Bemidji State football team looks to keep running game strong in first trip to Upper Iowa

Brandon Miles rushes for a touchdown against Southwest Minnesota State. Pioneer Photo/Eric Stromgren

Even in a losing effort last week to defending national champion Minnesota-Duluth, the Bemidji State football team still managed to rush for 141 yards and pair of touchdowns.

BSU’s ability to run the ball has been a strong point on offense so far this season and the Beavers hope that trend continues Saturday on the road against Upper Iowa in the program’s first trip to Fayette. Game time is 1 p.m.

Bemidji State running back Brandon Miles attributed the success on the ground to a combination of factors.

“A lot of defenses prepare for Lance (Rongstad) because he’s a running quarterback, our linemen all have good experience and myself and (Dustin) Kroeplin offer variety in the running game,” Miles said. “He’s more of the power guy, I’m more of a scatback and the coaches have been able to mix that up pretty good. I think that’s why we’ve been pretty successful.”

The Beavers enter the week 3-1 overall (2-1 NSIC) and have one of the best rushing offenses in the conference. The Beavers rank third in the league in total rushing yardage (705) and rushing touchdowns (10).

Kroeplin is the team’s top rusher with 278 total yards, a 5.5 yards per carry average and has two touchdowns on the year. Rongstad has 216 yards and three touchdowns. Miles has 112 total yards and four touchdowns.

Miles, who tore his Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) in 2009, credits his numbers this year in part to a training program back home in Alaska where he spent the summer fishing.

“It took me a good year and a half to get it (knee) back to what it used to be,” Miles said. “I feel going home this summer helped me mentally and physically.”

The Beavers will be the favored team against Upper Iowa (2-2 overall, 1-2 NSIC), which has allowed 12 rushing touchdowns this season and are tied with Concordia-St. Paul for the most allowed in the league.

The Peacocks were routed on the road last week at Winona State last week 72-31. Upper Iowa played Minnesota-Duluth three weeks ago and lost 49-22.

UMD beat Bemidji State last week 26-23 at Chet Anderson Stadium to give the Beavers its first loss of the season.

“We’re ready to move on,” Bemidji State head coach Jeff Tesch said. “We’ve had a good week. Losing to Duluth is not the end of the world. But if we don’t rebound and go down and win against Upper Iowa because we’re still pouting about Duluth, that’s not very good.”

Tesch also talked about a few points of emphasis at practice this week. He said the defense is working to get off the field on third downs, which was a sore spot last week against the Bulldogs. Offensively the Beavers are eliminating some ineffective formations in the playbook.

BSU’s defense still has one of the top run-stopping units in the league despite last week’s loss. Only Augustana has given up fewer yards than Bemidji State’s 316 this season. The Beavers have allowed only three rushing touchdowns in conference play.

Bemidji State has yet to lose to Upper Iowa and lead the all-time series 3-0. The Beavers beat Upper Iowa 51-12 in the homecoming game last year at Chet Anderson Stadium.

Tesch said the team is looking forward to its first trip to Fayette and the Beavers have some local connections to the area. Offensive coordinator Eric Medberry began his coaching career at a high school in Cedar Rapids and assistant coach Brent Bolte began his coaching career in Dubuque.

BSU has included a barbecue hog roast in Iowa as part of their road trip plans.

“It’s going to be a fun weekend,” Tesch said.

Follow Eric Stromgren on Twitter at @estromgren and on Facebook.