Receivers spark DSU after Leak is injured in first halfThe Dickinson State football team didn’t panic when its biggest offensive playmaker hobbled off the field.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
The Dickinson State football team didn’t panic when its biggest offensive playmaker hobbled off the field.
Senior wide receiver and return specialist Tanner Leak left in the second quarter with a strained right hamstring and didn’t return. Leak entered the game third in the NAIA in all-purpose yards.
In his absence, the Blue Hawks got huge performances out of some young receivers and a crafty veteran in their 21-20 Frontier Conference victory over Montana State-Northern on Saturday afternoon at the Badlands Activities Center.
Redshirt freshman Wyatt Mirich made his first career catch a great one, hauling in a 56-yard touchdown pass from Dave Velasquez that got DSU back within striking distance in the fourth quarter.
“You’re looking for someone to step up,” said Velasquez, who threw for 230 yards and three touchdowns. “If it’s not a senior, someone’s got to step up and make a play.”
Redshirt freshman tight end Cody Clausen had three catches for 34 yards — all of which went for first downs — in his first start in place of injured senior tight end Nate Zachmann, who is out 2-4 weeks with a separated shoulder.
“It was nerve-wracking out there, going in to replace Nate for the first time,” said Clausen, who had just one catch in the first two games. “But Nate was right by my side every time if I had the question.”
The biggest help came from junior Jimmy Smith, who made five catches for 66 yards – including a 16-yard, toe-dragging fourth-down grab along the sideline that put DSU in position to win and sparked the ire of MSU-Northern coaches.
“When Tanner went down, we lose a little bit on the speed side of things,” Smith said. “I’m always there grinding it down, trying to get the middle plays and keeping him outside on the faster routes. When he goes down, that puts me in position to get a little bit outside but then again still trying to work inside and get my catches there. Dave had a really good day putting the ball where he needed to and our receivers had a good job today too.”
Leak was injured trying to stretch for an off-the-mark pass from Velasquez in the end zone toward the end of the second quarter. The senior said he felt OK after the game but knew he couldn’t have played in the second half. He hopes to play next week at Southern Oregon.
“I felt like I would have hurt the team more than anything,” Leak said.
Freshman kicker comes through
Chad Bryant has had struggles in his first season as DSU’s kicker. The true freshman entered the game having made 1 of 3 extra points this season.
He was perfect on all three of his attempts against MSU-Northern and it made a big difference in the game.
He also had a kickoff that got caught up in the whipping north wind and fell short of the Lights’ return team and was recovered by freshman Matt McCoy. Though DSU didn’t score off the fumble recovery — Bryant missed a 28-yard field goal into the wind on the drive — it kept MSU-Northern off the field for the final minutes of the second quarter.
Meanwhile, DSU turned to backup punter Kyle Sanders — another true freshman — with regular punter Brian Askin out with a leg injury. Sanders averaged 37.8 yards on six punts.
“I thought our kicking game was real solid today,” DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said.
Berg keeps making big plays
Cord Berg keeps turning up in big situations for the Blue Hawks.
The junior outside linebacker caused and recovered a fumble on a Montana State-Northern handoff in the third quarter. He also broke up a pass and had two of his five tackles go for a loss, including one that was nearly a safety late in the second quarter.
“It was a good turnover, something that we really needed,” Berg said. “It was a good swing in momentum. We didn’t get anything off of it, but it gave us more confidence.”