Huskies escape late
Increasing the lead to 23-9 with 9:57 left in the third quarter after a 2-yard rushing touchdown by sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske, the Minot State football team looked like they had found a time machine and managed to restore the mojo they had a year ago when the Beavers stunned St. Cloud State on the road, 23-13.
The Huskies (7-3 overall), after a sub-par first half, decided they weren’t going to let that happen again. St. Cloud State put up 21 unanswered points in a span of 14 minutes to spoil the Beavers (1-9 overall) upset bid and Senior Day with a 30-23 victory Saturday afternoon at Herb Parker Stadium.
“There is no moral victories in a close loss,” MSU head coach Mike Aldrich said. “But, we did a lot of really good things. Once we took that two touchdown lead, I got really worried because I felt the personality of our team. And what we ended up doing was hitting the panic button. We made a lot of mistakes that were unnecessary, but we have 18-year-olds who panic because we haven’t been in that position before. We got to be able to learn from this and grow.”
Junior kicker JoseLuis Moreno put Minot State in the lead with a 37-yard field goal that was kicked into the wind and the snow flurries. It marked the first time MSU had held the lead in a game since beating the University of Mary in Week 3.
The Beavers, however, lost running back Lane Torgerson for the rest of the game during that drive. The junior walked off nursing his shoulder after landing hard on the frozen turf trying to make a diving catch for a touchdown.
“Torgerson didn’t really separate anything. I think he stung his AC joint, but we will see when the doctors can fully look at him,” Aldrich said. “He was our spark plug last week offensively, but it forced (freshman running back) Lee Webb to grow up pretty fast. He had to shoulder the load and he got banged up. He was kind of hobbling a little bit, but we had nowhere else to go and he couldn’t back out.”
Webb had a career-high in carries (21) and rushing yards (52).
The Beavers defense made a number of defensive stands in or near the red zone to hold the Huskies to field goals of 23, 24 and 31 yards from kicker Adam Stage in the first half.
A big kickoff return from Kiante Goudeau, one of four seniors the Beavers honored on Saturday for Senior Day, set up a one-play counter strike after Stage’s second field goal.
Bolinske got time in the pocket and found junior wide receiver Lavante Bushnell behind the Huskies’ secondary. Bushnell hauled in the deep pass for a 56-yard touchdown reception. His seventh receiving touchdown of the season.
Bushnell finished with 89 receiving yards on six catches.
Holding a slim 10-9 lead with under three minutes until halftime, Goudeau surged flashback waves through Herb Parker Stadium by intercepting SCSU quarterback Dwayne Lawhorn and returning the pick for a touchdown.
Last season, in MSU’s win over the Huskies, Goudeau had three interceptions with two of them being returned for touchdowns against Lawhorn.
“(Goudeau) is probably going to be in that kid’s nightmares,” Aldrich said. “(Goudeau) didn’t really get any opportunities after that. (Lawhorn) didn’t throw his way very much. But, Kiante was locked in and made a big play. We needed that play at that time.”
Goudeau added: “Man, I don’t know, but there is something about it. I told my peers that I was down on the leaderboards in conference, so I was due for one this week. I dropped a pick-six against Moorhead, so I had to get one this week.”
The extra point was blocked to give MSU a 16-9 lead at halftime. St. Cloud State had more than double MSU’s offensive output in the first half (230 yards to 101 yards).
Turnovers were crucial. And, at the start of the third quarter, defensive lineman Jordan Will forced a fumble to put MSU’s offense in perfect field position to extend the lead. Two pass interference calls later and Bolinske ran in for his fifth rushing touchdown of the season, 23-9.
It took the Huskies one minute and 31 seconds to answer with a touchdown of their own. Lawhorn connected with John Solberg on a slant route for a 41-yard score.
A costly fumble by Bolinske, nearing the end of the third quarter, halted a nine-play drive for the Beavers on St. Cloud State’s 19-yard line.
“It’s never fun losing close games like this,” Bolinske said. “When you are a big part of that loss by fumbling in the red zone and they score off that, as a quarterback that hurts. It’s really tough to think about. You never want to think about you being the reason why you lost, but right now I can’t get that out of my head.”
Aldrich added: “Obviously, we don’t want to turn the ball over. But, you can never question Ben’s heart and the effort he has given. We can make mistakes, as long as they are effort mistakes. Stupid mistakes are another issue. Ben battled all the way to the end.”
The Huskies turned the turnover into seven points. Running back Gregory Lewis found the end zone from 15 yards out with 13:14 remaining to tie the game at 23-23. Lewis racked up 226 rushing yards on 37 carries.
A quick three-and-out and a short punt for MSU had St. Cloud State back in the end zone less than three minutes later. Lawhorn strutted in from three yards out for what ended up being the game-winning touchdown.
Minot State did have a last-ditch attempt to tie the game in the final minutes after forcing its fourth turnover in the contest. Bolinske, however, had to be replaced by backup quarterback Kylar Sharp after an injury sustained during a sack.
Sharp threw his third interception of the season to seal the win for St. Cloud State.
The Huskies finished with 476 yards of offense, while the Beavers only had 206 yards with 60 rushing yards. St. Cloud State went 5-for-5 in red zone scoring.
The Beavers will end the season by facing fellow Beavers in Bemidji State next week on the road.
Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.