Lighting in a bottle: In past 4 games, Steffan has been an unstoppable receiver for U-MaryTyler Steffan doesn’t know how he’s doing it, but he doesn’t want it to stop.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Tyler Steffan doesn’t know how he’s doing it, but he doesn’t want it to stop.
The University of Mary junior receiver from Dickinson is having a breakout season. To be specific, he’s had a four breakout weeks.
In the past four games, Steffan has set two school records and has 565 yards receiving and 14 touchdowns.
“It’s kind of an unbelievable season, especially the last month for sure,” Steffan said. “I can’t really explain why I had this outburst with all these touchdowns. It’s not like we’re doing anything different as far as our offense goes.”
Steffan has 53 receptions for 911 yards and school-record 17 touchdown receptions this season. Twice, he has set the school record for four touchdowns in a game.
Steffan looks to tack on more to those totals when the Marauders visit Northern State at noon today in Aberdeen, S.D.
Marauders head coach Myron Schulz said it’s easy to explain Steffan’s emergence.
First, he said Steffan has the right combination of size, speed and intangibles that make for a great receiver.
“He’s tall and physical, and he runs extremely well,” Schulz said. “He’s not a burner, but he’s fast. He’s got body contour. If the ball is not exactly in the right spot, he can bend, twist and get it.”
There’s also the U-Mary offense’s ability to spread the ball around. Its running game led by senior Josh Murray, a transfer from the University of North Dakota, as well as the steadiness of receivers Brady Martin, Bryan Sandy and Curtis Darrah — who have combined for 82 receptions this season — often leave Steffan open in one-on-one situations.
“It’s hard to double somebody when there’s still three other receivers out there and you’re running the ball fairly well,” Schulz said. “It’s still a team effort. There’s a cause and effect. The other guys are catching it well and we’re running it well. That helps create Ty’s matchups.”
However, Schulz admits there may be something extra special in the connection between Steffan and sophomore quarterback Craig Bagnell.
“They know each other so well, they’re both on the same page and they’re both really intelligent kids,” Schulz said of the quarterback and receiver. “They can recognize what they’re seeing. They’ve almost got a hidden communication among themselves.”
Steffan said that communication goes back to summer workouts, which meant five days of strength and conditioning training a week along with numerous throwing drills for Bagnell and the U-Mary receivers.
Yet when it comes time for the Marauders to punch it in the end zone, Steffan has been their answer.
“When we get inside the red zone, we look for the jump ball to me, the pass route if they’re going to give it to us with one-on-one coverage,” Steffan said.
It hasn’t always been a feast of receptions for Steffan though.
In fact, after a hot start that saw him catch 11 passes for 231 yards and two touchdowns in the Marauders’ first two games, U-Mary’s passing game went a little cold and it showed in Steffan’s numbers. In a span of four games between Sept. 17 and Oct. 8, he had just seven receptions for 115 yards.
His lone touchdown in that dry spell came during a 10-0 victory against Augustana (S.D.) on Sept. 17. Two weeks later in a 31-0 win at Minnesota Crookston, Steffan didn’t catch a pass as Bagnell sat out with an injury. U-Mary backup Josh Edwards passed just seven times that day and none of his three incompletions were intended for Steffan.
Two weeks after going catchless — and one week after hauling in two receptions for just nine yards in a loss at Wayne State — Steffan caught lightning in a bottle.
In a 41-28 loss to Minnesota Duluth, Steffan had 10 receptions for 140 yards and a school-record four touchdowns. The next week, it was 202 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Bemidji State. He followed that with 123 yards receiving and four more touchdowns in a rout of Minnesota State Moorhead. Last Saturday, he had 100 yards receiving and three touchdowns in a close loss to Winona State.
“Ty is just that big-play, big-time type of receiver,” Bagnell said. “If he’s ever given the opportunity to be man-to-man with a corner or whoever it is, that’s a shot we’re willing to take anytime. He’s got the opportunity to score on any play, really.”
Now, Steffan said, it’s all about ending the season with a bang.
Because the Marauders won’t make the NCAA Division II playoffs, Steffan said they’re aiming for different goal today in their season finale: the team’s first winning season since 2007 and only their second since becoming a member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.
If history serves as a measuring device, Steffan could be in for another big day.
Steffan had 222 yards and a touchdown on 10 receptions in U-Mary’s victory over Northern State in the final game of the 2010 season.
“It gave me a lot of confidence in knowing I could have big games like that really whenever I wanted to, or whenever everything worked out,” Steffan said. “Having that gave me a lot more confidence, and confidence is everything when you’re playing in any sport.”