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Dickinson State to face mysterious Montana Western

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson State senior Antwan Smith, left, and junior Matt Harkless, back, tackle Montana State-Northern running back Zach McKinley on Aug. 30 at the Biesiot Activities Center.

The Dickinson State football team returns home today to face a team they are not entirely sure what to expect from.

Shrouded in mystery are the Montana Western Bulldogs who take the field against the Blue Hawks at 1 p.m. at the Biesiot Activities Center.

DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said Montana Western's schedule situation is unique and poses a little challenge for fully understanding what to expect from their offense and defense.

"A lot of teams have played two games in the country, they played one," head coach Hank Biesiot said. "And Southern Oregon has a different type of offense. In the second half, they tried to run it, but they run a spread offense and they like to fling it around a little bit so they were in five or six defensive backs in the game quite a bit. ... We're kind of anticipating seeing the same defense we saw last week."

Last week, the Blue Hawks lost 56-23 at Rocky Mountain College. DSU climbed out of a 14-0 deficit to make it 14-13 in the second half. But Rocky's fast-paced offense put up 35 unanswered points and the Blue Hawks were never able to recover.

"Their team's got a ton of momentum and it's hard when the momentum is against you," freshman quarterback Kaler Ray said. "We had that going against us, but we still battled hard. We still had a couple good drives but just ended in punts."

The biggest aspect DSU has been working on this week is its offense. Biesiot said the passing game still needs some work and the offense is still trying to find a rhythm. The quarterbacks and receivers have been diligently working in practice on throwing more efficiently and completing passes.

"We have to be a little more consistent in the passing game I think that's important," Biesiot said. "We did have some big plays, but you got to have that balance. Of course it's not stated you got to run the ball to set up a pass, but you got to have the balance and we're still looking for something to hang our hat on that way. We just have to take execute better."

Sophomore quarterback Thad Lane added: "We've just really been going over any of the reads that we got. Stepping into our throws, having trust with our offensive line that's kind of the big mental things. We've been kind of working on completing every pass. Even you find an open guy, you can't overthink it you just got to give them the ball especially in space and let them do a little work."

While most teams in the conference have two games under their belt, Montana Western has only played one. The Bulldogs kicked off their season last week with a big 38-24 win over then No. 14 ranked Southern Oregon. Because the team has only played once, it's been difficult for Biesiot and the Blue Hawks to really scout the Bulldogs and know what to expect.

But what they can expect after seeing the Southern Oregon game is seeing another good quarterback and a strong run game. Freshman tailback Sam Rutherford made his debut and rushed 11 times for 185 yards and three touchdowns, while junior quarterback Tyler Hulse was able to help pull his team out of a 34-24 hole and scored 18 unanswered points, including the go-ahead touchdown to freshman receiver Collin Sale with 1 minute, 23 seconds left in the game.

To prepare for their style of offense, the defense didn't change things up and have practiced for Montana Western as if it were any other team on their schedule.

"Just control the line of scrimmage, control the ball get the ball to the offense in good situations and get a shutout," sophomore linebacker Matt McCoy said.

The key to this game will be to make big plays as well as eliminating chances for big plays by Montana Western. The team fared pretty well last week against Rocky Mountain, stopping big plays throughout the game even when the Bears tried to throw down the field late in the game with a substantial lead on DSU.

"They tried even late in the ball game when they had a pretty substantial lead they tried to get their one receiver a score by going deep," Biesiot said. "It's probably been awhile since we played as well against the deep ball which was a concern going in and I thought that was one of the goals, the game plan things we executed last week we didn't give them any big pass play over the top ... You got to make big plays and you got to limit the big plays from the other team and that's where we are."

The Hawks are still in search for their first win of the season, but the team is feeling confident about their progress in practice and hope it will transition onto the field today.

"We've had a good week of practice this week we're all locked in we've all worked hard and we're ready for Western," McCoy said.

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.