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Beavers hold on in opener, top Upper Iowa, 38-24

The distractions, if they existed at all, didn't seem evident for the Bemidji State football team. Although BSU had found out that head coach Jeff Tesch was being put on a paid "leave of absence" just 48 hours prior to Thursday's home opener, the...

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Bemidji State University's Jordan Hein fires a pass towards the end zone against Upper Iowa in the Beavers' home opener at the Chet Anderson Stadium. Submitted photo

The distractions, if they existed at all, didn't seem evident for the Bemidji State football team.

Although BSU had found out that head coach Jeff Tesch was being put on a paid "leave of absence" just 48 hours prior to Thursday's home opener, the Beavers were all business against Upper Iowa.

BSU's seasoned offensive unit did its job in the first half and the defense took over in the fourth quarter as the Beavers hung on to beat the Peacocks 38-24 in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference action at Chet Anderson Stadium.

"I can't express how big a win this is," BSU interim head coach Brent Bolte said. "I'm pretty proud of those guys. It was a pretty neat experience for me on the sidelines, but I'm just pretty proud of those kids."

"We wanted to stay together after everything that happened this week," BSU sophomore cornerback Gunner Olszewski added. "I think we did a good job of doing that."

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Olszewski and the BSU defense had a hand in two big fourth-quarter moments which helped the Beavers (1-0) seal the victory. Olszewski picked up Ryan Parmely's fumble with 11:35 to go, then, three minutes later on UIU's next drive, he leaped to pull down a pass intended for the Peacocks' Jarred Edmonds.

"Those were huge for us," said Olszewski, who had a game high 17 tackles to go along with the fumble recovery and interception. "I feel like we should have three more fumble recoveries earlier in the game, the ball just didn't bounce the right way. We were just fortunate enough that, in the (fourth) quarter, when things started looking bad, the ball started coming our way."

The Beavers, who held a tenuous 30-24 lead at that point in the game, scored on the very next play. Sophomore wide receiver Brad Birchfield got the ball on a double reverse and found a hole down the sideline, taking it in for a 65-yard touchdown with 7:22 to go.

"Brad's a pretty fast guy, and we knew needed a spark," BSU junior quarterback Jordan Hein said. "We said, hey, let's get the reverse to Brad, everybody hold your blocks, and out the gate he went."

The BSU defense did the rest of the work, keeping the Peacocks (0-1) off the scoreboard on their next two drives - both of which ended in the red zone. Evan Tompkins intercepted a pass in the end zone with 5:11 to go, then BSU stopped Upper Iowa on 4th and 1 at the 1 with 58 seconds left.

"You want to talk about a team effort," Bolte said of the BSU defense. "I've never seen so many rotations in my college coaching career in defense, or on offense really. That player participation has to be one of the all-time highs. I don't know if we win this game on the road, to be honest with you. It was a lot of plays, a lot of kids making a difference, which is pretty unique, pretty fun."

Those defensive stops helped the Beavers get back on the right track after surrendering a 30-10 first-half lead.

"We came out of the gates pretty hot, had some big plays, got the crowd into it," BSU quarterback Jordan Hein said. "Then we came out at halftime and just, I don't know, we didn't play as well as we should have. But our defense came up huge, and they picked us up."

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Upper Iowa, who had managed just a field goal and a touchdown in the first quarter, came to life in the second half, with quarterback Dimitri Morales scoring a pair of rushing touchdowns in the third and fourth quarters.

"It was a tough third quarter," Bolte said. "We came out so hot. And we didn't play clean in the third quarter, then all of a sudden, we let them back in."

Morales finished with 63 yards rushing on 18 attempts and was 42-for-67 passing for 392 yards and one touchdown. Edmonds caught the 29-yard touchdown pass.

Hein had gone 12-for-19 for 238 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, but only completed five more passes the rest of the game (he finished 17-for-32 for 292 yards, two touchdowns and an interception). The Beavers had 557 yards of total offense - 359 of which were in the first half.

Running back Gena Adams caught both of Hein's touchdowns in the first half, while Tahi Nomane ran for one and Hein, who had 116 yards rushing on 11 carries, had another touchdown on the ground.

The Beavers return to action next Saturday night when they travel to Mankato to take on nationally-ranked Minnesota State. The Mavericks beat Minot State 35-7 on Thursday in Minot.

"As ready as we thought we were today, we know there's a lot of work that needs to be done," Olszewski said. "That needs to be the message for this next week. We've got Mankato next week, and I think that's on all of our minds now. We have to stay focused and get better."

Bemidji State 38, Upper Iowa 24

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BSU 10 0 7 7 - 24

UIU 16 14 0 8 - 38

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Bemidji State University's Jesse Hein, No. 78, blocks a defender and opens the lane for Jordan Hein against Upper Iowa in Bemidji State's season opening win over the Peacocks. Submitted photo

Jack is a copy editor for Forum News Service.
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