Struggling DSU football team preparing for No. 8 Carroll College
There are no lazy Saturdays for football teams in the Frontier Conference.
Dickinson State knows this all too well.
The Blue Hawks, just one week after being humbled in a 45-7 road loss to Southern Oregon, host No. 8-ranked Carroll College at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Badlands Activities Center.
"Everybody knew the Frontier was going to be tough," DSU senior defensive tackle Matt Seibert said. "It definitely was a wake-up call."
The Blue Hawks (1-3, 1-3 Frontier), in their first season as a member of the Frontier, have received a harsh welcome to the league.
They rank last in the conference in scoring, passing offense and rushing defense. They're second-to-last in total offense and points allowed. While DSU's pass defense ranks fourth in the league -- they were first before giving up 334 yards passing to Southern Oregon -- it is the only team in the league without a sack this season.
"Every year I've been here, it's been tough. Every year has been a set of new challenges," DSU senior outside linebacker Jay Grosz said. "These new offenses, they're probably the best offenses -- up and down our schedule -- that we've seen so far."
Next up is the cream of the crop. Carroll has won every Frontier Conference title since 1999.
"We've got to prove, first of all, we can play better than we did last week," DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said. "You've got to do the little things. You ain't gonna trick 'em. Their offensive line is the best one in the league. That's a lot to contend with. But, that being said, you just have to measure up, do the little things and try and get the game shortened."
Carroll is everything one would expect from a program that has won six NAIA championships and has two national runner-up finishes in the past 10 seasons.
Defensively, the Saints are the toast of the Frontier. They top every major statistical category and rank first in the NAIA with 19 sacks.
On offense, senior running back Chance Demarais has rushed for 494 yards and four touchdowns while junior quarterback Dakota Stonehouse has been a dual threat. He has passed for 845 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 299 yards and two scores.
"Carroll is a very fundamental football team," Biesiot said. "They just execute well. You look at them and they're not going to trick you. But they're going to play sound and they're going to play very good football. That's what they do best."
The Saints aren't perfect though.
They are 3-2 overall with a 3-1 record in the Frontier. They lost to Portland State, a NCAA Football Championship Subdivision school, 38-20 and were defeated by Montana Tech 37-20 on the first two Saturday's of September.
Carroll has since recovered, putting together convincing wins against Rocky Mountain College and Eastern Oregon.
DSU, meanwhile, is in danger of starting the season with a 1-4 record for just the second time in Biesiot's 37 years as head coach and only the fourth time since 1950. The Blue Hawks last started a season 1-4 in 2007 when they had three consecutive losses to start the year and fell to 1-6 before finishing with a 3-7 record.
The Blue Hawks know they're the underdog in this one. And Seibert said they're coming into the week with that identity too.
"Everybody is coming to practice with an attitude this week," Seibert said. "The locker room isn't calm, but quieter."
3 DSU starters either out or limited
The Blue Hawks won't have two important starters on the field against Carroll. Another will be limited for the second straight week.
Senior tight end Nate Zachmann will out for the third week in a row after separating his right shoulder against Montana Western on Sept. 8. Freshman safety Jaylen Sokoloski, one of the team's most pleasant surprises, will miss his second game in a row after breaking his finger.
"He can't play. We thought he would," Biesiot said of Sokoloski, who still ranks second on the team with 23 tackles despite missing last week's game against Southern Oregon.
Zachmann is practicing but isn't wearing pads. Biesiot said he didn't expect Zachmann to return to full pads for at least a week.
Meanwhile, receiver and return specialist Tanner Leak appears ready to return to action after seeing limited playing time last Saturday. He suffered a hamstring injury against Montana State-Northern on Sept. 15.
Just how much playing time Leak gets will be a game-time decision, Biesiot said, adding that he hopes DSU can get a lot of work out of the senior who ranked third in the NAIA in all-purpose yards before missing last week's game.
"He's one of the few guys we've got with that second gear," Biesiot said.