Hawks try again to get offense movingDickinson State, meet Eastern Oregon.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Dickinson State, meet Eastern Oregon.
The Frontier Conference teams meet for the first time at 1 p.m. today at the Biesiot Activities Center and DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said his team needs to discover some offensive punch if it wants to get past a team that brings what he said is a very physical defense.
“We’ve got to keep our defense off the field a little bit more than we have in the past,” Biesiot said. “We’ve got to complete some passes down the field a little bit too. Over the years when we’ve been effective, we’ve been able to do that. We just haven’t been able to get the ball down the field the way we’d like to get it this year. We’ve got to hit a couple of those and hold them. I think that’s going to be big in the game.”
Doing that, however, might be a little difficult.
DSU (2-6, 1-6 Frontier) has averaged just 209 total yards in the three games since senior quarterback Dave Velasquez was sidelined with to a foot injury on Sept. 29 against Carroll College.
They’ve been without senior receiver Tanner Leak the past two weeks and junior running back Myren Moore is playing through a hip pointer. To make matters worse, starting left guard Luke Runyon was lost for the season last Saturday when he suffered a leg injury in a 46-14 loss at Rocky Mountain College.
Biesiot said the Blue Hawks haven’t been able to catch a break offensively, noting that expected starting running back Riley Moore suffered a season-ending knee injury two days before fall practices and that senior tight end Nate Zachmann missed three games earlier in the season.
“In August, if we would have sat here and said, ‘You don’t have Zachmann, Leak and Velasquez,’ even after we started without Riley, you would have said, ‘Uffda,’ Biesiot said.
DSU’s backup-laden offensive unit, though sparked by the emergence of junior Jimmy Smith as a big-play receiver and a veteran offensive line, could have its hands full today.
The Mountaineers (3-4, 3-4 Frontier) are captained defensively by senior middle linebacker Howard McDonald, who leads the nation — every college football division — with 121 tackles, an average of 17.3 per game.
“He’s all over the field,” Eastern Oregon head coach Tim Camp said. “He’s an unbelievable player. But I’m telling you one thing, Howard McDonald is an even better person. … It’s his life. He has a nose for the books, he has a nose for community service, he has a nose for football and he’s passionate about all of it. It’s the way he attacks things is what separates him in my mind. He’s probably one of the best players I’ve ever coached and I’ve been at six different universities.”
Though DSU ranks well ahead of the Mountaineers in total yards allowed — the Blue Hawks give up 398 yards per game compared to Eastern Oregon’s 481 — the Blue Hawks are allowing 34 points per game and has been susceptible to giving up big plays.
Biesiot said focus in the face of a physical football team is key to DSU closing out the home part of its football schedule with a victory.
“We’ve got some physical problems but mentally, we’re in good shape,” Biesiot said. “The guys have been working hard here in practice. We’re all right there.”
Blue Hawk Bites
For each Dickinson State football game this season, Press Sports Editor Dustin Monke will give you four items to keep an eye on.
-Defend home field: It’s the final home football game of the season and DSU has a real chance to pick up its second Frontier Conference win against a streaky Mountaineer team that has had injury troubles of its own and is susceptible to allowing teams to move the ball.
-Is the Leak fixed yet?: DSU do-it-all senior receiver Tanner Leak is a game-time decision today after missing the past two weeks with hamstring injuries. “He’s been hamstrung all year — in both of them. That’s killing him,” DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said. If Leak can’t go and DSU still wants to move the ball through the air, they’ll look to rising junior receiver Jimmy Smith for big plays. Having Leak and Smith on the field together, however, would be even better.
-McDonald will get ya: Howard McDonald is a 5-foot-10, 225-pound senior middle linebacker from Eastern Oregon and all he does is make tackles. All the time. He leads the NAIA with 121 total tackles in just seven games. Staying away from him will be important if DSU ballcarriers want to, you know, gain yards.
-Drive the football: DSU ranks last in the Frontier Conference in third-down conversation percentage, having moved the chains on just 36 of 132 third downs this season. The way the Blue Hawks’ offense is geared, they need to improve on that 27.3 percent clip if they hope to win today.