SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (USF) — A valiant comeback by the University of Sioux Falls Football Team (0-1), led by running back Theo Reisdorfer and quarterback Adam Mullen, fell just short as the Cougars dropped a 24-16 decision to Bemidji State (1-0) in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference action at Bob Young Field on a windy and rainy Thursday night.
In the first game for both teams in over 600 days, the Cougars fell behind, 24-0, before rallying and had a couple of opportunities to cut into the deficit further.
“This will be an opportunity for us to learn,” said USF Head Coach Jon Anderson, whose team will travel to Minot State on Sept. 11. “But I felt we fought to the end and never gave up the hope that we could rally all the way back. We had too many penalties and turnovers but our effort was there,” said Anderson, noting the loss of three fumbles.
In a matchup of two of the teams picked to finish in the top six in the preseason coaches’ polls, it was a game that followed the script of past games between the two foes. USF now owns a 4-3 series lead but BSU has won two of the last three and both in one possession games. In 2016, the Cougars rallied from 21-3 down to take a 37-36 win at Bob Young Field en route to the league NSIC title. In 2018 the Cougars led, 21-3, before BSU rallied for the 25-21 win at Bemidji, Minn.
Second team All-NSIC running back Thuro Reisdorfer registered his sixth 100-yard rushing game of his career. He had 22 carries for 150 yards for a 6.8 average per carry. USF, which had 68 plays for 352 yards, had a 193 (42 carries) to 85 yards (36 carries) edge on the ground. However, BSU had a 310-to-159 advantage in passing yards.
In his first collegiate start, Mullen, a redshirt freshman from Highlands Ranch, Colo., had a solid outing. H was 15-of-26 for 159 yards with a touchdown run and a touchdown pass of 37 yards to Dominic Pegley. In his first game at USF, Pegley led USF in receiving with eight catches for 72 yards with the TD. He had 22 yards after the catch.
Leading a stout defensive effort against the run was sophomore linebacker Cody Jantzen, who led USF with a career-high nine tackles and five solo stops. Sophomore linebacker Noah Schmitt also had a career-high with seven stops and both a tackle for loss and pass breakup. Seniors Harvey Enalls and David Vargas both had five tackles. In addition, senior defensive tackle David Martinez supplied four tackles, a quarterback sack and two tackles for loss. Senior Joel Wehrkamp had a sack and two tackles for loss as he now has 21 career tackles for loss and nine career sacks.
As for the visitors, Brandon Alt led the way by completing 19-of-39 passes for 310 yards and three TDs. Malik Williams led the receiving corps with seven catches on 13 targets for 157 yards and two touchdowns. In the rushing game, Sage Booker had 20 carries for 61 yards. Hameed Oyedele and Cole Sorby both had eight tackles to lead BSU.
The Beavers jumped out to a 24-0 lead in the third quarter on the strength of Alt’s three TD passes. BSU actually opened the game with a 22-yard field goal from Mason Hoffer to cap an 18-play, 70-yard scoring drive. Alt hit Williams on a 24-yard scoring strike with 2:01 left in the second quarter to culminate a nine play, 82-yard drive. In the third quarter, Williams hauled in a 53-yard scoring reception to cap a four-play, 91-yard drive. Finally, BSU had its last points of the game at the 9:08 mark of the third quarter after a USF turnover.
Down 24-0, USF began its comeback midway through the third quarter as Mullen caught fire and USF defense stepped up. First, Muller led a seven-play, 73-yard drive that took 4:01 off the clock and he scored on a 16-yard touchdown run. It was his first collegiate scoring play. Later in the quarter, another freshman, placekicker Nick Hernandez made good in his first collegiate attempt by knocking through a 37-yard field goal as the Cougars cut the deficit to 24-9.
In the fourth quarter, Pegley and Mullen hooked up on a 37-yard scoring play and with Hernandez’s kick cut the deficit to 24-16. It was the first TD pass for Mullen at USF and Pegley’s first TD reception.
After a three-out, the Cougars had its first of two chances to tie the game. With the drive starting at their own 28, Reisdorfer had 35 yards rushing in four plays and Mullen’s pass to Ty Smith was wiped out due to a holding penalty. Three straight pass incompletions ended the drive. Then with 2:16 led USF had another shot to send the game into overtime, driving the ball from their own 34 to the BSU 34 before a fumble ended the drive with 40 seconds to play.