Experience wins out

QB battle: Senior Andy Jones starting Week 1 for MSU football

Alex Eisen/MDN Minot State senior quarterback Andy Jones will start this evening against Minnesota Duluth in the Beavers' season opener at Herb Parker Stadium.

The last time Andy Jones was given the reigns to be the starting quarterback for a college football team was five years ago.

The wide-eyed sophomore started every game during the 2013 season for Southern Virginia University, a Division III program in Buena Vista, Virginia.

The Salt Lake City, Utah, native then disappeared out of the spotlight for three seasons.

Jones eventually found himself at Minot State University in 2016. He was given a redshirt to start and then saw limited playing action in six games last season behind six-year senior Zac Cunha.

Jones, now a senior seasoned veteran himself, will get another crack at taking snaps in his farewell season.

Jones beat out sophomore Ben Bolinske, a former Minot High School All-State quarterback and University of North Dakota transfer, for the starting gig.

Yet, nothing is set in stone.

“Andy Jones is going to start the game for us, but Ben Bolinske is going to play a lot,” MSU head coach Mike Aldrich said. “The competition was so tight from the spring and all the way through the fall camp that there still hasn’t been a true, definitive separation. So, they are both going to get an opportunity in the game to show what they can do.”

In large part because of his experience, Jones was named MSU’s starting quarterback for the Beavers’ season opener this evening against Minnesota Duluth.

“Andy (Jones) has a lot of experience and his overall grasp of what we are doing offensively really propelled him to be our Day 1 starter,” Aldrich said. “Ben (Bolinske) is right there and he is pretty electric. They both run the same offense for us and can do it successfully. We have seen glimpses of Ben being a home run hitter for us and he will get comfortable in the system, but Andy is the most comfortable back there right now.”

Aldrich admits he doesn’t have any set plays or a specific number of series in mind for each quarterback, but insisted that both will receive “a lot of playing time” and will be evaluated from that.

“The quarterback battle was really tough and Ben (Bolinske) is a great competitor,” Jones said. “We pushed each other, so it was a lot of fun. Coach named me the starter for Week 1 and obviously I’m excited for that. My heart goes out to Ben, like he is still going to be playing and he is a big player on this team. A special player. We will be sharing the role a little bit.”

Bolinske offered his support of Jones and has accepted his role as the semi-backup quarterback.

“I’m disappointed, obviously, but I’m happy for Andy (Jones),” Bolinske said. “He worked his butt off all summer, he deserves his opportunity and that’s what he has got… I’m the backup quarterback and if Andy goes down or something happens, then I’m the guy. Even if his helmet falls off, I have to be ready. Every single play that is called, I have to run through it in my head. Mental reps are just as important as actually reps a lot of the times. I just have to stay mentally prepared and wait for my chance.”

Bolinske played with the idea of moving out to wide receiver last season when he lost the starting job to Cunha, but was adamant that he plans to stick with being a quarterback this year.

“I’m set on being a quarterback, if that’s what they want me to do,” Bolinske said.

Jones had some success last season when running the ball against Minnesota Duluth. He racked up a season-high 65 rushing yards on six carries. Passing the ball, Jones went 4-for-11 for 48 yards and threw an interception.

“Last year, the most production we had in the game (against Duluth) was when we brought Andy (Jones) in and started going more with our running offense with our quarterback,” Aldrich said. “That was something that was good for us then and that’s kind of who we have become.”

The experience of Jones and the explosiveness of Bolinske will attempt to avoid being shut out by Minnesota Duluth in back-to-back seasons. The Bulldogs blanked the Beavers 37-0 last season.

Kickoff is at 6:30 p.m. this evening at Herb Parker Stadium.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.