Bemidji State football team defeats Minnesota-Crookston 31-12 to close out regular season, await postseason fate

The Bemidji State football team closed out the regular season with a 31-12 over Minnesota-Crookston Saturday afternoon at Ed Widseth Field.

The Beavers were effective on the ground and rushed for 377 yards, led by quarterback Lance Rongstad’s game-high 162 yards and two touchdowns. Running back Brandon Miles rushed for 103 yards and one touchdown, and wide receiver Justin Lee rushed for 81 yards.

Rongstad completed 5-of-9 passes for 52 yards and threw one interception.

BSU received key plays in the first half on special teams that denied Crookston points when Jake Schmidt blocked an extra point and Jermaine Harris blocked a field goal.

Richard Haley rushed for 136 yards and a touchdown. He also passed a 2-yard touchdown for the Golden Eagles (1-10 overall, 0-10 NSIC).

The Beavers retained the Highway 2 Hubcap traveling trophy and defeated UMC for the 13th straight meeting. BSU closes the season 8-3 overall, 7-3 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference play and 3-3 in the NSIC North Division.

BSU finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the final NSIC standings with Wayne State and Winona State.

BSU will now wait to see its postseason fate. The NCAA Tournament is a longshot for BSU but the Mineral Water Bowl is a possibility.

The Mineral Water Bowl pits the top teams from the NSIC and MIAA not to make the NCAA Tournament in a Dec. 3 game in Excelsior Springs, Mo.

MSU, Mankato, St. Cloud State and Minnesota-Duluth earned a share of the NSIC title with 8-2 conference records and all have chances at making the NCAA Tournament field.

If those teams make the tournament, the Mineral Water Bowl would likely choose between BSU, Wayne State or Winona State. The Beavers have one more win in overall play this season than those two teams.

Saturday’s game was a defensive struggle early on.

Haley scored on a 2-yard run with 4:03 left in the first quarter, but the point after kick was blocekd by Schmidt.

Bemidji State’s drives fizzled out early. Rongstad was intercepted in the first quarter and Brandon Miles fumbled the ball away on the first drive of the second quarter.

But the Beavers converted a turnover on Crookston’s following drive into points to take the lead for good.

BSU safety Brody Scheff intercepted A.J. Barge and Rongstad capped an eight-play drive on a 10-yard touchdown run through the middle of the field with 4:24 left in the second quarter to put the Beavers ahead 7-6.

The Beavers came up with its second key first half special teams play on Crookston’s next drive. A 15-play Golden Eagle drive ended when Harris blocked a 29-yard field goal to preserve the lead.

The Beavers carried the 7-6 lead into half time.

BSU pulled away in the second half by outscoring the Golden Eagles 24-6.

Haley connected with Ben Viaene on a 2-yard direct snap to running back touchdown pass with 3:15 left in the third quarter. The 2-point conversion attempt failed and the Beavers maintained a 14-12 lead.

BSU closed out the game in a 17-point fourth quarter starting with Zack Pulkinen’s 37-yard field goal to put the Beavers up 17-12.

Miles added insurance points on a 21-yard run with 9:14 to play to give the Beavers a 24-12 lead.

Rongstad’s biggest play of the day, a 74-yard run, set up Brent Kondziolka’s one-yard touchdown run with 2:10 remaining for the 31-12 lead.

Scoring Summary

BSU 0 7 7 17 – 31
UMC 6 0 6 0 – 12
First Quarter
UMC – Haley 2 run (Hayes kick blocked), 4:03.
Second quarter
BSU – Rongstad 10 run (Pulkinen kick), 4:24.
BSU – Rongstad 34 run (Pulkinen kick), 12:34.
Third quarter
UMC – Viaene 2 pass from Haley (Barge pass failed), 3:15.
Fourth quarter
BSU – Pulkinen 37 FG, 14:49.
BSU – Miles 21 run (Pulkinen kick), 9:14.
BSU – Kondziolka 1 run (Pulkinen kick), 2:10.

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