The Minot State University football team's experienced defense was too much for the young, depleted offensive unit during the Beavers' annual Red & White Spring Game on Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium.
The offensive squad scored just once in 16 drives during the controlled scrimmage. Quarterbacks were repeatedly pressured and sacked and the offense struggled to gain yardage on the ground.
"The defense was much better on first down than the offense was, without a doubt," MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. "I thought that played a big part. You're second-and-long or third-and-long early in the scrimmage, that's a defensive down."
Sophomore defensive back Cooper Helm (20) brings down junior wideout Josh Taylor on Saturday during the Minot State University spring scrimmage at Herb Parker Stadium. Taylor scored the lone offensive touchdown.
Senior linebacker Uepati Fatilua scored a touchdown when he stepped in front of a Zac Cunha pass and ran it about 30 yards into the end zone. The defense could have added another score when lineman Logan Jones forced a fumble with plenty of room to run, but the play was blown dead.
"As a defense, I thought we came out and did what we needed to do," Fatilua said. "We were physical and that's what we wanna do this year, we wanna be more physical."
The offense sustained a few drives during the second half of the scrimmage, with one resulting in a touchdown. Backup quarterback Matt Hanson hit junior wideout Josh Taylor on a 17-yard fade down the right sideline for the unit's only score.
Cunha led the offense on a long drive late, but the defense made a stand at the edge of the red zone. The sophomore signal-caller hit senior wideout Wayne Peters downfield with a well-placed ball for a big gain.
A couple plays later, Peters caught a short pass and made two defenders miss before gaining another first down.
"I think it was all mental," Cunha said of the offense's slow start. "We started executing on the skill guys. When I had time to throw the ball out there, it was good for us because we got great skill guys to do stuff in space."
The Beavers unveiled a new offensive formation in the scrimmage, with the quarterback in shotgun formation and flanked by three backs - one on each side and one behind. Rudolph said he doesn't know an official term for the alignment these days, though he jokingly noted it was referred to as the 'split-T' in the 1940s.
Just five healthy offensive linemen suited up for the Beavers, causing Rudolph to organize several goofy games to split up the action and give the blockers a rest. Among them: a punt, pass and kick competition, an apple stacking contest and an event where an offensive and defensive player each blew up balloons, then had to use the air in the balloon to push plastic cups off a table.
It was a lighthearted way to cap a month of organized practices for the Beavers. The players must now work out on their own in preparation for fall camp.
"We're gonna try to work out as players a few more times a week than last year," Cunha said. "We're gonna try to make a big jump this summer and hopefully get a lot better."