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UMD’s football game against Minnesota State-Moorhead shifts from 6 p.m. to 1:05 Saturday at Malosky Stadium, presumably to avoid conflicting with the men’s hockey season-opener against Michigan Tech at 4 p.m.
The good news is that the Bulldogs will be able to put on another of their sleight-of-hand games in broad daylight. If it follows a pattern, the game will be high-scoring, raging back and forth, before a strong defensive play at the end settles it by less than four points.
UMD cleared a major hurdle and kept 3,256 fans enthralled last Saturday night by beating previously unbeaten Augustana 41-38 -- making it four straight games for the Bulldogs in which the result was four points or less.
The Bulldogs lost at Southwest Minnesota State 42-38 to open the season, came home and slipped past Winona State 34-31, then outlasted Concordia in St. Paul 52-49 before coming back home and rallying from a 31-17 deficit to sting Augustana.
The game was three hours of spectacular offensive plays by both teams. As usual, the quarterbacks were the top guns and compiled the most impressive statistics. Drew Bauer racked up 470 yards of offense, which was his career best, and the fourth largest single game total ever.
Bauer completed 21 of 35 passes for 331 yards and two touchdowns, both to Nate Ricci, including a 46-yarder that Ricci caught under heavy guard while hitting the turf in the end zone with 1:27 remaining. Bauer also ran the ball 20 times for 140 yards.
Impressive as Bauer’s totals were, he and his record outlay were second-best at Malosky Stadium Saturday night. Trey Heid, Augustana’s quarterback, was 23 of 41 for a whopping 388 yards and four touchdowns, and he ran 12 times for 91 yards and two more TDs. That tally hits 479 yards to Bauer’s 470, and he accounted for six touchdowns – three of them to Matt Heller.
Heller put on a show for the UMD fans,to say nothing of the Bulldog defenders. He opened the game catching a 21-yard touchdown pass, then caught a 35-yarder as the Vikings went up 12-3 in the second quarter. After Heid ran one in himself to make it 19-10 at halftime, he ran in another and hit Heller for a 27-yard score in the third quarter to boost Augustana to a 31-17 bulge.
“As a team, we were very resilient tonight,” said Bauer. “We stormed from behind against a very good team, but no one gave up. And hats off to the crowd, they contributed a lot to those two false starts Augustana had on their last drive.”
For the game, Heller caught nine passes for 244 yards and his three touchdowns, with his longest pass play an 85-yard bomb that was not a touchdown pass. UMD countered with Ricci’s six catches for 153 yards, Beau Bofferding’s five grabs for 43 yards and D.J. Hebert’s four catches for 73 yards.
While those receivers were flying through the air in an assortment of circus catches, UMD’s Darren Walker carried the ball twice in the first half, both in the second quarter, then became the go-to workhorse in the second half with 16 more carries to wind up with 78 yards and two short touchdown bursts that were pivotal. He scored fom the 2 after Cameron Hausman’s second field goal to open the fourth quarter by lifting UMD to within reach at 31-27, then he crashed in from the 5 with 1:26 remaining to give UMD its first lead of the game at 34-31.
Amazingly, Augustana wouldn’t go away. UMD’s chance to ice the game ended when the Vikings held on fourth and goal at the 4, then Heid immediately pitched to Heller up the right sideline for 85 yards, and he passed for the final 7 to Nathan Merriman for a 92-yard, 2-play drive in 44 seconds that reclaimed the lead at 38-34.
Problem was, it left Bauer too much time, and he brought the Bulldogs 75 yards in five plays, consuming only 1:27 before he hit Ricci in the end zone.
Even then, there was time for drama, as Heid had 2:19 to play with. He ran out of luck at the UMD 45 on a fourth and 20. Heid sent Trevor DeSchepper over the middle where he was wide open – for a moment. As the pass arrived, so did UMD defensive back Mitchell Johnson-Martin, leaping high to deflect the ball away from DeSchepper and eliminating the Vikings last chance.
After all the offensive pyrotechnics, it was stunning to see the Bulldogs win their third straight game on a great defensive play.