UMD Rookies show off strength in numbers

John Gilbert

UMD quarterback Drew Bauer (9) watched freshman Ben Everhart direct the offense. Photo credit: John Gilbert
UMD quarterback Drew Bauer (9) watched freshman Ben Everhart direct the offense. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Freshman Tucker Hazzard passed during Tuesday's orientation scrimmage. Photo credit: John Gilbert
Freshman Tucker Hazzard passed during Tuesday's orientation scrimmage. Photo: John Gilbert
Tucker Hazzard pulled the ball down and ran off a broken play... Photo credit: John  Gilbert
Tucker Hazzard pulled the ball down and ran off a broken play... Photo credit: John Gilbert
...Hazzard cut through the defense and went 45 yards for a touchdown at Malosky Stadium. Photo credit: John Gilbert
...Hazzard cut through the defense and went 45 yards for a touchdown at Malosky Stadium. Photo credit: John Gilbert

The Olympics are done, the Twins have apparently decided to quit playing too, and the Tall Ships have shipped out, while football is just about to get started. Under the circumstances, the timing couldn’t be better.

There’ll be plenty of emphasis on the Vikings, who open their new stadium this week with Exhibition Game No. 3.  But there is a lot more football worth watching. We anticipate that our two Duluth college football teams – UMD in Division 2 and St. Scholastica in Division 3 – will have strong seasons and contend for titles in their respective conferences.

At UMD, coach Curt Wiese pulled off one of the neat features that has become something of an instant classic. It’s the intrasquad game that is part of freshman orientation week at the place. Orientation week is a valuable time for incoming freshmen to wander around campus in organized tours to learn the layout. To help inscribe football games at Malosky Stadium into that plan, the freshmen end up at Malosky, where they are fed a very generous meal and almost a state-fair-like atmosphere of goodies.

The game itself is a chance for new players to show what they can do in front of free-admission fans in the stands, plus the freshmen. The regulars played briefly at the start, then Wiese pretty much turned things over to the rookies.

“This is such a valuable thing for our new guys,” Wiese said. “They get a chance to play in front of some fans before we play a real game, and the fans get a look at the new players. I really like our incoming crop.”

No score was kept, with the offense going against the defense, and any lack of experience was overcome by rampant enthusiasm. After Bauer took the team in for an early touchdown, several young quarterbacks got the chance to perform, under the watchful eye of the coaches, and Bauer.

Ben Everhart, a freshman from Eau Claire, Wis., did a good job passing the ball. Tucker Hazzard, a freshman from Osceola, Wis., also looked good passing the ball, and also showed no hesitation to tuck the ball away when the circumstances demanded it.

On one play, Hazzard dropped back to pass, found no one open, and took off, running to his left, then cutting back to the right and then bursting through the defense to go all the way – about a 45-yard touchdown.

Acknowledging Drew Bauer’s considerable  skills at quarterback, and the half-dozen quarterbacks before him, it might have been an excellent decision by an incoming freshman to show he can run the ball.

The season opens for the Bulldogs at Southwest Minnesota State on September 1. Some of the young guys might be in the lineup, some might be backups, some might be red-shirted this year. Whatever, UMD is ranked No. 13 in the country to start the season, but the Northern Sun Conference is extremely tough, and both divisions appear to be loaded.