Zach Pulkinen booted a 37-yard field goal with 48 seconds left in regulation to lift Bemidji State to a come-from-behind 41-40 victory over Southwest Minnesota State on a rainy Saturday in Bemidji, Minn. BSU (2-2) rallied from a 37-26 fourth quarter deficit to earn its 13th straight victory over SMSU (2-2) dating back to the 1997 season.
BSU took advantage of an SMSU personal foul and converted a third-and-11 from its own 43-yard line with a 29-yard completion to set-up the game-winning field goal.
Lance Schuveiller gave SMSU a 40-38 lead with three minutes and 26 seconds left in the game before BSU rallied with the game-winning drive.
Tyler Tonderum – who entered the game ranked third in the country in rushing – led SMSU with 224 yards and two touchdowns on 34 carries. It was his second 200-plus yard rushing game of the season, tying Rich Froemling and Ken Sather as the only SMSU players in history to record multi 200-yard rushing games.
SMSU quarterback Charlie Kern completed 17 of 42 pass attempts for 241 yards and two touchdowns. Jordan Cross caught a game-high five passes for 50 yards and one touchdown, while Anthony Dean had four receptions for 99 yards and one touchdown.
Avery Walker led the Beaver offense with 170 yards rushing and one touchdown on 29 carries and also caught a pair of passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns.
SMSU racked up 506 yards of total offense and finished the game rushing for 265 yards. The BSU defensed entered the game allowing just 317 total yards, including 121 rushing yards through three games. BSU ended the game with 384 yards of offense with 213 on the ground.
The Mustang defense – which forced four turnovers – was led by Jared Twedt, who recorded 12 tackles and had one fumble recovery, while AJ Page added 11 tackles with 2.5 for loss.
BSU returned the game’s opening kickoff 65 yards setting up a short field and the Beaver offense took advantage. Facing third-and-7 from the SMSU 12-yard line, BSU quarterback Alex Haas broke free and sprinted into the end zone for the game’s first touchdown. SMSU blocked the point after attempt to keep the score 6-0.
Following an SMSU punt, the Mustang defense forced its first turnover of the game, recovering a fumble at the BSU 44-yard. SMSU failed to take advantage and was forced to punt, but Mike Wenk laid a perfect punt pinning BSU at the 1-yard line. The Beavers converted one third-down conversion, before Walker took a screen pass ran 67 yards for a touchdown to give BSU a 13-0 lead with nine minutes and five seconds left in the quarter.
SMSU answered on its next possession scoring its first touchdown of the game with Kern capping a 10-play, 75-yard drive with an 8-yard pass to Cross with 5:47 left in the quarter to trim the deficit to 13-7.
The Mustang defense forced BSU to punt on the ensuing possession, but on SMSU’s next offensive play Kern was intercepted at the 20-yard line and Connor Quinn returned for a touchdown to push the BSU lead to 20-7 at the 3:13 mark of the first quarter.
Following an SMSU punt, the Mustang defense came through again forcing another fumble with Jacob Levtzow recovering the ball at the BSU 31-yard. Just four plays later, Tonderum plowed across for a 4-yard touchdown to cut the deficit to 20-14 early in the second quarter.
SMSU took its first lead of the game midway through the second quarter as Tonderum broke away for a career-long 77-yard touchdown run to give the Mustangs a 21-20 advantage. It was his second 70-plus yard touchdown run of the season.
BSU answered with its most impressive drive of the half to regain the lead. The Beaver offense moved the ball 69 yards on 12 plays – including converting three third-down conversions – with Walker grabbing a 6-yard touchdown pass from Hass to give BSU a 26-21 lead at halftime.
SMSU cut into the deficit early in the third quarter as Schuveiller drilled a 31-yard field goal with 9:41 remaining in the third to make the score 26-24.
Both teams exchanged punts, before the Mustang defense came through in a big way as McKoy Rodning intercepted Hass at the 15-yard line and returned for his first career touchdown and give SMSU the lead back at 30-26.
The SMSU defense came through again just two plays later as Andrew McReynolds forced a BSU fumble and teammate Jared Twedt recovered the ball giving SMSU first-and-10 deep in BSU territory at the 26-yard line. Just moments later, Kern fired a 26-yard strike to Anthony Dean for a touchdown to push the SMSU lead to 37-26 with 3:49 left in the quarter.
The SMSU defense forced another punt and the SMSU offense moved the ball to the BSU 30-yard line early in the fourth quarter, but the Mustangs turned the ball over on downs giving the ball back to the Beavers.
BSU countered with a critical drive on its next possession, including converting a fourth-and-two at its own 48-yard, with a touchdown drive moving the ball 70 yards on 12 plays with Hass connecting with Brent Kondziolka on a 15-yard touchdown pass midway through the fourth quarter.
SMSU picked up one first down on its next possession, but was forced to punt, and following a 22-yard return by BSU’s Kameel Al-Khouri, the Beavers had the ball at the SMSU 49-yard line. Just two plays later Walker broke away for a 40-yard touchdown to push BSU back into the lead at 38-37.
SMSU had its own answer on the drive with Kern connecting on passes of 38 yards to Will Kurka and 23 yards to Cross, moving the ball to the BSU 22-yard line. SMSU moved the ball to the 16-yard, before settling for Schuveiller’s 33-yard field goal.
Southwest Minnesota State returns home next Saturday, Oct. 5, taking on the University of Sioux Falls (2-2) in the NSIC South opener for the annual homecoming game. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. at the Schwan Regional Event.
Courtesy: Kelly Loft, SMSU