Hawks preparing for Raiders’ aerial assaultDickinson State’s football team will board an airplane this morning and travel to a football game for the first time in school history.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Dickinson State’s football team will board an airplane this morning and travel to a football game for the first time in school history.
The Blue Hawks are flying toward what is bound to be an aerial assault in Ashland, Ore., on Saturday.
“We know they get down the field,” DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said. “They run the vertical game probably better than any team we’ve played this year.”
Dickinson State has a 1-2 record and is coming off a skin-of-their-teeth 21-20 win over Montana State-Northern last Saturday. Yet so far, the Blue Hawks haven’t let the wide-open offenses of Frontier Conference teams eat them up.
The Blue Hawks rank first in the league in pass defense (173.3 yards per game) and third in the total yards allowed (351.7).
That defensive resolve will likely be tested against Southern Oregon, which is also in its first season in the Frontier, when the teams meet at 2 p.m. MDT Saturday at Raider Stadium.
The Raiders aren’t just a team who like to put the football in the air. Through two games, they have the NAIA’s best offense (555 yards per game) and are its most effective passing team.
Sophomore quarterback Austin Dodge leads the NAIA with 352 yards per game He also leads in total offense (373.5 yards). Senior receiver Cole McKenzie leads the nation with 169 receiving yards per game, and has 19 receptions and three touchdowns.
“The biggest thing is to key him a lot in the game and just shut him (McKenzie) down,” DSU senior cornerback Mike Fisher said. “If we can go out there and hold him to half of what he’s usually getting in the game, that’s a pretty good job. Obviously no one else has been able to do it.”
Southern Oregon (1-1, 1-1 Frontier) doesn’t just pass either. In their first two games, they averaged 199 yards rushing. That ranks first in the Frontier.
Comparatively, DSU is averaging 178 yards rushing through three games. Senior quarterback Dave Velasquez is averaging 162 yards passing.
“We’ve got a lot of things to build on, we looked for a lot of guys to step up last week and they did,” Velasquez said. “We’ll have a lot more options this week, I think. We’ve got some momentum going into this next game, which is nice. We hope to keep it rolling. We just look to other people to make plays again and put one whole game together with the defense and offense both doing well.”
Southern Oregon head coach Craig Howard looks to Dodge to employ a no-huddle offense that makes sure it is on the field as much as possible. The Raiders ran 85 offensive plays in a 54-21 win over Montana Western and had 97 in a 52-30 loss against Rocky Mountain on Sept. 8. They had a bye last Saturday.
“It is kind of a conflict of styles,” Howard said. “They’re very physical, very solid fundamentals football team. We’re kind of wild and crazy.”
DSU defensive coordinator Arlan Hofland said winning control of the game tempo and limiting the number of Southern Oregon’s offensive plays will be an extremely important aspect of the game.
“Teams that operate with that type of offense usually aren’t comfortable when you can slow them down and they can’t always be controlling the tempo,” Hofland said.
Leak will make trip, uncertain of playing time
The amount of time DSU’s senior receiver Tanner Leak will see on Saturday may be determined in the moments before the game, he said.
Leak tweaked his right hamstring sprinting to make a catch in the end zone in the second quarter of last Saturday’s game and didn’t play another down.
He is DSU’s leading receiver and its primary kick and punt returner.
“I don’t want to strain it anymore,” Leak said. “I’ve been trying to stretch it and give it as much treatment as I can.”
Leak has gained 406 all-purpose yards this season, including 220 yards receiving on 16 receptions.
While he may be limited, his injury showcased just how deep DSU is at receiver.
Junior Jimmy Smith stepped in and had five receptions for 66 yards and freshman Wyatt Mirich caught a 56-yard TD pass. Freshman tight end Cody Clausen, replacing injured senior starter Nate Zachmann, made three big first-down catches for 34 yards.
“It’s just another factor that they have to look at with us,” Leak said.