BEMIDJI STATE (0-0) at WINONA STATE (0-0)
Game Time: 6 p.m. Thursday
Stadium: Verizon Wireless Stadium (4,000)
Radio: WMIF 92.1 The River
Television: None on real TV, but you can watch on your computer here.
Previous Meeting: Bemidji State 24, Winona State 19 (Sept. 12, 2009)
Series History: WSU leads 43-29-1
The 2013-14 Bemidji State athletics season officially gets under way tonight when the BSU football team travels to Winona for their season opener against Winona State.
I’m excited, because this means I don’t have to sit in the office daydreaming about covering sports like a man stranded in the desert fantasizes about water. (I know, it was a long summer, my similes are getting rusty.)
Anyway, I wrote a preview for today’s game that you can find on the website here.
The Winona Daily News did a pretty comprehensive preview of the Warriors for the season, give it a read here.
Here are some more facts about the two teams that may interest you:
-Bemidji State hasn’t won in Winona since Sept. 27, 1986. BSU topped the Warriors 21-14 that year; since then they have lost 11 straight on the Warriors’ home turf.
-The Warriors have eight (8!) preseason All-Americans. The full list is as follows: offensive lineman Richard Lilla, tight end Alex Jensen, return specialist Chichi Ojika, offensive lineman James Poliqui, offensive lineman Vance Ross, quarterback John Teigland, defensive end Ryan Gerts and defensive end Morgan Weaver. That’s a lot of All-Americans; obviously not all of them are first-teamers, but Lilla is; he was also an All-American last year as well.
-WSU averaged 480.0 yards per game last season, but they also had All-American running back Rayon Simmons, who set a school record for rushing yards in a season with 1,774 while also establishing new WSU and NSIC career rushing marks. That’s was almost 30 percent of WSU’s total offense last season and 70 percent of their rushing offense. Ojika projects to be his backup this season but he’s got some major shoes to fill.
-Of course, the Beavers’ offensive holes are well-documented (mostly by me). Two-year starting quarterback Lance Rongstad is gone. So is All-American tight end Brian Leonhardt. All of the Beavers’ top receivers in 2012 graduated (including Justin Lee, Matt Gandrud, Beau Wakefield, Jody Henningson and Christian Metz). The only currently player on the receiving corps with a catch in the college ranks is senior Mike Grayson. He caught exactly one pass last year.
-Fullback Brent Kondziolka and running back Avery Walker will be expected to take charge of that young group. Walker had 272 yards and three touchdowns on 49 carries while Kondziolka had 59 yards and 1 touchdown on 12 carries. Expect both to see a lot more work carrying the football – at least until the offense settles in after a game or two.
-The BSU defense should be on point. Last season they ranked No. 15 nationally in total defense (as well as No. 15 in rushing defense and No. 18 in scoring defense) and return seven starters and three more who saw significant rotation time last year. Two of the top five tacklers are returning: Outside linebackers Buckley Wright and Connor Quinn. Nose tackle Matt Shaver also returns after being sidelined with an injury that caused him to miss five games last year.
I won’t be going to tomorrow’s game but I’ll be keeping track from the office and Tweeting periodically, so follow me at @JackHitts.