Here’s my story from Saturday’s Pioneer.
The Bemidji State football team has plenty of motivation for today’s 1 p.m. homecoming game against Upper Iowa at Chet Anderson Stadium.
There’s an opportunity to bounce back after last week’s 44-21 loss to Minnesota-Duluth, move back to the .500 mark in conference play and avenge last year’s homecoming loss to St. Cloud State.
Senior defensive end Rob Wills is motivated by sharing a Beaver football homecoming tradition with new university president Richard Hanson.
“The whole team is dying to get into that lake and jump in there,” Wills said after Thursday’s practice. “Plus, with the president saying he’s going to jump into the lake with us and sing the Beaver (fight) song with us – we’re going to strive to make that happen.”
The only way to participate in the tradition is with a victory, so the Beavers (2-2 overall, 1-2 NSIC) will need to defeat winless Upper Iowa University (0-4 overall, 0-3 NSIC) under first year head coach Tom Shea to jump into the waters of Lake Bemidji.
Upper Iowa joined the NSIC in 2005 and competes in football in the NSIC South Division. This marks the first meeting between the two teams since 2007, a 56-28 BSU win at the Metrodome.
Bemidji State is coming off the loss to No. 2 ranked Minnesota-Duluth. It was an understandable loss against a high-powered Bulldogs squad, but there were areas the Beavers were disappointed with.
The offense has yet to put together a consistent game comparable to what was shown last season and the inconsistency continued against the Bulldogs.
“We had some more miscues early that we just have to take care of, we’ve got to take care of the football better…we’ve just have to get everything wrapped up and play more together,” Bemidji State quarterback Derek Edholm said.
The offense’s job was made more difficult last week with some injuries to key players. Starting linemen Davis Mickelson and Jordan Anderson were unable to play. Utility man and backup quarterback Lance Rongstad scored a touchdown before half against the Bulldogs, but he did not play in the second half due to an ankle injury.
The status of all three players is uncertain heading into the homecoming game.
Edholm, who is BSU’s all-time leader in career completions, feels positive about the direction of the offense despite the recent struggles.
“We’ve had a good week of practice and we’ve had some extra emphasis on hustling around and taking care of the football,” Edholm said. “I think this is the week we come out of our shell so to speak and really start clicking and executing and putting up the points we are supposed to.”
If the offense can match what the defense has been able to put together to this point, the Beavers will be a challenge for any team left on the schedule this season.
The BSU defense is ranked highly in a handful of NCAA stat categories including: rush defense (15th), sacks (22nd), tackles for a loss (39), total defense (4th) and scoring defense (5th).
Even with the blowout loss to the Bulldogs, BSU’s defense is limiting opponents to an average of 18.8 points per game.
Bemidji State will go back out on the road for two weeks following the homecoming game (Concordia-St. Paul, MSU, Moorhead), but will return to Bemidji to play three of the final four games of the season at Chet Anderson Stadium.
My Week 6 NSIC Picks
For the second straight week, I went 5-1 in my NSIC football game predictions. The one loss was a definite upset as heavy underdog Concordia-St. Paul upset 2009 NCAA participant Minnesota State Mankato 28-26.
That sets up an interesting NSIC South showdown between the Golden Bears and Augustana.
This week’s games (My winning picks in green):
Augustana at Concordia-St. Paul
Minnesota-Duluth at Moorhead
Crookston at U-Mary
St. Cloud State at Northern State
Mankato at Winona State
Upper Iowa at Bemidji State, abstain
Last week: 5-1