Foes with woes: DSU and MSU-Northern are both experiencing forgettable seasons
Dickinson State and Montana State-Northern feel each other's pain.
Like most two-win teams, the Blue Hawks and Lights entered the 2012 season hoping for much more.
Yet injuries, more than anything else, set each team on paths they hoped not to take.
"Actually for both of us it's been a season of disappointment for sure," MSU-Northern head coach Mark Samson said. "If you look back, some things have occurred that you don't want to occur."
Among its numerous injuries, DSU (2-7, 1-7 Frontier) has played three quarterbacks this season after losing senior starter Dave Velasquez to a severely sprained left ankle against Carroll College on Sept. 29.
Velasquez is a game-time decision when the Frontier Conference teams meet for the second time this season at 12:10 p.m. today at Blue Pony Stadium in Havre, Mont.
MSU-Northern (2-6, 2-6 Frontier) will be on its fifth combination of starting offensive linemen in nine games, Samson said.
Some things have obviously changed since the last time the teams met and DSU claimed a wild 21-20 comeback victory at the Biesiot Activities Center.
"I think the second time around, everybody tries to do something a little bit different," DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said. "We're no exception to that. I don't know if that's right or not. But we're making some little changes, some tweaks here or there."
Both teams are in need of a pick-me-up.
MSU-Northern has lost three consecutive games to the teams that sit atop the Frontier standings. DSU has lost two in a row, including a 14-0 loss against Eastern Oregon last Saturday in its home finale -- its first shutout defeat in 23 years.
That's prompting Biesiot to continue his call for offensive improvement. DSU already ranks last in the Frontier in most offensive categories and are hindered in the running game now that senior Presley Straub and redshirt freshman Zach Sandau are the team's only ball carriers.
Straub wasn't supposed to be a running back coming into the season and Sandau has a place as a special teams contributor.
"We better put some points on the board now. There's different ways to do that," Biesiot said. "We've got to throw the ball a little bit more consistently down the field and get a good blend of run and pass where we can get the ball down the field and make some catches that way."
Stopping MSU-Northern junior quarterback Derek Lear is another big key for DSU.
The Fairfield, Mont., native ranks fourth in the NAIA with 2,599 total offensive yards, an average of 325 per game. He racked up an NAIA season-best 606 yards and seven touchdowns in a 46-39 win over Montana Western the week after a season-low 199 total yards in the loss against the Blue Hawks.
"You know, Derek has had a good year," Samson said. "He's a good quarterback. There's kind of an up and down (this season) and he'll be the first one to tell you that."
Enebo shores up spot after injury
Kyle Enebo has been the Swiss Army knife of offensive lineman for DSU throughout his career. He has played every offensive line position except center.
"You have to know the scheme more than anything, where the ball is going, what block you have to do to get lanes open," Enebo said. "You have to be ready to get reps in practice and go wherever."
The 6-foot-2, 280-pound senior from Glasgow, Mont., has put that experience to good use throughout his career and the past two weeks have been no different.
He has taken over the starting left guard spot after senior Luke Runyon injured his foot against Rocky Mountain College on Oct. 20. Though Runyon hopes to return today, Enebo will undoubtedly see quite a bit of time.
"With rolling everyone, you want to make the best of when you get in and play your best when you do get the opportunity," Enebo said.
Losing Brady Harkless hurts secondary
DSU defensive coordinator Arlan Hofland knew Brady Harkless would find his way onto the field one way or another this season.
And he did in a big way, leading DSU in tackles in his debut against Southern Oregon on Sept. 22.
Harkless had 36 tackles and a team-best three interceptions in six games.
But just as quickly as he burst onto the scene for the Blue Hawks, Harkless is gone.
He dislocated his left elbow after being forced out of bounds on a punt return -- the first of his career -- in the last Saturday's game against Eastern Oregon.
"He did a lot of things," DSU defensive coordinator Arlan Hofland said. "Plus, he was gaining confidence every week."
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.
-- Revenge can be sweet: Montana State-Northern is looking for payback after a late touchdown and extra point lifted DSU to the 21-20 win on Sept. 21 in their first meeting. Two weeks ago in their second meeting of the season, Rocky Mountain showed it was much improved from its first game against the Blue Hawks with a 46-14 win in Billings, Mont.
-- Game-time decision: DSU hopes to have the services of senior quarterback Dave Velasquez and senior left guard Luke Runyon today, but both are game-time decisions as they continue recovering from lower leg injuries. Velasquez has practiced all week and threw for 215 yards and three touchdowns the last time he played Montana State-Northern.
-- Be leary of Lear: Lights junior quarterback Derek Lear had his worst game of the 2012 season the last time he played the Blue Hawks, who held him to 199 total yards and two touchdown passes. Other than that game, Lear has lit it up. He averages 325 total yards per game, which ranks second in the NAIA.
-- Score the football: Offense has not been their strong point at all this season, but the Blue Hawks were visibly upset by their first shutout loss in 23 seasons at the hands of Eastern Oregon last week. Regardless of who gets the time at quarterback, DSU could be a little more liberal with its offense today in the hopes of avoiding the same fate as last week.