Sinani's Record-Setting Day Propels Dragon Football Team Past Minot State, 49-20
A record setting day from junior quarterback Jakup Sinani helped the Minnesota State University Moorhead football team earn a 49-20 road win over Minot State in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference action Saturday in Minot, N.D.
MSUM improved to 5-4 overall and 4-1 in the NSIC North with its second straight win while Minot State fell to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the north.
Sinani set a school record with 513 passing yards, breaking the previous mark of 507 set by Demetrius Carr set vs. Northern State in 2016. Sinani also set a school record for completions with 40, hitting 40-of-51 attempts for 513 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. The team total of 513 passing yards is also a school record. It was Sinani's first start and action since Week 3 vs. Northern State, as he has missed time with an injury.
"I don't know if I can say enough good things about how he played," MSUM head coach Steve Laqua said. "Being out six weeks, he stayed sharp mentally. To be able to come back and be able after six weeks and not be rusty says a lot of about the type of engagement he had."
Two Dragon receivers had big days, including junior Jake Richter, who caught 10 passes for 207 yards and a score. Freshman Ryan Bieberdorf had 13 catches for 153 yards, both career highs, along with a score. Sophomore receiver Ryan Harvey-Turner had three catches for 40 yards and a score while freshman fullback Hayden Boll hauled in a touchdown.
"The offensive line did a great job creating a lot of time for Jake to get through his read professions and find the open players," Laqua said. "It was a great job by our receivers finding space."
Junior running back Ty Jochim rushed for 82 yards and two scores on 12 carries. MSUM outgained Minot State 581-292.
Senior cornerback Deiondre Taylor had 13 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown in the final seconds. He had two tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Matt Schoh had 11 tackles and a sack.
The teams exchanged punts to start the game before MSUM's passing game got rolling. On the drive, Sinani hit Bieberdorf for catches from 18 and 34 yards out, and added a 27-yard completion to senior receiver Zach Sweep, which set up Sinani's 1-yard pass to Boll. With the extra point, the game was 7-0.
On the next Dragon possession, Jochim broke free from 42 yards out to push the score to 14-0 as the second quarter commenced.
The defense forced another punt and Sinani went back to work. He went 6-of-7 passing for 80 yards — keyed by two 19-yard passes to Bieberdorf and a 17-yarder to Richter — to set up his touchdown pass from 12 yards out to Harvey-Turner. With junior Hobet Diaz's extra point, MSUM led 21-0 with 8:05 left in the first half.
Minot got on the board to cut the lead to 21-7, but the Dragons moved through the air again as Sinani connected with Richter three times for 64 yards, setting up Jochim's 2-yard run on fourth and goal.
The fifth touchdown of the half came as Bieberdorf hauled in a 7-yard pass from Sinani with 39 seconds left to push the lead to 35-7 at half.
"I was really proud of the way we came out and set the tone in the first half," Laqua said. "The offense and defense were both clicking. We have to get better play out of our special teams moving forward."
Minot State went on a 16-play, 90-yard drive in the third quarter to cut the lead to 35-14. The Beavers added a field goal off of a Dragon turnover to cut the lead to 35-17.
Sinani answered again, connecting with Richter for a 73-yard score to push the Dragon lead back to 42-17. Minot added a fourth-quarter field goal and Taylor's interception return for a score wrapped up the fourth quarter scoring.
MSUM returns home to face Bemidji State in the Battle for the Axe on Saturday, Nov. 9. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. at Scheels Field.
Steve d'Eustachio Stat of the Game: Today was the Dragons' fifth straight win in Minot. The last time the Beavers beat the Dragons in Minot was when the Beavers bested the Dragons 28-12 on Sept. 7, 1974. The Dragons suffered that season-opening loss at Minot and would finish 4-5 which would turn out to be only one of three losing seasons for the Dragons under Ross Fortier in his 23 seasons as Dragon's head coach.