MSU football finding its stride

Van Winkle, Bolinske, Goudeau shine in scrimmage Saturday

Garrick Hodge/MDN Minot State coach Mike Aldrich addresses his team following a scrimmage Saturday at the MSU Air-Supported Dome in Minot.

When the Minot State football team began its scrimmage on Saturday, it did so with only one running back available: Hayden Van Winkle.

With Lucas Butts sidelined, coach Mike Aldrich knew the amount of reps the Beavers got in at the MSU Air-Supported Dome would depend solely on Van Winkle’s stamina.

“As soon as he was ready to tap out, we would have called the scrimmage,” Aldrich said. “Last week, he cramped up, so we were done. That’s how we managed that one.”

Depth issues aside, Van Winkle ran with the first, second and third-team offenses in a practice that lasted nearly two hours.

“It’s adversity, but as an athlete, that’s what you thrive off of,” Van Winkle said of being the lone tailback.

Garrick Hodge/MDN MSU quarterback Andy Jones, right, takes off in an attempt to convert a first down.

After running for 236 yards on 74 carries as a true freshman last season, the Bozeman, Mont., native’s swiftness was on display for a majority of the afternoon. Van Winkle broke off first down runs on various situations, but the offensive highlight of the day was on the team’s final play. He scampered for nearly 70 yards on a run that involved changing direction several times, dodging a few would-be tacklers and finding the end zone for the Beavers.

“That’s always been my style. I love getting out in the open and outrunning people,” Van Winkle said. “I’ve tried to get better at becoming a hard runner and hitting people, but I’ve always known I’ve had the ability to do that.”

To take pressure off Van Winkle, MSU showed a lot of empty sets and called designed quarterback runs and run-pass option plays.

“I wouldn’t say we’ll do as much designed quarterback runs unless it’s in a read-option, but that’s the hand we’ve been dealt with one running back,” Aldrich said. “So, running designed quarterback runs and empty sets is one way to take a workload off him. With the skill we have at quarterback anyway, we’re going to have to able to run with them. That’s why we went live with them, so they can get used to getting tackled.”

Minot native Ben Bolinske had the best performance of the four quarterbacks on MSU’s roster in terms of using his legs. Bolinske shined in a red-zone drill, running two straight designed quarterback runs for significant gains and then called his own number yet again for a one-yard touchdown run.

Garrick Hodge/MDN MSU defensive linemen, left, make pre-snap shifts.

“The run before the touchdown on 3rd-and-6, he was able to make a nice cut to set up his block,” Aldrich said. “He got it down to the 1-yard line, if there was real officials out here, maybe it would have been a touchdown, I don’t know. I always try to keep our offense short of anything extra, just to make them orney at me if nothing else.

For a sophomore quarterback trying his best to unseat senior Andy Jones as the starter in the fall, a performance like this was necessary.

“Ben is getting a really good feel for when he should go, put the ball down and take off,” Aldrich said. “He’s coming along much better with his reads. These weren’t even his biggest runs of this spring, he’s had better runs in our other scrimmages that probably would have been 80-yard to the house kind of runs.”

Both Bolinske and Jones had several completions on slants and posts in the middle of the field, but a severely underthrown fly route from Jones opened the door for senior cornerback Kiante Goudeau to pick up where he left off in the regular season finale.

Goudeau cut in front of the pass intended for junior wideout Lavante Bushnell and returned the interception 30 yards for the defense’s most impactful play of the scrimmage.

“That’s just what I do,” Goudeau said. “I try to pick off everything in every practice. That’s the goal. I’m trying to take the younger guys under my wing and let them know we can do big things this year. This secondary is a very exciting group, it’s a bunch of young, talented guys, man.”

MSU resumes practice this week and concludes with the spring game on April 25.

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