Playing from behind was an all-too-familiar theme for the University of Mary football team last season.
In their season opener last Thursday, the Marauders found themselves in the same spot.
Down 14-0 after one quarter and 28-0 at halftime, the Marauders got things going in the second half, but by then it was too late.
“In our league, against the caliber of teams we play, you can’t be putting yourself behind the 8 ball,” U-Mary head coach Craig Bagnell said. “St. Cloud State is a good team and they jumped on us. We didn’t respond as well as we needed to.
"We’re aware of it. It’s something that’s a focus for us. We have to start games better.”
Even with the slow start, the Marauders closed within 28-12 in the third quarter and were on the verge of getting the ball back in good field position before a roughing-the-punter call completely flipped field position, and momentum.
“If we go down and score again, there’s still a full quarter to go and who knows?” Bagnell said. “What we can take from that is that we made some adjustments at halftime, they were pretty effective, and we played much better. But doing that for one quarter or two quarters, that’s not going to get us anywhere. We need that type of effort, that type of execution for four quarters.”
With tonight’s opponent – Bemidji State – four good quarters are essential. The Beavers rolled Northern State 33-7 in their season opener and looked poised to contend for everything in the Northern Sun. Kickoff tonight is at 7 p.m.
Few outside of BSU know the Beavers better than Bagnell. Prior to returning to Bismarck, he was the offensive coordinator at Bemidji State.
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“They’re an extremely talented team,” Bagnell said. “A few years back, as a staff, we thought 2018 we’d be a really good team, maybe a little inexperienced, but 2019 we knew we’d have some freak shows.
“They’re very well-coached. They have very good players. It’s a very complete football team.”
Defensively, Bagnell said the Beavers stack up with anybody in the front seven, and they’re athletic in the back end.
Offensively, the Beavers boast one of the best O-lines in the NSIC. Their quarterback, junior Brandon Alt (a Bagnell recruit), suffered a season-ending knee injury against U-Mary last season at the Bowl. Alt, who can throw and run, had four TD passes last week against Northern.
“They’re extremely physical,” Bagnell said of BSU. “We’ve told our guys, this is going to be a like a bar fight.”
The Marauders will be without wide receiver Luke Little because of a leg injury. Bagnell is hopeful Little will return in the not-too-distant future.
Offensively, the Marauders struggled to run the ball against St. Cloud, but quarterback Logan Nelson had a big second half with more than 200 yards through the air.
“The game slowed down for him in the second half and he showed what he’s capable of doing,” Bagnell said of Nelson. “Our (offensive) line is going to have to play extremely well. We need to be able to control the clock. We have to play clean. (Bemidji State) doesn’t need help. They’re very good on their own.”