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When UMD football coach Curt Wiese and his staff prepared for the Super Region 3 opener against Emporia State, they knew that the Bulldogs would have to depend on freshman quarterback Drew Bauer -- both for his ability to read the Hornets defense, and for his ability to run the ball whenever he sensed the opportunity. Mission, as they say, accomplished.
Bauer took charge of the UMD attack that shocked Emporia State 55-13 last Saturday at Malosky Stadium, sending the Bulldogs (11-1) on the road to Maryville, Mo., this Saturday to face Northwest Missouri State (11-0) in the semifinal of Super Region Three. A traditional D-II power, Northwest Missouri State is the favorite, although they may not feel that way after watching videos of UMD’s decisive blitzing of Emporia.
Emporia State was not in Kansas any more when the once-beaten Hornets came to Malosky Stadium to engage the once-beaten Bulldogs in an NCAA Division II playoff showdown. It was cold, dropping below 10 degrees with a wind-chill factor right about zero, and the Hornets came out as though a nasty edge might keep them warm. They smacked the Bulldogs at every chance and battled to a 13-13 deadlock after one quarter. Naturally the Bulldogs weren’t going to tolerate that, so most plays ended with Emporia players backing up their hostile hits with a lot of hostile talk.
“Sometimes it gets a little emotional out there,” said junior running back Austin Sikorsky, who rushed 15 times for 122 yards and a touchdown. “Sometimes the emotion can get the best of you.”
Sikorski was pretty tactful; Bauer was more direct, just as he was on the field. “We like to think they did the yapping,” said Bauer. “We tried to keep quiet and let our play do the talking.”
He couldn’t have put it better. Bauer, a 6-foot-2, 220-pounder from the southern Twin Cities suburb of Inver Grove Heights, never had a better day. With the wind whistling at a fairly constant 20 mph out of the northwest, Bauer only tried 10 passes, completing four of them, while Corben Jones, his counterpart, getting his first start because of injuries on the Emporia side, was 12 for 31 for 173 yards. Each had a touchdown pass. The difference was that Bauer ran for a stunning 173 yards, and four -- count ’em, 4 -- touchdowns. He was never sacked, and he broke off 55 of those yards to get the Bulldogs started with the game’s first score.
Meanwhile, the Bulldog defense, playing as if it liked the frigid weather, stopped Emporia State cold, to coin a phrase. Seven Hornets runners tried 30 times to run the football, and their total was minus-2 total yards. Jones found early success passing, but then the Bulldogs started catching his passes, too, intercepting Jones five times, while sacking him seven more times. “It’s easy to get motivated when they’re yapping,” said UMD defensive end Chris Vandervest.
It was an injury-filled game, as UMD, with alternate running back Logan Lauters already among those sidelined, joined by what Wiese estimated was 20 other Bulldogs who had appointments with the training staff this week, including place-kicker Andrew Brees. When his dependable foot was knocked out, Alex Brown, a senior punter, stepped in and booted six consecutive extra points in his first duty on placekicks.
The ferocity of the hitting lessened somewhat as the score mounted with suddenness in the second quarter. Sikorski scored his touchdown on a 56-yard run late in the first quarter for the 13-all tie, and just when it appeared this would be a tense game to the finish, the second quarter started. Bauer scored on touchdown runs of 10, 1, and 5 yards, and mixed in a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jeremy Reierson, deftly converting turnovers into a stunning 28-point second quarter that thrust UMD to a 41-13 halftime cushion.
Steve Ierulli’s two touchdown runs, including a 50-yarder, sealed things in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs basically tried to run out the clock in a scoreless fourth quarter. UMD was outpassed 173-35 yards, an easy exchange for outrushing Emporia State 476 to minus-2.