 39-yard field goal against Wayne State College Sept. 15.The junior recorded career-highs in extra point made and attempts with a 7-for-7 performance in the season finale against Minot State University Nov. 10.
Off the tee he totaled 3,224 yards on 53 kickoffs to average 60.8 yards per kick. He booted seven touchbacks. In his first season as the primary punter, Pulkinen totaled 1,683 yards on 44 punts to average 38.2 yards per game that finished sixth in the NSIC and 62nd nationally. Nineteen times he placed a punt inside the 20, had seven punts fair caught and kicked seven punts 50 or more yards. He recorded his season-long punt of 55 yards against University of Minnesota, Crookston Sept 29 and Northern State Oct. 13. The Minot, N.D. native punted a season-high eight times for 296 yards (37 yds/punt) at University of Sioux Falls Sept. 22.
On BSU’s single season charts he ranks tied for 10th in point after attempts made (30), tied for 11th in field goals made (5) and 12th in kicking scoring (45 points). On the career charts he is sixth in PATs made (59), tied for sixth in field goals made (11) and seventh in points scored kicking (92).
Guy Vena Most Inspirational Award - Brian Leonhardt
Despite battled injuries all season, Leonhardt started 10 games and was named BSN Division II All-America First Team and All-NSIC First Team. A preseason All-American, the tight end posted 25 receptions for 343 yards and three touchdowns. His reception and reception yards numbers were third on the team in 2012, while the three scores put him in a four-way tie for first. He averaged 34.3 yards per game, 13.7 yards per reception and had a season-long reception of 38 yards. He posted a season-high 93 yards on seven receptions at University of Mary Oct. 6. An extension of the offensive line, Leonhardt has helped guide the Beavers to 170.8 rushing yards per game and 20 touchdowns.
He capped his career with 15 touchdowns to rank tied for eighth all-time at Bemidji State and his 112 career receptions are 10th at BSU. Leonhardt finished his career with 1,431 career reception yards to rank second among BSU tight ends since 1971.
A leader on and off the field, Leonhardt owns a 3.71 GPA and will graduate with a degree in business administration. For his efforts, he was named Capital One Academic All-America Division II Football First Team. A 2011 Academic All-America selection, Leonhardt is a three-time academic all-district award winner and three-time Fall NSIC All-Academic Team member.
The Beavers started 1-3, but finished the 2012 season 7-4 to record their 14th record of at least .500 in their last 15 seasons. The team’s 5-1 record at Chet Anderson Stadium ties a program-best for home wins in a season and marks the 11th consecutive winning record at home. Bemidji State went 6-1 in the North to share the North Division title with University of Minnesota Duluth and record its best showing in the five years since beginning divisional play.
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Nestled in Northern Minnesota’s wooded region and located on the shore of Lake Bemidji, Bemidji State University sponsors 15 varsity athletic programs with NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey membership in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, while its 13 NCAA Division II programs hold membership in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC).