The University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs are ranked No. 2 in the nation for a reason. Its athletic, pound the ball down your throat offense and no-mercy defense combine for a pigskin powerhouse destined to go deep in the post-season. The rabid Bulldogs showed Bemidji State that animal control has no chance of containing the beast Saturday at Malosky Stadium in Duluth, downing BSU 44-21 in a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference contest. The game opened NSIC North play for both squads.
The Beavers (2-2, 1-2 NSIC, 0-1 NSIC North) started the game exactly how they didn’t want to, fumbling the opening drive and giving the No. 4 scoring offense in the country the ball in BSU territory at the 31 yard line. Five plays later the Bulldogs (4-0, 3-0 NSIC, 1-0 NSIC North) were up 7-0. UMD would reach the end zone two more times in the first half, missing one extra point, before Bemidji State got on the board.
Starting on its own 30 and the clock reading just under four minutes, BSU put together a 10 play, 70 yard touchdown drive. The march down field ended with a touchdown pass from senior quarterback Derek Edholm (Anoka, Minn.) to sophomore Lance Rongstad (QB, Eleva, Wis.), who made something out of nothing on third and 10 from just outside the 10, using his speed, agility and shear force to break the plane of the goal line. The score was the first receiving touchdown by Rongstad in his young career as a Beaver.
The touchdown gave BSU some momentum but a personal foul penalty on the ensuing kickoff gave UMD’s high-powered offense the ball on its 40 with just 15 seconds left. On second down, UMD quarterback Chase Vogler scampered for a 28 yard gain that put the Bulldogs in field goal range. The 34 yard attempt went through the uprights and the Bulldogs took a 23-7 halftime lead.
What was a manageable deficit heading into the locker room, quickly turned into a rout by the home team as UMD found the end zone in its first three possessions of the quarter. The last score coming after a second BSU fumble.
Down 44-7 after three periods of play, the Beavers had nothing to lose and pulled a little trick play out of their pockets. After driving the ball down to the Bulldog 17 yard line, Edholm handed the ball off to junior wideout Justin Lee (Elgin, Ill.) on a reverse. With the UMD defense fooled, Lee lined-up his fingers on the laces of the football and threw it to a wide-open Andrew Schultz (Sr., WR, Grand Forks, N.D.) in the end zone. The score was the first for Schultz on the season and the first throwing touchdown for Lee in his career at BSU.
After coughing up the football for the third time in the game on the first play of a drive, BSU’s defense was forced to re-take the field. After UMD moved the ball down to BSU’s 33, the Beavers created a turnover of their own, popping the ball out of running back Jon Lynch’s hands and junior linebacker Luke Knutson (Bagley, Minn.) picked-up the ball and returned it 67 yards for a touchdown, dancing into the end zone for his first touchdown in the green and white, making the score 44-21 with 5:53 showing on the game clock. Knutson was able to score the touchdown thanks in part to the effort of 6-3, 253 pound defensive end Jordan Lardinois (New Fraken, Wis.) with a block down field.
“Any time you face a team like that you just have to go out there and give it 110 percent,” Knutson said. “The ball popped out in front of me and I did like coach always says, ‘scoop and run’.”
Edholm went 15-for-24 for 177 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore Dustin Kroeplin (RB, Withee, Wis.) was the top rusher for a BSU team that gained just 50 yards on the ground, gaining 44 yards. Sophomore tight end Brain Leonhardt (Blaine, Minn.) finally emerged as a receiving threat in the game after leading the team in reception yards in 2009, gaining 76 yards on five catches. He had totalled just 44 yards on four receptions entering the game. On defense, senior linebacker Andrew Eagan (Sauk Village, Ill.) led the team in tackles with eight (two solo), while three other players tallied seven.
UMD gained 477 yards of offense and converted 22 first downs, including 235 rushing yards against the No. 2 rush defense in the nation. The yards on the ground matched the Bulldogs’ output in last season’s game in Bemidji. BSU was able to hold Isaac Odim to under 100 yards for the first time in three meetings, as he gained 79 yards and scored once. BSU had 244 total yards with 12 first downs.
The Beavers host Upper Iowa University Oct. 2 for their annual homecoming contest. The game begins at 1 p.m. at the Chet Anderson Stadium.
Notes: BSU had given up zero rushing touchdowns heading into the contest, but allowed two rushing touchdowns to the No. 11 rushing team in the nation…The Beavers had also kept their opponents scoreless in the second half, but the Bulldogs ended that streak with 21 points in the third quarter…UMD is now 39-10-1 all-time against BSU, owning a 19-1 advantage at home…By scoring 21 points, the Beavers scored the post points against the Bulldogs this season.