BEMIDJI, Minn. – In the final week of the regular season, Bemidji State University and Northern State University play with hopes of winning the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division title. The Beavers (6-4, 5-1 NSIC North) can create a three-way tie for the division title with a win versus the Wolves (6-4, 6-0 NSIC North) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Clark Swisher Field in Aberdeen, S.D.
Bemidji State lost its first game since Sept. 19 last week, 14-9, while hosting University of Minnesota Duluth. After allowing touchdowns to the Bulldogs on their first two possessions, the Beavers “Gang Green” defense did not allow another point during the final 10 drives by UMD. BSU forced two turnovers, scoring off each. Quarterback Jordan Hein put a quarterback sneak into the end zone from one yard out while kicker Isaac Aanerud connected on a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to pull the team within five points. The Bulldogs held the Beavers to 181 total yards of offense while forcing two turnovers.
Northern State continued its undefeated run in the NSIC North while taking a 31-24 win over St. Cloud State University. NSU allowed three unanswered scores to enter the fourth quarter down, 24-17. Quarterback Kyle Lavand threw two touchdowns in the final quarter to keep the Wolves’ six-game win streak alive after starting the season 0-4. Lavand finished the day with four passing touchdowns and 282 yards. Wide receiver Tyrell Anderson led the receiving corps with seven catches for 75 yards and one touchdown.
BSU and NSU meet for the 39th time in series history. The Wolves lead the series by one game, 19-18-1. After a six-game win streak by BSU from 2005-2010, NSU has won three of the last four matchups, including a 48-41 win in the most recent meeting Nov. 15, 2014 in Bemidji, Minn. The Beavers trailed by as many as 28 points before cutting the deficit to just seven in the fourth quarter. Junior wide receiver Jordan Noskowiak caught two fourth-quarter touchdowns from freshman quarterback Jordan Hein as the comeback attempt fell just short.
Head Coach Jeff Tesch, now in his 20th season at BSU, is 12-7 against Northern State. The Beavers have averaged 28.3 points per game against the Wolves in Tesch’s time as head coach while allowing 28.6 per game.
Bemidji State: Bemidji State has found a resurgence in its running game, totaling over 200 yards on the ground during its six-game win streak. The streak is the longest for BSU in Tesch’s reign with the team. The Beavers rank fifth in the NSIC with 185.5 rushing yards per game while ranking third in rushing defense with 117.9 yards allowed per game. Hein ranks in the top 10 in the NSIC in passing yards per game (7th, 204.4), passing efficiency (10th, 128.8), passing touchdowns (6th, 19), completion percentage (10th, 57.4%) and interceptions (3rd, 4).
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 currently leads the team in tackles with 78, 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 is second on the team with 77 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.
Northern State: NSU ranks ninth in the NSIC in scoring offense with 29.2 points per game while ranking fourth in scoring defense with 20.6 points allowed per game. Northern State has allowed the fifth fewest passing yards per game with 212.5 and the 11th fewest rushing yards per game with 177.
Lavand leads the Wolves’ offense while ranking 10th in the NSIC in passing yards per game (181.9), ninth in passing touchdowns (16) and ninth in completion percentage (57.9). Nicholas Truen leads the team in rushing yards per game (64.2), which ranks 12th in the NSIC. Linebacker Devin Olson ranks first on the team and 13th in the NSIC in tackles (79) while also recording 8.0 tackles for a loss of 55 yards. Defensive back Channing Barber has totaled a conference-leading 22 pass break-ups, including five interceptions. The interception total ranks him third in the NSIC, one shy of BSU’s Olszewski.
A Glance Ahead
A win by Bemidji State would create a three-way tie between BSU, NSU and UMD with NSIC North records at 6-1. If Northern State pulls out a win, it would gain sole bragging rights for the division title. Northern State defeated Minnesota Duluth, 23-15, Oct. 31 at Clark Swisher Field for UMD’s first division loss of the season. Minnesota Duluth followed by handing Bemidji State its first division loss, setting Northern State as the lone undefeated division team entering the final week of play.
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).