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DSU’s last game with upcoming NSAA opponent was a gem

The last time Dickinson State football played Presentation College? Tray Boone remembers. "That one was up there, probably top five," said the running back. "When I got to the sideline after my last touchdown, (running back coach) Myren Moore loo...

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Dickinson State quarterback Kaler Ray delivers a pass in a 42-13 win over Northwestern (Iowa) College. Next up for the Blue Hawks is conference opponent Presentation College on Sept. 24. (Press Photo/Parker Cotton)

The last time Dickinson State football played Presentation College?

Tray Boone remembers.

“That one was up there, probably top five,” said the running back. “When I got to the sideline after my last touchdown, (running back coach) Myren Moore looked at the stat line and he said ‘don’t get big headed or nothing, but you just got the record. Now you’ve got to do better next week.’”

In his third ever game with the Blue Hawks, he ran 35 times, breaking the aforementioned school record with 350 rushing yards. He also scored four touchdowns.

“It was really Tray’s coming out game. He was late last year, he didn’t play the first game. The Presentation game is really what got him going not just for that game but for the rest of the year. That’s where he took off,” head coach Pete Stanton said. “You started to see his explosiveness and comfort with the offense.”

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DSU went on to win that game handily, 43-21.

The year before that - DSU’s first year in the North Star Athletic Association - the Blue Hawks won as well, another high scoring affair - this one a little bit closer - 42-35.

Those are the only two games these two programs have played; an offensive shootout and a record breaking performance.

Heading into matchup no. 3, Stanton said this one could be a bit more of a challenge than last year’s run-happy performance by Boone.

Presentation is off to a 2-0 start, most recently shutting out Great Plains Athletic Conference opponent Briar Cliff, 29-0. Like the Blue Hawks, the Saints are looking at a bye week before their first conference matchup of the year.

“Their last win was a big one. Briar Cliff is a solid ball club, and to go and shut them out a team like that was a really big win for them,” Stanton said. “They do a lot of nice things offensively. Defensively, they’re much improved; they’re off to a good start.”

In their two games, quarterback Austin Eggl, from Minot, has already thrown the ball 73 times for four touchdowns and three interceptions. He had 311 yards in the win against Briar Cliffs.

For a team that appears to be pass happy, it will an interesting contrast against a Blue Hawk secondary that has allowed only one touchdown through the air so far.

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An upward line

Since a disappointing start to the season against Montana Western, the Blue Hawks’ offensive line has started to resemble a more cohesive and successful unit.

After a few tweaks to the starting group, the line has helped reduce the number of sacks on quarterback Kaler Ray from two in the first game to one over the last two games.

In their rout of Northwestern (Iowa) College, Ray had one of his best games with DSU, throwing for two touchdowns - rushing for one more - and compiling 332 passing yards. Northwestern’s All-American defensive lineman, Sam Van Ginkel, was also kept in check.

“We take pride in protecting our quarterback, without him really nothing coagulates,” said sophomore offensive lineman Jeff Fisher. “We focused on a bunch of little details after that (Montana Western) game. We spent a lot of time on pass protection in our drills at practice trying to improve.”  

Something Stanton thought still isn’t quite there is the run game protection. The Blue Hawks are yet to produce a 100-yard game from a running back - Boone’s 74-yard performance against Valley City State is the closest - and only had 93 rush yards on 29 carries in Saturday’s one-dimensional attack.

“We’re getting better. We still have a ways to go. We have some things to clean up,” Stanton said. “We’d like to be a little more balanced. We’re still not there yet on the run game, but pass wise we’re really happy.”

Injury report

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Sporting a thick wrap around his knee and ankle, cornerback Jay Liggins did not participate in practice Wednesday, and hasn’t done so for the last few days.

This comes after Saturday’s game, when during a first half play, Liggins appeared to tweak his knee and walk gingerly off the field. He did return, but played sparingly in the 42-13 victory over Northwestern (Iowa) College.  

Stanton and the rest of the coaching staff would, of course, prefer no injuries, but the timing for a tweak couldn't have been better.

Stanton said he’ll take the next week or so to get better and most likely be ready for Sept. 24.

“His knee’s been bothering him. His knee cap is sore. It’s been more of a precautionary thing,” Stanton said. “One of those things that’s going to be nagging. So that’s why we’re using this week to hopefully get him healed up and get him ready to go.”

Looking forward

The focus on Thursday will shift to Presentation. Stanton said that, with the help of the redshirt players, they’ll assemble a scout team to give the starters an idea of what they’ll be working with Sept. 24 against Presentation.

After a morning conditioning workout on Friday, players will be given the rest of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off. Then on Monday, it’s back to the task at hand.

“It’ll be nice for the guys,” Stanton said. “A lot of them can go back and see their families and check out football games and kind of be college students for a Saturday afternoon before we get into the heart of our season.”

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