College football: Cougars clamp down on Bulldogs

Sioux Falls wide receiver Nate Johnson gets by UMD defender Tim Pokornowski for a TD in a 34-3 USF victory over the Bulldogs in an NSIC game Saturday in Sioux Falls. (Dave Eggen / Inertia)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Minnesota Duluth football coach Curt Wiese said during the buildup to this week’s game against Sioux Falls that the Cougars were as good as any team the Bulldogs had seen this season, in particular on defense.

That’s high praise given UMD was crushed 52-7 two weeks ago by third-ranked Minnesota State-Mankato, but this afternoon didn’t go a whole lot better.

Sophomore running back Thuro Reisdorfer rushed 13 times for 171 yards and two long touchdown runs and the Sioux Falls defense completely shut down 23rd-ranked UMD en route to a 34-3 victory before 1,567 at Bob Young Field in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“We struggled containing them up front on both sides of the football,” Wiese said in a phone interview on the long bus ride home. “We didn’t do a very good job establishing the run game. It was a tough way to go out.”

UMD was playing its second straight game without injured quarterback John Larson, who began throwing Wednesday but wasn’t ready to go.


Sioux (5-2) Falls came in as the second-ranked defense in NCAA Division II, allowing just 217.7 yards per game, and the Cougars will likely be No. 1 after holding UMD (5-2) to just 127 yards, including a paltry six rushing yards on 28 carries. That’s unfathomable for a team that came in averaging 181.3 yards per game on the ground.

“Offensively we did a really poor job establishing the run game which resulted in a couple forced turnovers in the passing game,” Wiese said. “In games like that you need to be able to stop a running attack. Sioux Falls was able to control the game against us.”

Reisdorfer is the featured back due to an injury to senior Gabriel Watson, a national player of the year finalist last fall who scored 26 touchdowns and led the nation with 177.9 rushing yards per game. Reisdorfer, a 6-foot-1, 206-pounder, proved he is no slouch himself, scoring on runs of 64 and 48 yards.

“Sioux Falls was good, but there was no excuse to lose to a team in conference the way that we did today,” Wiese said. “It was disappointing.”

Sioux Falls senior quarterback Caden Walters, meanwhile, added two touchdown passes and a touchdown run as the Cougars had 406 yards of offense, including 298 on the ground.

“We gave up way too many big plays defensively,” Wiese said. “We missed a lot of tackles.”

Wiese expects Larson to be back at quarterback next week when the Bulldogs return home to play Upper Iowa (1-6).

Last week, UMD alternated between sophomore Garrett Olson and freshman Keagan Calchera under center, but this week the Bulldogs went with Olson, who was 14-for-30 passing for 109 yards, with two interceptions and no touchdowns.


“I thought Garrett played OK today. I thought he played composed,” Wiese said. “When you have a backup quarterback in, the rest of the team needs to step up, whether that’s the offensive line, defensively, whoever it may be, but we weren’t able to do that.

“We dropped some footballs and weren’t great in protection, and part of that was because we weren’t able to establish the running game. We became more predictable and one dimensional, and they were able to force pressure on second and third downs.”

UMD mustered only 48 yards on 36 plays in the first half, while the Cougars had 237 yards in building a 27-3 halftime lead. About the lone bright spot for the Bulldogs was Dan Branger’s 40-yard field goal in the first quarter after UMD recovered a muffed punt return.

The Bulldogs now appear unlikely to make the NCAA Division II playoffs for the 10th time in the last 12 years.

“It is what it is,” Wiese said. “Our guys are disappointed, and deflated, but also have a responsibility to rally next week.”

Minn. Duluth 3-0-0-0—3
Sioux Falls 7-20-7-0—34
First Quarter
USF — Thuro Reisdorfer 64 run (Daniel Esparza kick), 10:19
UMD — Dan Branger 40 field goal, 7:08
Second Quarter
USF — Reisdorfer 48 run (Esparza kick), 5:38
USF — Nate Johnson 44 pass from Caden Walters (kick failed), 3:12
USF — Walters 6 run (Esparza kick), 0:10
Third Quarter
USF — Karnell Collier 20 pass from Walters (Esparza kick), 2:33
First downs.................................11 18
Rushes-yards..........................28-6 46-298
Passing yards ..........................127 108
Comp-Att-Int...................16-35-2 8-18-0
Kick returns-yards.............6-89 2-49
Punts-avg.............................7-42.9 6-39.2
Fumbles-lost..............................4-1 1-1
Time of possession.........27:55 32:05

RUSHING — UMD, Wade Sullivan 10-16, Byron Bynum 2-7, Zach Ojile 2-4, Armani Carmickle 1-4, Cazz Martin 2-(-2), team 1-(-2), Nick Eliason 1-(-4), Garrett Olson 7-(-5), Keagan Calchera 2-(-12). USF, Reisdorfer 13-171, Ja’Tai Jenkins 12-75, Winston Maxwell 10-44, Walters 9-5, Noah Butler 1-5, team 1-(-2).
PASSING — UMD, Olson 14-30-109-0, Calchera 2-5-18-0. USF, Walters 8-18-108-2.
RECEIVING — UMD, Quincy Woods 5-51, Eliason 3-25, Carmickle 2-17, Noah Skifton 1-10, Dain Hudson 1-8, John-Ross Lindscheid 1-7, Martin 1-5, Kurtis Weigand 1-3, Sullivan 1-1. USF, Johnson 2-47, Collier 4-38, Jermaine Broadnax 2-23.

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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