College football: UMD relying heavily on second and third stringers as season winds down
The Minnesota Duluth football team reached out to Tory Adams three days before preseason camp started in August.
The Bulldogs were in need of a running back, so they asked Adams if he wanted to come out for the team. Adams was previously part of the program before playing for the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul in 2015, only to return to UMD to finish his degree.
"Tory was enrolled in school here, and fortunately, we were able to pick him up," Wiese said.
Adams, a junior from Hutchinson, Minn., had career-highs in carries (18) and yards (101) last week in the Bulldogs' 63-7 NSIC North rout at Minnesota-Crookston.
With standouts out at quarterback (John Larson), wide receiver (Jason Balts) and now at running back with Wade Sullivan getting hurt last week, UMD will test its depth even more, relying on second and even third stringers as the fifth-ranked Bulldogs (9-0) host Mary (0-9) in an NSIC North game at 1:05 p.m. Saturday at Malosky Stadium.
"When you get into this point of the season and have aspirations to play into December, you need to have guys who can play adequate roles as backups," UMD coach Curt Wiese said. "We've had some guys who have been able to come in and compete."
Sullivan carried the ball two times and then caught an 18-yard touchdown from junior Mike Rybarczyk before Sullivan left the game with a lower-body injury. Wiese was hopeful Sullivan will be back next week when the Bulldogs close out the regular season at home against Northern State.
After seeing Sullivan get hurt, Wiese wasn't taking any chances, pulling Rybarczyk late in the first quarter with UMD already leading 28-0.
Third-string quarterback Ben Everhart came in and promptly threw an 80-yard touchdown strike to Obi Ibeneme on the opening play of the second quarter to put the Bulldogs even further in control.
Everhart finished 13-for-22 passing for 232 yards and three touchdowns, with all three touchdowns going to the 6-foot-2, 205-pound Ibeneme, who finished with six receptions for a career-high 118 yards.
Wiese recruited Ibeneme out of Eastview High School in Apple Valley, Minn.
"Obi came to us as a walk-on and has worked really hard in developing into one our top receivers," Wiese said. "Obi is a long receiver with really good ball skills. He does a really good job positioning his body and keeping his feet in bounds and then going and getting the football. He's a guy who can leap over the top of the defensive backs to get the ball, and two of his touchdowns were like that."
The Bulldogs, who have won at least a share of 11 straight NSIC North titles, have long felt like many of their backups could start for other programs, and they take pride in building on that depth.
UMD rotates six receivers so Wiese doesn't consider Ibeneme and others backups per se. The idea is to keep guys healthy, and nowhere is that more important now than at quarterback with Larson being lost for the season with a lower-leg injury.
Even redshirt freshman Garrett Olson, who started the season as UMD's fourth-string quarterback, got in the action last week, completing 8 of 11 passes for 60 yards and a touchdown.
"Mike and Ben's health is extremely important right now, and at this point in the season with John being out, we needed to get Garrett a little bit of experience," Wiese said. "We need to make sure those other guys are healthy, and make sure other players are ready to go when called upon."
MARY AT NO. 5 MINNESOTA DULUTH
What: NSIC football game
When: 1:05 p.m. Saturday
Where: Malosky Stadium (4,500 capacity, artificial turf) Records: Mary 0-9, UMD 9-0
Forecast: Mostly cloudy with a high of 43 and 9 mph wind
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