DSU still searching for an offensive identity

Dickinson State tight end Derek Pauley turns upfield after catching a pass from Cody Holland during Saturday's game at the Badlands Activities Center.

Dickinson State has six days to figure out what kind of offense it wants to be.

Dakota State is out of the way now (probably forever) and the 13th-ranked Blue Hawks are now 3-0. Now, they have to gear up for what is sure to be a heck of a game against long-time rival Jamestown College next Saturday in DSU’s homecoming game.

First on head coach Hank Biesiot’s to-do list: figure out his team’s offensive identity. I know, I know. Hank wants to run the ball. And that’s fine. The history is there and it speaks for itself. But, one can’t help but think the old ball coach isn’t out there watching senior quarterback Cody Holland slinging passes at 18 yards per completion and thinking, “Maybe we oughta turn him loose.”

Holland is 33 of 58 for 596 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions and has looked solid so far this season, despite throwing a couple balls too deep downfield today. But that’s going to happen at any level so you can’t knock him for that.

DSU, however, is running the ball somewhat effectively despite not having a running back reach 100 yards through its first three games. DSU’s backs and Holland have combined to rush for 427 yards, giving the team a 341 total-yards-per-game average.

Now, giving Holland the chance to throw the ball 25-30 times a game may happen this season. But Biesiot said Saturday after DSU’s 31-7 win over Dakota State that the team’s offensive strategy could change on a game-by-game basis.

“I think we’re still kind of looking for an (offensive) identity. We’re going to be each week, a little different,” Biesiot said. “We maybe don’t have anything we can hang our hat on yet. That’s something we’re still trying to find. We’re still looking for some identity. On the other hand, one of the things we’re finding is, somebody every week is doing something different.”

This week that somebody was Tanner Leak. The sophomore receiver finally found some openings and when Holland looked his way, Leak made sure to pull in catches. He led the team with four catches for 70 yards, including a 35-yard touchdown reception where he caught the ball jumping backwards in the air. He also wrestled a potential interception away from Dakota State cornerback Bryce Logan on DSU’s first series of the second half, which ended up being all for naught when Holland threw a pick two plays later.

“I thought he made a couple real good catches today,” Leak said. “That’s a real plus today.”

Herr keeps hurting

Dickinson State senior running back Jeremy Herr has a turf toe injury on his left foot. Now, he has a high ankle sprain on his right leg that could keep him out of next Saturday’s homecoming game against Jamestown.

Herr injured the leg on DSU’s opening series of the third quarter and didn’t return. He was walking around the locker-room area fine after the game though.

Herr had 45 yards rushing on 13 carries to lead DSU’s balanced rushing attack. The Wishek High School graduate may be the most underrated player on this football team and has a solid presence on the sidelines.

On a positive note, Herr’s ankle sprain was the only significant injury the Blue Hawks suffered Saturday.

If he can’t go next week, expect DSU to continue using their run-by-committee approach and give freshman Brennan Haughian the majority of the carries. He had 35 yards on seven carries and scored for DSU’s only two rushing touchdowns of the season. He has shown flashes of being a good back in the first three games, he deserves a chance to get 12-15 carries in a game at the least.

Another back I was impressed was redshirt freshman Andrew Trejo. In small doses late in the game, Trejo showed signs of being a solid backup who will fight for the extra yard — a lot like Herr was his freshman year. The Los Angeles native had 26 yards on seven carries, including four carries for 21 yards on DSU’s final possession that led to a 24-yard Tury Escobedo field goal.

Scout team QB suffers injury in freak practice accident

Justin Espinoza is a redshirt, scout-team quarterback out of Imperial, Calif., that the Blue Hawks’ coaching staff and players have said great things about this season. Unfortunately for Espinoza, his first season is over.

During Thursday’s redshirt game at the grass practice fields, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Espinoza rolled out to pass before taking off on a run toward the left sidelines. The routine play for the scrambler turned into a freak accident when he ran into the metal coaches’ tower off the field.

Espinoza ran toward teammates standing near the tower on the sidelines, who moved out of the way, causing him to run his left leg into the tower. He suffered a fracture near the growth plate in his ankle and is on crutches, wearing a hard splint. Espinoza said Saturday that he’ll be seeing more doctors this week and is uncertain whether or not he’ll be getting a hard cast or not.

Espinoza is the second DSU player to get injured during practice this season. Redshirt freshman defensive lineman Sam Herauf injured his knee before the Concordia game. While he is waiting for the results from his MRI, Herauf has been informed his likely tore his ACL and will miss the entire season.

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