FOOTBALL: Barren offense haunts Bemidji State in 33-7 playoff loss to Angelo State – The Bemidji Pioneer

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SAN ANGELO, Texas — Three quarters before an increasingly inevitable end of the road, the tank hit empty for the Bemidji State football team’s offense.
The Beavers couldn’t muster the few coveted points necessary to extend their season on Saturday in San Angelo, Texas, instead losing by a deceptively lopsided 33-7 final score to No. 2 Angelo State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“If we had just gotten one score and got up on them, (it) puts all the pressure back on them,” BSU head coach Brent Bolte said of the second half. “That would have been a perfect script, but we just couldn’t find a way to get that score.”
For as valiantly as the Bemidji State defense played, keeping the game within one possession well into the fourth quarter, the offense fell victim to punts and picks nearly all afternoon.
Up against the fourth-best scoring defense in the country, the Beavers finished with 10 rushing yards — eight of which came on two meaningless plays to end the game — and five Brandon Alt interceptions.
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Such was BSU’s ultimate undoing, and it undermined an inspired defensive performance that nearly singlehandedly willed Bemidji State into the national quarterfinals. But things got out of hand in a 20-0 romp of a fourth quarter, which officially removed the upset hopes that had lingered in the Texas sky for most of the afternoon.
“We didn’t take the step to the Elite Eight that we wanted, but we’re not very far off,” Bolte said. “For us, it’s validation that last year wasn’t a fluke. We know we can compete with anybody in the country. I’ve been doing this for 20-some odd years, and that’s been the goal since I got here: continue to move the program forward.”
Long fields were daunting for the offense, and short fields were haunting. The Beavers (10-3) started a drive inside ASU’s 25-yard line three times, but they only had one score to show for it.
However, the first such drive was successful and proved that BSU came to play. Jarrett Gronski recovered a muffed punt at the Angelo State 8, and soon after, Alt found Brendan Beaulieu for a touchdown on a 4-yard fade route to the corner of the end zone.
But Bemidji State failed to convert on a crucial fourth-down pass to Andrew Manuele in the end zone during the second quarter, and Alt got intercepted for the fifth time — a career high — when targeting Jake Hill at the goal line during the fourth quarter.
“We had our chances,” Bolte said. “It comes down to executing in big games. … They were the ones who made the plays, and unfortunately, we came up short.”
The 7-0 Beaver lead held into the second quarter — thanks in part to two fourth-down stops from the BSU defense — but the Rams ramped it up soon after.
ASU (12-0) equalized when Nate Omayebu III shed a bevy of tacklers from the backfield to the end zone on a 19-yard screen pass. Omayebu then struck again by boxing out Spencer Wehr at the goal line to catch a 12-yard pass from Zach Bronkhorst just before halftime, handing Angelo State a 13-7 lead at the break.
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From there, the Bemidji State defense dug in its cleats time and time again. The Beavers held ASU to nothing but punts in the third quarter, even deflecting two of them, but the offense had just one first down in that same span.
The BSU offense had a critical fourth-and-1 from the ASU 31-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but Gronski’s wildcat rush up the middle got stuffed and handed possession back to the Rams. Angelo State then mustered a drive to Bemidji State’s 30-yard line, where Cade Fuller’s 47-yard field goal made for a two-possession game at 16-7 with 9:56 remaining.
Alt then threw interceptions on four straight desperate drives — punctuated by Kason McCullough-Cooper’s 28-yard pick-six — which only caused a greater avalanche as Angelo State ran away with the victory.
“We were hanging around the whole game, and it got away from us,” Bolte said. “It goes to show, we’re down 13-7 with the ball at the 30 to go take the lead in the fourth quarter. We’re not that far off. It just comes back to us, looking ourselves in the mirror and executing at a higher level.”
The Beavers’ run to the second round of the NCAA Tournament marks two years in a row for a program that had never made the playoffs before 2021. BSU’s 10 straight wins, snapped by Angelo State on Saturday, is also a program record.
“I’ve always said that football is an army sport,” Bolte said. “You’ve got to have an army of players, an army of people behind the scenes to make it function.
“… (Our seniors) set the bar pretty dang high here at Bemidji State, and hopefully we continue to grow and learn and figure out how to take the next step.”
Extremely proud of this group of young men and coaches. Battled all year. Thank you to this Sr class, all the parents and families, along with Beaver Nation. We will be back. #GTA pic.twitter.com/R1AYKxHVY4
Angelo State 33, Bemidji State 7
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BSU 7 0 0 0 — 7
ASU 0 13 0 20 — 33
First quarter — BSU TD, Beaulieu 4-yard catch from Alt (Cusick PAT), 7-0 BSU.
Second quarter — ASU TD, Omayebu III 19-yard catch from Bronkhorst (Fuller PAT), 7-7; ASU TD, Omayebu III 12-yard catch from Bronkhorst (Fuller PAT missed), 13-7 ASU.
Third quarter — No scoring.
Fourth quarter — ASU FG, Fuller 47-yard kick, 16-7 ASU; ASU TD, Wilcox 7-yard rush (Fuller PAT), 23-7 ASU; ASU FG, Fuller 26-yard kick, 26-7 ASU; ASU TD, McCullough-Cooper 28-yard interception return (Fuller PAT), 33-7 ASU.

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