Scoring early a priority for Blue Hawks
It took the Dickinson State football team 59 minutes and 46 seconds to get on the scoreboard last Saturday.
Blue Hawks head coach Hank Biesiot doesn't want to see that happen when the team visits Rocky Mountain College at 1 p.m. Saturday at Herb Klindt Field in Billings, Mont., for the second Frontier Conference meeting between the teams this season.
"We're going to have to get some points earlier than we have been," Biesiot said. "You don't have to score first, but you have to get some points somehow, some way. I think that's important for us to do. You're going to have to score some points against them because they're very capable."
DSU's best offensive performance this season came in its season-opening 30-19 loss against Rocky when it gained 350 yards.
Since then, the Blue Hawks' offensive production has dropped off significantly to an average of 260 yards per game, the lowest in the Frontier.
DSU had just 197 total yards to beat Jamestown 8-7 last Saturday. The Blue Hawks had just 75 yards passing in the win, the third time this season they've been held below 100 yards passing in a game.
Sophomore quarterback Matt Harkless, starting in place of injured senior Dave Velasquez, is more of a run-first quarterback and senior all-conference receiver Tanner Leak has been set back by hamstring injuries.
But that doesn't deter from the fact that DSU's passing game has been stagnant most of the season.
"That's something we have to work on this week, is work on our run game but pick up our passing game and have it complement our run game so we can move the ball up the field and put some points on the board," DSU senior right tackle Carl Dynneson said. "Then, the defense will come in with that confidence, hold the team to a low-point game and hopefully we don't have to wait until the last two minutes to see what happens and get that win."
Standing in the Blue Hawks' way is a group of hungry Bears.
After starting the season with three straight wins, a four-game losing skid has derailed Rocky's hopes for a promising season.
Despite the losses, Rocky is still second in the league in defense, allowing 385 yards a game.
After a close loss to Carroll and letting a tight game against Montana Tech slip away in the fourth quarter, the Bears suffered sizable road losses to Montana State-Northern and Eastern Oregon.
Now, they're back home trying to set things right.
"It's the Frontier Conference," Rocky head coach Brian Armstrong said. "Any given week, if you play well, you're going to get beat or you're going to have a very good chance of getting beat, regardless of who you are. I think that's played pretty true throughout the season thus far.
"We've been in pretty much every game in the fourth quarter and haven't found a way to win enough of them, but it's been competitive."
Biesiot said the Blue Hawks cannot overlook the Bears regardless of how they've played in the past four weeks.
"It's a good club that's lost four in a row," Biesiot said. "The reason for that, I don't know. They're tough."
Rocky, like most teams in the Frontier, has a fast-paced offense led by junior quarterback Bryce Baker that can burn teams at any turn.
Despite several injuries to his receiving corps, Baker has thrown for 1,684 yards and 11 touchdowns while rushing for three more scores.
"They're going to get some first downs," Biesiot said. "But when you get them in the long-yardage situation, you have to be able to get off the field and give the offense some more opportunities and give yourself a break or a rest defensively. That's just as important."
Windy conditions shake up DSU's practices
Wind gusts up to 70 miles an hour on Wednesday and continued blustery conditions with rain Thursday forced DSU to change how it practiced leading up to today's game.
But, Biesiot said it could have been worse.
"You don't like to have it in practice, but it'd be quite an experience playing a game in (Wednesday's) wind," Biesiot said.
On Wednesday, DSU eliminated 15 minutes of passing game work from their practice schedule because of the wind.
Biesiot said other than that, the only issues the team had was communication between coaches and players because their voices were muffled by the wind.
Overall though, they didn't encounter many issues.
"We had a real decent practice, considering the conditions," Biesiot said.
Nose guard Colton Hill coming off breakout game
DSU junior Colton Hill has quietly been a beast at nose guard this season.
The 6-foot-3, 300-pound junior ranks third on the team with 44 tackles. He had 15 tackles and four sacks in last Saturday's victory over Jamestown College.
"Every D-lineman wants a game like that," Hill said. "But I guess I just play one game at a time, see what happens. But it's always nice to have a big game like that."