Walker, Bemidji State run past Minot State
Avery Walker and the Bemidji State football team ended Minot State’s season on a sour note Saturday.
The senior tailback carried 25 times for 194 yards and four touchdowns to lead BSU to a 35-14 win at Herb Parker Stadium.
“He can get some hard yards, he can get the breakaway ones, he can catch the ball,” BSU coach Jeff Tesch said. “He’s just a nice, complete back.”
The teams were statistically similar entering the game, but Bemidji’s superior ground game buried MSU (2-9). Minot State quarterback Zac Cunha was sacked five times, contributing to a rushing attack that gained negative-4 yards on 23 attempts.
The lackluster performance gave way to solemn handshakes and hugs after the game, when 15 MSU seniors walked off the turf in uniform for the last time.
“I think any senior class you have to respect the fact that these … men have gone four to five years in a college program,” said MSU junior wideout Leon LaDeaux, who caught nine passes for a game-high 117 receiving yards. “When you come in your freshman class, you’ve got 30, 40 kids. No matter where you start and where you finish, those are 15 young men that have been able to fight it out and go through all the offseasons, all the seasons and really make that grind.”
Bemidji (3-8) turned Saturday into a grind for MSU, rushing the ball 44 times for 253 yards and winning the time-of-possession battle by nearly 10 minutes.
BSU led 14-7 at halftime and scored twice in the third quarter to take a 28-7 advantage.
Walker capped a 10-play, 61-yard drive with a 2-yard plunge on BSU’s first second-half possession. After the teams traded a few punts and Bemidji missed a field goal, Cunha was hit as he tossed a wobbly interception.
On the next play, Bemidji quarterback Ryan Shields hit Juwaan Richard in stride down the right sideline for a 40-yard score and a 28-7 lead with 15 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
It was the only BSU touchdown by someone other than Walker, who added a 29-yard TD in the fourth quarter and averaged 7.8 yards per carry.
“We had our hands on him, but he kind of wiggled through some things,” MSU coach Paul Rudolph said. “I think the thing that he does that you notice is when things were bottled up outside, he’s got a little speed to beat you to the edge and it makes him dangerous.”
LaDeaux scored both touchdowns for MSU, catching a 6-yard TD in the first quarter and a 42-yarder in the fourth. On the second one, LaDeaux caught the ball on the move and juked one defender before sprinting into the end zone.
The Central Washington transfer said that play was a product being on the same page with Cunha, his roommate.
“We read the defense pretty similar and are always studying together,” LaDeaux said. “The second touchdown, they blitzed and we were able to pick up on the blitz pretty quick and I was able to catch it on the run, which was something we practiced since I got here in January.”
Cunha finished 21 of 39 for 222 yards and two interceptions. He was hurried or hit several times in addition to taking the five sacks.
“I think there’s two or three potential all-conference guys in that defensive front,” Rudolph said of Bemidji State. “They got after some things up there. They beat us a few times and we probably didn’t do things exactly as we needed to do.”
MSU senior receiver Wayne Peters caught six balls for 63 yards, finishing with a school-record 72 receptions this season. Harry Mills set the previous record of 67 in 2002.
Senior linebacker Chad Marshall racked up a game-high 14 tackles. The Hazen native recorded 100 of his 320 career tackles this season.
Daniel Allar covers Minot State University athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.