SMSU FOOTBALL: Strong second quarter carries Beavers to victory over SMSU

BEMIDJI – Bemidji State took advantage of two Southwest Minnesota State first half turnovers to build a 30-7 halftime lead and went on to earn a 40-22 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference victory on Saturday at Chet Anderson Stadium.

Jordan Hein completed 15 of 32 passes for 178 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 47 yards on eight attempts to pace the Beavers attack. Andrew Lackowski rushed for a game-high 114 yards on 21 carries. BSU, which opened the season ranked No. 25 in the AFCA Top 25 poll and won nine games last season, improves to 2-2 on the season.

For the second straight game, SMSU’s Blake Gimbel, who has started 26 consecutive games at quarterback, played just two series due to an injury. Connor Wilkie, who helped lead SMSU to a come-from-behind victory last week versus Minot State, finished the game completing 23 of 39 passes for 248 yards with one interception.

SMSU (2-2) senior wide receiver Nate Huot caught a game-high seven passes for 68 yards and in the process tied the NSIC career record for receptions with 210. He is tied atop the record book with Northern State’s Brian Jark (2006-09).

Ashanti Payne led the SMSU rushing attack with 95 yards and one touchdown on 20 carries while Shawn Griffin added a career-high 64 yards on 20 carries with two touchdowns.

Michael Griffin and Shane Ratkovich each racked up nine tackles for the Mustang defense. Ratkovich forced a fumble, recorded a sack and finished with 2.5 tackles for loss.

SMSU closed the game with 410 yards of total offense including 156 on the ground, while recording 21 first downs. BSU finished with 403 yard of offense, amassing 225 yards rushing and racked up 25 first downs.

SMSU ended the game converting 10 of 20 on third down, but was converted just 2 of 6 on fourth down.

BSU opened the scoring midway through the opening quarter as Gabe Ames intercepted a tipped pass from Wilkie and returned it 18-yards for a touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.

SMSU countered with a 60-yard, nine-play drive, using the legs of Payne. Payne had eight runs and also caught a pass from Wilkie during the drive to help SMSU tie the game at 7-7. Following a big 31-yard pass reception on third-and-seven, Payne plowed in from 2 yards out three plays later to tie the game with 1:35 left in the quarter.

BSU regained the lead early in the second quarter on a 32-yard field by Isaac Aanerud to make the score 10-7.

Following a Mustang punt, the Beavers used an 80-yard, eight-play drive capped off by a Lackowski 27-yard touchdown reception from Heid to push the lead to 17-7 at the 8:03 mark of the second quarter.

SMSU moved the ball to the BSU 26-yard on its next drive, but was stopped on downs to end the scoring threat. The BSU took advantage of a personal foul and converted a pair of third-down conversions to move the ball 74 yards on 12 plays with Christian Lunde closing the drive with a 16-yard touchdown reception with 1:01 left in the half.

On the ensuing kickoff, SMSU fumbled and BSU recovered at the Mustang 29-yard line. Six plays later Hein connected on an 8-yard touchdown pass to Mannie Kugmeh with five seconds remaining to build a 30-7 halftime lead.

BSU pushed the margin to 37-7 early in the third quarter before SMSU cut into the deficit late in the quarter as Griffin scored on a 2-yard run with 43 seconds remaining. Skyler Crew ran in the two-point conversion to make the score 37-15.

Following a fourth quarter BSU field goal, Griffin added a 1-yard touchdown run for the game’s final points.

SMSU has now lost eight straight games in Bemidji and 10 of the last 11 overall in the series.

Southwest Minnesota State returns home next Saturday, Sept. 30, to face No. 7-ranked University of Sioux Falls for homecoming and to open NSIC South Division play. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. at the Schwan Regional Event Center.

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