Northern blitz

Dickinson State waited all afternoon to find its rhythm on offense and before the Blue Hawks knew it, they had run out of time. Montana State-Northern used a punishing interior running game and had a strong effort from its defense to earn a 22-14...

Dickinson State waited all afternoon to find its rhythm on offense and before the Blue Hawks knew it, they had run out of time.

Montana State-Northern used a punishing interior running game and had a strong effort from its defense to earn a 22-14 victory over the Blue Hawks, ranked No. 7 in the NAIA, on Saturday afternoon in nonconference football at Whitney Stadium. The game was the season opener for both teams.

The Lights' defense held DSU to only 80 yards rushing - including just one yard in the first half - and intercepted two passes from two different Blue Hawks quarterbacks in the second half. Both picks led to Northern field goals.

"It's going to take small steps," DSU coach Hank Biesoit said. "If you take small steps, you hope to get some big plays out of those little steps. We've got to go back and get real basic. Not over analyze this. The little things we have to do better if we're going to be successful."

Northern running back Don Saisbury gave the Lights a 9-0 advantage in the second half with a 1-yard touchdown run. The score capped a 13-play, 87-yard drive that stretched two quarters.


"Anytime you come to Dickinson and beat Dickinson (State), as far as I'm concerned, it's a good win," Northern coach Mark Samson said.

DSU's offense came to life two series' later after its defense held the Lights on a fourth-and-1.

Starting quarterback Brandon Bishop-Parise hit Tyler Greff on a 32-yard pass down the left sideline on the drive's first play and capped it with a 23-yard touchdown on a pass to redshirt freshman running back Zach Hepperle out of the backfield with 42 seconds left in the first half. The touchdown cut the Lights' lead to 9-7.

The ability to move the ball when it mattered was a good sign for some of the Blue Hawks.

"I saw a lot of good things come out of this game," Greff said. "We did some things right, but we've got a lot of areas where we've got to improve. We'll get on the right track."

DSU got the ball back to start the second half, but was stopped almost immediately when Northern's Khalin Anderson intercepted Bishop-Parise at the Blue Hawks' 20-yard line and returned it to the 10.

The Blue Hawks held Northern to a 20-yard field goal to make it 12-7 but lost whatever momentum they had gained on the final drive of the second quarter.

After forcing a punt on DSU's ensuing drive, Northern scored on a 3-yard run by Justin Moe to make it 19-7. The drive was staked by a 38-yard pass from Northern quarterback Kyle Samson to freshman wide receiver Cody Tchida.


Samson finished 14 of 19 for 137 yards passing, but the quick and elusive quarterback was held to only 15 yards rushing 12 carries. However, he was pleased with the Lights' offensive output.

"We moved the ball very well," Kyle Samson said.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Gittings took over for Bishop-Parise on DSU's next drive and marched the Blue Hawks 66 yards for a touchdown.

Gittings found Greff for a touchdown on a 4-yard inside post to cut the lead to 19-14.

Gittings finished with 4 of 9 with 41 yards. Bishop-Parise was 8 of 17 for 119 yards.

To deepen the DSU quarterback question, both signal-callers had similar and contradictory attributes. Both had speed and decent arms. However, Gittings was more of an elusive runner compared to Bishop-Parise, who had a tendency to stay in the pocket longer and scramble when forced outside.

The one constant in the Blue Hawks' passing game was Greff.

He finished with 110 yards receiving on eight receptions. Biesoit was quick to credit the senior captain. But, he said complimentary receivers need to step up.


"(Tyler is) a complete receiver," Biesoit said. "But we've got to compliment. We've got a couple more guys we need to get the ball too."

The Blue Hawks forced a punt on the next drive, but hope for an early comeback ended when Gittings threw an interception to linebacker Kennedy Anderson, Khalin's brother, at the DSU 27-yard line.

"You've got to hit something over the top when they're on the line of scrimmage," Biesoit said. "They just force you to do that. But we weren't able to."

Again, the Blue Hawks held the Lights to a field goal, this time a 27-yarder from McKinley. However, the damage was done.

With the Blue Hawks at their own 39-yard line with .7 seconds remaining, Bishop-Parise replaced Gittings and found Josh Halvorson deep down the right sideline. However, Halvorson let the ball slip through his hands.

The Blue Hawks had a positive game on defense.

Junior defensive lineman Brenner Flaten had three sacks. Junior safety Trevor Grueb led the team with eight tackles, picked off a pass in the second quarter and pinned the Lights deep in their own territory when he dived into the end zone to save the football and help down a punt at the Northern 2-yard line.

Stopping the Lights deep led the Hawks to a defensive stop that turned into Hepperle's touchdown.


Despite the loss, the outlook from Blue Hawks players was slightly optimistic.

"They're a good team, there's no doubt about that," Flaten said. "At the same time, we made a lot of mistakes that we normally don't do. There's definitely stuff we can look at in film and improve on.

"There's a whole season left," he added. "We've just got a lot of work to do."

What To Read Next
Get Local