Aaron Ziemer

Week 2 Northern Sun Matchups

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Week 1, in the Norther Sun was a pretty wild and crazy weekend, filled with a surprising upset, and a late touchdown victory for another school.

There were a couple of expected things that happened, Minnesota Duluth and Winona State showed dominance, and their week one victories set the stage for what might be the biggest Week 2 football game in the history of this conference.

Am I overstating it? Maybe--Maybe not. I think Winona is primed for a run this season, but have they elevated their game to the level of Duluth? Saturday we'll find out, but in violating every news writing rule known to man, I am going to make you wait until the end to find out my pick.

Minot State (0-1) at Wayne State (1-0)

Minot State was beaten pretty soundly by Minnesota State-Mankato last week, while Wayne State beat up on the other Minnesota State-Moorhead.

Minot really struggled to move the ball last week against the Mavericks. They lost 44-yards on the ground, and only accounted for 32 yards on offense. Additionally the Beavers threw for just 76-yards and quarterback Bryan Jorgenson was picked off twice and completed just 9 of 18 passes.

Last week, there wasn't much that Wayne didn't do well, they moved the ball, to the tune of 318 yards on the ground, quarterback Nate Most threw for 274 yards and three touchdowns, he spread it to a few different targets, and defensively they contained the Dragons, keeping them under 250 yards of total offense.

The Beavers will have their hands full traveling to Wayne on Saturday, including trying to figure out how to stop Richard Daniel. Daniel, is one of the, if not the top pass rusher in the Northern Sun. He finished tied for the NSIC lead in sacks last year with eight, and he's off to another strong start this season in his Senior campaign. Daniel had two sacks last week against Moorhead.

I will take Wayne State!

MSU Moorhead (0-1) at Sioux Falls (1-0)

What do you do for an encore when you come into the league and resoundingly beat the team that many had pegged to be the top team in the Northern Sun this season?

That's the question the USF coaches, players, and fans have to be asking themselves. I will admit it, I under estimated the Cougars. The win last week over St. Cloud State was nothing short of stunning, not just by winning the game, but by how they won.

They took away St. Cloud's running game, and made things miserable for the Pre-Season NSIC North Division Offensive Player of the Year, Huskies quarterback Phil Klaphake. He finsihed 15/37 passing, for 225 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

Moorhead ran into a good Wayne State team last week, what USF showed last Thursday night, means the road isn't going to get any easier for the young Dragons. Infact, Minnesota State-Moorhead listed 11-freshmen (7 on offense, 4 on defense) as starters. There is no question they are trying to build the program in Moorhead, but I don't see a let down for the Cougars this week.

I will take USF in a landslide, in their home opener.

Concordia St. Paul (0-1) at Minnesota Crookston (0-1)

Last week, Concordia outgained Mary, putting up nearly 600-yards of offense. They contained Mary's rushing to just one yard on the ground. The Golden Bears had a 400-yard passer, a one hundred yard rusher, and two receivers with more than 100-yards receiving, and still lost.

Why? Because they had five turnovers.

James Peterson threw for 431 yards, two touchdowns and four interceptions in his first start in two seasons.

Last week, Crookston gave up 58-points and nearly 500 yards of total offense to Winona State.

While the Golden Eagles will try to control the clock by running the football, Concordia doesn't need a lot of time to score. The explosive Golden Bears averaged about 6.5 yards a play last week--Winona averaged 7.4 yards per play against Crookston.

Not to mention, Concordia is known for stacking the box defensively, and selling out to stop the run. Why would they do any different this week? That's not a great matchup for Crookston.

You see where I am going with this, look for fewer turnovers from Concordia this week as they get the bugs worked out, I like the Golden Bears to spoil the home opener for the Golden Eagles, and get a one sided victory in Crookston.

Augustana (1-0) at University of Mary (1-0)
Last Year: 10-0 Mary

Anyone remember last season? The week two meeting between these two schools is virtually a deja vu of that game last year.

A week two meeting between the two teams in Bismarck, North Dakota turned into a defensive struggle that Mary won. It was surprising, and don't think the same thing couldn't happen this year.

Mary didn't run the ball that well that day, just like they didn't run it well at Concordia on Saturday. Why do I bring up Concordia now? Well, they and Augustana play the same type of aggressive, take chances, to stuff the run type of defense, so Mary has a game plan and the talent and passing game to beat it, so if Augie isn't on their game, don't think they couldn't trip up.

That said, the difference between the Vikings in their 0-2 start last year, and the team they are now is really about one guy. Dajon Newell, he has brought stability to their rushing game. Newell last week rushed for 106 yards last week in Augie's season opening victory. In the game last year against the Vikings, he carried it just five times for six yards.

Despite winning last week, Mary gave up 588 yards to Concordia, if they hadn't picked off James Peterson four times in the game, they probably wouldn't had been so fortunate.

While Peterson was starting his first game in nearly two years, Augustana's quarterback Josh Hanson is in his third year as Augustana's starting quarterback, and has been nothing short of spectacular for the Vikings, over that time.

While originally I was leaning towards Mary, I think their victory over Augie last year probably hurts them a little on Saturday, because they will face a solid Viking squad that will want to make a point.

I will take Augustana.

SMSU (0-1) at Northern State (0-1)
Last Year: 30-17, Northern State

As long as we are on the subject of deja vu games, lets do the same thing for this one. It was week one last year, when Southwest went over to Aberdeen to take on Northern State, and the Wolves popped the Mustangs in the mouth in Tom Dosch's second season as the head coach.

The Wolves have built some energy with their program, their three game winning streak to close last season built some excitment around football in Aberdeen for the first time in a few years. Those wins included a victory to the team they lost to last week, Augustana.

That loss last week, was the first defeat for Jared Jacobson the Wolves starting quarterback, but even in the loss Jacobson rushed for 153 yards in the game. The Wolves run a speed option type of offense, its unique, not always pretty, but it normally is pretty effective, why, because the option takes advantage of defensive breakdowns, and early in the season, that is a concern for coaches.

That is especially a concern for Southwest, who last week, showed some youth defensively, sometimes playing a little over aggressive and opening up big running lanes on the cut back for Minnesota Duluth. Assignement defense for the Mustangs will be a big key to whether or not they get out of Aberdeen with a win.

I expect Southwest to pass, and have some success through the air, afterall Tyler Peschong did throw for over 300-yards last week against Duluth. I expect Northern to run the ball effectively. I expect some points--ok I expect a lot of points.

I will take the Mustangs on the road though.

Bemidji State (1-0) at Minnesota State (1-0)

Lance Rongstad picked up offensive player of the week honors last week, by orchestrating a late fourth quarter drive that allowed Bemidji to escape with a 25-23 win over Upper Iowa.

That's what a good quarterback does. Regardless of what has gone on the rest of the day, he finds a way to pick his team up and rally them late in the fourth quarter. He got his guys to forget they had let a 19-7 lead slip away in the fourth quarter. He got his guys to forget that on the four previous series, prior to that late touchdown the Beavers had gone fumble, punt, punt, punt. And he rallied them for one game defining drive.

Rongstad showed me something else last week, he showed me that he can be a threat with his arm as well as his feet.

Rongstad threw four touchdowns last week, and for 228 yards while completing 24 of 38 passing. That's efficient quarterback play.

On the other side of the ball, Mankato did pretty much what you expected them to, they went on the road and ran over Minot to the tune of 44-10. I am sure it was good for the Mavericks to just get away from the distraction on the field, which honestly has nothing to do with the players on it.

It could be tougher for Bemidji to run the ball again, especially if Dustin Kroeplin doesn't play again this week. Mankato held the Beavers to a -44 yards rushing last week.

Further, Minnesota State is going to test Bemidji's defense big time this week, John Wolf played pretty well for Minnesota State, and like the case with Northern will make their running game tough to defend. Wolf rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown last week in that win over Minot.

Being that the Mavericks are playing at home, I will take them to get the victory.

St. Cloud State (0-1) at Upper Iowa (0-1)

I don't know that I would have been the only person to say I didn't expect this to be a game between a pair of 0-1's on the season.

Certainly, the Huskies loss last week to USF was a surprise, but equally as shocking maybe is what would have happened if a 46-yard field goal from Steven Sandoval hadn't fallen short to finish the game, in Bemidji.

Upper Iowa is headed the right direction, no one is going to argue that. We saw the emergence of another Peacock running back this week, as UIU's Raymond Bradley rushed for 128-yards on 17-carries, against what is traditionally a pretty stout rushing defense in Bemidji. The Chowan transfer, redshirted last season, and this year is a junior eligibility wise. He certainly adds another weapon for the Peacocks.

It will be an emotional day in Fayette, with the grand opening of the new stadium, and their home opener. Part of the face lift, included new lights at the stadium, which allows the 6 p.m. kickoff, so certainly there is plenty to play for, for the Peacocks.

And, while it would be easy to think St. Cloud State could be hanging their heads after their loss last week, I just don't think that will happen.

Scott Underwood has always been able to get his players focused on goals, and St. Cloud has some pretty big ones coming into the 2012 season, being pre-season ranked #16. Their loss last week, although it hurts, doesn't necessarily mean anything, there is nothing this group still can not accomplish. Underwood didn't become the quickest coach to 30-wins in St. Cloud history for nothing, and don't forget, he has had some pretty big issues to overcome in his four seasons there.

I don't expect to see Phil Klaphake repeat his performance last week, and I look for St. Cloud to bounce back to get the win.

Extra Point: A little something I did not know though about this series, St. Cloud State and Upper Iowa first played in 1949. A game, that was actually won by Upper Iowa 23-20.

Winona State (1-0) at Minnesota Duluth (1-0)
Last Year: 24-6 Minnesota Duluth

Alas, after making you read all of this, I get to Winona State and Minnesota Duluth. Southwest Minnesota State Coach Corey Sauter said it best when describing Duluth, they just don't make any mistakes.

Sauter, said that after the Bulldogs pulled away from Southwest down the stretch on their way to a 45-20 victory over the Mustangs. Sauter is right, Minnesota Duluth isn't overly flashy, they are a physical footblal team that just doesn't make any mistakes, not even in the season's first game.

The other thing they do, is they take advantage of the mistakes their opponents make. The Bulldogs hit a lot of their big runs last week on Mustang over pursuit. By that I mean, their backs exercise great vision, and whether it was Austin Sikorski, Brian Lucas, or freshman Logan Lauters running the football, they found the openings, even if the opening was created on the plays back side.

On a side note, Minnesota Duluth has another solid trio of backs. Sikorski and Lucas proved themselves last year, but the difference maker could be the freshman Lauters, he has the look of a special player, and I think he could be the next great back in the Northern Sun.

As far as Winona goes, I said this before, I think they are as good as they ever have been, and very well could be the most talented team in the Northern Sun. Rayon Simmons is a special running back, he barely broke a sweat in his 14-carry 85-yard two touchdown performance last week.

The Bulldogs will be tough against the run, but they are not unbeatable yet defensively, there is still a lot of inexperience on that side of the ball especially in the linebacking core, and they are somewhat vulnerable to the pass, giving up over 300-yards to Southwest through the air.

John Tiegland will need to play well for Winona, if Brian Bradshaw plays the same goes for him, to give the Warriors a shot to win the game.

I just don't think it is likely the Warriors can go into Duluth and win. If they do, in my mind, they become the favorites to win the Northern Sun, but the Bulldogs are not the four time conference champion for nothing, I will take the Bulldogs to get the victory.

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  1. Quentin44's Avatar
    Nice job, Aaron. Thank you!
  2. laker's Avatar
    I always like to see how you pick the games.