Minot State University's first football gameday as a full NCAA Division II member has finally arrived.
MSU plays Minnesota State University-Mankato at 6 tonight at Herb Parker Stadium, but the Beavers are downplaying the historical significance of their first game in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference and as a full NCAA member.
"In the NSIC, yeah, it's our first game but it's just another game for us, especially the guys who have been here for a while," junior defensive lineman Josh Zimmer said. "For the new guys, it's their first chance to play in a big-time college game. We're looking to put on a show not only for the fans, but to show the conference that this team is gonna be able to compete at a very high level for years to come."
Minot State University sophomore quarterback Bryce Jorgenson throws the ball in front of linemen Ade Sobande (60) and Sergio Magana during practice Monday at Herb Parker Stadium. Jorgenson will start at QB in the Beavers’ home opener today against Minnesota State University-Mankato.
The Beavers have an opportunity to gain immediate respect in the conference as Mankato is a perennial frontrunner. The Mavericks lost just seven seniors from a 9-3 team last season and were picked third in the 16-team NSIC preseason coaches' poll.
"That'll just add to the fun, actually, seeing where we match up right away," said sophomore Bryce Jorgenson, who will start at quarterback. "There's not any soft teams in the conference, but it's better to get that tough matchup right away and see how our summer's been, how our fall camp's been, see how prepared we are for the rest of the season."
Jorgenson earned the starting nod over classmate C.J. Evans and true freshman Zac Cunha due to his consistency throughout fall camp, MSU coach Paul Rudolph said.
"Without question we're gonna see how it shakes out, but he's earned the right to be the first man out," Rudolph said. "Hopefully he performs well and he goes and gets it and concentrates hard and leads us, protects the ball and completes the balls he needs to, and then we don't have to make a switch. That's the goal."
Jorgenson expects to be tested by a stout defense led by junior lineman Chris Schaudt and senior linebacker Marcus Hall-Oliver, both of whom were first-team all-NSIC South Division picks in 2011.
"They really like to focus on the run, make you throw the ball around ... and just play football with a we're-better-than-you attitude," Jorgenson said. "We're gonna have to run the ball and keep hittin' the open receivers and let our big-time receivers make their plays."
Aaron Keen is the Mavericks' acting head coach while Todd Hoffner is on leave after his arrest on two counts of child pornography. Still, the Mavericks will be the heavy favorite as the Beavers were picked 14th in the NSIC preseason poll.
"When you're picked 14th or 15th in the league, I don't know that we could say we got a matchup on anybody according to these experts," Rudolph said. "I think we're gonna be a lot better than they think, but we'll see."