DULUTH, Minn. (James S. Malosky Stadium) -- The No. 21 Bemidji State University football program found itself in the middle of a fourth-quarter shootout Saturday at James S. Malosky Stadium as No. 24 University of Minnesota Duluth handed BSU its first loss in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division play, 54-47. The Beavers (6-2, 3-1 NSIC North) and Bulldogs (7-1, 4-0 NSIC North) combined for 49 points in the fourth quarter and 1,100 yards of combined total offense.
Bemidji State scored just one touchdown in the first half, entering the game averaging 42.7 points per game, to trail Minnesota Duluth 27-7. Junior quarterback Jordan Hein, making his first start since being injured at University of Mary Oct. 1, found his stride in the second half as he finished the game with five touchdowns passes and 434 passing yards. Four of the five passes went for at least 44 yards, while Hein found four different receivers for touchdowns.
The Beavers came out of halftime with a plan, cutting into the Bulldogs’ lead with two scores on two consecutive drives. Freshman kicker Mason Hoffer converted a 35-yard field goal on BSU’s first second half drive, followed by a 60-yard touchdown connection between Hein and junior wide receiver Blake Holder. The Bulldogs sandwiched a touchdown in between the Beavers’ scores to hold a 34-18 lead, which would last throughout the third quarter.
Bemidji State was stopped for the first time in the second half during its third drive, as a fake punt on 4th and 15 came up just one yard short to set up Minnesota Duluth at the 50-yard line. Minnesota Duluth took over and scored its second touchdown of the half to hold a 41-18 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Hein found senior wide receiver Brady Schmidt following the Bulldogs’ fourth quarter score for a 90-yard touchdown pass, the longest for BSU since a 95-yard catch by Jason Leden in 2001. The “Gang Green” defense forced its first turnover of the day to set up BSU’s third consecutive scoring play of at least 50 yards, as Hein threw his third touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Dexter Taylor Jr. from 56 yards out. A two-point conversion following the score cut UMD’s lead to 41-33 with just over nine minutes in the game.
Bemidji State cut the lead to seven points, 47-40, on Hein’s fourth touchdown pass of the day as he found junior wide receiver Christian Lunde from 10 yards out with an over-the-shoulder pass. Big plays by the Bulldogs continued to hold the Beavers’ down as UMD scored its fourth touchdown of the second half and third of the fourth quarter to take a 54-40 lead. Schmidt scored his second receiving touchdown of the day on a 44-yard catch and run to cut the lead to 54-47, but an onside kick attempt that went out of bounds ended the comeback attempt by the Beavers.
Holder and Schmidt both topped the 100-yard mark, Holder for the fourth time in his career and Schmidt for the first. Schmidt’s 167 yards is the most by a BSU receiver since Nov. 1, 2008.
No. 21 Bemidji State stays on the road Saturday, Oct. 29 as St. Cloud State University plays host. The Beavers play their final road game of the season at 1 p.m. from St. Cloud, Minn.
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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).