MSU hopes to continue ground game success against Moorhead

For the first time all season, Minot State has found a prolific running game.

Freshman running back Ben Zahniser has done most of the heavy lifting, running for 375 yards on 40 carries in MSU’s last two games. This included a Minot State record 264 rushing yards in last week’s 38-30 win over Minnesota Crookston.

“All of last week we were emphasizing that we had to get our run game going,” Beavers center Logan Gunderson said. “We switched up how we were going to combo some of our blocks in practice, which led to some big holes in the game last week.”

MSU coach Tyler Hughes said senior running back Jarvis Mustipher — who had been the Beavers starter for most of the season until recently — has been instrumental in Zahniser’s development.

“We talk about in our meeting rooms how they’re supposed to be competing with each other, not against each other,” Hughes said. “You’re trying to push each other to be the best player you can possibly be. I think Jarvis takes ownership in that. The plan last week was to get Jarvis some more touches, but with Ben playing as well as he did Jarvis told our backs coach to let (Ben) get more touches. He definitely showed some leadership to take a step back and allowed Ben to continue that hot hand.”

The Beavers (2-6, 1-3 NSIC North) hope Zahniser and the offensive line can continue its newfound dominance in the run game when they take on Minnesota State Moorhead at 1 p.m. today in Moorhead.

Moorhead (4-4, 2-2) has allowed 28.3 points and 174.1 rushing yards per game entering today’s contest. MSUM is coming off a recent 47-16 thrashing of the University of Mary and has the league’s fourth-best passing defense (218.1). Meanwhile, MSU has the league’s top passing defense, limiting opposing offenses to 164.3 passing yards. Both defenses could create a “no-fly zone” for each offense.

“They’re a really disciplined team,” Hughes said. “It’s going to be really important to match that because they don’t make mistakes. We know it’s a tough matchup on the road against a good team that seems to get better and better every year.”

Garrick Hodge covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @Garrick_Hodge.