No. 25 Beavers open 2017 slate Thursday at Warriors

No. 25 Beavers open 2017 slate Thursday at Warriors
Monday, August 28, 2017
No. 25 Beavers open 2017 slate Thursday at Warriors

BEMIDJI, Minn. -- Bemidji State University and Winona State University kick off the 2017 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football schedule at 6 p.m. Thursday, August 31 at Warrior Stadium in Winona, Minn. The Beavers enter the season with high expectations after winning their first postseason title in the 2016 Mineral Water Bowl.

The Series
Winona State leads the all-time series against Bemidji State, 44-30-1, including the most recent meeting Sept. 19, a 20-17 victory for the Warriors. The Beavers had won three of the five meetings prior to that, including a Thursday night season-opening road victory, 34-27 in overtime, Sept. 5, 2013 against the Warriors.

Head Coach Brent Bolte, in his second season as BSU’s head coach, is 9-3 since taking the reins of the program in 2016. He helped guide Bemidji State to a 45-17 upset over previously No. 6 ranked Minnesota State University Mankato, the program’s first national ranking since 2011 and BSU’s first-ever post-season victory.

The Teams
Bemidji State:
Expectations for the 2017 Beaver Football squad are sky-high coming off their first ever post-season victory in the 2016 Mineral Water Bowl and a No. 25 ranking in the American Football Coaches Assocation Top 25 Poll. Seven offensive and seven defensive starters from the Mineral Water Bowl against Washburn University will open the 2017 season in the starting lineup for Bemidji State against Winona State. A total of 14 starters and 46 letterwinners return from 2016, led by senior captains Alex Burgess (DE), Jordan Hein (QB), Jake Krause (OL) and Trysten Ross (LB). Hein and junior corner back Gunner Olszewski were each selected as the 2017 NSIC North Division Players of the Year, Hein as Co-Offensive and Olszewski as Defensive. Also returning are nine total players who were selected to the 2016 All-NSIC Team, four of which were also selected to the team in 2015.

Bemidji State’s high-scoring offense from a season ago is paced by six returners who contributed to the nation’s fourth-highest and the NSIC’s leading total at 45.6 points per game. The Beavers’ total offense of 523.6 yards per game also ranked fourth in the nation and second in the NSIC a season ago. The offensive unit set 14 single-season program records last season but see the replacement of three graduating lineman. Seniors Jake Krause and Brandon Schindler are the only two returners on the line while last year’s starting tight end Tucker Forsgren moves to left tackle. Sophomore Joe Woods takes over the starting right guard spot while junior transfer Parker Blakeslee controls the front of the line at center.

The “Gang Green” defense returns eight starters from last season, which ranked fourth in the conference allowing 24.4 points per game. The secondary led the league with 22 interceptions but see the loses of its two starting safeties. Senior Evan Tompkins and junior John Vogeler step into the starting roles while the Olszewski brothers of EJ and Gunner solidify the corner spots. The 2016 BSU secondary also held opposing quarterbacks to the NSIC’s second-lowest passing efficiency total at 112.6. Four of BSU’s five 2016 All-NSIC First Team selections came from the defensive side of the ball, including Gunner Olszewski who has earned the distinction for both of his seasons with the program.

Winona State: Winona State will have to replace three of the most prolific offensive stars in school history when the 2017 season gets underway against Bemidji State. Guard Jake Gronholz will lead a group of experienced offensive linemen, hoping to bring stability to an offense that needs to replace its starting running back, quarterback and leading receiver. The defense ranked first in scoring defense last season, allowing a league-low 17.6 points per game. They were also first in total defense, allowing 39 yards fewer than any team in the league. The defense will return seven starters from last season that finished second in the conference in passing defense and fifth in rushing defense.

Last year, WSU averaged 37.1 points per game, scoring 51 total touchdowns. The passing offense was responsible for 3,095 yards, sixth in the league. In 2017, the Warriors will look for a combination of returning veterans and emerging players to contribute to the team throughout the 2017 season.

The Warriors signed 27 newcomers for the upcoming season, including 14 players from Wisconsin, seven from Minnesota, four from Illinois and one from both Arizona and Illinois.

For more information on the Bemidji State athletic programs, tickets or schedules, visit BSUBeavers.com, follow the Beavers on Twitter (@BSUBeavers or @BSUBeaversFB), like them on Facebook (facebook.com/BSUBeavers or facebook.com/BSUBeaverFootball) or sign up for the TXTUpdates from BSUBeavers.com text-messaging system through the "Multimedia" pull down menu on the main page of BSUBeavers.com.

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).

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