DSU hosting rematch with Saints
Both teams have nothing to lose.
On the other hand, Dickinson State sits at 1-9 and faces a losing record no matter what. The Blue Hawks host the Saints at noon today and refuse to accept another defeat. The team is coming off what the players call their best weeks of practice all season.
“We’ve been relaxed, but we’ve been playing really good,” DSU junior wide receiver JT Keith said. “We do feel like we’ve played our best football these last two weeks, so it’s going to be a good way to measure where we’re at the end of the season and playing the No. 3-ranked team in the nation.”
DSU is coming off its much needed bye week and used it to its full advantage. While the team practiced Sunday through Thursday, the three days off helped the team mentally rest up as well as allow nagging injuries to heal up.
“The bye week helped,” DSU sophomore wide receiver Wyatt Mirich said. “Just having a couple days off rejuvenates everyone and the tempo gets picked back up, which makes us work even harder the next week.”
A slew of Blue Hawks have been injured all season which impacted depth charts and how fast some players could heal. On the offensive line, senior left guard Nick Yelton has injuries to both of his knees, but because of how thin the Blue Hawks are on the line, he has been a pillar of strength and started all year.
The extra time also helped Keith heal, who said he is ready to play. Keith suffered a severe AC shoulder separation on Oct. 26 when DSU hosted Rocky Mountain College.
“I feel great, there’s hardly any pain at all. I’m just going to take it play by play,” Keith said. “I’ve got good backups too that are more than willing to come in. The wide receiver position won’t be an issue (today).”
The last time DSU and Carroll played was Oct. 12 in Helena, Mont., and the Saints finised with a dominating 42-7 win. The Saints haven’t slowed down, since, and the chances of them going easy on the Blue Hawks are slim to none.
Known for its power offense and physicality on defense, Carroll leaves nothing to the imagination and what you see is what you get. While it sounds simple enough, the team is disciplined on either side of the ball and executes each play to a tee.
Carroll’s defense consists of 11 pure athletes that are fundamentally sound, quick and hit harder than any other defense in the conference. DSU has averaged just 12 points per game at home, while its opponents have averaged 33.8. The Blue Hawks’ offense has struggled lately with turnovers, so the key for the offense will be to hold on to the ball and value each possession they get.
“It was super tough. Their front seven was everything we expected and we expected a physical battle up front and they brought it,” DSU freshman quarterback Kaler Ray said. “We’re expecting that again this week and have been just planning on making the right blocks, sustaining and doing what we can.”
Offensively Carroll’s strength is running the ball, but its pass game is equally lethal. Junior running back Dustin Rinker is the team’s go-to rusher, averaging 145.1 yards per game with 11 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Dakota Stonehouse can pass — averaging 187.9 yards in the air with 22 TDs — but can also run efficiently. Stonehouse is the team’s second rusher behind Rinker with 649 yards.
DSU’s defense will have to play smart, contain the run game, play with confidence and match Carroll’s physicality in order to keep up.
“We know what they’re going to give us they’re not going to do anything fancy and know what we’re getting,” DSU sophomore outside linebacker Matt McCoy said. “They’re such a big physical team and they’re going to try and hit us in the mouth and hopefully we can respond and get them back.”
Besides being the final game of the season, it is also senior day where starters Ryan Payne, Brock Overbo, Nick Yelton, Kyle Watson, Colton Hill and Antwan Smith will be honored. The Blue Hawks want to finish their season out strong for themsevles, but more importantly for their mentors who have been there to teach the underclassmen what it truly means to be a part of Dickinson State football. Ray, a transfer from Arizona, said he will miss his offensive line (Payne, Overbo and Yelton) which has been there for him since day one.
“They understood I was super far away from home and they would always be inviting me over and I really got to know them on a personal level,” Ray said. “So, it’s going to be really emotional playing with them and especially after playing the whole season with them. They showed what it means to be a Blue Hawk and inspire the younger kids and inspired me, so we got to play for them.”