Dragons Fall at Bemidji State in "Battle for the Axe" Contest - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Dragons Fall at Bemidji State in "Battle for the Axe" Contest

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MSUM Athletics -

Minnesota State University Moorhead was within 21-19 in the fourth quarter but came up short against rival Bemidji State on Saturday, losing 35-25 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football at Chet Anderson Stadium in Bemidji, Minn.

In the annual Battle for the Axe between the two long-time foes, MSUM (1-9) gained a season-high 357 yards of total offense and battled hard against the team that shares the lead in the NSIC North Division.

Bemidji State (6-4) held a big advantage on the ground, outgaining MSUM 295-129 in rushing yards. MSUM held an advantage of 228-202 in passing yards, and more importantly, did not turn the ball over in the game.

Freshman quarterback Jake Hodge had one of his best games of his young career. He completed 11-of-17 passes for 155 yards, and also rushed for 67 yards on eight carries. He left the game late in the third quarter with an injury and did not return. MSUM also was without starting running back Brandon Schell, who did not make the trip without illness.

Freshman Zayne Medhaug rushed for 29 yards and two touchdowns for MSUM. Senior tight end Shawn Marlowe had 92 receiving yards on six catches, while freshman Adam Jiskra had five catches for 75 yards for the Dragons.

"It was a step in the right direction, especially offensively," MSUM head coach Steve Laqua said. "In the first half we did some things real well that allowed us to be in the game. Our third-down production was a lot better in the first half. We did a good job responding to the back-and-forth nature of the game."

Freshman safety Shea DeJong had 11 tackles, including one for loss, to lead the Dragon defense. Freshman linebacker Chris Lee had six tackles and a forced fumble, while sophomore linebacker Nick Seedorff had six tackles. Junior kicker Wes Kramer kicked two field goals for the Dragons as well.

The Dragons got off to a good start, going 71 yards on seven plays on their opening drive before finding the end zone. Two big plays were a 34-yard run by Hodge and an 18-yard pass from Hodge, which set up a 16-yard scoring run by Medhaug. With Kramer's extra point, MSUM led 7-0 with 10:51 left in the first quarter.

Bemidji State answered on its first possession with a touchdown pass, tying the game at 7-7. The Dragons' Chris Binford took the ensuing kickoff 47 yards, and with an offsides penalty on Bemidji, they had the ball at the Beaver 45-yard line.

An 18-yard pass from Hodge to Jiskra brought the Dragons to the 25-yard line but the drive stalled, and Kramer's 40-yard field goal attempt was blocked to end the threat.

The Dragon defense came up big after Bemidji drove inside the MSUM 15-yard line. The Dragons forced a field goal attempt by Zach Pulkinen, which was wide right, leaving the score at 7-7.

MSUM came back with a 14-play, 60-yard drive, which was capped off by a 37-yard field goal by Kramer, to regain the lead at 10-7 with 6:54 left in the first half. A big play was Bemidji State being whistled for too many men on the field on a Dragon punt attempt, which kept the drive alive. Hodge also rushed for a 14-yard scramble on the drive.

It didn't take long for Bemidji State to answer, as quarterback Lance Rongstad broke free for a 78-yard touchdown run to help the Beavers take a 14-10 lead with 4:39 left in the half.

Again, the Dragons answered. They drove 73 yards on 10 plays – keyed by a 23-yard pass from Hodge to Marlowe and a 21-yard pass from Hodge to Jiskra – capping off the drive with a 24-yard field goal by Kramer to bring MSUM within 14-13 with 22 seconds left in the first half.

"Our offensive line play took a step in the right direction," Laqua said. "Jake played one of his better games as far as delivering the ball on time and making plays with his feet. And Myles Montplaisir gave us some stability in the run game."

Montplaisir rushed for 39 yards on 10 carries and also caught two passes for 15 yards.

Midway through the third quarter, Bemidji State scored on a 14-yard touchdown run by Avery Walker to push the lead to 21-13. The Dragons came back with another solid drive – which was started by a 37-yard kick return by Binford – to climb within 21-19.

MSUM went 56 yards on 11 plays – sparked by a 27-yard pass from Hodge to Marlowe and a 13-yard scramble by Hodge (who left the game on that drive with an injury) – and scored on a fourth-and-goal run by Medhaug to close the gap to 21-19. The two-point conversion failed, however, leaving MSUM down 21-19 with 14:11 left.

"That was a great response," Laqua said of the scoring drive.

Bemidji State responded with a pivotal drive, however. The Beavers drove 77 yards on eight plays and scored on a 10-yard run by Justin Lee to make it 28-19 with 8:46 left.

MSUM forced another Bemidji missed field goal, and took over at its own 22-yard line. Freshman Ryan Toelle, in for the injured Hodge at quarterback, was sacked, leaving a fourth-and-22 at the Dragon 10-yard line. MSUM turned the ball over on downs, and Bemidji State scored two plays later to push the score to 35-19.

The Dragons found the end zone again late, thanks to a solid drive from Toelle, who was 5-of-6 for 58 yards. Toelle hit Jiskra on the final play of the game for a 9-yard touchdown, leaving the final score at 35-25.

Binford had an excellent game returning kicks for MSUM, averaging almost 30 yards per return.

The Dragons wrap up the 2012 season on Nov. 10 at home against St. Cloud State.

"It was good for us to get back on track and play good football," Laqua said. "We certainly can get better, and there are key plays for us to make to get the result in our favor. We made more plays than we did the week before. It was good, solid progress."

Steve d'Eustachio Stat of the Game: MSUM Moorhead and Bemidji State began their rivalry back in 1929 with the Dragons winning the first eight of nine games by a combined score of 199-26 (including five shutouts). The Beaver's only win during that stretch, and their first ever win against the Dragons, was 2-0 in 1933.
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