The Minot State University football team opens its second Division II season still seeking its first win against a South Division opponent in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
MSU's first opportunity to improve that 0-4 record comes with an 11 a.m. kickoff today at Concordia-St. Paul (Minn.), a team that returns nine starters on each side of the ball.
Third-year C-SP coach Ryan Williams said his team had a solid fall camp and is looking to improve on its 2-9 record in 2012.
Minot State University sophomore cornerback Cooper Helm, left, closes in on running back Randel Barber during an August practice at Herb Parker Stadium.
"We're a better football team," Williams said. "We just gotta get out and prove it on a Saturday."
The Beavers are looking to get back to the routine of game day following the arrests of five players on Aug. 30, which led the dismissal of one player charged with attempted murder and the suspension of the other four charged with misdemeanor drug offenses. MSU's players were off-limits to the media this week and head coach Paul Rudolph refused to schedule an interview with The Minot Daily News for this story.
The Golden Bears were picked to finish 10th in the NSIC Preseason Coaches Poll, while MSU was chosen 14th out of 16 teams.
The Beavers' inexperienced offensive line - which lost three starters from last season - will have its hands full with C-SP junior defensive end Zach Moore. Moore led the NSIC with 14 sacks and 21 tackles for loss in an All-American campaign in 2012 and was tabbed as the 2013 NSIC Preseason Defensive Player of the Year. Williams described the 6-foot-6, 282-pounder as "a dominant force."
"He's a very athletic, physical defensive end," Williams said. "He can rush the passer and he's improved his ability to be dominant in the running game.
"After 11 games, it wouldn't surprise me at all if he's the defensive player of the year. I hope he is; that would mean good things for us."
MSU sophomore quarterback Zac Cunha said early in fall camp that he's more comfortable with the offense and his receivers this season. Senior Wayne Peters and sophomore Porter Sturm each caught 39 balls last season, but whether Cunha has time to find them will depend largely on whether the offensive line can handle Moore and the Golden Bears' front seven. C-SP returns its entire starting defensive line and linebacking corps.
Williams said experience will be pretty even on the defensive side of the ball as MSU returns most of the contributors from last season's unit.
"For us, it starts and ends with the same things that we've been preaching for the last nine months," Williams said. "If we're gonna win the football game, we've gotta be great on defense and stop the run. We need to run the ball and we have to make special teams a priority. We need all three phases to contribute."
Daniel Allar reports on Minot State University athletics and assists with high school coverage. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.