College football: Bulldogs get defensive in win over Huskies

St. Cloud State came into today's football game against Minnesota Duluth with the best turnover margin in NCAA Division II, at plus-21. But the 20th-ranked Huskies hadn't played anyone of UMD's caliber, and the result was a 40-17 Bulldogs victory...

St. Cloud State came into today's football game against Minnesota Duluth with the best turnover margin in NCAA Division II, at plus-21.

But the 20th-ranked Huskies hadn't played anyone of UMD's caliber, and the result was a 40-17 Bulldogs victory in UMD's regular-season home finale before 4,032 spectators at Malosky Stadium.

The Bulldogs converted five St. Cloud turnovers into 24 points in extending their school-record conference winning streak to 28 games.

For a half, the game appeared to be something rarely seen at UMD during the last three years -- a close contest -- before the second-ranked Bulldogs broke away from a 13-10 halftime lead with 20 unanswered points in the third quarter.

"The defense was kind of down on ourselves at halftime after giving up a late field goal, but then it was our time to shine," said UMD senior linebacker Kiel Fechtelkotter, who led the Bulldogs with 11 tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble that teammate Rob Huberty returned 6 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. "It's always a battle with St. Cloud every year. It was kind of back and forth before our defense came up with some big plays. We played well, and we played together. We played Bulldog football."


Brad Foss rushed 22 times for 107 yards and a touchdown as the senior topped 100 yards for the third straight game since replacing injured All-American Isaac Odim.

UMD (9-0 overall, 8-0 NSIC) managed 206 rushing yards against a Huskies team that had been holding opponents to 91.8 rushing yards per game, but it wasn't easy as the Bulldogs rushed 49 times. Sophomore quarterback Chase Vogler added 167 passing yards and two touchdowns.

Five UMD players scored TDs, and the Bulldogs didn't have a turnover a week after fumbling four times at Northern State.

"St. Cloud made it hard on us all day, but the difference was turnovers," said UMD coach Bob Nielson said. "That gave us great field position, and on offense, we took care of the football. Those were things we talked about during the week, and I'm really proud of the way our guys played and executed."

St. Cloud (7-2, 7-1) has a budding star in redshirt freshman quarterback Phillip Klaphake, who reminds some fans of a young Ted Schlafke. Klaphake passed for 212 yards, with a touchdown and two interceptions, and he added 58 yards rushing and another score, including an incredible scramble that had UMD players gasping for air.

"Phillip probably put a little more pressure on himself than he needed to, but he's performed well all year and was willing to take that on," said St. Cloud coach Scott Underwood. "Duluth played great defense and capitalized on turnovers, and we just made too many mistakes. When you play good football teams, you can't do those things and expect to win."

UMD likely will take over the No. 1 ranking in the national coaches' poll after top-ranked Grand Valley State lost 20-17 to Michigan Tech today. The NSIC could have the top two spots in the first regional rankings that come out this week, with UMD and Augustana, which rallied for a 17-13 victory over Minnesota State-Mankato today, both being unbeaten.

Fechtelkotter wasn't looking too far ahead, but he and the rest of UMD's 16 seniors hope they have at least one more home game.


"We still have to take care of business, and that other stuff will take care of itself," Fechtelkotter said of the rankings. "We've still got two more games to go, so that'll keep things in perspective, but as far as Senior Day goes, this was the way we wanted to go out."

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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