BEMIDJI, Minn. (Chet Anderson Stadium) -- The Axe is back where it belongs.
A 250-yard, three-touchdown day on the ground and a defensive effort that forced two fumbles and posted a season-best six sacks powered the Bemidji State University football team to a 38-13 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division victory over Minnesota State University, Moorhead today at Chet Anderson Stadium.
The win not only extended the Beavers’ home winning streak to seven games, it also put NCAA Division II’s second-oldest traveling trophy, the Battle Axe, back under the careful watch of BSU head coach Jeff Tesch.
The Beavers managed a 34-yard Jesse Sundby (So., Argyle, Minn.) field goal to cap an 11-play, 54-yard drive to open the game and although MSUM would collect three points in the closing moments of the first quarter to tie the game at 3-3, the home team would never trail.
The second quarter would prove to be key to the BSU triumph. The Beavers piled on 14 points in the first 4:08 of the stanza. In a possession that the Beavers carried over from the first, multi-talented offensive weapon Lance Rongstad (Fr., QB, Eleva, Wis.) engineered a 70-yard drive, rolling up 19 yards on three carries, while going 1-for-1 through the air, before Dustin Kroeplin (Fr., RB, Withee, Wis.) scampered 27 yards to give Bemidji State a seven-point cushion, 10-3.
Two plays later, Jordan Lardinois (Jr., DE, New Franken, Wis.) would pounce on a fumble and return it six yards to the Dragons’ nine yard line setting up a five-yard touchdown strike from Derek Edholm (Jr., QB, Anoka, Minn.) to junior wide out Andrew Schultz (Grand Forks, Minn.). The touchdown pass gave the Green and White a 17-3 advantage with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half.
After a sustained possession stalled out for each team, the Dragons marched the ball inside the Beavers’ 10 yard line during the final two minutes, but Rob Wills (Jr., DE, Roseville, Minn.) and George Percak-Dennett (So., LB, Wasilla, Alaska) teamed up for a quarterback sack to drive MSUM back to the 17 on second-and-goal and senior captain Jake Anderson (LB, Karlstad, Minn.) recorded one of his team-leading two sacks on the day to push the Dragons back to the 29 with just seconds to play. MSU Moorhead managed to get its field goal unit on the field and Jimmy Mattson drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired to reel the Beavers to within 11 points, 17-6, before the break.
The third quarter was all BSU. The Beavers piled up 160 yards and a pair of touchdowns on three drives in the quarter, while MSUM totaled just six yards and nine plays in its first three possessions.
Justin Lee (Fr., WR, Burlington, Ill.) pushed the BSU lead to 24-6 10-minutes into the half when he took an option reverse handoff from Edholm and peeled away from the defense for a 25-yard touchdown run--the first of his young career.
A quick three-and-out, an MSUM punt and a fair catch set the Beavers up with first down on their own 48 yard line. Rongstad would call his own number on the next play and it would pay off. He tucked the ball in on the option, turned the corner and left the Dragon defense in the dust dancing 52 yards down the home sideline for his second touchdown of 2009.
Up 31-6 with more than nine minutes to go, the Beavers assembled one last scoring drive to extend their lead to 38-6. Fueled by 24 rushing yards from Lee, the Beavers capped the drive when Edholm found his fullback Nate Solors (So., Elk River, Minn.) with a 13-yard touchdown pass. The scoring play would stand as the first trip to the end zone of Solors’ collegiate career.
Travis Davidson returned the ensuing kickoff 49 yards to set the Dragons up with a short field and just under five minutes to play. Thirty-five yards and 2:56 later, Matt Taffe plunged two yards into the end zone to bring the score to 38-13.
The Beavers rolled up 349 yards of total offense on the day to out gain MSUM 349-278. Thanks largely to six quarterback sacks, the BSU defense put the clamps on the Dragon running game to the tune of -11 yards--the Gang Green defense’s best performance against the run since it held Winona State University to -37 yards Oct. 21, 2006.
Kroeplin paced the Beavers’ ground game recording 98 yards and a score on 14 carries. Rongstad added 83 yards and a TD on six attempts and Lee posted a touchdown and 49 yards on four carries.
Edholm finished the day completing eight-of-11 passes for 78 yards and a pair of touchdowns. His favorite target Cameron Abram (So., WR, Brooklyn, Park, Minn.) hauled in three passes for 51 yards, while Solors caught two passes for 19 yards and a trip to the end zone.
The Beavers’ defensive effort was led by Charles Hrdlicka (Fr., CB, Frazee, Minn.) who totaled nine tackles (three solo). Anderson added eight stops (three solo), which included 3.5 tackles for loss and two sacks. Lardinois added five tackles (four solo) with four coming for a loss, two by way of quarterback sacks and he recovered a fumble.
The victory lifts BSU to 3-1 overall, to 2-1 in NSIC play with a 1-0 mark within the division. MSU Moorhead falls to 1-3 overall and remains winless in NSIC action (0-3).
The Beavers travel to Aberdeen, S.D. Sept. 26 to battle NSIC foe Northern State University. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. from Swisher Field.