GameDay: Blue Hawks at Beavers

Dickinson State tight end Derek Pauley pulled in this touchdown reception against Minot State last season as DSU went on to win 28-13.

No. 11 Dickinson State (7-1, 5-1 DAC) at Minot State (5-3, 5-1 DAC)

12:30 p.m. Saturday at Herb Parker Stadium, Minot

VICTORY SPORTS NETWORK GAME OF THE WEEK (Click for link to live webcast)

Storylines

— Where do we even begin? DSU head coach Hank Biesiot goes for career win No. 250 in what appears to be the final game between the Blue Hawks and Beavers (at least for the foreseeable future). DSU hopes to go out with a win since Minot State holds a 41-40-6 series edge. Biesiot has a 26-10 career record against the Beavers.

— A win today for the Blue Hawks would likely guarantee them a spot in the NAIA playoffs and move them a win away from a shot at scoring a first-round home playoff game. A loss would drop them quite a ways in the NAIA coaches poll and force them to win at the Fargodome during the DAC Bowl to have any shot at making the playoffs.

— Minot State is trying to keep its chances for a conference title alive in its final season in the DAC. The unranked Beavers can still make the playoffs if they win their final two games and secure a share of the DAC championship.

3 to watch

Dickinson State

Derion Williams, Sr., CB – Williams is averaging 23 yards per kick return this season, and he may need to break a couple big ones today if the Blue Hawks hope to walk away victorious. Williams will very likely also be tasked with containing Minot State senior WR Johnny Lester on defense.

Jimmy Smith, Fr., WR – Smith is averaging 22 yards per catch and finally broke a big one for a score last week against South Dakota Mines, scoring on a 42-yard game-clinching TD reception in the fourth quarter. DSU coaches would love to see more touchdowns like that from the athletic freshman.

Colton Hill, Fr., DT – With Jamie Walker hobbled by a knee injury — he’ll play, but it remains to be seen how much — and Seth Forster out indefinitely, it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if the big kid from Glasgow, Mont., stepped into a meatier role on the defensive line today.

Minot State

Johnny Lester, Sr., WR/Returner – All Dickinson State eyes will be on No. 7 today. The 5-foot-9 gamebreaker, who the Beavers use in a very Percy Harvin-like way, is having the best season of an already great career. Not only has he returned two kicks and two punts for touchdowns this season, Lester has 1,162 combined yards.

Ben Pease, So., DE – The 6-5, 250-pound sophomore is second on the team in tackles (44), has five sacks and two other tackles for a loss.

Chad Marshall, So., LB – The Hazen product is a starter at strong side linebacker and is enjoying a solid season. To think, he came very close to going to DSU.

Position battles

Quarterback – DSU

Layvester James has done fine in his first season as a full-time starter for the Beavers (1,305 yards, 7 TD, 7 INT), but DSU senior Cody Holland is well on his way to an all-DAC first team spot (1,342 yards, 13 TD, 5 INT, 97 yards rushing and a TD).

Running backs – Minot State

Tyson Schatz and Nico Youngren have combined for 891 yards and 9 TD for the Beavers while Brennan Haughian and Jeremy Herr have combined for 602 yards (they each have 301) and 6 TD (all scored by Haughian) and are much speedier.

Receivers – Minot State

It’s not just Johnny Lester the Blue Hawks have to contain here. Minot State has an experienced corps of receivers with senior Lance Hollinger and junior Zac Rudolph. DSU’s young receivers are coming along nicely, but the Beavers are more threatening at this position.

Offensive line – DSU

Last year, Minot State would have run away with this category. But, the tables have turned this season as DSU is now the team with the experience up front. The O-line is also relatively healthy after giving RT Carl Dynneson and LG Kyle Enebo the past two weeks off to heal from nagging injuries.

Defensive line – DSU

Even without Forster and a hobbled Walker, the Blue Hawks are deeper and more experienced on the defensive front than the Beavers.

Linebacker – DSU

For the third straight week, the Blue Hawks have to face an outstanding linebacking unit. The Weidler’s (Tommy and Brendan) lead the Beavers. However, Bodie Tobin and the Blue Hawks have been far more successful getting to the edge and stopping the run this season.

Defensive backs – DSU  ***SPOTLIGHT***

It’ll be Derion Williams and Co. vs. Johnny Lester & Friends on one side of the ball and Minot State’s stingy defensive backs against DSU’s young receiving corps on the other.

Special teams – Minot State

The Beavers have the overwhelming edge in this category. Lester has 4 returns for a touchdown and kicker Nik Richardson is 6 of 8 on field goals and 21 of 22 on extra points.

Prediction

Dickinson State 28, Minot State 24

Twenty-eight seems to be DSU’s lucky number against the Beavers having scored that many on them the past two years, so I’ll go with it again. But with that said, I think it’ll be a close one with the Blue Hawks spoiling the Beavers’ plans for a second consecutive season.

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