The Augustana Vikings earned a 20-13 win over USF to snap a three game losing skid to the Cougars. The Viking defense allowed over 300 yards, but forced 3 turnovers in the win.
“Defensively, we did everything that we schemed for and everything went exactly how we wanted it to honestly and we said we needed to make plays and that’s exactly what we did,” Augustana Junior defensive lineman Logan Swanson said.
“I’ve been preaching this since last spring, that I thought our defense was pretty talented and our big knock last year was our physicality and not being about to control the line of scrimmage. I think our front seven has been playing some very good football and I think that certainly showed on Thursday night,” Augustana Head Coach Jerry Olszewski said.
Augustana will now shift their focus to Bemidji State. The Beavers and Vikings both enter the contest at 3-1, tied for second in their respective Northern Sun divisions.
“They’re an explosive group and defensively, they’ll get you to turn the ball over. They really pride themselves on creating turnovers and they’ve been one of the better ones in our league at doing that in the last five, six years. So we’ve got to value the football, cause they’ll take their shots at that,” Olszewski said.
The Augustana defense will have their hands full trying to slow down a Bemidji State offense that is averaging nearly 30 points per game.
“They have some smaller backs with some great ‘jitter’ in them, if you will. They’re very slashy with their running backs and they throw the ball down field with some big balls. So we’re going to just play sound defense,” Olszewski said.
“Bemidji has a good offensive line and we recognize that but we think we have a very good d-line. So we’re really excited to see what we can do, but eliminating the run game first and then focusing on getting pressure on the qb after that,” Swanson said.
The Augustana offense made a late change in their win over USF. The Vikings put in back-up quarterback Zach Masoli to replace Kyle Saddler against USF, but this change won’t last long.
“Kyle has always been our starter. I just felt like we needed a punch in the arm in that game to change it up a little bit and that’s been in the works for three weeks now. We just didn’t get an opportunity to do that in a game and an opportunity presented itself on Thursday and Zach is certainly ready to perform at any time, he’s practiced well and certainly earned that right, but Kyle’s our quarterback and one of the better quarterbacks in the league,” Olszewski said.
The Viking offense has scored over one hundred points in the first four contests, but has struggled the last three games as they are averaging less than 20 points per contest during that stretch.
“We’re going back to basics and I think that coach Schrenk and the staff did a great job of talking about it and we we’re just honest with each other, going back to fall camp and trying to figure how we’re going to get back on track. It’s the little things, it’s the mental discipline, it’s starting fast, it’s staying ahead of the chains and it’s just opperating at a high level,” Olszewski said.
“Really what it comes down to is every time you’re lining up, whether you think the ball is coming to you or think the runs coming to you or it’s running away from you or running a route to set somebody else up, it’s giving your 1/11th every play,” Augustana Senior wide receiver Brett Shepley said.
Augustana has won the previous three meetings between the two teams including a 30-27 overtime win in 2017.
“I think we’ve got to value the football again and continue to win the turnover margin in this football game. I think special teams need to be a win in this game as well. It’s homecoming and it’ll be an exciting environment to play in. We need to continue to play sound defense and not give up the big play, and then offensively, not only continue to be good in the redzone, but we need to be able to move the chains,” Olszewski said.
“I think our team has a really great attitude and I think we just have to bring that attitude and energy to every game. If we do that, we’ll be just fine,” Swanson said.
With their 3-1 record, the Vikings are off to their hottest start since 2016 when they finished 8-3, but the Vikings still aren’t playing their best football.
“We’re not hitting on all cylinders yet, but they will and I’m excited to be around these guys. There’s an energy about them, there’s a brother hood about them and it’s a special team. So we’ll take Bemidji one game at a time and then move on to the next one when we’re done,” Olszewski said.
Augustana travels to Bemidji State on Saturday for a 2:00 kick-off.