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College football: Walljasper the ‘future’ for UMD football

Freshman quarterback bounces back from tough Bemidji State loss with big game against Minot State.

College football players playing in outdoor stadium cloudy day
Minnesota Duluth quarterback Kyle Walljasper (12) carries the ball against Minnesota State Moorhead at Malosky Field on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, in Duluth.
Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
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DULUTH — Minnesota Duluth quarterback Kyle Walljasper went into his freshman season thinking he would only be used in mop-up situations as the third-stringer.

But an injury to senior starter Garrett Olson and Walljasper’s value as a runner has moved him up the UMD quarterback depth chart to where he’s suddenly not just the starter, but the potential foundation for years to come.

“Kyle has high expectations for himself and we need to continue to build his confidence week by week as our starting quarterback,” UMD coach Curt Wiese said. “He’s our future right now.”

Walljasper will lead the Bulldogs (6-3) into their NSIC contest at 1 p.m. Saturday against Augustana (6-3) in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It will be his third collegiate start.

Walljasper’s first collegiate start didn’t go so well as UMD fell 41-16 at Bemidji State as Walljasper was just 12-for-21 passing for 106 yards, with no touchdowns and three interceptions. He also had 25 rushes for 95 yards and a touchdown.

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“I was really frustrated after the Bemidji game,” Walljasper said. “I made a lot of plays where I know I’m better than that. It just wasn’t my day.”

Wiese was quick to come to his quarterback’s defense.

UMD couldn’t consistently run the football against Bemidji State and on the flip side, couldn’t stop the Beavers from making big plays, often on third and long and fourth and long situations.

Wiese was also impressed with Walljasper’s attitude, even saying he was perhaps a little too hard on himself.

“I would hope as a starting quarterback if you didn’t play well you’d take some ownership in it but that Bemidji State game wasn’t a quarterback’s loss,” Wiese said. “But you also know if you’re in that position, the lights are on and you’ve got the whole team on your back. We’re fortunate we’ve got him as a guy who is welcoming that opportunity.”

Walljasper bounced back in a big way last week in leading the Bulldogs to a 51-7 victory over Minot State.

Walljasper finished 11-for-15 passing for 176 yards, with three touchdowns to just one interception. He also had 21 rushing yards and another score.

“Kyle played well,” Wiese said. “He needed a confident football game. It’s tough as a freshman quarterback to put the team on your shoulders, but he’s competed hard all year. He continues to develop as a passer and gain confidence throwing the football.”

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Wiese was asked if Walljasper, a 6-foot-1, 232-pounder who was redshirted last year, reminded him of Chase Vogler, not as much in terms of style but in terms of the situation, a young quarterback relied on to lead the team despite still being real green in terms of experience.

Vogler, who now serves as UMD’s offensive coordinator, led the Bulldogs to their second NCAA Division II national championship in 2010 as a sophomore after playing the previous year as a true freshman. Like Walljasper, Vogler was thrust into that situation due to injury.

“He’s different than Chase,” Wiese said. “The amount we’re putting on those guys right now is 10-fold to what we put on Chase Vogler.”

So there’s a lot more on the quarterback plate now?

“Not even close,” Wiese said. “But Kyle is a very intelligent and methodical quarterback. He prepares hard as a freshman QB, and he’s as far along in our offense for a freshman as we’ve had.”

And that bodes well for the future of UMD football.

“I’m learning a lot obviously compared to high school,” said Walljasper, who played at Fond du Lac (Wis.) High School. “Our high school offense was pretty simple. Now, there are a lot of new things, really the mental side is the biggest difference. There’s just all the plays, and the play calling, but I’m starting to get it down a little bit and find my groove.”

While nobody is going to mistake winless Minot State with Bemidji State (even though they’re both the Beavers), Walljasper will have another opportunity to prove himself Saturday against a quality Augie team.

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“It was nice to bounce back last week,” Walljasper said. “Minot State wasn’t as good as Bemidji, but we needed one like that, for sure.”

Bulldogs on the bubble looking in

The second NCAA Division II Super Region Rankings were released Monday, with Angelo State (9-0) topping the 10-team rankings..

The top seven teams after next week’s regular-season finale make the NCAA playoffs, and while UMD wasn’t listed in this week’s top 10, a win over ninth-ranked Augustana this Saturday might at least get the Bulldogs into the picture.

“Everyone knows it’s a longshot for us to get into the playoffs, but our goal is just the same, and that’s to go 1-0 every week,” Walljasper said. “That’s why our focus this week is just on Augustana. That’s all we have control over. They’ve got a pretty talented squad so that’d be a big win.”

MINNESOTA DULUTH AT AUGUSTANA
What: NSIC football game
When: 1 p.m. Saturday
Where: Kirkeby-Over Stadium, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Records: UMD 6-3, Augustana 6-3
Sioux Falls forecast: sunny with a high of 54 and 11 mph wind
Internet: nsicnetwork.com/umdbulldogs
Radio: KDAL 610 AM & 103.9 FM

MINNESOTA DULUTH AT AUGUSTANA
National rankings: Neither team is ranked nationally but Augustana is ranked ninth in this week’s NCAA Division II Super Region Four rankings.
Series: Minnesota Duluth leads 11-2 including a 41-15 victory last November at Malosky Stadium in Duluth as quarterback Garrett Olson threw for 171 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 76 yards and another score. Augustana came into last year’s contest with an 8-1 record and No. 17 national ranking but UMD responded with arguably its best game of the season, leading 34-7 at halftime to quickly turn what was supposed to be an NSIC showdown into a dud.
Coaches: Curt Wiese is 86-21 in nine seasons at UMD; Jerry Olszewski is 62-38 in nine seasons at Augustana and is a two-time NSIC Coach of the Year.
Outlook: Minnesota Duluth is coming off a 51-7 victory over visiting Minot State as freshman quarterback Kyle Walljasper was 11-for-15 passing for 176 yards, with three touchdowns to one interception. He also had 21 rushing yards and another score. It was Senior Day at Malosky Stadium as the Bulldogs honored their 16 seniors on a beautiful day with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s. UMD got plenty of contributions from that group as Armani Carmickle had two touchdown receptions for 77 yards, Zach Ojile had a touchdown rushing and receiving and fellow senior Wade Sullivan added 12 carries for 91 yards.
“What a beautiful day and a great outcome for us. We came out firing,” said Ojile, a 6-foot-2, 238-pound tight end/fullback from Blaine, Minnesota. “It was a great way to represent the seniors on the team for all the hard work and sacrifice we’ve all put in. It’s been a great experience for me. I’ve loved every day I’ve been here. I’m just really blessed.”
Of Ojile’s 12 runs this season, three have gone for touchdowns, and of his 21 receptions, three have also gone for scores.
Augustana is coming off a 24-7 loss at Winona State as Trevor Paulsen was 10-for-16 passing for 137 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Warriors. Casey Bauman, a 6-foot-7 junior, was 24-for-35 passing for 231 yards and a touchdown to lead the Vikings but was intercepted twice, including one that was returned 35 yards for a touchdown.
— Jon Nowacki, Duluth News Tribune

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 jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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