Aaron Ziemer

Battle of Northern Sun's Most Improved

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wB]University of Mary (5-5) at Northern State (4-6)[/B]
Last Year: 48-3, University of Mary

The University of Mary has a chance at a winning season, while Northern State has a chance for five wins. Honestly, these are the two most improved teams in the Northern Sun, if you ask me, so fitting they are playing in this season's final game.

Mary is coming off a tough loss to Winona State, a feeling that Northern State certainly learned earlier this season in a hard fought last second loss to Augustana. In fact, there are a lot of similarities in where these two programs are at, both of them beat Bemidji State in back-to-back weeks at home as well.

There are more similarities as well, both have young quarterbacks leading the charge, Craig Bagnell for Mary, and how about the play of Jared Jacobson in his first career start. Jacobson threw for 160 yards and two touchdowns and also became the first Northern State quarterback in a decade to rush for more than 100 yards in the game, as he scrambled for 154 yards in the game as well.

Bagnell has taken more of the aerial approach, throwing for 2,175 yards and 17 touchdowns. And when he has been throwing the ball around, he has found his favorite target, Tyler Steffan has put up some unbelievable numbers the last three weeks. Steffan has caught 53-passes for 911 yards and 17 touchdowns, that's right, 17 touchdown catches. In fact, Steffan has caught at least three touchdown passes in each of the last four games. That is almost an unimaginable streak. Steffan deserves a big congratulations for breaking the single season touchdown receptions mark with that third touchdown against Winona last week.

I think this one could be a good one on Saturday, but I think Mary has a little too much fire power for the Wolves, and a little too much on the line, look for the Marauders to finish the season with a winning reacord and take a big step towards next season.

EXTRA POINT: Wolves last won three in a row in 2007, between October 20th and November third, when they beat Minnesota Crookston, Minnesota State Moorhead, and Upper Iowa, back-to-back-to-back. The team that ended that winning streak, the University of Mary.

Augustana (5-5) at Upper Iowa (3-7)
Last Week: 32-0 Augustana

If I was giving out awards for the season, Upper Iowa would get the heartbroken award. In the last three weeks the Peacocks have lost to Southwest Minnesota State 28-24, as an interception deep in Mustang territory ended a Peacock drive, and gave the Mustangs the win. The Peacocks then lost to Wayne State in overtime, when the Wildcats kicked a field goal to win the game, only moments after the Peacocks missed a chip shot in overtime. Then last week, the Peacocks were burned on a hail mary, (with controversy).

I feel for you Peacock, coaches, players and fans, there aren't words to describe that in football. What that usually means though, is that you are a lot better than your record would indicate, so I think the upset warning this week has to go out to Augustana. If one or two of those breaks goes their way, the Peacocks have potentially five wins coming into this one against Augie this week.

In my opinion the game features two of the best young running backs in the Northern Sun, Upper Iowa's Chris Smith who has had a terrific season rushing for nearly 1,200 yards on the year and Augustana's Dajon Newell who has run for 835 yards and helped to key the Vikings run back to 500 after an 0-3 start.

The Peacocks have certainly made some big improvements, I don't think they will be able to knock off the Vikings on Saturday though. I will take the Vikings to get the victory.

Southwest Minnesota State (3-7) at Concordia (5-5)
Last Year: 32-14, Concordia

Charles Gilbert has been Mr. Big Play, and there was no evidence to the contrary in the dramatic win for Concordia over Upper Iowa. On the final drive, Gilbert caught two passes for 84 yards, including the 60-yard hail mary touchdown reception. Now, while the Hail Mary catch may have been new, big play touchdowns for Gilbert certainly are not. Gilbert has 23 career touchdown receptions for Concordia, all but one of them have come from more than 22-yards.

People close to the Mustang football program knew the team would experience some growing pains this year. With a young offensive line, a new starting quarterback, young receivers, and major changes on the defensive side of the ball, none of the struggles have been unexpected.

There could be a lot of points in this one this week, Concordia will take some risks defensively, as they have for years, and Southwest will throw some things to attack that, plus on the other side Concordia's explosiveness could give the Southwest defense fits.

It will be an interesting game, but I like Concordia to get the win and finish at 6-5.

Bemidji State (7-3) at Minnesota Crookston (1-9)
Last Year: 45-3, Bemidji State

If it wasn't for two upsets in their last two road games, Bemidji State would be the team leading the conference this week, however losses to the University of Mary and Northern State have cost the Beavers
the conference title, and a shot at the playoffs.

It is crazy how this league works some time, a team struggles on the road to two of the teams in the bottom half of the league, then returns home to beat the conference leader, in my opinion that shows how far the Northern Sun has truly come, as a whole, and its only going to get tougher.

Obviously how it worked out for Bemidji is certainly a disappointment.

Brody Scheff could put up a bunch more tackles this week, the safety tied a career high with 19-tackles last week, he also forced a fumble in the game.

I don't expect the Beavers to get upset on the road this week, look for them to win handily in Crookston.

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