BEMIDJI, Minn. – The NSIC North Division race heats up as Bemidji State University (6-3, 5-0 NSIC North) hosts University of Minnesota Duluth (6-3, 4-1 NSIC North) Saturday at 1 p.m. in Chet Anderson Stadium. The Beavers have won six straight games, a program record, while the Bulldogs fell out of the AFCA Top 25 Poll for the first time since 2007 after a loss to Northern State University.
The Beavers come off a milestone 32-7 win at Minot State while tying a program-record six straight victories. The last time BSU won six straight games was during the 1941 season, opening 6-0 and outscoring opponents 124-0. Bemidji State ran for 240 yards on the ground while adding three touchdowns against Minot State. Senior running back Tony Peterson set a career-high 106 rushing yards while scoring a touchdown on his first carry of the day. Defensive back Gunner Olszewski earned NSIC Defensive Player of the Week honors for grabbing a conference single-game-high three interceptions.
The Bulldogs dropped out of the AFCA Top 25 Poll for the first time since 2007 after falling to Northern State, 23-15. UMD fell behind 20-7 at halftime, a deficit it could not overcome in the second half while scoring just eight second-half points. The Bulldogs gave the ball away with five turnovers and totaled 279 offensive yards, 223 coming on the ground. Quarterback Drew Bauer led the way with 111 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries.
BSU and UMD meet for the 55th time in which the Bulldogs lead, 43-10-1. UMD has won the last 13 games in the series, dating back to Oct. 21, 2000. Quarterback Jordan Hein connected with receiver Jordan Noskowiak for a touchdown in the most recent matchup, a 38-10 win by UMD (ranked No. 2 at the time) Oct. 25, 2014 in Duluth, Minn. Though the Beavers haven’t scored above 30 points since Oct. 24, 2009 in a 35-34 loss, this year’s squad is averaging 32.2 points per game while allowing just 19.1.
Head Coach Jeff Tesch, now in his 20th season at BSU, is 2-15 against Minnesota Duluth. The Beavers have averaged 20 points per game in Tesch’s time as head coach while allowing 35.5 per game. Tesch earned his 125th career victory last week while also reaching 100 career victories against NSIC opponents.
Bemidji State: Bemidji State has found a resurgance in its running game, totaling over 200 yards on the ground in each of its six consecutive wins. The streak is the longest for BSU in Tesch’s reign with the team. The Beavers rank fifth in the NSIC with 201 rushing yards per game while ranking sixth in scoring offense with 32.2 points per game. Hein ranks in the top 10 in the NSIC in passing yards per game (212.1), passing effeciency (136.2), passing touchdowns (27), completion percentage (59.2%) and interceptions (3).
On the defensive side of the ball, senior linebacker and 2014 All-NSIC Second Team pick Colton Blascyk shoulders the load for an inexperienced Gang Green defense, which lost eight regular starters from 2014. He is currently second on the team in tackles with 70, including 7.0 tackles for a loss and a team-high four sacks. Freshman cornerback Gunner Olszewski has not let his inexperience affect him, as he leads the team with 71 tackles while recording six interceptions (three shy of a BSU single-season record) and one forced fumble. Junior Damon Benham ranks third in tackles with 55, while recording three interceptions, eight pass break-ups, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble.
Minnesota Duluth: UMD features the fourth ranked scoring offense in the NSIC with 36.8 points per game. The defense ranks second in scoring defense while allowing 18.6 points per game. The Bulldogs rank first in rushing offense with 252.2 yards per game.
Bauer ranks sixth in the NSIC in rushing yards, averaging 73.4 yards per game and 4.5 per carry, and ranks ninth in passing yards, averaging 184.2 per game. He ranks eighth in total yards per game with 257.7, one spot behind Beavers quarterback Jordan Hein with 273.4. Wide receiver/running back Beau Bofferding leads the team in touchdowns with 10, seven receiving and three rushing. Linebacker Beau Bates leads the team in tackles and ranks 28th in the NSIC with 58. Defensive back Darion Fletcher leads the NSIC in pass break-ups with 16.
A Glance Ahead
Bemidji State travels to Northern State to wrap up the 2015 regular season. Week 10 results will set up a potential showdown for the NSIC North Division title, as NSU sits in second in the division with a 5-0 NSIC North record. The Beavers and Wolves kickoff at 1 p.m. at Clark Swisher Field.
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).